National Geographic Bee Moves to State Level

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
April 2, 2004

Find out who the National Geographic Bee state-level competition winners are, and test your geographic knowledge with ten questions from the state competitions.

In states and territories across the United States, today marks the date of the annual state-level National Geographic Bee competitions. Winners from this round—one from each state or territory—will advance to the National Geographic Bee finals to be held at headquarters in Washington, D.C., on May 25 and 26.

Now in its 16th year, the National Geographic Bee has become the second largest academic competition in the country, drawing from nearly 16,000 schools nationwide. Only the National Spelling Bee has more student participants.

For the fourth through eighth graders participating in the Geographic Bees, the hardest work of all may lie in the challenge of competing. However, for the people behind the scenes—local teachers, state Bee coordinators, and National Geographic staff—the real work began many months ago.

Beyond Trivia

To hold a Bee, there must be questions—but not just any questions will do. The process actually starts the preceding summer with a team of teachers. They write initial questions which are submitted to National Geographic's Geography Competitions department. This pool is vigorously fact-checked and edited, and approved questions are then submitted to a panel of geographers for two rounds of final review.

A major challenge is coming up with questions that are difficult but fair, said Chelsea Zillmer, manager/editor for Geography Competitions. One question that was discarded in the past, for example, was "How many counties are there in Ireland?"

"That's just like asking, How many jellybeans are there in a jar?" Zillmer explained. "It's not really important information to know."

To make that particular question a strong one, it would need to tie into the history or culture of a particular county and might give clues that would lead to a major city or some other feature "we would expect students to know," Zillmer said. "That would be important information and what we would consider fair."

Rote memorization of facts or trivia is not the goal of the competition, agreed Mary Lee Elden, long-time director of the Bee. "The writers put in relevant clues so that even if it does go for a one-word answer, the clues make it so that you know why it's relevant to know that information."

Questions are designed to explore all facets of geography—historical, physical, cultural, and economic. The goal, Zillmer said, is to create global citizens. "It's looking at all the different pieces that make up our world … not just knowing the longest river or the tallest mountain. It's trying to really look at everything in context."

No Small Task

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.