A few months ago I was asked to take on a new teaching adventure for part of the summer. This past week I was on staff for Kids On Campus at a week-long camp that took place on Franklin College’s campus. The camp had nine different areas of academic focus for students in grades 1 through 8.
Before I started the camp, I was nervous about my preparations. I had not worked with elementary aged students since my college days. I was unsure if I had enough materials prepared for the class. Would they be bored? Would they be interested in my plans for them? Would I be able to keep their attention?
The 1st and 2nd graders were the ones I feared the most. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate with them since I have spent so much time with middle school and high school students. Now that camp is over I can say that this age range was my favorite. The kids were extremely sweet, very eager to learn, they listened well, and they showed love. It was very refreshing to work with students that hug you and tell you that your class was awesome and fun!
In our class we made shakers out of water bottles. I spent a little time each day showing them different items you can place in the bottle that will create unique sounds like coffee beans, ground coffee, dried beans, rice, and plastic BB pellets. We discussed how each sound is appropriate to the music style, room size, and ensemble size. When we were done, we decorated our bottles with stickers that were provided by Remo Drumheads. Remo supplied each student with sticker sheets that gave the students an opportunity to pick what they wanted their shaker to look like. The kids really enjoyed picking their own stickers out!
All the other grade levels experienced some level of bucket drumming. Depending on the grade level we would try more complicated rhythms and exercises. With the younger kids I tried to keep it simple with stick clicks, foot stomps, and simple rhythms on the buckets in a call and response format. With the 7th and 8th graders I worked on rudiments, basics of soloing, musical layering, and basic structure in music.
To break up the week I showed a few videos of other non-traditional drumming groups. We watched Stomp, Blue Man Group, and a short clip of a tap ensemble that would also drum on their body. Throughout each video I would ask the students to keep in mind what instruments they recognize as “everyday” items. The short list included street signs, buckets, brooms, pots/pans, and PVC pipes. They really enjoyed the videos as they had no idea that music could be made from virtually anything!
My hope through teaching the camp is that the students leave excited for music and continue on in their middle and high school careers. If they leave camp thinking about music when they go to the kitchen, garage, or wherever they see a bucket, then I have done my job.
My fears of snot bubbles, bathroom nightmares, and rowdy kids at camp were quickly suppressed. What I found instead were kids who are excited to learn, want to have fun, share their stories with you, and show a tremendous amount of compassion!
Thank you Remo Drumheads, Pearl Drums, and Innovative Percussion for the support of this camp. These kids LOVED all the fun prizes they received and I am certain you’ll have some new long time friends!