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Chamisa Students Learn Through Drumming

on February 7, 2019 - 8:23am
A kindergarten class gets ready to make some noise during the Drums Alive® program held Jan. 31 at Chamisa Elementary School. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Carrie Ekins, founder of Drums Alive®, demonstrates one of the exercises. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Queen’s “We Will Rock You” boomed Jan. 31 from the gymnasium in Chamisa Elementary School. But there was another sound accompanying the rock and roll song, the sounds of beating drums.

All day Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, the Chamisa hosted Drums Alive®, an international program that weaves learning into different drumming exercises. The program also went to Pinon Elementary School. Los Alamos Public Schools and Espanola Public Schools collaborated to bring the Drums Alive Program to the area.  Espanola hosted the program Jan. 28.
The drums are actually inflatable stability balls similar to ones used in fitness classes. They rest in plastic tubs and students use drum sticks to pound on the balls.
The instructors led students in all grade levels through numerous exercises that included not only drumming on the balls but also having participants serpentine around the rows of drums, swaying their sticks in the air as if they were turning a steering wheel. Students also learned various phrases in different languages.
The lessons extend beyond music and physical activity. Chamisa PE Teacher Justin Black explained the Drums Alive® DRUMTASTIC program emphasizes “Cross Curricular” activities such as:  Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies and Character Education. 
Just how does this work?
Drums Alive® is the original and only research-based, comprehensive, all-inclusive program in the world that applies drumming fitness protocols in a multi-disciplinary
way through physical education, fitness, dance, music education, mindfulness, relaxation and inclusion strategies for the improvement of brain and body health and wellness, Black said.
Black said several universities throughout the United States and Europe have done several studies of how drumming, movement and brain efficiency interact. Different parts of the brain, he said, are engaged when drumming.  Its fully active participatory elements are designed to strengthen critical thinking abilities through timely, scientifically based executive functional activities
“Basically, we can get the entire brain activated,” Black said.
Carrie Ekins, founder of Drums Alive®, said the program focuses on the whole child: social emotional, mental and physical health.
The key to the success of this approach is the implementation of its multiple programs and modules that use music, movement, rhythm and drumming to improve all aspects of life throughout the physiological, psychological, neurological, educational, rhythmical, and socioemotional spectrum in all individuals, regardless of age or socioemotional ability, Black said.
Ekins also said studies have been done in Germany, England and Texas that look at movement and cognition. This type of learning has been found to be beneficial from children on the Autism spectrum to senior citizens.
Ekins got the idea for Drums Alive® when she was confined to a wheelchair for six months and it took her nine months to walk properly. During that time, she said, she would drum.
She added that she grew up drumming and dancing. When Ekins created Drums Alive®, she said she chose to use the giant inflatable balls because they were not expensive as well as easy to drum on and because of the three-dimensional form they provided the perfect rhythmic centric drumming and exercise tool to improve cardiovascular health, motor skills, cognitive health and fun.  
Not only is the program an effective learning tool but “the kids love it,” Black said.
Black read a few comments students made in thank you letters they wrote to Drums Alive.
One student wrote, “I love them. Please come back again.”
Another wrote, “I believe I had more fun than anyone in the third grade.”
The positive response continued Jan 31. At the end of one session with a group of kindergartners, Ekins asked the young students how they were feeling.
“Awesome!” sang out one of the students.
Scene from the Drums Alive® program. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Carrie Ekins, founder of Drums Alive®, and Dean Owens of Drums Alive® lead the program at Chamisa Elementary. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Scene from the Drums Alive® program. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Scene from the Drums Alive® program. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/