National Geographic Bee: State Winners Earn Their Titles

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
Updated April 6, 2006

Question: Seventy percent unemployment and a severe fuel shortage have virtually paralyzed economic activity in which country east of Botswana?

By providing the right answer—Zimbabwe—Ryland Lu of Los Angeles, California, outmapped more than a hundred fourth- to eighth-graders on March 31 to win the National Geographic Bee California state championship.

The state Bees, held across the United States last Friday, are the second level of the annual National Geographic Bee, which is sponsored this year by JPMorgan Chase.

The first level began last November when nearly five million students participated in contests held at more than 14,000 U.S. schools.

State winners will travel to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on May 23 and 24. First prize in the national competition is a $25,000 college scholarship.

Second- and third-place finishers will receive $15,000 and $10,000 college scholarships respectively.

Lu, who is an eighth-grader at Los Angeles's Pressman Academy, won the state championship two years ago but did not crack the top ten in the national competition.

His mother, Randy, is convinced her son will do better this time. She says Lu has always had an insatiable appetite for anything geography-related.

"When he was four years old, he knew where Uzbekistan was," she said. "He studies everything from every possible angle—economics, currencies, culture, history."

Geo Illiterate?

The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the U.S.

Nearly a decade later the situation had not appeared to improve.

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