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Robinson Geography Bee

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Geography Bee Participants

The final and championship rounds of the inaugural Robinson MS GeoBee (the school-based part of the National Geographic Society’s GeoBee) were held on January 24, 2019. Winners were:

1st place: Thomas G (grade 7)— School Champion!

2nd place: Ryan P (grade 8)

3rd place: August S (grade 8)

Thomas G previously represented Laurel Ridge Elementary School at the Virginia State GeoBee Championship. He has advanced to take the online qualifying exam (results to be announced in early March) for the opportunity to compete in this year’s Virginia State GeoBee Championship. Additionally, Thomas qualified for the U.S. Geography Olympiad High School National Championship tournament and the International Geography Bee which will be held in Arlington (VA) on April 26, 2019. He will be competing in the JV high school division. Thomas said, “My favorite part of the geography bee is answering questions because when I get them right, I feel good.”

Robinson took part in the National Geographic GeoBee for the first time in late January. The Bee is for students in grades 4-8, and nearly 10,000 schools nationwide participate. Some schools have a Quiz Bowl, however, the GeoBee is different. The GeoBee is similar to a spelling bee where students are orally asked questions about geography on individual turns. If a student answers two questions incorrectly, they are eliminated. The last competitor standing after multiple rounds of questioning wins.

Michael Campana, a middle school Spanish teacher, hosted the GeoBee in 2019 and plans to host it in years to come. Robinson offered study sessions every Wednesday after school starting in mid-November. Many students participating in the bee studied on their own and have attended similar competitions since as early as fourth grade. The questions that are asked are prepared by the National Geographic Society. There must be a minimum of six students in order for a school to compete and this year we had nine students participating.

There are many prizes for the winners. “School champions receive a medal and a certificate. Students who advance to the state level compete for cash awards and other prizes. National Geographic increased the prize money for all State GeoBees in 2019. State champions will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Championship. The second- and third-place students at State GeoBees will also receive cash awards of $300 and $100, respectively. Each state champion will advance to the National Championship and compete for cash awards and college scholarships. In 2019, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to the Galápagos Islands; second place will receive at $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will receive $1,000 in cash each.”

In 2018 Venkat Ranjan, a thirteen-year-old 8th grader from San Ramon, California won the national tournament. The last question he was asked was, “Lebanon has a population most similar to which South American country?” Ranjan had the winning answer of Paraguay.

 

Teacher and Geo Bee adviser Michael Campana answered a few questions about the Bee.

How many years has Robinson done the Geography Bee?

This is the first time Robinson Middle School has participated as a school, as far as I know— at least in the 22+ years I have taught at Robinson. Some of our feeder elementary schools (e.g. Laurel Ridge) have participated regularly in the past, however. Students are only eligible through 8th grade.

Is this part of National Geographic’s GeoBee?

Yes, this is the school-based portion of National Geographic’s GeoBee https://www.nationalgeographic.org/bee .

Is this a test similar to Quiz Bowl where students buzz in?

No, it is a “bee”-style competition (similar to a spelling bee) during which students are orally asked geography questions individually in turns. The last student standing (i.e. the one remaining student who has not given two wrong answers after multiple rounds of questions) wins. FYI, the U.S. Geography Olympiad is a similar competition (run by a different organization) that does have a significant buzzer-based component. (See my answer to #10, below, for more info about the U.S.G.O. competition.)

How long have students been preparing for the Bee?

We have had several group practices here at Robinson only since mid-November, but many of these students have been studying geography on their own and participating in the GeoBee (or similar competitions) since as early as fourth grade.

What is the progression for winners? How many will go on to the next round?

By National Geographic’s rules, the school champion (only) will take an online qualifying exam to attempt to advance to the state competition. I believe students with the top 50 (or maybe 100?) qualifying exam scores in each state advance to the state championship bee. From there, the top one or maybe two competitors from each state advance to the national championship.

Are there prizes?

The top 3 Robinson finishers will receive a certificate. Additionally, according to National Geographic’s GeoBee FAQs page (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/bee/faq):

“School champions receive a medal and a certificate. Students who advance to the state level compete for cash awards and other prizes. National Geographic increased the prize money for all State GeoBees in 2019. State champions will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Championship. The second- and third-place students at State GeoBees will also receive cash awards of $300 and $100, respectively. Each state champion will advance to the National Championship and compete for cash awards and college scholarships. In 2019, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to the Galápagos Islands; second place will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will receive $1,000 in cash each.”

Where do the questions come from?

The questions are produced by the National Geographic Society.

How many students participate?A minimum of six students must participate per school for the school champion to be eligible to take the state qualifying exam. We expect approximately 20 Robinson 7th and 8th-graders to participate this year.

How long have you sponsored this?This is my first year as the Robinson GeoBee coordinator (since we have never previously participated in this competition as a school), but I have been the Robinson “It’s Academic” sponsor and Scholastic Quizbowl coach for 14+ years, as well as the middle school Quiz Bowl Club sponsor for 7+ years.

What is your favorite part of the Bee? I love working with motivated students who are excited about learning and who also want to test their knowledge against other outstanding students and to push themselves to learn new things about the subject(s) they love— like geography! (I also love geography myself!)

Is there anything else I should know?Although National Geographic’s GeoBee competition is only open to students in grades 4 – 8, there is a similar competition— the United States Geography Olympiad  https://www.geographyolympiad.com/  (run by the International Academic Competitions https://www.iacompetitions.com/ organization)— that has a high school division in addition to separate middle school and elementary school divisions. Several of our middle school students are participating in both the GeoBee and the Geography Olympiad this year, and several high school students are also participating in the Geography Olympiad’s high school division. Geography questions (along with a wide variety of other academic subjects) are also a regular feature of quizbowl competitions in general such as “It’s Academic”http://www.itsacademicquizshow.com/, VHSL Scholastic Bowl https://www.vhsl.org/scholastic-bowl/, and the National Academic Quiz Tournaments https://www.naqt.com/index.jsp  (among others) in which Robinson’s MS and HS quizbowl team and club members regularly participate.

 

Citations

Geographic, National. “FAQs.” National Geographic Society, National Geographic, 2019, www.nationalgeographic.org/bee/faq.

Wbur. “Winning The National Geographic Bee Takes ‘Step-By-Step’ Preparation, Says 2018 Champ.” WBUR, WBUR, 4 June 2018, www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/06/04/national-geographic-bee-winner-venkat-ranjan.

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