2023 March Mammal Madness

Selected blog post

Laura Korotkin

If your student comes home talking about the Kudu, Rufous Hornero, or Itjaritjari, do not be alarmed! They are likely researching animals for our 3rd annual tournament of animals. Students in the Middle and Lower Schools will once again research, compare statistics, debate, and build the best bracket they can in hopes of predicting the champion of the 10th March Mammal Madness Tournament hosted by Dr. Katie Hinde at Arizona State University.

The competition uses a combination of storytelling, art, and simulated combat competition among a wide variety of animals, both current and extinct, to teach others about interactions in nature. Scientific information is cited in the storyline to educate participants about species adaptations, interaction with the environment and with other species, the ecological importance of both the animal and the ecosystem, human impact, and conservation. The stories are told by experts in the field on Twitter and are as creative and humorous as they are factual. Factors that determine the outcome of the battle include species physiology, temperament, fight style, and motivation, along with environmental influences. According to the official Libguide, “Each year, the tournament has become more popular, elaborate, educational, and fun”.

The official story is told in the evening via Twitter and can last over an hour. The next day, there is always a video recap,

picture of stuffed animal rodents

published on YouTube and told by the students’ favorite host, MC Marmot. The 10-minute video summarizes the battle using puppetry, video, images, and music in a production called The Rodent Roundtable. Excited students listen to the story to find out what happened, see what upsets have taken place, and if their favorite creature is still in the game. There is also a written summary available on the Libguide.

This year, the battles will take place in 4 divisions: Mighty Stripes (animals with stripes), Itty Bitty Comeback City (small animals that are returning for a second try in the tournament), Dad Bods (animals that have the main role in taking care of their young) and Animal Engineers (animals with great adaptations for creating things). There are so many cool animals beyond mammals that the organizers could not leave them out and expanded the tournament to include the entire kingdom. While some animals are seemingly dominant in strength, size, and fighting style, students that played last year learned not to underestimate the small or seemingly disadvantaged animals but to really look at the amazing features of all.

MMM’s motto is “If You’re Learning, You’re Winning” and it is the perfect vehicle for getting students to learn through creative gameplay. It is one of the best interdisciplinary activities for getting learners excited about geography, biology, conservation, and human impact while learning about animals and places they have never heard of. Last year, even young children chose an animal and cheered as it made its way up the brackets or were saddened when the "cute dog" didn't make it to the next round. Families, homerooms, and advisories were divided as people declared their competitor to be the ultimate one to watch, as they considered strengths, environment, and even lesser-known traits. Be sure to catch the action beginning March 13th with the Wild Card round. The final battle will be told on April 5th.