How Vermont kids are getting a kick out of their lessons thanks to the World Cup

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:42 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:43 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The World Cup soccer tournament is usually a summer event, but because this year’s tournament in Qatar was scheduled during the school year, teachers at a southern Vermont school are using the event to inspire students.

World Cup fever has struck Twin Valley Elementary school in Wilmington. It’s an intense match in the gym, a tournament game is up on the big screen and the brackets for the World Cup are posted at the main entrance.

Fifth-grader Maeve Wahlstrom is a fan of all of it.

“I love soccer,” Wahlstrom said.

The doors to all the classrooms are decorated with the flags of countries around the world.

“My class is Ghana,” Wahlstrom said.

Each class chose a World Cup team to follow closely for the three-week tournament. Geography, culture, food and climate are also on the lesson plan.

“If you make things with your hand it is better than just reading it because it sticks into your memory more. And, well, it’s more fun to learn about than just reading,” Wahlstrom said.

The sporting event-turned-study-opportunity was pitched by Chris Walling, a phys ed teacher who has been coaching soccer in the community for two decades.

“Teachers as we know these days are already overloaded. But they embraced it, they took it on and I said, ‘Let’s just have fun with it,’” Walling said.

Educators say it’s bringing the entire school together.

“Kids are just getting excited about the experience,” teacher Caralee Moore said.

They say success is achieved when kids are talking about the world on their own time.

“When they are having those conversations naturally it means they’ve integrated that language into their own skillset and that is when I know they have had success. And that is when I also know it is impactful,” Moore said.

It’s also another opportunity to be active.

“I just like exercising and running a lot,” said Gabe Walling, a fifth grader.

Walling is learning about Morocco, but he’s got another favorite team.

“[Lionel] Messi and Argentina,” he said.

Teachers say the official lesson plan will continue through the end of the World Cup final, but they say the indirect learning will continue all year long.