Bucket drums

Fifth-grade students at Oak View Elementary School drum on buckets during their music period Friday. It’s one of many examples of music teachers finding ways for students to participate in activities while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines this year.

COVID-19 has claimed choir, drama and a number of other performing arts activities at elementary schools in Northwest Allen County Schools, leaving teachers to come up with creative ways to redesign their curriculums.

This year, music teachers are focusing more on rhythms as a way to teach academic standards in lieu of vocals or wind instruments. For Kristen Lemley, a music teacher at Oak View Elementary School, that’s opened a new activity she hopes to keep around even after the pandemic.

Lemley has been teaching her fifth-graders bucket drumming this year, and Menard’s even donated five-gallon buckets to be used by students in her classroom to produce music.

“The students love it, especially the upper grades who can more easily grasp the harder rhythms,” Lemley said. “Since the fifth-graders are missing out on leading songs for the school and performing a musical this year, I thought maybe we could do a bucket drumming performance for FAME and for the parents by sending out videos.”

NACS elementary students typically perform at the Fort Wayne FAME Festival in March each year. Due to COVID-19, that festival will be held virtually this year. Students from Carroll High School’s Studio 415 program are recording Lemley’s classes performing on the bucket drums, and the videos are going to be submitted to FAME for inclusion in the festival this year.

Other things Lemley is doing differently this year include playing ukuleles with grades 3 and 5, going to the cafeteria to play recorders 6 feet apart, and going outside to dance while the weather is nice.

“It’s been really fun learning how to do things, and especially with Mrs. Lemley. I can never ask for a better music teacher than her,” Oak View fifth-grader Ella Swinehart said.

NACS elementary students can sing this semester while masked and 6 feet apart, so Lemley is looking forward to getting outdoors to sing in the spring. However, choir has been a no-go, and no student musicals will take place. Even once things return to normal, Lemley hopes bucket drumming will become a regular part of her fifth-grade classes.

“I think this is going to be a thing for sure,” she said. “I’m hoping we can take them outside, maybe have a program, do a lot of things with them.”

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