Boonsboro Elementary students experience Drums Alive
BOONSBORO — Kids fidget. Some tap on surfaces and roll objects. Some shake their legs rhythmically, zip around like balls of energy and make sounds, chattering, and singing. Their minds are active and their bodies don’t tend to be still.
In a world where the fidget rings are flying off stores shelves, fitness and wellness center Fit in BoonsBoro has teamed up with Boonsboro Elementary School to offer children a way to combine movement, rhythm, and music with physical health and brain function through a program called Drums Alive.
Fit manager Heidi Bodenheimer said the program is a “super fun, energetic fitness class that combines the benefits of a traditional physical fitness program with the brain affected benefits of music and rhythm.”
“Basically, we use stability balls as a drum. You have your own stability ball, but also you will use the stability ball of your neighbor to the right, and your neighbor to the left, and you are going to use the ball of the person behind you,” Bodenheimer said. “It kinda cool because it fosters a community environment with the whole class. You move around, and there are all sorts of things you can do – grapevine, lunges, different rhythms. We also skip around the ball.”
Each participant in the program has a pair of drumsticks.
“We use polyrhythms. You might be doing one rhythm with the hands and another with the feet. What’s good about that is that it triggers a lot of neurons in the brain,” she said, “with the way they have to fire with all the cross-patterning.”
Created in Germany
Drums Alive was created in Germany by Carrie Ekins, a dancer who suffered a hip injury, Bodenheimer said. During Ekins’ rehabilitation process, she began to drum on boxes, and unexpectedly noticed positive effects from it, both aerobically and mentally.
“She was someone like myself, who moved every day of their life,” Bodenheimer said. “She used her imagination and started sitting behind a stability ball, and she used drumsticks and started thinking, ‘Wow. This is really kind of cool.’ And she continued to create movements and patterns of exercise.”
Ekins developed the idea, adding dynamic motion as she healed. According to Drums Alive website, Drums-Alive.com, “drumming has also been found to improve and increase the neurological connection between the 2 brain hemispheres, stimulating Alpha brain wave activity, which can lead to higher levels of concentration, sensory/motor improvement, and an overall sense of well-being.”
Bodenheimer, who is certified to instruct a variety of wellness and fitness classes, trained with Ekins in Washington, D.C., to become an instructor. She has been teaching the program for six or seven years, she said, earning master trainer status.
Of all the classes she teaches - including yoga, Pilates, cycling, strength training, and more - she said Drums Alive is her favorite.
“Research has shown that it increases kids’ attention span and ability to learn things like math facts and things, she said. “I like to say, ‘neurons that fire together, wire together,’ meaning that once those neurons fire together, the firing that happened there during drumming will fire in other areas of life.”
Used in Boonsboro
The program, which was designed to promote fun and creative expression and to foster a healthy balance physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, was provided at Boonsboro Elementary School through a grant from the Joann Beckley Fund. Over the course of four weeks, Bodenheimer said, she went into music class for 50 minutes and worked with each class at the school.
Boonsboro Elementary School music teacher Sara Brady, who works out at Fit in BoonsBoro, had been talking with Bodenheimer about health and wellness.
“We started brainstorming how to bring this into school. I am a true believer. My passion is to inspire people to health and wellness, and that doesn’t always mean the typical going to the gym and working out,” Bodenheimer said. “People who don’t normally exercise can find love and passion through drumming and rhythm. They find themselves having a great workout and moving their bodies and they don’t even realize they are doing it because they are having so much fun.”
While pretty much any kind of music can be used with the class, she said, Bodenheimer tailored it for elementary students using “lots of fun songs” from popular films like “Moana” and “Trolls.”
Student response was enthusiastic, she said.
“Oh my gosh, they were so thrilled. They just had so much energy. They thought it was the best things ever. This morning, I was walking down the hall. This student didn’t even know I was there and I heard, ‘Today is drum day! This is going to be a great day.’ It warmed my heart. Many of them asked when I was coming back,” she said.
Drums Alive can be modified for various levels in terms of intensity and complexity of rhythmic elements.
“We use the same basic rhythm elements, with more intricate foot patterns. Some adults do jumping jacks while some are stepping, and that’s fine. Just like with different students at Boonsboro, a first-grader and a fifth-grader are not going to do exactly the same thing,” she said.
Fit in BoonsBoro has offered Drums Alive classes as part of its schedule of classes in the past. While it is not currently on schedule, Bodenheimer said, there will be some Drums Alive classes offered during the summer.