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Monroe Elementary School students cheered when they heard Thursday afternoon that the moment they’d been waiting for had arrived — they were about to try to set a fidget spinner world record.

Nearly 700 people packed the gymnasium at the Brooklyn Park school ready to show off their spinning skills, including school employees and members of the Anoka-Hennepin school board. It was the first time anyone had tried to set a fidget spinner record.

The school had more in mind than a fun activity with the hand-held multi-lobed devices, which spin around a ball bearing at their center.

“One of our goals this year is to increase the perseverance and work ethic of our students,” said teacher Nathan Elliott. “This is an opportunity that we all can be in on something together.”

In the past year, fidget spinners have become wildly popular with kids around the world, and even some adults enjoy them. While critics have expressed concerns about the devices’ effect on children’s health and habits, proponents say the toys help those who struggle with concentration to focus better.

Monroe, a school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, wanted to teach students the science behind them. Since September, teachers have given students instructional materials and activities that employ fidget spinners. One teacher posted a video on Facebook showing her math students using the tool to do computations.

Thursday’s event, however, was what the kids had been waiting for. Giddy but prepared, they eagerly lined up to enter the gymnasium, then plopped down on the floor, ready to participate. Many were equipped with their own fidget spinners. Others showed off custom-made spinners with the school’s name engraved on them.

Giggling fifth-graders Adams, Logan C and Jonny had fun trying to make their fidget spinners make history. At first, the boys were clumsy, but when the countdown began, they kept their devices spinning for the duration.

“We’re going to win,” Adams shouted. “Yeah, we’re going to be famous.”

Participants were given three chances to spin their devices on their thumb. Students and staff sang a motivational song as they spun. As each turn came to an end, they erupted in cheers, high-fived and hugged.

Community volunteers responsible for tallying the numbers recorded every step of the event. According to Guinness World Records officials, at least 90 percent of the participants have to keep the gadget spinning for one minute in order to set the record. Guinness officials will review the application and videos and make a final decision. The school said it could take up to two weeks to get an answer.

“There have been a lot of details to work through,” Elliott said. “But that’s all part of the fun.”

Mai Chang, whose third-grade son Adrian Yang participated in the event, said fidget spinners have dominated the conversation at home. Chang said her son has at least seven spinners.

“I was just more excited that he would be excited to have that opportunity at school and that they were doing it as a schoolwide activity,” she said.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203