At SchoolEmily Collom
Two boys and a girl pass a basketball to each other in gym class.

We often think of STEM education as only taking place in science or math class. However, STEM concepts and skills can be applied and are relevant in all areas of our lives. In an educational context it is important that students learn to make connections between the various subjects they are learning in the classroom, from science and math, to language courses and physical education (PE). With this interdisciplinary approach, students will more easily be able to see how STEM subjects relate and translate to other aspects of their lives.  

In this article, we’ll be looking at how educators can create a bridge between STEM education and physical education for an overall stronger learning experience. 

Benefits of STEM in Physical Education 

Broadly speaking there are benefits to breaking down the silos that exist in school. Literacy is vital to learning STEM subjects, and teamwork skills are just as valuable on the field as they are in the classroom. There are also specific benefits to integrating elements of STEM education in physical education classes. They include: 

Enhanced Learning 

Introducing STEM concepts in PE class allows students to make rapid connections between theory and real-world applications. For example, young students can learn how to understand and calculate speed by timing sprints over a specified distance, while more advanced students can see physics concepts like force and velocity firsthand when they throw a ball.  

Hands aiming to throw a basketball.

Develop Critical Skills  

PE isn’t just about getting students’ heart rates up. Like STEM, it is also important for developing skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. STEM and PE can therefore be combined in creative ways to further develop these skills. For example, PE educators can invite students to create their own physical games or obstacle courses in groups.  

“With a focus on student voice and choice, the students work in pairs or small groups, design their games, gather their materials, build their games, give them a test run, refine and then play,” said Wayne Schultz, PE and Sport Teacher at Roxburgh Park Primary School in Australia. 

Increased Engagement 

Bringing STEM into PE is a great way to engage students of all interests and abilities. In particular, students who are more inclined toward physical education can find an entry point for STEM subjects, while students who tend to prefer STEM topics like math and coding will be more engaged in PE when there is a STEM connection. Overall, this more holistic approach will appeal to a broader base of students and help them see the connections that exist between seemingly disparate topics.  

As Marcus Panozzo, PE Teacher at Dallas Brooks Community Primary School in Australia, summed up: “Teachers can engage students to achieve greater outcomes as we are connecting to different content areas.”  

Kids in a school gym participating in various soccer drills.

Future-proof Skills  

By incorporating STEM into PE, students can acquire and practice many transferable skills, like teamwork and communication, that will be valuable for their whole lives. Students are not only able to focus on moving their bodies but are able to collect and analyze real data, use the engineering design process to problem solve, and deepen their understanding of concepts like force, distance, speed, gravity, and more. 

Integrating STEM: Practical Ideas for Every Age 

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach when incorporating STEM in physical education. In fact, the type of activity should be tailored to the age group of students to match both their STEM knowledge and physical capabilities. Here are some examples for elementary, middle and high school PE activities with a STEM twist. 

Elementary School Activities for STEM PE 

  • Parachute Design Challenge: In this activity, students can use common materials to make a parachute. They can then compare what it feels like to run with the parachute and without the parachute to start to understand concepts like aerodynamics, air resistance, and drag. 
  • Long Jump Measurement: Get students to see how far they can jump from standing and with a running start. Mark the length of their jumps and have them measure the distance to understand how motion can influence the force and distance of their jump. 

STEM PE Activities for Middle School

  • The Olympic Challenge: In this interdisciplinary activity, students should research the various physics concepts involved in their favorite Olympic events and then create their own mini-Olympic challenges that showcase these principles. For example, students can research why sprinters start from a crouching position and test their own speeds from different starting positions to understand acceleration. 
  • The Target Heart Rate Race: In this science-inspired activity, students use heart rate monitors to track their exertion during different activities or learn to count their pulse after physical exertion. This simple activity will help them learn about exercise physiology and healthy heart rates.  

High School STEM PE Activities 

  • Build the Ultimate Frisbee: Get high-school students to design and build a prototype flying disc using various materials. From there, invite them to test the “frisbee” and then refine the design. Not only will this help them learn about aerodynamics, but it will also allow them to practice the engineering design process and their frisbee skills.  
  • Sports Analytics Challenge: Over the course of a PE module, get students to collect data, such as passes made in a game or distances run. Then, at the end of the module, have them draft a report that includes various statistics like average, mean, and medium. More forms of data can be collected using wearable technology like heart rate monitors and pedometers. 

Using Robots to Teach Physical Education 

As we’ve seen, introducing STEM in physical education is a great way to get kids engaged in learning about science, technology, engineering, and math outside the classroom and developing important skills, like teamwork and problem solving, that they will use for the rest of their lives.  



On the flip side, it is also valuable to think about incorporating subjects like sports into the STEM classroom. Using tech-based tools and programs like Sphero Sports, a coding bundle that includes a BOLT Power Pack, sports-themed code mats, and many fun activities, can help get more students interested in STEM subjects through popular sports like football. Ultimately, creating bridges between seemingly disparate disciplines and interests will help give students a stronger and more well-rounded education. 

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