Geography bug takes boy to state bee


April 05, 1999|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HE'S THE LITTLE sixth-grader that could. Peter Wolfinger recently outscored hundreds of seventh- and eighth-graders on written and oral exams to become the only student at West Middle School to reach the state finals in the Maryland Geography Bee this year.

Next week he will compete against 101 finalists from 250 schools across the state to earn a spot in the National Geography Bee and perhaps the top prize, a $25,000 scholarship to the college of his choice. Second- and third-place winners of the national competition will receive $15,000 and $16,000 scholarships.

Peter has successfully answered so many questions about latitudes, longitudes, imports and specific locations that he's got to be saying: "I think I can. I think I can."

His parents, Randy and Nancy Wolfinger, are pumped up; his teachers at West Middle School are pumped up. And Peter is putting in extra time preparing for the competition to be held Friday at Towson University.

He's studying with a computer program designed for geography competitions and surfing the Internet for trivia. While he loves everything about geography -- it was one of his favorite hobbies in third grade -- he's equally interested in sports, music and art.

Peter plays basketball, soccer and baseball as well as the piano and clarinet. He also likes to "draw athletes doing things."

"I'd like to say I taught him everything he knows, but that's not true," said Donna Griffith, a social studies teacher at West Middle. "He competed against all the other grades in the school on written exam and then won a verbal round during which [Principal Michael Bell] asked geography questions. He has two more years to compete, too. It's a winning situation."

After the local competition, Peter took a written exam administered by the National Geographic Society and Bank One, sponsors of the geography bee.

"The exam was pretty hard, and it took about 45 minutes to complete," Peter said.

His score on that exam was within the top 100 in the state, moving him to the state finals.

"When Peter was in the third grade at Mechanicsville Elementary School, he knew capitals, countries and the location of places all over the world," said Nancy Wolfinger. "He has been using a lot of that prior knowledge. This is so exciting for all of us."

First-, second- and third-place winners in the state competition move up to the National Geography Bee, to be held at the end of May in Washington, D.C. There, 55 students will compete for the college scholarships.

Lots of people are rooting for Peter to win and to have fun. They hope he will. They hope he will. They hope he will.

Lisa Breslin's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of the Sun.

Pub Date: 4/05/99

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