My daughter attends a Waldorf-inspired school, and this past year, her fourth grade class embarked upon a drum making project. I was overjoyed at the brilliance of this concept for the students, and for the further introduction for my daughter into the Native American side of her family roots! This article about the process involved in this big undertaking of a project, written for the Rocky Mountain Outlook, was prepared by one of her classmates:
In Alpenglow, the Grade 4-5 class started a crazy project in early January.
It involved smelly deer hides and a lot of determination. During the first week of January, Mr. Graeme Ford, the teacher of the Grade 4-5 class, had a wacky idea, this idea was to spend several months trying to make drums.
We started with six frozen hides that look like a big, gloopy, bloody, hairy mess. The class then made racks about 8 by 5 feet in size and next they laced the hides to the racks.
Then the hardest step was scraping. We scraped for five days straight. It was fun and we were using knives and alpine axes. When all the hides were scraped and all the “tools” were put away we started building the actual drum.
The Grade 4-5 class at Alpenglow then got thin strips of cherry, alder and oak. They laminated them around a five-gallon bucket.
Other students decided to make polygon shapes like hexagons, octagons and heptagons. A lot of measurement and complicated math was used.
Almost all the work was done and all that was left to do was lace the drums together. We then cut some thin long strips of hide for lacing. We carefully measured the hide around our frames using chalk. We then used a special tool to punch holes in our drum hides and complete the complex lacing.
We also had to make mallets, so we went into the forest and chose a stick that sounded nice with our drums, then we wrapped them in gauze and sewed brain-tanned leather on top of the gauze.
Next, since we were completed, we decided to laser print images of animals onto our drum heads. Now all the students of the Grade 4-5 class have drums.
This project would never have been possible without the help of many community members. Thank you so much Mr. Gardner, Mr. Julian, Mr. Vanderlee, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Karsten and all the other parents and students in our school for putting up with such a cool and smelly project.
I have learned a lot about First Nations culture, drumming history, different kinds of math and the list goes on. Thanks everyone.