How does Volleyball Relate to Science and Math: STEM Volleyball

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym that describes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is a commonly used term when referring to education and/or careers.

The Benefit of Using Sports to Facilitate STEM

In recent years, there has been an emphasis on providing quality STEM education to students at home and in the classroom. One obstacle educators, parents, and facilitators are facing is how to engage students regardless of their current skill level and personal interests. One way to create variety in STEM curricula is to use different applications when implementing STEM. At STEM Sports®, we use sports as a way to introduce students to complex STEM concepts. This creates a hands-on environment where students learn through play and get a deeper understanding of what they are learning. By allowing students to take control of their education, they will have increased retention and comprehension – leading to improved test scores. Sports are also a great way to ensure a wide variety of students are engaged in the lesson, capturing the attention of left and right brained learners. STEM lovers and sports lovers can both get excited and involved in lessons that  teach the STEM behind sports.

Who is STEM Sports®

STEM Sports® was founded in 2016 when creating a STEM curriculum program for USA BMX, the largest BMX racing organization. Since then, STEM Sports® has continued to expand curricula offerings. Currently, there are eleven (11) different sports curricula and one subscription curriculum. The mission is to create quality STEM education and give students the tools they need to improve their STEM literacy and find a passion for learning. That means the curriculum is constantly evolving and being updated to maximize student and educator experience. 

If you are interested in learning more about the history of STEM Sports, click here.

STEM in Volleyball

STEM Volleyball is a curriculum offered for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8. Each curriculum kit comes with eight (8) lessons, a mindfulness lesson, real world examples to connect to the lesson, and stem jobs in sports that use the skills students are learning. The grade 6-8 kit also includes a capstone exercise at the end of all eight lessons, allowing students to further their understanding and skills in what they have learned. 

In this article, STEM Sports® introduces how to use sports to facilitate STEM and the science behind volleyball. This was created for educators, parents, and/or facilitators as a tool when using volleyball to implement STEM curriculum.

Science in Volleyball

Science can be found in any sport. While most of the time we are not thinking about this connection, there are scientific concepts and executions in place during these activities. When connecting volleyball to STEM, parents and educators can take both the fundamentals of the sports and the actions of the athletes to teach students complex science concepts. Below are two examples of how the science of volleyball can help improve your child’s STEM literacy.

Improving Serving and Calculating Force

In volleyball, athletes utilize both underhand and overhand serves. Oftentimes, at the collegiate and professional levels, they tend to use overhand serves during volleyball games. Asking children why this is the case is a great way to begin the lesson. By conducting a controlled experiment, children will analyze which serve creates the most force and is therefore most effective. This is also a great way to introduce the scientific method – a concept frequently used throughout a child’s education.

Volleyball Properties

Have you ever thought about why a volleyball is the size, shape, and texture it is? This can be linked to scientific and engineering research to find the most effective way to construct a volleyball. A key concept for children to learn early in their science education is how to make observations and identify physical properties. To conduct this experiment, children will indentify three different volleyballs and a different circular object. They will then note the physical properties and similarities of each sphere. At the end, they should have a strong understanding of the composition of a volleyball and the important identifying factors.

Mathematics in Volleyball

Math is a topic children typically have difficulty connecting to the world around them. They often pose the question, “when will I use this?”. By using volleyball as a way to facilitate math lessons, children are able to see how fundamental math concepts connect to the world around them. Not only does this approach improve engagement and understanding in STEM, but it is also helpful in giving children a deeper knowledge of the sport they love.

Successful Serving

When looking at statistical books for athletes, there are varying fractions and percentages used to show the overall accuracy of an event. In volleyball, different players will have different success rates with their serves. By having children serve a volleyball and calculate their own accuracy, they are improving their fraction and percentage skills through hands-on, active learning. 

Tip: When conducting this lesson with students, talk with them about what a statistician does. This may be a job that interests them and could hold in the future!

Intricacies of a Volleyball Court

Area and measurement are two fundamental math skills children learn during their primary education. This is a commonly used skill they will continue to utilize throughout their personal and professional lives. Volleyball is a great way to make this lesson interactive and increase retention of concepts and standards. If possible, children should spend time measuring a volleyball court themselves and use the proper equations to figure out the perimeter of the court.

In the Future - Posing Innovation Questions

When facilitating STEM lessons using sports, it is important to pose open-ended questions to students that make them think critically about what they are learning. These can be simple questions about why a volleyball net is constructed a certain way or more pointed around STEM careers in sports. These questions can be formulated based on a child’s interests, engagement, and skill level in the lesson. 

By asking these questions throughout a lesson, children will be forced to use 21st-century skills by looking at the lesson/experiment through a different lens. This also feeds a child’s curious nature and will help them to formulate their own STEM questions that connect to the world around them.

STEM with STEM Sports®

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