By Teri Piper Thompson, for the Chippewa Valley Post
“The Bab el Mandeb, a strait between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, connects the Gulf of Aden to which body of water?”
Do you know the answer to that question? Or to this one?
“Irrigation from the Snowy Mountains in the Great Dividing Range makes it possible to grow rice, potatoes and tomatoes in the otherwise dry eastern interior of which country?”
These questions, and many more, were posed to 14 sixth, seventh and eighth graders on Wednesday during DeLong Middle School’s third annual Geography Bee. The Geo Bee, sponsored nationally by the National Geographic Society, brings students together in a fast-paced competition testing their knowledge of world geography.
Organized by the DeLong Social Studies Department, the Bee took place in the school’s library which was decorated for the occasion with flags of the world, inflatable globes and maps. The 14 competitors qualified by scoring the highest on a written geography test taken in DeLong’s Social Studies classes.
Sitting in a semi-circle, facing a supportive audience of students and teachers, the contestants took turns answering oral questions from the moderator, eighth grade social studies teacher Marcus Larsen. Travis Van Vleet, chair of the DeLong Social Studies Department, organized the Geo Bee.
“One of the things we wanted to accomplish as a social studies staff was to make sure that we’ve provided a little bit more enthusiasm for the contest by making it a school wide contest,” Van Vleet said.
The Bee started out with United States geography questions and students were given just 15 seconds to answer. The meet was a double elimination event so students remained in the competition until they got two questions wrong.
As the rounds continued, questions become more difficult and eventually moved on to world geography knowledge.
Eventually, just two students remained: eighth grader Connor Jol and seventh grader Emma Johnson.
The two remained tied as question after question was answered successfully. Finally, the mandated tie breaker questions were asked and Johnson answered the final question correctly.
Said Johnson, a soft-spoken 7th grader, “I thought Connor was going to win but I get to move on so I feel pretty good about it.”
The next step for Johnson will be to represent DeLong in the State Geography Bee by completing a written exam in March.
Oh, and your answers to the first questions above? The Red Sea and Australia.
Teri Piper Thompson is Partnership Coordinator for the Eau Claire Area School District. She also took the photos accompanying this article.