Local students gear up for state geography bee
NEW CANAAN — If you’re sailing on Narragansett Bay, are you in Ohio or Rhode Island? What kind of scientists study earthquakes? The Plateau of Tibet is on which continent? These are some of the questions facing local students as they gear up for the Connecticut State National Geographic Bee in New Britain on Friday.
About 10,000 students across the state participate in the bee, which is run by National Geographic. Students in grades four through eight compete in their schools and if they win, they take an online test for qualifying students across the state. The top 100 students from the online exam are invited to participate in the state geography bee.
Fairfield County will have plenty of representation at this year’s state bee, including four students from Fairfield and four from Darien. Eighth-grader Jackson Hart, a Darien resident, will be competing on behalf of St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. Hart has made it to states six times, including twice when he attended Darien public schools.
“He’s very self-driven,” Hart’s mother, Marijke, said. “I have to say we don’t push him at all.”
Could you be a geography bee winner? Find out with some sample questions.
To walk in Lisbon’s Alfama district and to stay at a beach resort in the Algarve, you would travel to what country?
The threatened Canada lynx, which has large feet adapted for walking on top of deep snow, lives near Lake of the Woods in which state —Georgia or Minnesota?
The first successful airplane flight, at Kill Devil hills, is commemorated on the quarter of which state — North Carolina or Iowa?
A: North Carolina
Hart studies by reading articles from National Geographic. While he said question topics change from year to year, keeping up with the publication helps.
“I know the National Geogrpahic website and their magazines are super helpful,” the 14-year-old said. “A lot of time they have current events questions, so it’s helpful to read those to have a sense of what’s happening in the world.”
Hart said his knack for geography (he’s particularly gifted at countries’ capitals) began by looking at place mats with maps on them when he was younger.
“I was pretty fascinated with maps,” he said. “I found them quite interesting. I would basically pore over those, and it sort of stuck with me. We have place mats with maps on them and eating dinner would always be fun because I could look at maps while I was eating.”
Hart said he often resorts to a “mental map,” a tip Ivey taught him when he was under her tutelage.
“Easy questions have hints to give you a general viewpoint of where you are,” he said. “Having a mental map in your head can really help you to figure out where you are.”
Ivey also trains students for the Quiz Bowl competition. Ivey, who has always worked in libraries, has a passion for trivia and has helped train Darien’s eight former state geography bee champions. Since the bee began in 1989, Darien has sent students to states nearly every year and has had eight students win the statewide competition.
This year, Ivey is training four Darien students who qualified for the state bee: fourth-grader Rajiv Pujara, from Hindley School; fifth-grader Sophie Bickford, from Holmes; fifth-grader Jack Morningstar, from Tokeneke, and eighth-grader Finlay Kerli, from Middlesex.
Question categories for the bee vary from year to year. Some categories, like U.S. cities, continents and worldwide geography, stay consistent, but National Geographic adds categories based on what the company has highlighted in its recent publications. One year, the company published a book about strange facts that turned into a category for that year’s bee.
“It’s a wide variety of subjects,” said Ivey, who is in her 27th year helping students train. “Geography is hard because it’s in everything we do. ... There’s a lot to learn. If the kids are passionate about it, it’s easy.”