The drumbeats were steady and deliberate, echoing through the halls of SPC’s Midtown Campus. Within minutes, students who had never seen a West African Djembe or Ashiko drum were enthralled, captivated by the rhythm they were creating in the room.
“It’s going to get loud in here,” said facilitator and drum circle leader Steve Turner as he welcomed students to Meg Delgato’s Biological Issues class earlier this semester.
It got so loud, in fact, that they were soon asked to drum outside, where students who had not participated much in class came alive.
“I’m not really a science person, but I love music,” said Antonio Williams, who is studying business. “To be able to combine something I don’t like with something I do like was great.”
See what the students in Meg Delgato’s Biological Issues class learned by combining music and science.
11 a.m.to 1:30 p.m.
Royal Theater, 1011 22nd St. S
across from the Midtown campus
“This was one science class I knew I couldn’t do without,” said Devin Plant, who graduates this semester and plans to study psychology. “We’re making it scientific and finding out it’s fun.”
Those words are, ahem, music to Delgato’s ears.
With the help of a $3,500 Innovation Grant from the St. Petersburg College Foundation, Delgato created the semester-long class project called Instrumental Change: Using Drum Circles to Teach the Art of Science. Through the grant, students in her Midtown and Tarpon Springs classes partnered with staff from Giving Tree Music to research and investigate connections between art, music and science.
On May 1, from 11 a.m.to 1:30 p.m., her Midtown students will host a school-community drum circle event at the Royal Theater to unveil what they learned.
“Drumming helps people heal physically, boosts their immune system, creates a feeling of well-being and releases emotional trauma,” said student Lashondala Teagle, who plans on becoming a teacher. “It’s great for stress release and anxiety, which is why we’re holding our event around finals week.”
Teagle has worked with Turner before, when he visited the YMCA where she works.
“The kids love it,” she said. “It brings out the kid in all of us.”
Through Giving Tree Music, Turner sells his hand-made drums and leads “drum circles for human empowerment” for businesses, schools, at-risk youth, special needs groups, festivals and corporate team building seminars. He finds the energy incomparable.
“People make such powerful connections when they drum together,” said Turner, a graduate of SPC. “This really shows the power of teamwork and what it can do.”
Making science accessible
Ultimately, Delgato wants to make her Biological Issues class mean something more than checking a box to fulfill a life science requirement. She wants her students to make strong connections with science so they are prepared for a world that is flooded with information.
“The one thing I want to give my students is scientific literacy so they can make sense of the information they are bombarded with on a daily basis,” said Delgato, who has received Innovation Grants the past three years for various learning projects. “They need to be able to know what’s going on and be equipped to analyze the source of the information, not just accept things at face value.”
As voters and citizens, students continually make decisions about their communities and issues that affect them, like hurricane threats, air pollution, land usage, endangered species, flooding, waste, genetically altered food and pesticides, among others, Delgato said.
“I wanted to find innovative ways to make learning relevant and meaningful to them. Most of them won’t go to work in the sciences, and they have not had positive experiences in other science classes. But at the end of the day there are some very basic skills that we all need because the information that comes out of the sciences drives all that we know and do.”
What students discovered
In their research, students found studies that say drumming is a valuable treatment for chronic conditions such as stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders and a wide range of physical disabilities.
As for relieving stress, medical researchers have found that drumming increases the production and release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones like melatonin, norepinephrine, serotonin and prolactin into the bloodstream, which may contribute to patients’ relaxed and calm mood.
Students will present these findings, along with the cultural and historical aspects of drumming at their event.
“You’re really helping yourself when you do the research,” Teagle said. “Plus you can share all this research with your family and friends. It was a lot of work but it was fun. I’m comfortable with science now.”
Why scientific literacy matters
Being able to discern fact from fiction is a crucial skill in our advancing civilization. Consider:
Sources: International Data Corporation, Harvard Business Review and MIT Technology Review
Credibility: What makes a good source
To check the credibility of sources, particularly on the Internet, Delgato recommends looking at the following.