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Schools Turn to Setting Guinness World Records to Make Class Time Fun

Apr 2, 2011 – 4:44 PM
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Michael McLaughlin Contributor

Students in Bloomfield, Colo., have plans to break a record for the world's largest game of hide-and-seek, while pupils in Nantucket, Mass., hope to don costumes to eclipse the mark for most people dressed as storybook characters.

Why can't school always be this much fun?

The rush to get into the history books -- instead of just studying them -- comes from a contest challenging kids to accomplish amazing feats in the classroom or schoolyard for the Guinness Book of World Records.

For the competition, Guinness World Records officials forged a partnership with Carson-Dellosa Publishing, allowing visitors to the education company's website to vote for the school they think should have a shot at getting its name in the famed trivia record book -- plus $1,000 worth of classroom supplies.

"Everyone is super-excited," said Jennifer Vickers, a Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary School teacher from Vincennes, Ind.

Her second-grade class conjured plans for the entire school to establish a new record for the largest mural made from recyclable materials.

"It's like wildfire in my little town here," she told AOL News. "We're going to ask for all the students and community to send in recyclable materials."

Her pupils' artistic vision calls for covering a wall in the school gymnasium with a gigantic anti-bullying mural made from secondhand paper, plastic bottles and other used items, like McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

To convey the anti-bullying message, the students are leaning toward a pattern with a big red circle and slash through it -- like a no smoking sign -- and a catchy slogan, like "It's not nice to be a bully."

That's the kind of project Carson-Dellosa officials hoped to inspire when they launched the competition earlier this year.

"What we wanted to do was come up with something that was innovative for the classroom that could be tied to learning," said CEO Judy Harris. "This is one of those projects that bridge school and home learning."

Her company produces a line of Guinness-related products, including reading workbooks with questions and answers on passages about the world's largest spider (the Goliath bird-eating spider of South America) or the most sand castles built in one hour (520 by a French team in 2007.)

There's also a set of flashcards with photographs from unusual athletic triumphs, such as the largest dance class (26,797 British elementary school students in Liverpool danced in several venues at once in 2008).

"Kids react to wacky things," Harris said. "They remember better when it's attached to something that's exciting, like amazing animals or weird foods."
world's largest snail
Guinness World Records
Students are using Guinness World Records education workbooks and flashcards to learn about fascinating records, feats and curiosities, like the world's largest snail.

Carson-Dellosa officials narrowed the list of entrants to 10 finalists and opened its website to public voting on March 23. More than 9,000 votes have been cast, Harris told AOL News.

One school that made the cut is Owingsville (Ky.) Elementary School, which aims to surpass the mark for the world's largest friendship bracelet.

Jessica Goldy Johnson's fourth-grade class is spearheading the project, enlisting about 500 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to participate. Spools and spools of thread in the school's colors of red, white and black have been stockpiled so each child can make a one-foot link on the bracelet which, when finished, will stretch across the neighboring high school's football field.

"It's nice to be working on a cause rather than dealing with something negative in the world," said Goldy Johnson, whose class completed several friendship-themed lessons around Valentine's Day.

And because everyone at the school has been whipped into such frenzy about the record, they're going to attempt to break it even if they're not chosen by online voters.

"Either way, we're doing it in a couple of weeks because everyone is so into it," Goldy Johnson said. "All the kids are really excited."

Guinness officials said the company upholds the same strict criteria for competing schools as it does with all aspiring record-setters. Only performances that are measurable, quantifiable, verifiable and breakable are entered on their pages.

"If it doesn't have those four criteria, we don't accept it as a record," said Guinness World Records' product sales manager Jennifer Gilmour. "We gravitate toward the more interesting and unique records."

The format is unusual for Guinness, which usually doesn't have the public voting for who gets a chance at a title.

But Gilmour said it's in keeping with the company's spirit.

"Anyone can come to us," she said. "Every day is a contest."

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