WELLSBORO — A riff on college basketball playoffs resulted in weeks of learning, fun and a reward for students at Wellsboro Area High School.
First-year science teacher Ashley Lovejoy discovered March Mammal Madness, a competition now in its ninth year. Scientist Katie Hinde began the competition where 64 animals engage in simulated battles until one animal reigns supreme as the champion.
The students divided into three teams: the teacher, boys and girls with a lighthearted wager. If Lovejoy won, she would keep the students’ cell phones at her desk for a week. If the girls team won, they would be allowed to bring guinea pigs into class for a day while the boys opted to play a board game if they came out on top.
Before the battles began, the students researched four animals from each of the four brackets and created a PowerPoint presentation of each animal’s characteristics and traits.
They then used that information to select winners for each match-up in the brackets. Each animal was seeded, and students also had a wild card match-up.
This year’s four brackets — and a sample of the 16 animals in each — were: Tricksy Taxonomy (dugong, red wolf, musk deer, baboon, tapir); Red, In Fur (red kangaroo, day cat, lemur, red-crested tree bat); Of Myths & Monsters (crypt-keeper wasp, harpy eagle, devil frog, chimpanzee, sphinx monkey); and Sea Beasties (saber-toothed anchovy, basket star, black dragonfish, yeti crab, hydra).
In addition, each student created a poster to hype an animal they chose to win the first round of battles. For the next few weeks, students watched videos of the match ups and accumulated points for their winning choices.
“I liked it. I thought it was fun to have the competition,” said student Levi Fredrickson. “And there is no way the baboon lost to the Egyptian fruit bat.”
The baboon, it turns out, was lured away from the battlefield by a lovely lady baboon, losing by default to the bat. That was part of the fun, said Lovejoy. The outcome of the battle could change depending on the habitat where it took place.
“I think it was pretty cool. It was a cool way to teach people about mammals,” student Aleysha Cressman said.
Grace Baldwin initially thought the game was “really corny,” but soon was cheering on her picks to win.
Students also earned extra points for their posters, or putting in extra effort, Lovejoy said.
“I believe there is more to life besides inside four walls,” she said, noting that students learn in different ways: auditory, hands-on or artistic expression. “It’s important to allow students to express themselves in many ways.”
As for that wager, the girls team accumulated the most points and brought their guinea pigs — which terrify their teacher — to class.
“And I held it in my lap and pet it,” Lovejoy said with a laugh.