ONEONTA _ Two Hartwick College soccer players from New Zealand talked to Center Street School second-graders Wednesday about geography, flightless birds and the joys of waffles.
The presentation at the elementary school was part of a community service initiative started this year by the Hartwick men's soccer team.
For the past month, soccer players from faraway places such as New Zealand, England, Texas and Canada have visited the school to educate students on the world outside of Oneonta.
On Wednesday, sophomore midfielder Michael Cunningham, of New Zealand's South Island, and freshman Nick Roydhouse, of New Zealand's North Island, sat with Cook in bright yellow child-size chairs in front of the school's second-grade class for a question-and-answer session led by Cook.
Students eagerly raised their hands to ask questions, which included "Do you play baseball?" "What is your favorite thing to do here?" and "Do they have TVs in New Zealand?" The answers: No; Go bowling and go to the movies; Yes.
Students also learned about New Zealand animals, which do not include kangaroos and koala bears. Roydhouse told the class about kiwis, which are not fruits, as one student guessed, but round, brown, flightless birds. "We're called Kiwis. It's our national symbol."
Cook asked Cunningham and Roydhouse for their impressions of America and their favorite American foods.
"New Zealanders are more laid-back and relaxed. Here, it's different," Cunningham said.
"We never really get stressed or worried," Roydhouse said. "Just sit back and kick it."
As for favorite American foods, Roydhouse said he likes waffles the most. "I'd never had a waffle before I came to America ... I put white chocolate inside it and syrup on it _ I go all out _ and then I have four scoops of ice cream on top."
Cunningham came to Hartwick because of a connection his New Zealand coach had with Hartwick coach Ian McIntyre. Roydhouse heard of Hartwick through Cunningham, whom he played with on New Zealand's Under-20 team.
The collaborative program has been successful so far.
"(The students) love it," said Cook. "They absolutely love it."
About a month ago, Hartwick goalie Jeremy Vuolo, of Pennsylvania, approached Cook about the soccer team doing community service at the school through a soccer clinic. Cook wanted to do something more educational and worked with Vuolo to come up with the current idea.
The program has become part of the curriculum through school projects, which have included an English assignment in one class to write thank-you notes to visiting players.
Cook asks all of the players what advice they would give to elementary students, and "consistently, they all said try to enjoy school because it goes really fast."