Drumming Group at Robert Moore School bolsters youth participation

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Boys’ Drumming Group has been a source of pride and connection for many students at Robert Moore School, and the Ojibwe language club for elementary school students has also engaged young people in a love for learning language.

“The number is just growing and growing,” said the presenter at the RRDSB board meeting on Dec. 5 about the drumming group. “And that’s twice a week, it’s not like once a month or every now and again. It’s twice a week and these kids are just buzzing.”

Originally, the drumming group began with only 4 students but has since grown to fill the gym.

“It was a full house in there, which is so great to see. We have kids from all over the school from all the grades. And now with the girls in there too.”

Now that the participation numbers have steadily increased, more supervision and helpers may need to be added, noted the presenter.

“You can feel the buzz in the school that we’ve got a drum group going, so it’s exciting,” the presenter said.

Towards the end of the 2022-2023 School Year, staff reached out to Jay Morrison to help fix the drum and to begin a drumming group for boys.

It was difficult to find the history and name of the drum, the presenter said. After conversation and consultation with elders, Morrison, and many others, it was decided that they could give a new name to the drum.

Finding an ideal location for the drum is important as a dry room has caused the drum hide to split in the past.

The first performance and drum reveal was during a powwow that happened last spring, in partnership with the local Indigenous communities.

On Remembrance day, the Robert Moore School drumming group also presented opening songs.

Most recently, only a week before the board meeting, singing and dancing was introduced to the drumming group, adding diversity in how the young students participate in the group.

Some boys participate by dancing around the drum, bringing loads of energy and spirit to the performance.

Students at Robert Moore School participate in the drum group that has been running at the school and helping to promote a love and interest of the practice, according to a presentation made to the Rainy River District School Board on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. The drum group and Ojibwe language club are both helping to promote better understanding of traditional Anishinaabe traditions and culture. – RRDSB photo

At the board meeting, several updates from the Ojibwe language club were also presented.

“One of my goals with my program in general was to expand what I’m doing so it’s not just advocacy for children care, I also wanted to look at bringing programming into schools that were inclusive of everybody,” said Erika Jourdain, education liaison for Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.

One of her biggest priorities was to lead simple and interactive teachings in an environment where kids are more likely to retain information, especially when working with young students from kindergarten to grade 3.

“So that they’re retaining the information but also having fun and being exposed to language itself,” said Jourdain.

As a parent herself, she felt the importance of language programming in schools. Jourdain stepped up to the plate and facilitated conversations to get the logistics of the program running in schools.

Although she is not a language speaker herself, knowing only several words, Jourdain acknowledged her friend Darcy for their help in providing resources and activities in the Ojibwe language program.

“I was extremely excited to be brought on here,” said Darcy. “It’s that missing age group that I absolutely adore. I like the early years, and those ages, and it was just a perfect opportunity. And I’ve never been happier to help and engage in this age group who absolutely just love the language of love learning.”

In the new year, staff will be looking at ways to potentially expand the program, such as having meetings more than once a week, but for now, they look forward to building a consistent routine.