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A New Opportunity for Academic Challenge: 6th and 7th Graders Tackle Our Inaugural Entry to the World Scholar's Cup

A New Opportunity for Academic Challenge: 6th and 7th Graders Tackle Our Inaugural Entry to the World Scholar's Cup
Sophie Shulman

Debates. Teamwork. Research. Public Speaking. Alpacas? Even if you are a pro at the NY Times “Connections” game, you might be challenged to figure out the link between those elements. If you asked a 6th or 7th grader, however, they would know that the connection is a new academic extracurricular opportunity called the World Scholar’s Cup.

World Scholar’s Cup is a global academic competition for middle and high school students that brings together many disciplines and asks students to work together in a series of challenges. In addition to learning new content, students are encouraged to apply what they learn and relate their knowledge to the world around them. Students participate as teams of three in four events over two days: Collaborative Writing, the Scholar’s Challenge, the Scholar’s Bowl, and Team Debate. Each year has a theme, and this year’s theme is “Reimagining the Present.” 

“I had experience with World Scholar’s Cup from my previous school, where I led student delegations regionally, nationally, and internationally,” says Carrie Smith, Director of Student Life for Grades 5-8. “I saw how it inspired students to extend their thinking beyond the classroom and practice skills like public speaking and collaborative teamwork in a more global context.”

World Scholar’s Cup encourages students to embrace their own uniqueness, and there is quite a bit of quirkiness infused into the competition. “The mascot is an alpaca, because they are funny animals! The leaders of World Scholar’s Cup don’t want scholars to take themselves too seriously,” Carrie explains. “They want students to have a positive experience in an academic competition that is challenging without high stress or pressure.”

While Carrie was hopeful that Mark Day students would be interested in World Scholar’s Cup, she could not have predicted the overwhelming interest—about 60 students in 6th and 7th grade came to the informational meeting. This year, the competition conflicted with 8th grade outdoor education, so only students in 6th and 7th were eligible to participate; in subsequent years, 8th graders will also have the opportunity to join. 

Not only were we able to participate, but we had the opportunity to host a regional round and seized it. On April 28 and 29, Mark Day School hosted 132 students—both Mark Day students and students from 15 other schools—for the Regional Round of World Scholar’s Cup. Mark Day had 12 6th grade teams and 11 7th grade teams. The Mark Day teams performed very well, with every student qualifying for the Global Rounds. Held in the summer, those competitions are optional for students. There are a number of students and families who have expressed interest in forming a team or teams to travel to a competition this summer, and Carrie also has experience from the past with an individual student signing up and being placed onto a three-person team from multiple schools from around the world. 

Reflecting on Mark Day’s inaugural experience with World Scholar’s Cup, Carrie says, “We want to develop new ways for students to feel challenged, to collaborate, and to apply their knowledge in different ways. After the event, teachers are reporting that students who participated in World Scholar’s Cup are contributing to class discussions in a deeper, more thoughtful way. They now have a bigger global context of understanding and experienced the benefit of engaging in conversations with kids from a variety of schools. Those experiences have really helped deepen their discussion skills.” 

World Scholar’s Cup will be offered again next year for students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and we would like to see it continue to expand. We are excited about the potential for students to engage in this kind of intellectual, quirky, and fun experience and about the various ways that it might feed back into our program at Mark Day.  

To learn more about our curriculum, click here.