Joe Harris teaches a leadership class for seventh and eighth graders at Waldport Middle School, and early on in the school year, he asked his students to think about some big project they would like to take on.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we do something big for the end of the year, something tied to positive behavior,’” recalled Harris. The students came up with the usual ideas of a school dance or party, but Harris had something different in mind. “I said, ‘What about a world record?’ I just happened to find the one that was set last year by a company over in Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates). They did 60 people as like a team-building exercise. They did a great big photo cutout board.”
The students agreed to take this on, and during the last week of school, on Wednesday, June 12, a large group gathered on the Waldport High School football field in an effort to set a new Guinness World Record for the most people in a photo cutout board — they had a total of 76 people involved, hoping to break the old record by 16.
Preparing for that day began in earnest back in January. “I don’t think they thought that it would come to fruition,” Harris said of the students’ efforts. “We had an eighth-grade girl who drew a scale drawing, and then we’ve been taking a camera and projecting her images up onto the boards … we would trace them and they would start painting them.”
The project involved about 30 sheets of plywood. The backdrop consisted of three separate rows, but when viewed from the front, it looked more like one large picture.
“The back row, once it’s up, will be about 11 feet high,” Harris said prior to the final assembly process. “And then the middle row is a 5-foot row, and then we’ve got some cutouts of like a big submarine and other things that will be on the very front row.”
To qualify for Guinness World Record status, the entire project required a great deal of documentation.
“I have to have an official surveyor come down and measure it and then record that on a letterhead for me so I can upload that,” said Harris. “I have to have witnesses that don’t have anything to do with the record so they can monitor the counting process. There has to be a specific counting process, we have to video the process and then we just upload all that evidence to Guinness World Records.”
Normally the review process by Guinness World Records takes a bit of time. “It usually takes them 10 to 12 weeks to review evidence,” Harris said, “but we can pay for an expedited service.” The leadership class had done some fundraising throughout the year to pay for this project, so they chose to pay that fee, and “we’ll know within a week whether we made the record or not.”
There are around two-dozen members in the leadership class, but there were plenty of volunteers — both middle school and high school students, as well as school staff members — who were willing to jump in and help last week with the record-setting effort. Each person whose face was included in the photo cutout was given a wristband with the words “World Record Participant,” along with the date of the attempt.
“If we end up setting the new world record, then at the start of next year, we’ll have an assembly and we’ll recognize all those students and we’ll give them a new bracelet, T-shirt and picture,” Harris said. “The new bracelet will say ‘Guinness World Record Holder.’ If we set the record, it will be the Waldport schools that will be the official record holder.”
Harris said this project achieved his objective for the leadership class. “At every step of the way, our middle school students exceeded expectations and worked as a large group of individuals to accomplish their goal.” He added that the students even surprised themselves. “They’re really excited about it. A lot of them made the comment, ‘I can’t believe we’re actually finishing this.’”
And so what becomes of the large photo cutout board now that the world record documentation is complete? “We would like to put it somewhere in the community as kind of a permanent picture,” said Harris.