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World Cup Wonders

Worldwide competitive events provide multiple opportunities to explore global content such as international relations, geography, economics, the origin and history of games, and the qualities of collaboration and sportsmanship. Terri Marini of MindWorks Resources explains how she teaches youth to investigate the world by asking questions about the World Cup. This blog was originally printed on Best of Out-of-School Time's (BOOST) Breakfast Club Blog.

by Terri Marini

afterschool-globalcompetence.jpgMy daughter asked me if the 2014 Olympics were being held in Southern China. She spent most her childhood summers in Southern California, or SoCal, so I should not have been shocked when she thought Sochi was in southern China instead of Russia. Except that she is a 20-year-old college student.

What a small world we have...and how little of it our students seem to know. As a school teacher and mother to reasonably intelligent children, I like to believe I have instilled in them some understanding of the people and cultures so different than ours. Apparently I failed.

The world of sports, thankfully, offers another opportunity to address global competencies—in terms of both geography and culture—as The World Cup unfolds. Teams from 32 countries have gathered in a place that speaks Portuguese—not Spanish—to play futebol—so very different than football. Six continents have teams competing, and the only continent that is not has no full-time inhabitants! Unlike our American Super Bowl world championship, this truly is a battle of global proportions...and the perfect opportunity to weave global competencies into our work with children.

NEA defines global competence as the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and ability to learn and work with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language, and skills to function productively in an interdependent world community. Students in kindergarten through college should be working toward these standards, beginning with the simplest task of identifying the countries competing in the World Cup on a map. Let the questions and learning flow from there!

I like to start with the term, "I wonder..." My students look up at me to finish, but I turn the statement to them. "I wonder...What do you think I wonder?" That statement, when France played Honduras, ended with, "...how much more money France has than Honduras!" I did wonder that, too! Perhaps I didn't know I wondered it, but what an interesting perspective. My question back to students was, "Why do you think France has more money than Honduras?" A wise student answered, "My church sends money to Honduras. My church never sent money to France." What a lesson in global economics we were about to have! After some research, students determined that the average annual salary for someone in France is about ten times the annual average salary of someone in Honduras.

I started again, "I wonder...What do you think I wonder?" "I think you wonder if rich countries play better soccer than poorer countries." Actually, I did wonder that, but in the opposite form. I wondered if children who were scrappy—fighting for the basic necessities every day—would be better soccer players. They tend to have a deep understanding of perseverance, suffering, passion, and survival.

Teaching global competencies is tough, especially if you are a homebody with very little travel experience living somewhere in small town America. But it is imperative if our students are going to compete in this world that grows so much smaller each day. Take advantage of technology available to open your students to the world, such as virtual field trips, language translation apps, and interactive maps. Visit sites such as the Asia Society and read information from NEA and ASCD for implementing global competencies. Find support lessons at The Guardian.

While the score did not favor Honduras, I would like to think my theory is not completely wrong. The students say they will continue wondering until the end of all the games, then compare the economies of each match to see any correlations that may appear. There are so many lessons within the World Cup. I'm sure one of them is probably none of the games are in SoBra.

Terri Marini is the Director of Product Development of MindWorks Resources.

Image credit: high-number/istockphoto.com

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