How do you get students together to have fun when everyone is learning online from home? With a school-sized virtual dance party! Union Ridge Elementary School held an online school dance recently to give students a chance to celebrate their upcoming winter break.
The Union Ridge Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) usually holds fun events throughout the year, including dances, movie nights, and even carnivals. But COVID-19 restrictions cancelled many events—including two dances last spring.
Perla Hauge, PTO co-president, explained how the virtual dance party came about. “We had a large inventory of 80’s dance things so we thought, ‘How can we recreate a dance in a virtual way?’ We reached out to our DJ, Craig Brown at High Fidelity.” Brown had run a virtual dance for a much smaller school over Zoom. But with hundreds of students at Union Ridge, a regular Zoom meeting wasn’t going to be big enough. They had to brainstorm.
Hauge spoke to the school district to get permission to stage the event as a Zoom webinar instead. Webinars divide a large group into panelists and attendees. Panelists are visible by everyone, but attendees are not. To make the dance something everyone could participate in, the PTO decided to let attendees use the “raise your hand” feature to notify administrators when they wanted to show off their dance moves.
Prior to the event, the PTO made dance party packs (goody bags with cool shuttered sunglasses, a glow stick, and a snack) for each student. Families picked up the dance party packs from a drive-through display outside the school.
On Thursday, everyone joined the webinar for the online dance party. Things went smoothly, with lots of kids asking to be on camera to dance. “Craig Brown of High Fidelity did an incredible job keeping the kids engaged,” Hauge said, with virtual games, great music, and a virtual scavenger hunt.
Sean Friend was excited to join the online dance party. PHOTO CREDIT: Kelley Friend.
First grader Harper Rashoff got all decked out for the virtual dance. PHOTO CREDIT: Heidi McCoy Rashoff
The PTO made a display so parents could drive through to pick up goody bags before the dance.
Hauge was pleased that almost 200 kids participated. “The dance party was a big hit!” she said. “Teachers, kids, parents, dogs, everyone had a blast. My second grader was especially tickled by learning the lawnmower and the shopping cart dance moves. He’s been doing them all morning!”
Lots of students and parents were grateful for the break in routine. Kelley Fuller-Friend posted on the PTO’s Facebook group, “What a fantastic dance party! A big thank you to Perla Hauge and Heidi McCoy-Rashoff and the entire PTO crew for all of your hard work and thoughtfulness. A great way to end a tough year.”
With the success of their virtual dance party, the PTO hopes other schools will consider hosting similar events. And Hague said they are going to continue planning new online events for the rest of the school year. “We’re going to roll with it and do our best to bring our Tater Tots something new and fun.”