Two Very Successful Soul Drums POP programs at the Halton District School Board.

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This short blog describes why the event was held; what the students learned; how it had curriculum connections;
how many students it involved and the grades.

As described by music teacher Amanda Duggan at Brant Hills Public School…….
Doug Sole, from Soul Drums in Toronto, created a special educational drumming program called P.O.P. (Percussion Optimizes Potential). The P.O.P. program demonstrates how communities can reach their potential through music making, and world drumming. It is designed to “build positive relationships, centring on the strengths of others”. It uses “Human Rhythmic Energy” to connect everyone together to create an unforgettable musical experience (when “we learn our core values are related and come to understand the the whole group cannot become effectively cohesive without each individual’s diverse contribution”). Everyone involved feels success, regardless of age or drumming ability. The program uses “culturally specific drumming and chanting concepts to teach positive and interconnected behaviours”. The chants include messages that inspire healthy relationships among peers. The workshops combined multi-cultural drumming, values centred leadership, and recreational music circles to help achieve a positive experience with powerful metaphors for life and learning, like “Listen with your heart”, “What you put into life, is what you get out of it”. (Information found on Soul Drums Website: http://www.souldrumsltd.com/educational/#pop).

Each student from Kindergarten to Grade 8 at Brant Hills had the opportunity to be involved in 2 workshops, led by Doug Sole, and Altaf Bwanamoto, from Soul Drums. At the end of the two day event, the community, including parents, were invited to attend a very special concert. The concert included performances by Doug Sole, and Altaf, demonstrating interesting and unique instruments like the Talking Drum, Ocean Drum, Samba whistle, Flex-a-tone, Vibra-tone, as well as our very own students performing selected songs and chants from their workshops. Please note that all of our students were involved in some way in the concert (K-8).

Why was the event held?

To help build a sense of community within our school. The staff had identified a need for students to feel connected. The P.O.P. program strives to build a sense of community and belonging, while inspiring healthy relationships, and building leadership within the students.

Also, Halton District School Board has sets of World Drums that are signed out by the music teachers. At Brant Hills, I try to sign them out every year, to give the students a unique learning experience and a unit that centres around cultural awareness, and belonging. Many students are successful in the ARTS, and giving the students different opportunities like this helps that amazing “Growth Mindset”. The students are encouraged to experiment with different sounds and create new personal rhythms, all in a safe place. If they make a mistake, it is OK. They learn from it, and move on, often advancing without even realizing it .

Also, the brain activity that is happening while the students are drumming is incredible to think about. There are so many things happening at one time. For example, there are often about 5 different musical “lines” happening at the same time. This forces the students to listen to each other, while keeping a steady beat, alternating right and left hands, and performing a complicated rhythm on top of everything else that is happening around them. The attention and focus of each student is wonderful to see (even the students who sometimes have difficulty in this area).

What do you hope students learned?

I really wanted the students to have the unique experience of working with professional musicians, with such amazing and inspiring energy, like Doug Sole, and Altaf. This opportunity may not be something that the students would actively seek out, but it will remain with them in their memory “bank”, for the rest of their life.
I also hope that, as with all of my teaching, that students continue to grow their mind, by keeping it open to new and wonderful experiences. The community building and connection through positive peer relationships, demonstrating everyone working together and succeeding is a bonus!

I always encourage students to be the best that they can be and that their unique ideas and thoughts matter. Sometimes we all need to work together to be able to achieve a common result. The idea of the “Human Rhythmic Energy”, where “we learn our core values are related and come to understand the the whole group cannot become effectively cohesive without each individual’s diverse contribution”, reinforces the idea that it is OK to be different, and have different ideas, as long as there is a contribution made, the culminating idea will be achieved.

What is the curriculum connection?

The focus is on the music curriculum, touching all three of the overall expectations. The students apply the creating and performance aspects using the elements and techniques appropriate to the world drums. They apply the critical analysis process to communicate their feelings, ideas and understanding in their performances, through responding to their experience. The students also learn from other cultures around the globe, and perform different styles of music.

There is also a Social Studies connection as the students learn and hear stories of other children from around the world, based on Doug and Altaf’s experiences. (They loved this part, and were retelling stories to me about how the children of West Africa play their instruments!)

This program also demonstrates a large application to Learning Skills. Studies show that regular participation in the ARTS will increase concentration, and cooperative skills necessary to succeed. The ARTS also help to increase self esteem, trust and confidence within our students. All of these factors help to create a well rounded individual. Each and every student at Brant Hills, regardless of their age, or drumming ability were able to participate in this special program.

How many students participated and what grades?

Brant Hills was very lucky to have the support of our parent council and administration, so that every student from Kindergarten to Grade 8 participated (267 students). Every student participated in 2 workshops and a special finale concert at the end of the second day.

On a special note, Soul Drums is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year! We were so lucky to have been able to be part of their celebration. They video recorded most of the concert for their promotional and educational purposes.

Notes about Doug and Altaf:

  • they are authors, both have published material

  • they have travelled the world performing and leading drum circles

  • they have travelled the world leading educational workshops (e.g., teaching teachers how to drum in Hawaii)

  • led Drum Circles of up to 3000 people

  • led Drum Circles for corporate events, and many other events, including education

  • some of their concerts have helped to raise over $3 000 000 dollars in Breast Cancer Research

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