Charleston teacher using cardio desk drumming as problem-solving tool

An elementary school teacher in West Ashley wants her kids to learn calm-down strategies they can take with them even through their adult lives.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 7:20 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 9:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - An elementary school teacher in West Ashley wants her kids to learn calm-down strategies they can take with them even through their adult lives.

Erika Whitesides has been knee-deep in the education system for 23 years. Three of those years she’s now teaching at Springfield Elementary School in West Ashley.

What makes my journey is that I learn and grow all the time,” Whitesides says, “And it all comes back to the kids and what they need.”

Whitesides says her job is what she gives back. Whether that’s through the community, the people around her, or making an impact on her students’ lives. Whitesides has each of her students repeat an affirmation before they leave the classroom.

“Every day when we leave we say I am somebody, I was somebody before I came, I’m going to be a better somebody when I leave and I deserve the education that I get here, I’m strong and I’m powerful,” Whitesides says.

She says she wants her kids to know that everything they learn in class matters and that whatever they do outside of the classroom matters equally as much.

Whitesides says through all these years she’s learned a great deal of literacy instruction. It’s the main focus of what she teaches in her classroom: Not only how to read words on a page or learn how to write and communicate but be literate about all realms of life. So her goal in the classroom is to create a safe space.

“I think it’s important not only for kids to do those things but for kids to create things and know themselves,” Whitesides says. “Know when they’re stressed out and what to do.”

Whitesides says she’s very passionate about cardio desk drumming. In cardio desk drumming, you can use pool noodles and turn them into drumsticks. Whitesides says it will give her students a brain break for a small portion of the day and take a stress break. The kids move to rhythm at their desks and focus on body movement.

“It’s really cool, it’s a safe way to get some fidgets out to move around and grow as a community, we’re creating beats and sounds together,” Whitesides says.

Whitesides says it really helps to get the kids back on track once they get all of their energy out so they can learn something new. Once Whitesides gets the long pool noodles, she’ll cut them down and every child gets their own set. She says her project is unique since she’s planning on making sets for teachers at the entire school so they’re able to use them in their classrooms. She says dealing with stress is an important thing to know how to handle and Whitesides wants to give them the tools to solve them so they can overcome.

“When they’re focused on drumming they’re not thinking of the thing that was hard or the math problem they didn’t know how to do, they’re only thinking about drumming,” Whitesides says.

Whitesides says she’d love books and journals for her kids. She encouraged them to write because communication is important and if they can’t communicate it verbally they can write it down.

Whitesides says that seeing her kids come back and give her a hug it lets her know she’s made a difference. She says that’s what makes her job and her career a success.

“I love when they come back and I’ve made some kind of impact on their life,” Whitesides says, “It really means so much when the student who struggled who I’ve helped them and they’re a confident reader now or the student who maybe not struggled academically but struggled in their heart, I tell them my most important job is to keep you safe and to keep your heart safe.”

Be the very first to support Whitesides on her journey to get Cardio desk drumming for her second graders and give them pool noodles for their desk. She only needs $240 for her project and you can become a Classroom Champion by donating at this link.

If you know of a teacher in need of supplies for their classroom have them email