From Plants to Project-Based Learning; Building the Foundation for STEM Sports

By Donovan Burriss on June 26, 2018

At the onset, I prompted this question to my 3rd-6th graders, “can you guys tell me what you think STEM is?”

Here are some of my favorite answers.

“Stem is a part of a flower!” said one 4th grade student.

“Isn’t Stem like a plant?” said a 5th-grader.

“Science, touch, exercise, math!” said another 4th-grader.

In less than two hours of instruction, discussion, and activity with STEM Soccer, I was able to cultivate the already curious minds of 45 elementary school students. As an educator, the most satisfying thing to see out of your group of students is educational growth, and as an athlete, it’s only a bonus that I can achieve this through sports.

Module one of STEM Soccer is the first of eight modules introducing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by using the sport of soccer as the catalyst. Module one is titled “The Science of Throw-Ins” and is predicated on teaching students from which position they throw the ball from allows for the farthest distance. What students were able to connect that science and soccer are not two separate entities, but have many life-long applications.

In less than two hours, students went from relating stem to plants, to being able to tell me what each letter meant in the acronym. I had students tell me about how they thought technology within a soccer ball could track distances traveled. Students explaining how stepping into a soccer throw-in allowed them to get more power behind the throw and therefore more force so that the ball would travel further.

What STEM Soccer has allowed me to do as an educator was give these students something tangible to attach to the STEM disciplines that I was introducing them to. It is easy to explain to them that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, to discuss how STEM relates to sport and then to follow with a discussion with a physical activity relating to the sport, it allows for hands-on and project-based learning, that, in turn, cultivates a connection between STEM and sports.

Research Student Donovan Burriss talks about proper throw-in technique
Research Student Donovan Burriss talks about proper throw-in technique