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Connect Four Competition Helps Students Connect the Dots

Fifth-grade students at Wilson Elementary School try out new strategies in competition that levels academic and athletic playing fields.

Ethan Bishop and Tyler Krisinski, 5th graders at Wilson School, compete in the championship round of the school's annual Connect Four competition. Krisinski won the competition four rounds to Bishop's three. / Photo provided
Ethan Bishop and Tyler Krisinski, 5th graders at Wilson School, compete in the championship round of the school's annual Connect Four competition. Krisinski won the competition four rounds to Bishop's three. / Photo provided

Fifth-grade students at Wilson Elementary School, West Caldwell, always enjoy lunch, but this month, students had a new reason for liking lunch as they competed in the school’s annual Connect Four Competition. For three weeks, fifth graders at the school participated in the non-athletic, non-academic one-on-one competition, playing against peers and hoping to win the coveted Connect Four Champion title.

Created by Principal Scott Keena, the competition is designed to resemble the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness. Intended to give all students a fair chance at winning a school contest, fifth graders are randomly paired to compete against each other, playing for the best out of three. The winner of each round is then paired against the winner of a different round until the ultimate winner is crowned. To determine who goes first, the pairs play a quick round of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

“The Connect Four competition really gives all students a fair chance of winning,” said Keena. “It is voluntary, although usually everybody plays, and it is always fun to see which two students make it to the final round.” 

This year, 35 of the 40 fifth graders at the school took part in the competition.

Keena creates a chart similar to March Madness brackets, writing in the names of each round’s winners. The semi-final rounds are a series of five games, and the final round is a series of seven games, with the winner needing to win four out of seven.

This year, Tyler Krisinski and Ethan Bishop competed on February 11 for the title of Connect Four champion. Initially, Krisinski led the competition three games to one, but Bishop came back to win two games, tying the competition at three games each. As their peers looked on, wishing them luck and rooting them on, Krisinski won the competition in seven rounds.

“The competition gives the fifth graders something special just for them, and gives the other students something to look forward to,” said Keena. “It is a great way to bring students from different classrooms, different activities, and different interests together.”

Submitted by Wilson Elementary School.

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