By Molly Underwood / April 16, 2021

Teaming up with STEM: How sports and learning connect

Movies and TV shows portray the stereotype of jocks and nerds as people who are completely different and share nothing in common. But this cliché is far from the truth! Brainpower and physical power go hand in hand – the subjects we learn in the classroom connect with the sports we watch and compete in.

STEM can be found almost everywhere. Science, technology, engineering, and math are woven into every sport and athletic competition! Put your hands in as we learn about hands on!

Level Up in STEM

The ability to tie STEM to real-life application is the best! And, there are loads of learning connections behind scoring a touchdown, making a slam dunk, and hitting a home run. Getting kids excited about learning can sometimes be hard, but when they watch or take part in their favorite sport, they won’t even notice they are learning! Bring the fun to learning by exploring the parallels between STEM and sports:

  • Learn physics, math, and the laws of motion with the game of basketball from Science Made Fun! And, take a shot at some of these at-home STEM basketball activities!
  • Golfing can help us understand aerodynamics, angles, and engineering. Learn about the swing and the reason why there are dimples on the ball in the blog post “Fairway to learning: Bringing the golf game home.” 
  • Understand the relationship between molecular motion and the slippery properties of ice with ice hockey from Science Net Links
  • The blog post “STEM and football join teams” teaches how to throw the perfect pass by learning about aerodynamics and why the shape of a football matters.
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  • The movie Moneyball highlights the statistics that go into baseball. It shows how teams use equations to determine which players will be winners and how they are ranked – many of these equations could be what you’re teaching right now!
  • Learn a variety of concepts with bowling such as the materials used in bowling balls and how friction, gravity, velocity, and torque all play a major role in knocking down the pins. 

I think you get the idea! STEM principles are in every facet of sports. And the best part? Students will have a blast learning! 

Sports Going Virtual

Most sports across the country shut down during 2020, but one that stood the test of a pandemic was electronic sports (esports). Esports involves organized video game competitions between both amateur and professional gamers. And, the competition of esports is broadening to a larger audience every day. Even universities and schools have begun to offer clubs and leagues! However, many people are skeptical and question if there should there be a place for esports and video games in the classroomEsports doesn’t just teach skills such as hand-eye coordination or putting technology to use; it actually can support STEM learning in a variety of ways. Video game and esport programs can encourage a multitude of learning concepts.

  • Players can turn losses into an opportunity to problem solve and improve performance.
  • As players work to figure out the game, they create and test hypotheses using scientific thinking.
  • Esport players use mathematics and statistics to determine the best scenario to win the game and maximize their odds.
  • Students become more proficient with technology. There is more to it than controllers and consoles. Players often film, edit sound and video, publish tutorials, connect online, and develop programs. 
  • The fun of gaming encourages more students to join in STEM-based activities. Esports bridges the gap for educational inclusion by reaching those typically underrepresented in STEM, such as females, students with disabilities, and students of color.  

“Part of the beauty of esports in schools, many supporters explain, lies in the diverse supporting roles that are critical to the activity. At tournaments, ‘a variety of kids from every walk of life come together and really celebrate one another, with great sportsmanship and great skill,’ says Steve Hickman, also a coordinator for educational technology at the Riverside County Office of Education in California.”
– ‘Diverse students find a home in esports’ (Edutopia) 

Ready to start an esports team? Check out this Edutopia article.

Learn more about video games in the classroom with these blogs:
Video games in the classroom? – Leveling up on on workforce skills
Video gaming brings STEM skills to life

Competition in Education

Along with sports comes competition. A bit of healthy competition is good for everyone – it can give you the drive to work hard and the perseverance to strive toward the end goal. Competition can also help in a student’s learning environment! The Institute of Competition Sciences shares the research-based ways competition can be beneficial to students:

  • Improving teamwork and collaboration
  • Enhancing social and emotional learning
  • Developing academic heroes
  • Increasing intrinsic motivation
  • Enhancing beneficial peer comparisons
  • Strengthening academic self-concept
  • Facilitating growth mindsets
  • Building mental toughness
  • Developing agency
  • Improving risk analysis

FIRST® founder Dean Kamen has said robotics is the the only sport where everyone can go pro. In FIRST, or other robotics competitions, science, technology, and engineering are showcased and celebrated like traditional sports. Students practice, train, and compete (even in an arena) just like they would in other sporting events. The skills they develop can benefit them in the competition and well beyond the playing field into their futures. And, unlike other athletic pursuits, all students – no matter their background or physical ability – can participate and be recognized for their work.

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Want to dive deeper into each of these areas? Read “10 ways competitions enhance learning” to learn more about competition in education! 

We’d love to know how you are connecting sports to STEM in your learning environment. Comment below or tag us on social to share! 

Sources:
Esports and STEM education: A 2020 perspective
Understanding esports as a STEM career ready curriculum in the wild

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TOPICS: IN THE CLASSROOM, BEYOND THE CLASSROOM, Competitions, IDEAS & INSPIRATION, ROBOTICS, Teacher Resources, Science, FIRST Tech Challenge, Technology, STEM, Trends, Resources, Engineering, Coding, Authentic Learning, Activities, TETRIX Robotics, Hands-on Learning, Math

Molly Underwood

Written by Molly Underwood

Hey there! My role here at Pitsco Education is our Content and Events Marketing Coordinator. Days are filled with various marketing projects, managing our robotics social media accounts, and engaging with our TAG members. I am a Kansas State University alumna (GO CATS!) and live on a farm with my husband and Goldendoodle. I love working at Pitsco because of the people and the passion we all have for education.