A Little Madness in March

Post by: Karin Clute, SCS Fourth Grade Teacher

It all started with an innocent comment: “March Madness was always one of my favorite things to teach my classes. I was thinking you might want to do it with your 4th graders.” All I could think of was, Me? What do I know about March Madness? How could I get my class excited about something I know very little about? Life with a retired Athletic Director/teacher for a husband can be challenging at times.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, come up to SCS’s 4th grade, and you will hear students excitedly jabbering about “brackets, seeds, the Sweet 16, the NCAA, UConn, Kentucky, and the Final Four” to name a few new terms. Excited 4th graders who are in the middle of learning their states and capitals are now extending that learning to finding the locations of all 128 NCAA men's and women's tournament team colleges and plotting them on a big map of the USA. Real life geography that expands on their current knowledge of Dordt in Iowa, Calvin in Michigan, and possibly the University of Washington here at home!

From the “First Four” to the current “Final Four,” the students have diligently kept track of the men's and women's brackets. They were given blank bracket sheets and randomly drew the names of eleven colleges each. Finding those names was a chore, but it soon gave way to giggles over reading some of the names. Ever heard of the Quinnipiac Bobcats from Connecticut, the Davidson Wildcats out of North Carolina, or the Liberty Flames from Virginia? Granted, finding the locations and mascots took a trip to the computer lab and a little homework help to figure it out, but we did it.

Then the games began. Learning about the probability of a #16 seed beating a #1 seed tied right into our math lessons. Then #14 Georgia State beat #3 Baylor in the last minute. Miracles do happen. The little guy should never give up. Life’s lessons experienced and learned.

Then came the heartbreak of 64 teams being cut to 32; then cut again to 16, 8, and now to 4. Our brackets are easier to read now with only 4 men teams and 4 women teams left, but the sorrow of losing has been tough. #1 seeded teams mostly get to the Final Four. Occasionally a #7 team makes it. Home state favorites, even at the #2 spot, don’t always advance.

March Madness articles have appeared everywhere. Sports Illustrated for Kids had interesting advice on past tournament trends from “seed science, to the color of uniforms, & little guys to watch.” (None of those “little guys” made it to the Final Four.) Remember getting Weekly Reader when you were a kid? They still exist and in this month’s Scholastic News, the debate was titled “Should College Athletes be Paid?” The article included two sides with evidence & reasons for both. Interesting discussions occurred and turned into persuasive paragraph writing to convince others of differing views. Soon we will be adding our online votes to the 4th grade count across the nation.

The students received a coveted “Clute’s Compliment” for every win their teams achieved. It’s amazing how many compliments were given out and how few opportunities are left now. I daresay that everyone is enjoying the ride and would do it without the compliment rewards. Enthusiastic 4th graders shared their excitement over the lessons in geography, mathematics, writing, and life lessons in general at Grandparent’s Day last week.

4th grader Igor was overheard talking with his classmates the other day: “I just love March Madness! Everything about it is so much fun!” The whole class agreed saying they couldn’t wait for next year. Lessons learned.

To think that all this learning & excitement was generated by an innocent comment.