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Bringing Sports Into the Classroom in a Cross-Curricula Way

So it’s the end of the year, and your students know it. Maybe there are a few days left of school, maybe there are a few weeks…but the fact remains: it’s June. Your kids are ready for summer fun! Perhaps you could grab their attention from windows and daydreams with a cool activity.

Sports trivia!

I’m going to give you two good excuses for bringing sports discussions in the classroom. Firstly, it’s Sports America Kids Month. Secondly, SIRS Discoverer offers lots of ways to discuss sports while tying it to history, math, and social and cultural studies.

Did you know that the White House has a tennis court? It was built behind the West Wing in 1902. Hmmm…I wonder if your students could find out who was president in 1902? (Answer: Theodore Roosevelt) The tennis court was moved seven years later because the Executive offices were expanding—who was president then? (Answer: William Howard Taft)

In 1933, an indoor swimming pool was built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why? He needed physical therapy because he was disabled by polio. In 1975, an outdoor swimming pool was installed for President Gerald Ford, who loved to swim.

White House Swimming Pool By NARA, via Wikimedia Commons

White House Swimming Pool
By NARA, via Wikimedia Commons

A few other presidents put their personal sports or exercise preferences into action at the White House, too. Which president loved to bowl, and had a bowling alley constructed? (Answer: Richard Nixon) Which president loved to golf, and asked that a putting green and sand trap be created at the White House? (Answer: Dwight D. Eisenhower) Which president enjoyed jogging as exercise, and requested a jogging track? (Answer: Bill Clinton)

Culture and sports may be a fun end-of-the-year topic. For a broad overview, you can share this article with your students. It talks about sports and their significance to societies around the world. Or, you can get more specific and discuss the origins of certain sports. For example, did you know that lacrosse was created and played by Native American tribes? Teams were made up of 100 to 1,000 men (no girls were allowed), and matches lasted up to three days! The game is different now—and, of course, lots of girls play—but its roots remain in battle-like games played 600 years ago.

Baseball, sometimes called the American pastime, may have been invented in England! A similar game, called Rounders, was played there during the 18th century. One hundred years later, the game of baseball was so popular in the United States, that soldiers and prisoners-of-war even played it during the Civil War.

Union prisoners at Salisbury, North Carolina, play baseball in 1863

Courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress [Public Domain],
via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer

Here’s another piece of sports-origins trivia: A game similar to tennis was first played more than 800 years ago—by French monks! European royalty soon learned and played the game, and it was then referred to as “royal tennis.” The word “tennis” is thought to have derived from the French word “tenez,” which means what? (Answer: “take this”)

Some sports figures have helped transform society. If you haven’t yet talked about Jackie Robinson with your students, Sports America Kids Month may be a great time to do so. He changed the world of baseball—and the world itself—in 1947, when he became the first African American man to play Major League baseball. In the 1970s, tennis player Billie Jean King helped all women in sports when she proved her skills, tenacity, and might—on and off the tennis court.

Take a few minutes before the end of the school year and have a bit of fun with your students. They might want to be outside playing sports…but you can give them the next best thing: sports inside! Join SIRS Discoverer and our June Spotlight of the Month in celebrating Sports America Kids Month…and the end of the school year.

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