The group of fourth-grade girls embraced their inner rock stars on make-shift drums created from an overturned plastic buckets.

Sitting around a tight circle, the girls at Jackson Elementary School in Davenport and St. Ambrose University music professor Gene Bechen banged out several hip-hop beats while chanting about respect.

In another chant, the group spelled out J-A-C-K-S-O-N, known as the "Jackson Spell."

At the end of the chant, the group banged twice on the drums, threw their arms in the air and then let out a loud "woo!"

"Let's try it again," Bechen told the girls. "C'mon, girl power!"

Bechen and the girls have met every Thursday since January as part of the drum circle, or "bucket girl group," as some of the girls call it.

The group will show off their skills at a school assembly later this month.

Nine-year-old Emerson Hughes said she was proud to be a member of Jackson's first bucket girl drum circle.

"It's better than being in a normal music class because you get to work on different beats," she said.

Jazman Cook, 10, said the class was fun and taught her that you can get farther in life by learning to play different types of instruments.

Bechen said the weekly jam session with the girls is about more than just the music. Bechen said the purpose of the drum circle is to teach the girls teamwork, respect and self-esteem.

"We're using music as a catalyst for the respect piece," he said. "That's the core of what we want to do."

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Bechen said he is amazed to see the girls start to step up and improvise their own beats in front of the group.

"It takes a lot of courage," he said.

The program is a part of the school's Arts BASIC program, which strives to provide access to the arts for all children, co-director Joel Franken said.

Franken said the goal of the drum circle is to target at-risk students to get them excited about being in school.

Last year, Bechen worked with a group of fourth-grade boys in the drum circle.

For Samantha Gilliland and Mia Twitty, both 9, the drum circle is a good chance to have fun with their friends and hang out with Bechen.

"This is a good experience for us," Mia said.