WASHINGTON (May 7, 2003)—From Alabama to Alaska and across the seas to Hawaii and American Samoa, 55 of the brightest young students from around the United States and its territories will meet in Washington, D.C., on May 20 and 21 to take part in the 15th annual National Geographic Bee.
The fifth- to eighth-graders, who range in age from 11 to 14, will be vying for the top prize of a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine. Second and third prizes are college scholarships of $15,000 and $10,000. ING Americas, sponsor of the 2003 National Geographic Bee, also will present the first-place winner with a week’s trip to one of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Adventure Camps.
All 55 contestants, 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 May 20. The top 10 finalists will each win $500 and advance to the final round the following day, which will be moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the popular television quiz show “Jeopardy!”.
The final round on May 21 will air nationally later that day on the National Geographic Channel. Produced by Maryland Public Television, the finals also will be broadcast at later dates on public television stations. Check nationalgeographic.com/geographicbee or local listings for viewing times.
Six students taking part in this year’s National Geographic Bee are repeat state winners. They are Jacob Felts, Arkansas (2002); Henry Yin, California (2002); Thomas Meyerson, District of Columbia (2002); Zachary Blatt, New Hampshire (2002); Deborah Beihl, South Carolina (2002); and Sean Rao, Wisconsin (2001).
This is the fifth time in the past six years that a member of the Beihl family has taken part in the national contest. Deborah’s brother David was South Carolina state champion in 1998 and national champion in 1999, and her brother Thomas represented South Carolina in 2001.
A survey of this year’s state and territory Bee winners shows that they have numerous talents in addition to their enormous geography knowledge. Many have won math, science and spelling contests, most play a variety of sports and musical instruments, one won his state History Day competition and one was honored with a Reserve Grand Champion prize for his lamb in a 4-H competition.
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: A nine-country National Geographic-Roper Geographic Literacy Survey conducted last year showed that Americans aged 18 to 24 scored lower than their counterparts in the other countries surveyed, except Mexico. Eleven percent of the Americans surveyed could not locate the United States on a world map.
“For young people to be responsible and informed leaders of tomorrow, it is imperative that they have a sound understanding of our planet,” said National Geographic Society President John Fahey. “National Geographic has always recognized the need for geographic literacy and will vigorously continue its efforts to educate our young people and foster global knowledge.”
The 2002 National Geographic Bee champion was 10-year-old fifth-grader Calvin McCarter, from Jenison, Mich. The youngest Bee winner so far, he correctly answered the question: “Lop Nur, a marshy depression at the east end of the Tarim Basin, is a nuclear test site for which country?” Answer: China.
Top-10 winners in this year’s and last year’s National Geographic Bees are eligible to be chosen for the three-person U.S. team that will take part in the National Geographic World Championship to be held at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Fla., on July 15 and 16. Up to 20 countries will be participating in this biennial event. The United States is the defending champion.
The 115-year-old National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. It reaches more than 250 million people each month through its five magazines, the National Geographic Channel, books, videos, maps and interactive media. The Society has funded more than 7,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy.
Based at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel is a joint venture between National Geographic Television & Film and Fox Cable Networks Group. It is currently available to 40 million homes.
ING Americas, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., is part of Amsterdam-based ING Groep N.V. (NYSE:ING), one of the world’s largest integrated financial services companies. ING in the U.S. offers a comprehensive array of products and services, including fixed and variable annuities; retirement programs; employee benefits; life insurance and mutual funds, through a variety of distribution channels.