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SWISH!: a STEM Basketball Challenge and Sporty Book List for Readers Aged 0 to 18

For many people, March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year! Kids often get super excited about sports tournaments, and this one is especially fun to bring into the classroom. Incorporating sports into reading and STEM activities can excite and energize students who have a passion for athletics. This STEM basketball challenge is one of our favorite activities for this time of year and a fun activity for students of all ages.

For this challenge, kids will design and build a basketball hoop and a device for launching their ball. They will especially enjoy teaming up with each other and practicing shooting into the completed hoops.

One of our favorite things about this STEM project is that there are countless ways to do it and a huge variety of supplies that can be used! We used straws, wooden sticks, string, masking tape, cardboard, paper, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, plastic spoons, scissors and sharpie markers. We found all of these materials in our office - we love a project that repurposes things we already have! We made the ball ourselves, but you can also use a ping pong ball or just make one like us out of materials on hand. We included two examples of how students may build their hoops, but simply understanding the challenge is often enough to get their creative juices flowing!


In addition to this STEM project, we also created a collection of inclusive sports themed picture books as well as a list of sporty middle grade and young adult reads. This list features both fiction and nonfiction titles. All of these books can be found on our Bookshop page.


Picture Books


Testing the Ice: a True Story About Jackie Robinson

Author: Sharon Robinson | Illustrator: Khadir Nelson | Publisher: Scholastic Press


This book has been a favorite of ours for years. Yes, it is about Jackie Robinson - the baseball extraordinaire - but mostly, it is about who he was as a father (and it is written by his daughter). He may have been untouchable on the baseball field but like everyone else, he had fears and insecurities that sometimes stopped him from doing certain things. When his children needed his help though, he demonstrated how willing he was to do whatever it took to create special memories with them.

Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Author: Jen Bryant | Illustrator: Frank Morrison | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams


Elgin Baylor was an impressive early player in the NBA who is credited for inspiring change within the organization. Readers will love