The World Cup is played just once every four years, but Etna Road Elementary School students enjoy their unique take on soccer's grandest moment each spring.

"I wanted something a little different for kids to do ... and it really took off," said Austin Taylor, a physical-education teacher at Etna Road who established the Etna Cup seven years ago.

Each class at Etna Road -- more than 20 in all, from kindergarten through fifth grade -- represents a foreign country selected by a teacher.

Classes play a series of matches over about three weeks in a tournament resembling the format of the World Cup.

But students learn about more than corner kicks and stoppage time; teachers use the Etna Cup to help them explore the countries their classes represent.

"We research fun facts about each country (and) then we visit each other's classrooms to share what we have learned," said Sheryl Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Etna Road.

Jones' class this year represented Mexico.

Etna Road Principal Jessica Moore, in her first year at the school's helm, said the Etna Cup impressed her.

"It's a great experience for the kids, who get great exercise playing soccer and learning about other places in the world," Moore said.

Taylor said he lets each teacher "take it as far they want" concerning the educational aspect of the event.

The Etna Cup evolved from the school's field day, a tradition of many schools in which students, on or near the last day of class, play a variety of outdoor games.

"I thought instead of having all this planning and effort going into just one day, why not have it last a few weeks?" Taylor said.

The Etna Cup has evolved to include roles other than the players on the pitch.

"We have a few kids who are sports reporters," Taylor said.

The school's Eagle Sports Team reads a summary of the game during morning announcements.

Students also can choose to be coaches, scorekeepers and even fans.

"Last year, a group of kids came with shamrock stickers on their faces (representing Ireland)," Moore said.

Among the students who played in the Etna Cup this year was Lalla Elhamdi, 8, a third-grader whose class represented Colombia.

"My dad taught me how to play soccer. I play soccer at home and like (playing at school)," she said.

Lalla said she learned the Atlantic and Pacific oceans touch Colombia's shoreline and that "they sell a lot of coffee there."

Taylor has taught physical education at Etna Road for 14 years, but next year will serve as the student intervention coordinator at the Kae Avenue campus.

The district will switch to a campus-based format next year, with Kae Avenue Elementary School and the neighboring C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Center becoming a shared campus for all preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students. Beechwood and Etna Road elementary schools will house students in grades 2-5.

It is not yet known whether the Etna Cup will continue in the same format next year, Taylor said.