African Drumming has become an exciting and vibrant part of music education at James H. Eldredge School; it has weaved its way into many aspects of the school community. One way many students participated in this program is through enrichment opportunities. Over 50 students, spanning all grade levels, took part in at least one of the two “Just D.R.U.M.” enrichment programs. During this program students participated in various team-building activities to help in creating a united community that listens and respects each other. Students also learned about the African culture by performing traditional African folktales and adding African instruments to enhance the story. Finally, students learned how to play over ten different types of African instruments, developed their own independent drum circles and participated in new and unique ways to perform together.
James H. Eldredge School’s first “African Fair” was another unique opportunity many students took part in. Each grade level worked on different projects to be displayed at the fair. Fourth graders studied African American quilting in a special enrichment program. Students learned about the role of textiles in the African culture and how patterns play an important role in both music and art. Students then created their own individual patches that came together to create a class quilt. Not only did this unit teach students about African traditions, but it was also a cross-curriculum unit that aligned with Grade 4 Math GLEs, Visual art standards and music standards. Fifth graders created “Kente Cloth, Acrostic Poems” for the fair. Students created poetry about the various African instruments they learned about and then framed their poems with Kente clothes patterns they created. Finally, sixth graders learned about how African instrument make sound and then worked in teams to design and build their instruments using only recycled materials. All the instruments worked!Along with student projects, a traveling art exhibit from Discovery Kids was on display at the fair, students were able to participate in a massive game of musical chairs with African drumming music performed by our own students and there was an “instrument petting zoo” so everyone in our school community was able to play these exciting instruments!
This unique opportunity has enriched the music classroom and, it will be exciting to see how it will grow and change over the upcoming years. All students had the opportunity to play the African instruments at various points throughout the year. Students were drumming at the annual “Pasta Night” and it was added to the sixth grade “Greek Week” presentation. Students are always so excited when they walk into general music class and learn that they are drumming that day. The beauty of these instruments is they are designed for children ages eight and up so as East Greenwich’s schools demographics change over the upcoming years, regardless of what school these instruments land in, they will be developmentally appropriate and utilized as a way for all students to be actively engaged in music learning!