LEHI -- The auditorium darkened, the curtain was drawn. Excited whispers could be heard coming from the stage. John Jay over sound is making some last minute adjustments and Connor Harris is poised and ready with his electric drums to set the rhythm.
Arms raised, the students were alert and waiting. The curtain parted and slowly, the drumming on the big, brightly colored balls began.
The drummers were Sego Lily Elementary students who showed the audience, made up of their parents and grandparents, how to use the drum sticks for Drums Alive in their Academic Beats school program, designed to get them exercising and thinking simultaneously.
One class of young students was so excited to perform, they arrived behind the curtain a bit early and were escorted by their teachers to wait in the hall until it was their turn. Most children were smiling, some seemed sparked with energy, confidence and joy.
A few were hesitant. One second-grade girl was near tears from stage fright, but after their routine was complete cried out to her teacher, "It was OK, I did practice. I did practice."
Funded through a $2,000 grant from "Fuel Up to Play 60," Sego Lily Elementary School staff were able to get the needed fitness balls, sticks, ball stands and other equipment to teach the children exercise, healthy lifestyle choices -- some of the money was used for healthy snacks for the kids -- and cognitive and intellectual exercise as well.
Sego Lily lead secretary Lynette Rushton grinned from her station behind the office counter before the program began.
"Wait until you see the smiles," she said. "They love it."
Camille Cottle, Sego Lily physical education teacher, doesn't mind teaching the program.
"The Drums Alive program is a program that provides integral training mixed with cognitive learning," Cottle said. "Integral training is getting your heart rate up really high."
She says during their brief rest cycle, they work on mathematical skills and a mix of different subjects to get the brain going.
"Camille has obviously been promoting it all year long," principal Courtney Johnson of the Academic Beats program. Johnson and her sister, Carrie Ekins, cofounded Academic Beats. Together, they developed a program that was fun for students without them really being aware that they were learning academics at the same time.
"They don't need to know," Ekins said with a chuckle. "It's helping them feel good, get in shape, having fun while doing it, and that learning can be fun."
The program works 3- to 5-minute cycles to get the heart rate up and helps fight childhood obesity, burn calories and create endorphins. Alternating between three to five minutes of cognitive exercise and three to five minutes of math and other thinking exercises, it's a workout kids appear to love.
"All those things that make the kids think 'wow this feels good;' makes the kids feel good inside and outside," Ekins said.
Drums Alive is a program used in Germany, Austria and other parts of Europe, as well as in Hawaii, Utah and New York.
Ekins has been busy traveling and introducing the program to schools. She developed the original program, Drums Alive, when she was recuperating from an injury and wanted to build up her strength. She began investigating the benefits of drumming and discovered it was not only healthy for her body but for her brain.
Ekins flew in from Germany to be at the presentation for the Sego Lily parents on Wednesday. The auditorium was full for the early morning event.