A few months ago, I was contacted by a teacher at Monroe Elementary School about the possibility of having me come speak to their students, teach frisbee, help them out with a Guinness World Records attempt and speak to the parents. Monroe is a S.T.E.M. school located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has an incredibly diverse population with more than 20 languages spoken amongst the 600+ students.
When I first spoke with Kristin and Lisa on the phone about their request, it became clear how much both of these teachers cared and how important this day was to them. After our phone call, we all knew that this was a great match and they confirmed that they wanted me to be a part of the day.
Kristin and Lisa were the brainchild behind this day and came up with the theme “Be Amazing”. Their idea was to have the students from Monroe attempt to set the Guinness Worlds Record for “Most Balanced Spinning Fidget Spinners”. Their goal was to have the entire school attempt the record and, according to the guidelines we received from Guinness, we needed to have at least 250 students be successful for the record to count.
This stemmed from their work on Growth Mindset within the school to instill values of grit, practice, process, perseverance, and teamwork. They wanted to combine all of the values into an event that would showcase what having a Growth Mindset means and would help the students apply the values in ways that would stick with them moving forward. They also wanted to link into the STEM aspects which is why a fidget spinner works so well.
Personally, I thought it was a brilliant idea and the main reason they reached out to me is because I have 6 Guinness World Records and I speak to kids & parents. We talked a lot about the plan for the day, the values they wanted me to relay in my presentation, frisbee workshops and the parent session. On my drive across Canada, I ended up stopping by Monroe to meet the teachers and staff and check out the school so I would have a better idea of the space I’d be working with. They did a short video with me doing some tricks with a Spinjammer saying that I was “Being Amazing” which they used to help promote the day, which they kept a secret from the students until about a week before the event.
There was an incredible amount of planning that went into making the day possible including ordering custom stamped Monroe fidget spinners and custom stamped Frisbee Fastbacks and mini Frisbees. According to the Guinness guidelines, the fidget spinner had to spin for at least one minute for the record to be valid so although a lot of students had their own fidget spinners, the ones they ordered for the event were really high quality and were easily able to spin for one minute (I did a test and kept it spinning for two minutes).
Leading up to the day, there were a lot of videos, posts, updates and newsletters going out to students, parents and the media. The kids were busy practicing spinning, doing mock attempts to understand the process so that every student was able to be counted, how they would be sitting during the attempt, how the timing worked, and how to know when the time was up (the kids sang a song written by the 3rd grade class, which made for incredible energy!).
My plan was to fly in the day before the record attempt and fly out the day after. Living in Canada and flying in the wintertime always involves a risk with the weather but fortunately, all of my flights were on time and the weather was perfect so I made it to Minnesota with no issues.
I arrived at Monroe on Thursday, Dec 21 around 8:30am and found out that Kristin was sick and wouldn’t be able to make it for the day, which was a huge bummer. As I mentioned before, I know how much she cares and how hard she’s been working to make this happen (which was clear with how smoothly the day ran even without her there!).
I first ran a frisbee workshop for a group of 35 Kindergarten to 2nd Grade students that was about 75 minutes long. I did a frisbee demo, showing them what’s possible with frisbee, taught them spinning, rolling, sliding and passing, then we worked on throwing, played some balancing games, and they got to run and catch my throws. They had a great time and each of them improved so much! I then had a frisbee workshop with around 35 students from 3-5 Grade for about 75 minutes as well and I was able to get into more high level skills such as having the students play catch together, work on some tricks, practice throwing at the disc golf basket, more running & catching and they even invented a game similar to bump or knockout but with frisbees and a disc golf basket.
After lunch, I spoke to all of the Kindergarten – 2nd Graders (roughly 300 students) about kindness, determination, acceptance and unplugging. I challenged them to spend at least one day over the holidays where they wouldn’t watch movies or tv or play video games. I talked to them about the importance of sleep, reading, reducing their screen time and spending more time with family and friends. The kids were really great listeners and they loved the frisbee demo at the end, where I showed them about 15 different ways to throw and threw a frisbee into the basketball net from the other end of the gym!
After a short break, I gave the same presentation to the 3rd – 5th graders, and there were about 300 students in the crowd for that one as well. I always find that the older kids are better at listening but I do find that no matter how young or old the students are, they always take something away from the presentation. I really hope the students do take my Unplugg’d challenge and my messages about reducing screen time, increasing play time and time with friends and family resonates with them and has an impact on them moving forward.
After the second presentation, there was only about 10 minutes to clear the gym and get ready for the record attempts. The students and staff have been rehearsing the process to ensure all of the guidelines are followed and the students can get settled in the gym as quickly and efficiently as possible. The cameras, media, stewards, officials, teachers and timer also got setup during this time. It was a flurry of activity and added to the excitement because no one was stressed at all – the energy and smiles were infectious and you could tell that everyone was just happy to be a part of something special.
Once all the kids were in the gym and the stewards were all set to record their assigned groups with their iPads, a few announcements were made. I was asked to say something but when I was handed the mic, I started to feel myself getting emotional so I made it short. I held up my Guinness World Records certificate from the 2nd Guinness Record with Davy that I brought with me and said to the kids “Good luck, I hope that you are about to get your own very soon”. Lisa then said a few words to get things going and the first of 3 attempts was made. They had decided beforehand to only do 3 attempts because it’s a lot on the kids – the excitement, the concentration and the energy. In order to know that a minute had passed, the kids sang a song written by the 3rd grade classes with the help of a professional musician. I had been told there would be music playing but I didn’t know that they were going to be singing, let along singing a song that they had written themselves. It was all so incredibly positive, exciting, wonderful and inspiring. Some of the Kindergarten kids could barely hold the fidget spinners on their finger so they had a tough time doing the record, but they all gave it their best shot! Each of the three attempts were similar so as a witness, I had no idea which one was their best one. I was standing right next to the Kindergarten group so I did see a fair number of fidget spinners dropped but I know that the older kids had a much higher success rate. I knew that the minimum required for the record was 250 which was much less than half of the kids attempting (there were roughly 675 kids attempting) so I knew for sure they had gotten the minimum but wouldn’t know for sure until the stewards reviewed the videos and got the official count.
Shortly after the 3rd attempt, the kids were dismissed to get on their busses for home time. The gym was cleared out and chairs were set up for the parents session which I was planning on doing at 6:30 for about an hour.
The next few hours was spent high fiving and saying good bye to kids, hanging out with the admin and other teachers, meeting some parents, meeting the artist who did a painting to commemorate, and getting ready for the parents session.
I was asked to talk to the parents (and any kids that showed up as well) about Growth Mindset as it relates to what their kids have been learning at Monroe and how it links into their own lives. The lessons from Growth Mindset apply to people of all ages, in all stages of life, so I really did my best to make the presentation relatable, engaging, entertaining, and educational.
I was told that roughly 100 parents had RSVP’d but in the end, I think about 30 parents were there – which was still great! It was actually the largest parent session I’ve done! It was also the first parent session where they were encouraged to bring their kids but the issue I’ve had in the past is that just not many parents show up so the fact that 30 came out was huge!
I shared a lot of information with everyone, we showed a highlight video that Nate put together from the day’s events, and Lisa talked to the parents about how proud she was of the students and how they really embraced the idea of #BeingAmazing.
This was by far the most inspirational, engaging day I’ve ever spent at a school. I did two frisbee workshops, two presentations, a parent session, and was a witness to the Guinness World Record attempt. I’ve been to almost 200 schools and the biggest thing you can feel is whether or not a school has a strong community with their students and staff. Monroe definitely has raised the bar of what a school community means and it’s a story that I will be sharing with future schools I visit.
Lisa and Kristin, you are both amazing and I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to be a part of this event. Thank you so much and I cannot wait to see you and your students again in the springtime!
As a bonus, I got to stay with my frisbee family Mindy and Paul. We’re planning the 2018 version of the Minnesota Overall so I’m excited to be back in Edina and throw frisbees!