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Percussion for compassion: Students beat drums to beat back bullying

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BOUNTIFUL — Students at Tolman Elementary School are learning about emotions and bullies through the help of drums.

In the school's gym Monday morning, dozens of children formed a circle around an instructor and pounded away on drums.

Special education teacher Emily Wischerath said it was great to see her kindergarten through second-grade students smiling and getting into the drumming from the No Bully Drum Bus Tour put on by Rhythms of Life.

"It was awesome," she said. "I think they really enjoyed it."

Wischerath said she believes the chant — be brave, be bold, somebody must be told — likely will stick with the children.

After chanting, the students discussed safe, trusted people they could talk to about bullies. The students then put those names into the chant, replacing the word "somebody" for a teacher's name.

Rhythms of Life owner Mike Liston said using the drums helps connect with the anti-bullying message.

"It's kinesthetic, it's auditory, it's physical, it speaks to all the intelligences," Liston said.

Drumming lets the children pound out their emotions — as happiness, sadness and anger all have rhythms. The drumming also teaches the students to work within a group setting.

"We talk about emotions and then play those emotions on the drum so they can play what sad or angry or happy feels like," Liston said. "We talk and drum and talk and drum, and in the process, the kids get an awareness of bullying and how to stop it. And they get an understanding of what it feels like, then how to take some action."

Liston said the drumming helps gets the message through to children better than a lecture.

The No Bully Drum Bus Tour travels to schools, drug treatment centers and business around Utah to help individuals recognize emotions and to talk about bullying.

E-mail: mrichards@desnews.com