300 Drums Project: Braiding drum Handles at Donaldson Elementary School





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Published on Mar 10, 2011

This clip shows 4th grade students at Donaldson Elementary school (Oakdale, PA) braiding rawhide handles for their own Native American pattern frame drums as part of the 300 Drums Project. The students assembled their drums under the guidance of artists Kate and Brad Silberberg of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA, who prepared all the materials.
For more information on the 300 Drums Project or The Mesa Creative Arts Center, visit:

For more information on Donaldson Elementary school:

The 300 Drums Project has been designed to use the making of Native American frame drums, wisdom from Native American culture, and related activities as cross curricular teaching tools for 4th grade students in the West Allegheny (Imperial, PA) School District. With the help of Brad and Kate Silberberg, local artists and Co-Directors of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA, all 4th grade students, 4th grade teachers, elementary art and music teachers, school principals, and a few other faculty and staff have made their own Native American pattern frame drums; 300 drums in all. These are not toys, but real 12" diameter working drums made from wooden hoops covered with elk or deer rawhide.

Taking place at McKee, Wilson, and Donaldson Elementary schools throughout the 2010-11 school year, "300 Drums" is funded by a STEAM grant from the Pittsburgh-based Grable Foundation. It has been formulated to create a synergy of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics in the schools with Native American drums as a unifying element. Through the drums the students have learned about the physics of sound, studied American history, and engaged in music, singing, and rhythm. In art classes, the drums have served as canvases for the painting of Native American symbols and imagery. Experiences with the drums, their construction, and use have been used as subject matter for poetry, blogging, and other creative writing projects. Teachers have constructed math word problems for students to solve involving the drums and statistics related to making 300 of them.

Although voice of the drum is ancient, the students' drums are also helping them learn about modern audio/video technology. The 4th graders have recorded, manipulated, and displayed their sound with computer equipment purchased as part of the grant. Ongoing "300 Drums" activities are being recorded and edited on digital video by 4th graders with flip cameras and more professionally by videography students from West Allegheny High as independent study projects. They are posting the clips and finished videos on the internet to share their 300 Drums Project experience with people around the world.

The kids love their drums and have learned many lessons from them. Creating and decorating their own drum with their own hands has enhanced the students' confidence, self-esteem, and built character. Making the drums with a partner and playing them alongside their teachers and classmates in assemblies and drum circles has fostered patience, cooperation, belonging, and teamwork. With the drums the 4th graders are having new experiences of themselves as they discover the well documented health and wellbeing benefits of drumming. The drums are teaching about equality and connection; in that every student and the adults who instruct them have made drums that are alike. "300 Drums" has helped 4th grade students broaden their cultural horizons while learning about Native American history, lifeways, drumming, singing, decorative arts, and cosmology. Through the drums and Native American wisdom the children are learning about themselves, not just learning facts. The drums and their message are expanding the students' minds and opening their hearts.

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