Countdown to National Geographic Bee Finals

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
May 19, 2003

Champions from every U.S. state and territory have gathered with family and teachers in Washington, D.C., for this year's National Geographic Bee. The competition is stiff, the stakes high. The top prize: a U.S. $25,000 college scholarship and the title of National Champion.

Year 2003 marks the 15th anniversary of the bee, one of the largest grade school competitions, involving close to five million students in more than 15,000 schools every year.

Having won individual competitions and their state contests, 55 of the most geographically aware fourth through eighth graders from across the 50 states, the four U.S. territories (District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Pacific Territories), and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, are now in Washington for the final rounds of the bee.

These students form an elite group.

Not only can they locate the United States on a world map (unlike one in ten Americans 18 to 24 years old, according to the 2002 National Geographic-Roper Geographic Literacy Survey), they can also answer questions like these:

• Although north of the Arctic Circle, a Russian port city near the Berents Sea is kept ice-free through much of the year because of the North Atlantic Drift. Name this city. (Answer: Murmansk)

• Traditional sports such as archery, wrestling, and horse racing take place at the annual summer festival in Ulaanbaatar in which country? (Answer: Mongolia)

• Which state capital is closer to the Pacific Ocean—Boise or Lincoln? (Answer: Boise)

• What term is used for crescent-shaped sand dunes with ends that point downward? (Answer: barchans)

The bee preliminary rounds will be held Tuesday, May 20, from which ten finalists will be chosen. These select students will each receive a U.S. $500 prize and advance to the final competition on Wednesday, May 21, moderated by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Finalists will compete for a combined total of U.S. $50,000 in college scholarships: U.S. $25,000 for first place, U.S. $15,000 for second, and U.S. $10,000 for third.

Sponsored by ING, the final competition will be taped in partnership with Maryland Public Television and will air May 21 on the National Geographic Channel and on public television stations around the country (see local listings for details).

Check for up-to-date postings of the preliminary and final round results, and watch the Bee finals live by webcast on Wednesday, May 21, at 10 a.m. ET.

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