STRONG — Kids need to move.

Daily, they sit in classrooms. Later, they may sit in front of televisions and computers.

Teachers and others involved with the cognitive development in young people have long understood the connection between movement and learning. They know that those children not involved in some sort of physical activity may be missing a critical component in their education.

Physical education staff members of Regional School Union 58 took that message to students in a big way just before their Thanksgiving break.

Drums Alive trainer Carol Richards led students through an intensive brain and body workout, pushing them through exuberant bursts of high-intensity drumming and movement, mixed with educational activities, disguised as fun. A passionate believer in the endless capacity for children to learn and have fun at the same time, she encouraged the students to make lots of noise and jump around. They were clearly happy to oblige.

Richards said many studies have proved the connection between learning and moving.


“Children who are involved in music and dance before the age of 5, before they start school, are ahead academically,” she said.

Even simple hand-clapping activities encourage a child’s coordination, social development and learning skills. Students learning math, language arts, science, social studies, health and physical education can use more of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, she explained.

“Rhythm gets the brain to open up in news ways,” she said. “The Drums Alive curriculum works on patterns that include math, science, for example.”

Physical activity simply makes the brain’s complex functions work more efficiently. Richards said that concept, called neural plasticity, lets the learner get the maximum benefit from standard educational requirements. That’s why schools should consider music, art and physical education programs as essential to the best learning outcomes for all children.

Planning for Richards’ day with Strong students actually began two years ago, when RSU 58 physical education instructors Kawika Thompson and Lanie Roy attended a Drums Alive workshop at a conference. They learned the basics of the curriculum and were determined to bring the program back to their students.

Thompson asked Healthy Community Coalition’s Physical Education Program grant administrator Tricia Robinson for the funding to bring the one-day Drums Alive experience to Strong Elementary School children. The money from this Carol M. White Grant three-year grant has been used to expand physical activity opportunities for all students in RSU 9, RSU 58 and Flagstaff schools.


Roy and Thompson plan to incorporate the drumming curriculum and possibly train others to lead the activities in the district.

“We’re hoping we can actually take the curriculum and adopt and adapt with what we have for equipment,” Thompson said. “It’s an alternative to the traditional games and activities.”

The Drums Alive program is an international effort, Richards said.

“The research is out there that this works,” she said.

As a trainer, she also works with Special Olympics, seniors and Alzheimer’s patients, among other populations.

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