By: Michael Doyle, 2014 SHAPE America Central District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year
In February of 2013 I attended the Central District SHAPE America conference in Jackson, Wyoming. During that conference I attended a session by Kim Morrissey from Kansas that introduced drumming on stability balls that were placed on buckets. Instantly my mind started to wonder about all the possibilities with my Adapted Physical Education classes.
When I got back to Minnesota I went to the lunch room and looked for 5 gallon buckets and then went to the hardware store to get wooden dowels that could be cut into drumsticks. Before I knew it I was ready for a drumming lesson! After looking at YouTube to get ideas about different moves and routines I could teach my Adapted PE students, it became very apparent to me that most of the drumming being done was at very high speed with some pretty complex moves. I soon realized I was on my own to create moves and routines that would be slower and less complex. I also thought it might be better for us to drum to fun songs that everyone knows instead of the very high BPM music that you might hear at a rave at 3 AM. Enter “Chicken Dance,” “Cupid Shuffle,” “Cha-Cha Slide,” and “Wipeout.” My students instantly loved drumming and moving to songs that they had heard before and were familiar with.
After talking about drumming at an Adapted PE workshop in Minneapolis, I met an elementary Adapted PE teacher from St. Paul named Anne Hill. Anne introduced me to the many songs that she has been using at the elementary level like “Hit the Drum” by Go Fish, “The Freeze” by Greg and Steve, and “Chocolate” by Soul Control.
Eventually I wanted to take the drumming and build it up to a large event that my Adapted PE students would perform together. I started by using Google Hangouts to connect with Adapted PE classes from Iowa and Wisconsin and all three of us made plans to perform for each other. For that performance we used the song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. The next year I took my more severely disabled students and performed a Holiday drumming performance to “The Little Drummer Boy” by Mannheim Steamroller on Google Hangouts with the class from Iowa again.
During this time I was also trying to make the equipment for my students easier to use. I made new drumsticks and lengthened them to 18 inches instead of 12 so students in wheelchairs could reach their ball. Although the stability balls on 5 gallon buckets worked well, it was very easy for the bucket to tip over when the ball was hit too hard, so I tried milk crates from the lunch room. While they did not tip over, the ball would still get knocked off if it was hit too hard because the round stability balls were not secure in the square milk crates. It was around that time I noticed the Sportime catalog was selling the Drum-N-Store Bucket Set. I purchased the buckets, and a stability ball has never fallen off since. They have a very wide base and even 75 cm stability balls fit very snug in the bucket.
During the spring of 2015 I did another Google Hangouts drumming routine with the Adapted PE class in Iowa to the song “Timber” by Kesha. After that performance I still thought that I could make our performance bigger. Over the summer I got the idea to have my Adapted PE students perform a drumming routine at halftime of a varsity boys’ basketball game and instantly made that my goal for the year. After hearing the song “Greyhound” by Swedish House Mafia in August I knew that was the song. We started practicing in late January 2-3 times a week for a February 19th basketball game. I can honestly say that the evening of Friday, February 19th was the highlight of my 17-year teaching career. The reaction from the student section was amazing, and the standing ovation from the entire crowd was unforgettable. But the best part was talking to the parents of my students after the game. Most of the parents would never have thought that their son or daughter would ever be willing to perform in front of a crowded gymnasium. It was a very emotional evening for everyone.
I am very excited to make this drumming halftime performance an annual event every year that parents, students, other teachers and, most importantly, administration is talking about.
Who knows? Someday a professional basketball game? Maybe the Super Bowl? Time will tell…