Bees designed to encourage teaching, study of geography

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Schools pay a $70 registration fee each year to have the geography bee. The money covers the cost of classroom and school geography bee questions, certificates for all the students, a medal and written test for the school winner and eligibility for the state competition.

According to its website, the National Geographic Bee, an educational program of the National Geographic Society, is a nationwide competition for U.S. schools with grades four to eight designed to encourage the teaching and study of geography. The first bee held in 1989 was a response to a National Geographic Society commissioned Gallup Poll investigating geographic knowledge of students worldwide. Findings showed Americans age 18 to 24 scored the lowest of 10 countries measured. National winners receive scholarships.

"It gives students an opportunity to excel in an academic area that is often neglected in the school curriculum," Strattman said.

St. Mary School has conducted the bee for 20 years.

"As they get into the higher grades the questions relate to more than geography -- things like culture and language of a place are asked," said Sandi Essner, Nick's mother.

The National Geographic Bee website lists winners and the winning questions from 1989 to 2007. The winning question in 2007 was "A city that is divided by a river of the same name was the imperial capital of Vietnam for more than a century. Name this city, which is still an important cultural center."

The website posts tips to help win the bee. Recommendations include becoming familiar with the continents, countries, states and provinces, islands and major physical features of the planet -- plus having a good understanding of where the major lines of latitude and longitude lie.

Sample quizzes are available. It also suggests using flash cards and reading the newspaper, news magazines, and subscribing to the My Geography Newsletter because some bee questions come from the geography of current events.

And the former imperial capital of Vietnam divided by a river of the same name? The answer is Hue.

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