Temperatures are warming up, so now is the perfect time to get students active and outside! Is it a coincidence that May is Physical Education and Sports month? Nope, couldn’t be more fitting. Combining physical activity with scientific attention to detail is easy with the right activities and planning.
At Pitsco, we love to approach STEM learning with a kinesthetic approach. But we don’t just want to encourage tackling STEM in a kinesthetic manner, we want to help make it possible. We’re happy to announce our #MoveInMay contest! One lucky educator will receive our new STEM in the Gym™: Electricity & Magnetism Package.
We’re pumped about the contest, but in the spirit of getting moving in May, let’s look at an alternate physical fitness activity you could do right now! No equipment required. Get students outside and moving around by having a small track and field competition, but let’s take it beyond a traditional Field Day and add in examination and discussion.
Track and field is the foundation of every sport. It boils aspects of competition down to its very basics. When you're competing, you aren’t throwing a ball in a hole or dodging tacklers. The end goal is quite simple – be the fastest, jump the longest, and throw the farthest. While much of this comes down to strength, there’s a shocking amount of technique involved in all aspects of the competitions.
To run such a competition, I’d recommend keeping it to three events: the long jump, the shot put, and the 50 m run. These competitions give you the baseline for all competitions and are great diverse activities that can generate a lot of discussion.
The Long Jump
Have students compete in the long jump. This is the most fun and easily done with an actual long jump pit, but the pit isn’t totally necessary. You can do this as a standing long jump or a regular running long jump with maybe a five-meter buildup. Have each student do three jumps.
Measure each distance with measuring tape to see who went the farthest. After the competition, discuss what could make the students go farther. For instance, if students did a standing long jump, talk about how running to build speed then jumping would make the distance greater and why. Or if they did a running jump, talk about the distance of the approach to hit top speed. With older kids, you could discuss some of the mechanics of the jump such as how they could achieve the greatest jump power.
The Shot Put
First, I would recommend not using a heavily weighted shot put. These are very heavy and kids could injure themselves. It’s probably best to find a ball about the size of a shot put that weighs close to a pound. Make a ring on the ground that the students must throw the ball from. Give each student three throws to get their maximum distance. You can discuss form and how mechanics play into the success of the throw, but to expand the learning later, I’d recommend you allow students to throw in any safe form they want.
Measure the distance of the throws and talk afterward about the different types of throws. Discuss how the throws could have been farther. For example, what would be the optimal angle to throw the shot put? You could also talk about a real weighted shot put and show students how Olympic athletes throw it properly.
50 m Run
This is the simplest of the activities. Measure off 50 meters for students to run and see who can run the fastest. Have a stopwatch present to time the students. Afterward have them work out how fast they were going using distance divided by time. Also discuss the running form of Olympic athletes. Use YouTube clips or images from the Internet or a self-demonstration to show examples of running form and talk about the force runners generate when sprinting.
These three competitions are simple, but they’re effective in getting students both moving AND learning. Of course, you don’t have to be limited by your weather forecast, because with any STEM in the Gym package, both the original and the Electricity and Magnetism package, you can keep the literal active learning in your classroom or the gym. Shop online for options but don’t forget we’re currently hosting our #MoveInMay contest. With the Electricity & Magnetism package, students will learn new electricity and magnetism concepts while getting to be active. It’s really the best of both worlds!