Flash mob brightens younger students’ day

SARANAC LAKE – Petrova Elementary School students had the surprise of the year Friday morning when middle schoolers performed a “flash mob” dance performance for them.

Elementary students began strolling into the auditorium around 9 a.m., like they do every Friday, for their weekly assembly. Little did they know, the entire Saranac Lake Middle School student body lay in wait, hiding above them in the auditorium, outside the building and behind the stage. The two schools share a building.

Eighth-grader Kiki Walker was one of those waiting outside the auditorium before the surprise.

“It feels great to know you’re doing something good for them,” Walker said.

The moment the song “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams, was played, the middle schoolers sprang into action and began to dance on stage and around the younger students in the auditorium. Balloons and bubbles poured down from the top tier of the auditorium. Some elementary students were shocked, and others leaped up and joined in the dancing.

The surprise was months in the making.

“I showed my students a couple flash mobs, and we talked about spreading happiness through dance,” said Beth Whalen, a middle school French teacher. “One of my eighth-graders brought up the idea of doing a flash mob.”

A flash mob, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.”

Whalen, along with Karen Miemis, a sixth-grade English and social studies teacher, thought it sounded like a good idea. They began preparing for the flash mob back in March.

“Four hundred people kept a surprise for three months,” Whalen said. “It was pretty much organizing 1,000 people, and it worked.”

“It was amazing,” Miemis said. “All the hard work paid off.”

Nearly the entire elementary school was left out of the secret, with the exception of Principal Chad McCarthy.

“None of the kids knew about it,” McCarthy said. “Most of the staff didn’t, either.”

Much of that hard work was done by the seventh-grade dancers on stage, Whalen said. Maggie Carpenter, Grace Clark and Ayla Buerkett were some of the choreographers. The girls trained other seventh-graders in a dance routine every day at lunch.

“Some of us took dance classes before this, so we know some of the moves,” Clark said.

“I didn’t expect them to go that crazy,” Carpenter said.

After the students returned to their classrooms, teachers delivered handmade bags with presents inside, like finger puppets, for the elementary students. Each middle schooler made a present for one elementary school student. Presents were also delivered to Bloomingdale Elementary School later in the day.

In Reagan Phelan’s second-grade class, student Molly Tooker screamed with excitement when opening her bag.

After the hullabaloo had settled, Whalen began discussing another potential flash mob performance next week. The Enterprise swore not to reveal the name of that elementary school.

Contact Matthew Turner at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or