March Madness has started and it’s getting wild. Fans are yelling at the top of their lungs while flashing bright colors across the arena in support of their team. The crowd roars as their favorite college team’s star player slams the ball into the hoop.
But the most important part of the March Madness tradition is the brackets. Fans often create brackets predicting winners of both games and the tournament overall. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to adopt this tradition for other media.
The German Club has adapted this decade–long tradition to build its own community. German Club sponsor Wendy Brennan picked songs from multiple sources to create her own version of the March Madness bracket titled Musik March Madness (MMM). She chose songs from a large variety of genres, including rap, hip hop, pop, rock, and folk music.
“Just like the real March Madness, students fill out a bracket before the tournament begins, basing their choices on having watched a portion of the video. And just like real March Madness, sometimes your bracket gets demolished after a few days,” Brennan said.
It is the third year that the German Club is participating in this activity, and Brennan believes that the activity is essential in building the German community. Additionally, MMM helps students become more immersed in the language as well as gain interest in their community’s culture.
“We are invested in the outcome and it gives us something to talk about during and outside of class. I also think that it’s fun to see the percentage that the songs win by. It’s like ‘Who were the two people who voted for the other song?’” junior Alida Grobbelaar said.
But the impact of the German Club extends much further than German students. In fact, Brennan believes that MMM can be used as a tool for breaking stereotypes about German as a language as well as German people.
“I hope that our contest dispels some false assumptions I hear about the German language and about Germany as a country. Some kids are surprised to see that not all Germans look and sound like Augustus Gloop. Germany’s a very diverse place, and it’s important to me that the musicians in our bracket reflect that,” Brennan said.
Students in the German community share Brennan’s hopes and believe that the activities they do during German Club increase knowledge about German culture overall.
“I think that Musik March Madness increases awareness about the native language and culture. Music is all something that we care about and we can learn a lot about German culture through this activity,” Grobbelaar said.
However, the German Club is not the only group that is using unique activities to create a stronger sense of community among students.
Latin Club recently participated in an extremely novel and exciting event that brought their community closer together. They built Roman buildings to gain a deeper understanding of ancient Rome’s buildings, culture, and architectural style.
But what made this activity so new was its platform: Minecraft. The platform that is often used for gaming was instead repurposed by the Latin Club for educational purposes.
“I think that the Minecraft activity was more fun and entertaining and encouraged students to be interested in the activity. Rather than just drawing the buildings, we could really visualize them and examine the ancient architecture. It was an experience in which we could play games and learn at the same time,” sophomore John Dondlinger said.
The Minecraft activity allowed students to develop one-to-one models of ancient Roman buildings, including the Roman forum. However, its effects extend much further than just educating students.
“I think the Minecraft activity has been able to bring kids who have different interests to become more involved in Latin Club and in the community overall. It intersected well with both technology and Roman culture, architecture, and buildings,” sponsor Matt Meyer said.
Additionally, Latin Club members hope that the Minecraft activity can bring a larger amount of attention to a group they believe is truly special.
“It’s a really fun community. One memory that really sticks out to me is when we watched the Disney film Hercules during a meeting. We had a lot of people just enjoying the movie, singing along to some of the songs, and laughing. Also, sometimes the older students will tutor the younger ones when they need help, so it’s definitely a teaching community too,” sophomore Harrison Smith said.
The activity could even have a significant positive and interesting impact on students outside of the Latin community.
“If it goes well, we hope that maybe the district will consider allowing other clubs and classes throughout the district to use Minecraft for educational purposes,” Meyer said.
Brennan also hopes that the activities the German Club participates in will allow the language and culture to connect with people outside of the German communities.
“Music is a natural connector for people and cultures, and Musik March Madness is a great way to introduce students to German music,” Brennan said.
So whether you are part of the Latin or German communities or not, the sense of community that Musik March Madness and the Minecraft architecture activity both create has a large impact on everyone around.