WASHINGTON (May 8, 2009)—One would like to be a time-traveler, so he could see our future world; another hopes to become a doctor and find a cure for cancer. One composes music and has almost finished writing a symphony; another has his sights set on becoming a professional soccer player. Several hope to hold high political office one day. But all have their eyes on one goal at present — to take top honors at the 21st annual National Geographic Bee, to be held in Washington, D.C., on May 19 and 20. Google is the sponsor of this year’s contest.
Fifty-five fourth- to eighth-graders, ranging in age from 9-15, will be vying for the Bee crown and 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. Additionally, the national winner will travel (along with one parent or guardian), all expenses paid, to the Galápagos Islands with “Jeopardy!” quiz show host and National Geographic Bee moderator Alex Trebek and the “Jeopardy!” Clue Crew. The winner will experience geography firsthand through up-close encounters with the wildlife and landscape of the Galápagos. Travel for the “Galápagos Adventure with Alex Trebek” is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Society.
The finalists, all winners of their state-level geographic bees, have triumphed over a field of nearly 5 million students to 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 19. The top 10 finalists will each win $500 and advance to the final round on Wednesday, May 20, which will be moderated by Alex Trebek. The final round will air on May 20 nationally on the National Geographic Channel. Produced by National Geographic Television, the finals also will be broadcast later on public television stations, presented by Maryland Public Television. Check local listings for viewing dates and times.
Seven of the students taking part in this year’s National Geographic Bee are repeat state winners. Shiva Kangeyan of Florida, Alexander Fager of Hawaii, Trevor Eggenberger of Kansas and Alexander Wade of Nevada represented their states at the 2008 championship. Amal de Alwis of Louisiana, Kennen Sparks of Utah and Kirsi Anselmi-Stith were state winners in 2007.
A survey of this year’s state and territory Bee winners shows that they have numerous talents in addition to their prodigious geography knowledge. Many are on their school’s honor rolls and in the National Junior Honor Society; many have won math, science and spelling contests; a number study music or languages; most play a variety of sports.
Barack Obama tops the list of people the students admire (apart from their parents), followed by grandparents and teachers. While many of the kids said they are perfectly content being themselves, U.S. president, secretary of state or an ambassador head the list of other people they might choose to be.
John Fahey, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, said, “National Geographic’s mission is to inspire people to care about planet. Through the National Geographic Bee and everything else we do at the Society, we hope to foster a lifelong passion for learning about the wonders of the Earth and its diverse lands and cultures.”
“The Geographic Bee has been a great motivator for students to learn about the world and its natural and human geography. At Google, we are proud of the fact that many of these students are using Google Earth as an educational tool, and we are pleased to be sponsoring National Geographic Society’s Geographic Bee program,” said Brian McClendon, engineering director at Google.
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 United States. And the problem is not yet resolved: The results of 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 our 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 in 10 were able to find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.
The 2008 National Geographic Bee champion was 11-year-old sixth-grader Akshay Rajagopal of Nebraska. The winning question was: The urban area of Cochabamba has been in the news in recent years due to protests over the privatization of the municipal water supply and regional autonomy issues. Cochabamba is the third largest conurbation in what country? Answer: Bolivia.
About National Geographic
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 360 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; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
Based at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel is a joint venture between National Geographic Television and FOX Cable Networks Group. It debuted to an initial 10 million homes in January 2001 and is currently available in nearly 70 million U.S. homes.
About Google’s Geo Education Program
The Geo Education program is made up of a group of Googlers who are passionate about education and who believe that Google Earth and Maps are powerful educational tools. The program aims to make these tools more accessible to educators and to connect educators to each other so that they can share their experiences. The Geo Education group has created a Web site, www.google.com/educators/geo, where educators can find classroom activities in a variety of subjects and a discussion group where they can share information.
NOTE: The names and pictures of the Bee champion and the two runners-up and the winning question will be posted on the National Geographic online press room at the following ftp site:
(username: press | password: press)