Skylar Bucher – African Drums

This school year so far has been good, although at times stressful, with it being the first full year trying to balance work—and everything that comes with it—in addition to dealing with losing Andrew and raising my sweet Jameson. It’s been a learning process for sure trying to multi-task the two. I’m hopeful that next school year will be much better after getting one full school year down and figuring out what works best for me.

I wanted to share a printmaking lesson I did with 3rd grade this year for Black History Month. I introduced students to the African Djembe Drum, similar to the Cuban Conga, which is primarily used in West Africa, originating from the Mali Empire. I shared this video explaining the Djembe and its history further:, with the students and I go over some slides I put together with more information relating to Africa as a Continent and images of the Djembe.

On a 4×6” piece of computer paper (since it’s thin), each student drew their own Djembe drum. Using my Document Camera, I broke down each part of the drum using various shapes to help students easily see how to create the basic outline of the drum, reminding them to also use as much of their paper as possible since it is already a smaller size. Then, they decided how they wanted their strings to look and were instructed to divide the base of the drum into smaller sections, creating geometric patterns inside of them. It is best if they keep their patterns simple and try their best to draw them as clearly as possible.

Once their drawings are complete, I taped a 4×6” sheet of foam to the back of it. I demonstrated how to carefully trace over their drawing with a dull pencil, transferring their design onto the foam. I have the students repeat this step twice, show me their foam, then I have them go directly onto the foam with their pencil, tracing it one last time to make sure their impressions are deep enough for printing. I remind them to not press down too hard or they will poke through the foam. After they complete the transferring, students carefully cut out their foam drums.

Each student has the chance to pick out their 9×12” printing paper (I use Pacon fadeless paper) color from the choices I give them, sticking to colors used African art (shades of red, orange, yellow, green and blue). Using a ruler, students created a 1” border all the way around their paper, keeping the squared off corners. Inside of their border, they are directed to create more geometric patterns but they must create the same pattern in the side across from it, for ex: top/bottom, left/ride side, 4 corners, so essentially they only have to come up with 3 separate patterns.  Their border and patterns are outline with sharpie once completed.

On printing day, I discuss printmaking with them and provide them with a demonstration where they all gather around one of the tables to see how to correctly apply ink to the foam drum using a brayer and how to lay it onto their printing paper. They all thoroughly enjoyed watching me during the demo and “oooh’d” and “Ahhh’d” when I pulled off the foam from the paper and saw the design magically appear. I have them create two prints inside of the “frame” that is created by the border because more times than not, one isn’t as clean/clear as the other, and it also helps them get a feeling for the printing process.


Overall, I’m happy with the outcome of this lesson. I feel like the students were able to learn more about the African culture through the history of the Djembe while creating wonderful works of art through the printmaking process. I love watching students become so involved in a lesson and enjoy each step along the way! Several other grade levels kept asking when they were going to get to try printing next after seeing what they were doing each day.


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