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Hendrick Hudson Students Go Mad For History

Students filling out and discussing their bracket choices during Hendrick Hudson High School’s March Madness History Bracket challenge.
Students filling out and discussing their bracket choices during Hendrick Hudson High School’s March Madness History Bracket challenge. Photo Credit: Contributed

MONTROSE, N.Y. -- The Social Studies Department at Hendrick Hudson High School has come up with a way to capitalize on the excitement around the NCAA basketball tournament and “March Madness,” while encouraging students to delve into history. The school’s second annual March Madness History Bracket has drawn 172 participants, doubling the number of students since the competition was first introduced last year. 

The department designed a bracket similar to that used in sporting events, featuring 64 of the most influential individuals in history. Students decide which figures, in their opinion, are more influential than the ones they are pitted against. Examples of pairings include Aristotle vs. Bill Gates, Winston Churchill vs. Thomas Edison, and Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Mohandas Gandhi. 

Besides filling out their brackets, students are required to answer three thought-provoking questions regarding their choices, using knowledge from class or through their own personal research. T

The Social Studies department, meanwhile, has created its own “master bracket,” and the students’ brackets are then compared to the teachers’ findings. Points are awarded based on how many correct responses a student can get compared to the teachers’ choices. 

“This year there’s been lots of buzz because of the difficult matchups in the first round,” said Social Studies teacher Mike Witkowich. 

The brackets have been part of many hallway, cafeteria and classroom discussions, as students enthusiastically defend their choices. Many students are approaching teachers for insight and guidance, asking about the importance of many of the figures who are stalwarts on both the Global History and American History Regents exams. 

The high school’s PTSA is sponsoring prizes for the winners, including tablets, trophies and other items. Winners will be announced on April 4, to coincide with the actual NCAA basketball championship game. Witkowich and fellow teacher Dennis Wolownik have created podcasts for each round, providing an audio “play-by-play” of the matchups and winners. The teachers have also been posting videos on screens around the high school, providing students with updates and adding to the educational “madness.”

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