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Four Lessons for Using Baseball in the Classroom

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

The smell of the grass. The crack of the bat. April means the start of another baseball season. Your students will start wearing their jerseys to school and talk about who hit the last home run (or struck out). If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a team, your kids will start forgetting their homework because they were up late at last night’s game.

As we often try to do, it’s time to utilize this love of baseball for our educational goals. Here are some lesson ideas for each of the four major subject areas.

History: What About the Girls?

Baseball is all about history and tradition. That history lives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, who has a remarkable website filled with lesson plans organized into whole units. Here is a unit exploring the little-known history of women in the national pastime, including players (think “A League of Their Own”), executives, and reporters. It’s important to show girls that they are included in all class activities, so you might want to start with this one to get some buy-in. Otherwise you risk losing half of your audience.

Science: Forces in Motion

Physics runs throughout baseball. Another unit from the Hall of Fame explores force, gravity, inertia, and acceleration on a baseball field. Higher-level students can get into concepts like aerodynamics, friction, and Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Augment the unit with some video from a recent game or – better yet – work together with your PE department to organize a game where they can see the concepts for themselves.

Math: Fun with Baseball Stats

You can accomplish almost your entire math curriculum using baseball’s extensive statistics apparatus. It’s easy to just have the kids track stats of their favorite players, perhaps organizing themselves into a fantasy baseball game. This lesson from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics goes a little deeper, showing middle school students how some of those statistics are gathered and how one player compares to another. The lesson itself is a little dated, so you could also figure out ways to modernize it using a smart board and other technology tools.

English: Baseball Memories

Baseball is one of those few American experiences where everyone has a memory. In this lesson from PBS and Ken Burns, students conduct oral history interviews with friends or family about their most vivid baseball memory. Then, like a journalist, they will report their findings on a class blog or social media. It should be interesting for the kids to see just how little the game has changed between them and their grandparents or other older people.