Middle school students aim for square dance record

December 21, 2011 (YORKVILLE, Ill.)

They are taught square dancing every year. And they hope that is their ticket to getting a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Gym class at Yorkville Middle School turned into a hoedown Wednesday, with 800 students taking part in square dancing.

"It seems a little old, but it's not really awkward at all. It's fun," said student Thor Hester.

"I like when you get a crazy group, so you can skip and do all that stuff," said student Chloe Longust.

The 7th and 8th graders started learning square dancing last week. It is a tradition that started 37 years ago by two gym teachers who have since retired.

They say the kids always warm up to it.

"I think, after the first day, they realize how much fun it is," said retired gym teacher Patsy Mathre.

"The kids started realizing that, 'Hey, I don't have to ask anybody to dance. I get to dance with some of the hot girls in school,' and the girls say the same thing," said retired gym teacher Mike Drew.

Over the years, as the school grew, so did the square dancing unit.

And, this year, the current gym teacher decided to get the class in the Guinness Book of Records for the most people square dancing at one time. But to be considered for such a distinction is an elaborate process and even requires square dancing experts to make sure it is legitimate.

"We had to submit pictures, video, grid setup of the gym," said gym teacher Becki Deater. "There's a lot of paperwork that we have to send in, but it's worth it."

School officials are confident they will make history. But they say what is most important is that square dancing helps kids become more comfortable with socializing in what can be an awkward time in their lives.

"A lot of times it's their first experience doing something like that, so it's a good social exercise of them," said principal Jeff Szymczak.

Yorkville Middle School should find out in six to eight weeks whether they established a world record.

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