The cross-disciplinary Roots of Rhythm program is a rewarding way to help students learn the intellectual skills and reach the goals of state-mandated curriculums in social studies, art, math, and/or science.

Whether used as a standalone lesson plan for a 5th or 6th grade module or as a module enhancement, Roots of Rhythm will get students “learning by doing” and excited about acquiring knowledge.

imgThis chart lists selected state-mandated curriculum goals in four disciplines and how Roots of Rhythm fits these goals. The goals are a composite of those found in the state curriculums of Illinois, California, and New York.

In addition, Roots of Rhythm will teach students general skills, such as discipline, concentration, inter-personal communication, and the rewards of hard work.

The Roots of Rhythm Fun Sheets, which are included with each chapter, reinforce the learning process through the use of word games, graphic arts projects, musical exercises, and Venn diagrams.

Roots of Rhythm Aligns with State Curriculum Goals

Social Studies

Key Idea: Interpret maps using spatial thinking.

Students study the size, population, and surface features of every region covered. The Roots of Rhythm teacher guide contains maps and information on each region’s climate and geography.

Key Idea: Understand trade routes, migration, and diffusion of culture.

Students will learn how different groups have exchanged musical forms and instruments through trade, migration, and slavery. For example, when studying the bongo drums, students will study how Afro-Cuban music has been influenced by European explorers and West African slaves.

Key Idea: Examine timelines, and display knowledge of history’s movement.

Students will learn about important historical events and how these events have shaped drums. For example, the turntable lesson teaches students about the history of electricity and the developments that led to the turntable.

Key Idea: Realize and understand the complexity of world cultures and religions.

Students will learn about different cultural groups that exist and interact within one region. In the United States, students will study the drum of the Lakota Native Americans and learn about interactions between Native Americans and white settlers.

Key Idea: Learn about exploitation of physical resources and the role technology has played in cultures.

The history of each drum will teach students about natural and man-made resources. Students will learn that many early drums were made out of animal skins, while steel drums of Trinidad and Tobago were originally made out of recycled garbage pails and pans.

imgArt & Music

Key Idea: Process and analyze the language of music.

Students will discover, analyze, and explore the drum rhythms of many different cultures, such as the “tal” rhythm of India or the “gagaku” rhythms of Japan.

Key Idea: Create and perform works of art and music.

Each lesson comes with interactive audio content as well as drum rhythm charts. Students can listen and interpret, and they are encouraged to play along.

Key Idea: Understand historical or cultural contexts within which art is produced.

Students will learn how drum rhythms are often created within specific cultural contexts and with religious, military, or other purposes in mind, such as the Griot drumming of Guinea, used in storytelling.

Key Idea: Connect art and music concepts to other disciplines.

Students will make many connections to social studies, math, and science. Each lesson is inter-disciplinary, looking at cultural, technological, and other aspects of world drumming.

Key Idea: Discover different art media and apply them to original creations.

In each lesson, there are instructions on how to make each drum out of found, common, and recycled materials. Students discover that many world drums are made from these materials, such as oil drums (steel drums) and animal skins (African drums).


Key Idea: Know that classifying is essential to scientific inquiry.

Students will learn how musicologists classify drums in many ways, e.g. Into the sub-groups lamellaphones, membranophones, idiophones, etc.

Key Idea: Carry out a procedure and write a process analysis others can follow.

Teachers can easily tailor the drum- and rhythm-making elements of the curriculum into exercises in process analysis.

Key Idea: Discover the structure, properties, and use of matter and the elements.

Students will learn how the properties of raw materials and elements affect the sound of drums. The different properties of metallic alloys, for instance, are crucial to cymbal making.

Key Idea: Examine the nature of energy, and how it is transferred.

Drumming is a lesson in energy transfer and sound wave propagation. Students find out how human energy is transferred to a drum to create different kinds of sound waves.

Key Idea: Examine the cultural effects of the exploitation of raw materials.

Students discover how industrial and technological innovations led to innovations in drum manufacture, such as metal working (cymbals), oil exploration (steel drums), and solid state electricity (turntables).


Key Idea: Model activities with math components from written or aural sources.

imgStudents become familiar with mathematical concepts through interpretation and modeling complex rhythms and polyrhythms.

Key Idea: Learn to organize and communicate mathematical thinking.

Playing their instruments together in drum ensembles, students learn how to communicate with each other through the mathematics of music.

Key Idea: Recognize and apply math ideas in everyday situations.

Students investigate the Aristotelian link between mathematics and music and learn how musical tones can be expressed as whole numbers and fractions.

Key Idea: Understand and apply math operations such as multiplying and dividing.

In many cultures, rhythms go beyond base four (i.e. 4/4 rhythm) to use base 12 or base 14 (in the tabla rhythms of India). Students will learn about different “bases” and how to manipulate them.

Key Idea: Analyze geometric shapes and their properties.

Drums are made in a variety of geometric shapes. Students will get hands on lessons in geometry by investigating cones (the naqqara of Turkey), cylinders (steel drums), and squares (the adufe of Portugal)