Learning doesn’t need to screech to a halt during the summer, given the educational opportunities available to kick around.
Take the World Cup, for example. You can’t look at a newspaper, watch television or scroll through your Facebook feed without catching some reference to this international soccer event.
The World Cup is a great jumping off point for lessons about history, culture, foreign languages and science, not to mention inspiration for physical activity. Given its popularity, the World Cup-related lessons also capitalize on the fact children learn more easily and readily when they’re interested in the subject matter.
This year marks the 20th FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, as 32 countries from around the world compete for international glory. The World Cup has been held every four years since the inaugural games in 1930, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 when it was cancelled because of World War II and its aftermath. Learn about the history of the World Cup
The game of soccer dates back more than 2,000 years, though there are conflicting viewpoints about where the game actually started. China, Greece and Rome each had a game that involved kicking a ball, and parts of Central America also lay claim to the title of “football founders.” However, it was England that made the game into what we know as soccer today. The British recorded the first set of consistent guidelines for the sport in 1815 when the English School and Eton College came together to create the Cambridge Rules. These rules prohibited actions such as carrying the ball or tripping players.
Over time, additional rules were introduced, such as the penalty kick in 1891; red and yellow cards during the 1970 World Cup finals; and goalkeepers being prohibited from handling deliberate back passes in 1992. In 1998, tackles from behind became red-card penalties.
FIFA – founded in 1904 – estimates 240 million people worldwide play soccer today. The game is considered the most popular sport in the world.
This year’s host country is Brazil, a cultural playground to explore with children. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and people of Brazil are known to be gregarious and friendly. They are also known for some serious celebrations, including Carnival (or Carnaval in Portuguese). The colorful, costume- and energy-filled festival takes place in the days leading up to Lent, the 40-day period before Easter.
Learn about Brazil at National Geographic Kids
The sport of soccer is extremely popular in Brazil, and the national team has five times won the World Cup – the most of any country in the world. Brazil built six new soccer stadiums to host the World Cup, and six additional stadiums are being used for World Cup games.
Most people in Brazil speak Portuguese. Learn a few basic Brazilian Portuguese words and phrases during the World Cup games.
Soccer offers a great opportunity for physics lessons. Concepts such as velocity, motion and momentum are all visible when a soccer ball is kicked. Learn how the shape of a soccer ball affects its flight characteristics.
You can learn about the Magnus effect – the concept that describes when a spinning ball curves away from its flight path.
There was also some very cool technology debuted at the World Cup in the form of a mind-controlled robot suit. According to Scientific American, a paraplegic kicked off the games through the use of the special suit. Scientists say the technology may eventually help people who are paralyzed control robotic limbs.
Brazil is home to the Amazon, the second longest river in the world. It also boasts nearly 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, offering an array of animals to discover.
Learn about the Amazon Rainforest.
Why just watch soccer? Get out and play it!
Check out Coaching Soccer 101 for ideas for drills.
You can also try this World Cup shooting drill.
Whether you watch games on television as a family or spend time learning together, you can make summer memorable – and educational – with a little help from the World Cup.
Every week day during the 2014 football World Cup, author Tom Palmer will write a new chapter of his story Foul Play: Brazil. The 24-episode cliff-hanger story will respond to the events of the World Cup as they happen (on and off the pitch!) and will be published before 8am every weekday. Read it at the National Literacy Trust, a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the United Kingdom.