BIOLOGY ACTIVITY
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Can You Take the Heat?

Purpose

To create a pamphlet on managing stress.

Materials

Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis Photo Courtesy
Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

 

The Story

Dontrelle Willis was pitching for the Florida Marlins against the San Diego Padres. The Marlins had a lead, and it was beginning to look like Willis would get his first Major League win.

But then his pitches started to miss the plate. As Marlin's manager Jack McKeon looked on, he saw Willis fidget and sweat. The more nervous Willis got, the harder it was for him to get the ball over the plate.

McKeon knew exactly what to do. The 72-year-old manager quickly called time out. He walked to the mound to calm to his young pitcher. McKeon gave Willis a short speech about how to throw a strike. But his words were not the important thing.

McKeon's confidence and joking style were just what Willis needed. When McKeon left the mound, Willis was smiling and relaxed. He was ready to pitch again. He finished strong and got his first win for the Marlins.

Jack McKeon
Jack McKeon Photo
Courtesy
USA Today

When was the last time that you were nervous, scared, or angry? Perhaps you can remember a test, a nightmare, or an argument with a friend.

Think about your body's physical reaction at the time. How did you feel? Did your heart race? Did your face and ears grow warm? Did you begin to breathe a little faster? Did you tremble all over?

You are a sports psychologist for the local university. In your spare time you advise a Major League baseball team. Your team has been playing poorly this season. Early loses have increased the stress on everyone.

The stress has shown up as sloppiness and anger. Players have lost their confidence! Some have even lost their tempers on the field.

The team's owners are worried. They know their players have talent. What the players need are techniques for handling the stress.

You have been given two jobs. First, you will find out how people deal with stress. Then, you will create a pamphlet on managing stress.

Procedure

The Research - Read Skills - Conducting a Survey then follow its guidelines as you write a set of questions for a survey. You need three kinds of questions:
  • What makes the person angry, nervous or frightened?
  • What feelings do they have?
  • and, How do they deal with their feelings?

Use your survey to interview thirty people.

Organize and display your data in a pamphlet along with suggestions for dealing with anger and fear.

Conclusion

Designing a Pamphlet - Reactions associated with worry, fear, and anger are caused by the autonomic nervous system. Read Fundamentals -Flight or Fight and other resources (encyclopedia, Internet, textbook) to learn more about the autonomic nervous system and how stress can be controlled. Take notes on the facts you find.

Produce a pamphlet based on the findings from your survey. Your pamphlet should have four sections:

  • The most common things that make people angry, nervous, and/ or frightened.
  • The most common feelings that people have when they become angry, nervous, and/ or frightened.
  • How the autonomic nervous system is involved with our feelings in these situations.
  • Successful ways that people use to deal with their anger, nervousness, and fear.

Be sure to include pictures (drawings and photographs may be copied from the Internet and pasted into your document) to illustrate your pamphlet and make it look appealing.


This activity was developed by the Event-Based Science Institute with generous support from the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. A teacher version of this and all other baseball/biology activities is available free from the Institute. This Can You Take the Heat? activity was was written by Michelle Smetanick, science teacher at Baker Middle School, Damascus, MD.

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