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The Science of Balls

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Keywords: measurement, balls in sports, STEM, science of sports
Subject(s): Math, Science, Technology
Grades 3 through 5
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
View Full Text of Standards
School: PS 95 Eastwood, Jamaica, NY
Planned By: Mary Lawrence
Original Author: Mary Lawrence, Jamaica
Content STEM

Topic: Measurement

Grade 3-4

Students need lots of practice in measuring. Many have not developed concepts of weight, length or size. In this lesson, students will have some fun exploring how measurements are used every day to compare and describe objects. These comparisons lead to creative thinking and valid evaluations.

Learning Strategies:
• Investigate how elements may change
• Work in teams to problem solve
• Describe accurately with words and diagrams
• Build or describe models that improve social issues

Vocabulary: inches, feet, measure, ruler, yard, height, width

Essential Questions:
• Why do we have so many different kinds of balls to play with?
• Why can’t you use a golf ball to play basketball?
• Why does a football look different from a baseball?

Lesson Investigation
1. Discuss each of the questions above to spark interest and to evaluate what children know about measurement (and design)
2. Hand out different kinds of balls—golf ball, basketball, baseball and have them imagine the problems of playing different sports with a different ball. What would the play be like? What are the problems?
3. After this discussion, have the students see you put a mark on the wall at a designated height of 4 feet. Explain the measurement of 4 feet and how you determined the spot to mark off.
4. Tell them that today they are going to research-- like scientists-- to see which of the balls bounce the highest. Ask which of the balls need to bounce the highest in their sport.
5. Have students bounce and record the measurements. Did the ball bounce even higher than 4 feet?
6. What would be some reasons that students reached different bounce heights even when bouncing the same ball?
7. Discuss the need for accuracy in measurements and how that could be achieved in this activity.(same student bounces, students put same amount of pressure on ball, etc)
8. Discuss the “bounce factor” and reach a conclusion about the shape and bounce amount.
9. If laptops are available, have them work on a computer generated image of bouncing. Discuss how those images had been replicated in the classroom by them!

Activity should have students reach a conclusion that the bounce is determined by the shape and the force placed on the ball. A football will not bounce due to its shape and a golf ball would have more force exerted on it so it would bounce higher but would be too small for a basketball game.

Have students design a perfect ball that could be used in every sport.
Do not use available laptops to view animation of bouncing first. Have students do the bouncing in class first. Investigation is the first experience.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Art design. Math.
Materials: Elementary