Q: Where can you find geography geniuses? A: In Columbia, Md.

Competition showcases kids' knowledge of world


December 24, 2003|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Question: Which city is located on one of the Great Lakes -- St. Louis or Milwaukee?

Answer: Milwaukee.

Too easy? Try this one: Coffee and tea are major crops grown in what part of the world?

Answer: Nairobi, Kenya.

Do you think you're ready for Jeopardy!? Daniel Lambright, 13, might be.

He is the new geography champion at Dasher Green-Owen Brown School in Columbia. On Dec. 17, the eighth-grader bested 15 children in grades four through eight during a competition at the school sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

"It was hard," he said after being proclaimed the winner. "After I got one question wrong, I didn't think I would go to the other rounds."

Over about 2 1/2 hours, the children competed in seven preliminary, five final and three championship rounds. The questions involved physical, cultural and economic geography.

Sixth-grader Joshua Farrell-Herzog, 11, continually pumped his fists in the air a la Tiger Woods after correctly answering tough questions. Other children produced quizzical looks as they thought about their responses, while some, such as fourth-grader Abigail Asamoah, 9, smiled broadly after giving correct answers.

About 20 audience members, including parents and teachers, sat enthralled, some holding video cameras. As each round progressed, they clapped -- encouraging the remaining contestants and praising those who didn't go further in the geography bee.

During a break in the competition, the children ate cookies, drank juice and chatted about how things were going.

Despite his nervousness, Daniel prevailed, taking home a certificate, medallion and the National Geographic Encyclopedia of World Geography.

"I studied using a CD-ROM and encyclopedia," he said.

Daniel now moves on to the preliminary state competition. In such competitions, school winners across the country and in U.S. territories take written geography tests.

The top 100 scorers of those tests compete in state competitions. The 55 state and territorial winners will meet next year at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington for the national competition.

Contestants are narrowed to 10 finalists and vie for a $25,000 college scholarship during the competition, to be moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the game show Jeopardy!

Imani Walcott, 11, a sixth-grader, was the runner-up in the competition. She beamed after the bee.

"I studied hard, and I practiced for the bee with my dad using the World Geographic Encyclopedia and CD-ROMs," she said.

Also smiling, Warren Walcott said he was proud of his daughter.

"I'm very pleased," he said. "I expose her to current affairs, and I encourage her to read. I want her to have a comprehension of places."

Nicole Simon-Ogan, 9, was one of nine finalists. The fourth-grader's father, Kal Simon-Ogan, looked on with enthusiasm as Nicole proceeded in the competition.

"She's doing very well," he said.

"I bought her CDs, and she has been reading National Geographic since she was very young. Being from Africa, she's well read and has a sense of international geography," he said.

Principal Stephen Zagami congratulated the participants after the bee.

"All of our students did a great job," he said.

Zagami said he decided to start the competition at Dasher Green-Owen Brown because it is fun. "It puts academics in a nice light," he said.

Zagami said the kids practiced for the bee for about six weeks using CD-ROMs, atlases and other materials.

He added that he hopes the competition grows in popularity.

"I did this for five years while at Jeffers Hill [Elementary School], and by the fifth year" a lot of children were participating, Zagami said.

Teacher Kim Eubanks said she was proud of the bee's participants. "I think they all did wonderful," she said.

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