UCLA Pediatric Pain Program Teams Up with Los Angeles Unified School District and Remo, Inc. on Pilot Study of Drumming with 5th Grade Students

Ping Ho, MA, MPH Principal Investigator
Lonnie Zeltzer, MD, Jennie Tsao, PhD, Jeffrey Gornbein, PhD, Lian Bloch, MA Co-Investigators

The UCLArts and Healing and the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program are collaborating with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Remo, Inc. on a pilot study of a cost-effective drumming program for fifth graders aimed at improving social and emotional well-being. A counselor within the school district will serve as the drumming facilitator, in order to demonstrate real-world feasibility and sustainability. The drumming program, which serves as a non-threatening metaphor for life, offers a therapeutic dimension involving guided interaction and reflection. To maximize the program’s impact, the curriculum will be co-designed by a school counselor, drum circle facilitator, and public health educator.

In June 2005, over 100 LAUSD Program Improvement Primary Intervention Counselors participated in a day-long training program on the use of drumming as a therapeutic tool. In a post-program survey of participants, the following major benefits for students were anticipated: stress reduction, self-expression, emotional release/management, cooperation, self-esteem, centering, and focus.

The choice to focus on fifth graders is based upon research showing that early identification and addressing of problems can prevent lifelong aggressive behavior, substance abuse, and risky behavior. Furthermore, LAUSD Program Improvement Primary Intervention Counselors have found existing behavioral interventions to be less effective at this grade level. Finally, fifth graders are old enough to benefit from therapeutic activities that involve reflection.