INDIANAPOLIS -- Classrooms from the Houston Independent School District and the Alief Independent School District are winners in this year’s NCAA Middle School Madness program -- a link between classroom learning and the NCAA that enhances student awareness of the opportunities available through athletics, provides inspiration through student-athlete role models and allows middle school students to participate in the local excitement surrounding the 2011 Final Four.

Middle School Madness is comprised of two components: an educational curriculum and program contests designed to incorporate current events into classroom learning to develop the skills and the confidence to be future leaders.

This year, Deady Middle School (Ms. Schwartz’s sixth grade science class) and Welch Middle School (Mr. Warren’s third period seventh grade class) collected the most paper (in pounds) to win the recycling contest. Individual classrooms were provided with collection boxes for recycled paper, along with a scale and tracking sheets that teachers submitted for contest tallying. Deady collected 3,559 pounds of paper, while Welch accumulated over 2,500 pounds. The goal of the recycling contest is to promote positive behavior and to educate middle school students on the importance of giving back to their community.

In the health and physical education contest, four classrooms earned top honors: Fonville Middle School (Ms. Dungan’s P.E. Class); Lanier Middle School (Mr. Kunz’s seventh grade class); Alief Middle School (Mr. Roberts’ fourth period class); and Albright Middle School (Coach Stubbins’ fourth period class).

Houston and Alief Independent School District middle schools also participated in a poster contest. Students were asked for their interpretation of the contest’s theme, “It’s the journey to success…What’s your game plan?” Six winning posters were selected and will be on display inside the Galleria during the 2011 Men’s Final Four, April 1-5.

Poster contest winners include: Aaliyah Phillips, Holland Middle School; Jasauna Marie Bemavente, Grady Middle School; Hanna Ibrahim, Grady Middle School; Aramish Khan, Grady Middle School; Christofer Martinez, McReynolds Middle School; and Adriana Zarate, McReynolds Middle School.

“Through the Middle School Madness program, the NCAA Men’s Final Four serves as a catalyst to encourage boys and girls to learn from the achievements, actions and positive examples set by the outstanding group of student-athletes competing in the championship and the ideals of the NCAA,” said Jacqie Carpenter, director of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball. “The Houston Independent School District, the Alief Independent School District and the Houston Local Organizing Committee have worked to pair championship basketball with educational resources that contribute to local middle school students’ appreciation for learning and staying healthy.”

The top classrooms in the recycling contest and the health and physical education contest will receive lunch and a field trip to NCAA Final Four Friday at Reliant Stadium, Friday, April 1. Poster contest winners will receive an NCAA cinch bag, a Wilson basketball, a one-year subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids and tickets to Bracket Town, the NCAA’s fan interactive festival at the Men’s Final Four. Every student who submitted an entry and their respective teacher will receive a participation gift.

In addition to the prizes awarded from the contests, schools that had 50 percent classroom participation in Middle School Madness will receive equipment for use in their physical education programs, as well as a monetary honorarium from the NCAA for learning tools and supplies.

The NCAA has worked with local organizing committees since 1999 to conduct the Middle School Madness program curriculum. The curriculum follows state academic standards for middle school-aged children and incorporates the game of basketball and leadership into health, language arts, math, science, social studies and visual arts.