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As college-basketball fans around the country savor March Madness—the pageantry and underdog upsets that make up the drama of the ncaa men's and women's basketball tournaments—some middle school students in Indiana have been doing more than filling out brackets.

Sixth grade teachers at Blackhawk Middle School in Fort Wayne, Ind., are using the three-week men's National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament as a way to spark students' interest in college, statistics, and the science behind athletic competition. The idea first came up a few years ago, when teachers began brainstorming about ways to craft interdisciplinary lessons.

Living in a state not lacking in devoted hoop fans, the teachers decided the tournament could help capture the imagination of pint-sized Hoosiers.

Math teacher Jeff Schneider set up a blind draw in which students pick teams to follow through the tourney. A large tournament bracket hangs in a hallway with pictures of students next to their teams.

Each student first writes a letter to his or her team's university admissions office requesting information. The students make brochures about their schools. In math class, Mr. Schneider has students analyze first-round games and draw pie charts showing what percentage of players contributed to overall scoring. In science class, they learn about a healthy pregame meal and different muscle groups.

The experience culminates at a large gathering in the school gym, where students show off the projects they have worked on throughout the tournament. College fight songs are played over the loudspeaker. Students watch the classic basketball movie "Hoosiers." "It really gives kids who don't do well on standardized assessments a chance to show off their creativity in a way they wouldn't be able to in a paper-and-pencil test," Mr. Schneider said.

For the record, since Mr. Schneider's alma mater, Purdue University, didn't make the tournament this year, he picked the University of Kansas to win it all.

—John Gehring

Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 3

Published in Print: March 27, 2002, as Take Note

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