WASHINGTON (May 5, 2008)—As the National Geographic Bee celebrates its 20th year, the first four-time state-level winner will head to the national finals this month. Benjamin Geyer does not have far to go — he is the hometown champion. An eighth-grader at the British School of Washington, Geyer represented Washington, D.C., at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 national competitions and will take his place with 54 other state-level winners at the 2008 National Geographic Bee, to be held in Washington, D.C., on May 20 and 21.
The 55 fifth- to eighth-graders, ranging in age from 10 to 14, will be competing for the top prize of a $25,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Second and third prizes are college scholarships of $15,000 and $10,000.
The Bee finalists have triumphed over a field of nearly 5 million students to win their state-level competitions and earn a place in the national championships. They represent the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Pacific Territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
The preliminary rounds of the National Geographic Bee will take place on Tuesday, May 20. The top 10 finalists will each win $500 and advance to the final round on Wednesday, May 21, which will be moderated for the 20th year by Alex Trebek, host of the television quiz show “Jeopardy!”.
Wednesday morning’s final round will air nationally at 5 p.m. (ET/PT) that day on the National Geographic Channel. Produced by National Geographic Television, the finals also will be broadcast on public television stations nationally. Check nationalgeographic.com/geographicbee or local listings for viewing times.
In addition to Geyer, who finished in the top 10 in last year’s competition, four other students taking part in this year’s National Geographic Bee are repeat state-level winners. Erik Troske of Indiana, Milan Sandhu of New Hampshire and Muta Abiff of the U.S. Virgin Islands took part in the 2007 national contest; Autumn Hughes represented Colorado at the 2006 National Geographic Bee.
A survey of this year’s state and territory Bee winners shows that they have numerous talents in addition to their prodigious knowledge of geography. Many have won math, science and other academic contests; several play a number of musical instruments; most enjoy a variety of sports. One has written a 57,000-page novel, another is a part-time magician.
When the students were asked who they most admire (apart from their parents), the highest number of votes went to Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi, those serving in the armed forces and teachers. While the majority of the kids said they were perfectly content being themselves, the president of the United States, U.N. secretary general and Bill Gates topped the list of other people they might choose to be.
The National Geographic Society held the first National Geographic Bee in 1989. The competition was developed in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. And the problem is not yet resolved: A National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study showed that Americans aged 18 to 24 still have limited understanding of the world within and beyond their country’s borders. Even after Hurricane Katrina, one-third could not locate Louisiana and almost half could not locate Mississippi on a U.S. map. Only four out of 10 were able to find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.
“For the past 20 years, National Geographic has been at the forefront of promoting geographic literacy among young people. The National Geographic Bee is one of our most popular programs, and it has motivated tens of millions of youngsters to learn about the world,” said National Geographic Society President John Fahey.
The 2007 National Geographic Bee champion was Caitlin Snaring, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Redmond, Wash., and the second girl to win the national title.
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 300 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 8,800 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.