Pointview’s new Fitness Drumming Project merges COVID-friendly music and physical education lessons

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The first-graders walked into Alex Chapman’s music room at Pointview Elementary with their sights set on the stability balls at the side of the room.

The last time they were in his class they got a preview of an upcoming music lesson by pounding on the large vinyl balls with pool noodles as drum sticks. 

Today, they were going to spend their class time with the drum sets, learning about steady beats while getting a workout at the same time. 

As part of Pointview’s new Fitness Drumming Project, Chapman and physical education teacher Alisa Franklin have created lessons that allow students to make music and get their heart rates up safely.

“With COVID, it’s been hard,” Franklin said. “Can we be together? Can we still do fun PE activities? Can we do something that the kids are going to enjoy because we’ve taken a big element away? So we’ve had to be very creative.”

Due to the pandemic, many musical instruments and gym supplies are unable to be safely sanitized without damaging the equipment, Chapman said. The stability balls and drumming supplies can be easily sanitized between classes and students can use the drum sets while adhering to social distancing standards. 

“It’s a new method,” Chapman said. “We’re doing the stuff we have been doing but now we have these resources.”

The drum sets, which were paid for through a $491 grant from the Bette Marschall Memorial Education Fund of The Columbus Foundation, help Chapman teach students about the basics of a steady beat. And while they are drumming, they are squatting, lunging, marching or running in place and moving in a variety of fitness variations that Franklin has covered in her physical education classes.

“I hope they get to see the fun side of the fitness,” said Franklin, who proposed the idea to Chapman after seeing videos of similar projects at schools across the country. “I want them to see that there are different ways to do fitness.” 

During Chapman’s class with first-graders on Thursday, he reviewed quarter and eighth notes, making a basic rhythm for students to follow by clapping their hands, then by pounding the pool noodles on the floor. When they became comfortable with the pool noodles, he had students grab stability balls for their drumming stations. 

Once set, students followed a warm-up video Chapman and Franklin created that previewed some of the moves they would later drum to. They pounded their pool noodles on the stability balls, raised their arms in the air, skipped around the ball — all to the beat of tunes such as “The Chicken Dance” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” 

But by the end of the second song, one boy dropped his pool noodles and laid on the ground to catch his breath.  

At the end of class, students raved about the lesson:

“It was really fun.”

“I liked that we were drumming.” 

“I liked everything.”

It’s been an exciting start, said Chapman and Franklin, who’d both like to introduce the lesson to all students in the school. 

Interest has grown beyond their classrooms. Some of the teachers have asked for a fitness drumming lesson as well.