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Over the last two weeks, twenty-five Nueva students in grades 3–8 participated in the preliminaries of the National Geographic Bee, an annual competition organized by the National Geographic Society.

The competition took place in Nueva’s Hillsborough Library and was moderated by Cynthia Kosut, middle school humanities teacher and eighth-grade dean, and Colin Tribble, seventh-grade humanities teacher. Each year, Cynthia registers Nueva to participate in the Bee, and this year’s turnout was very strong. Questions plumbed students’ knowledge of U.S. and global geography, history, and current events. Each student answered one question in each round, some multiple choice and some requiring student-provided answers.

The Bee is designed to inspire and reward students’ curiosity about the world, and it involves several rounds of competition. Nueva’s twenty-five participants answered seven rounds of questions designed to identify as many as ten finalists. These students then participated in a tiebreaker to determine the one Nueva student eligible to advance. That student will take an online test to determine eligibility for the California State Bee, where they will compete for the right to represent California in the National Championship Bee in Washington, DC, in May.

While she set a formal tone by reading the National Geographic Society’s competition instructions, Cynthia reminded students of the importance of relaxing and having fun. “We’re here because of the many amazing things to learn about the world. Whether you knew it when you came in, the answers are not always the coolest thing you learn during the Bee,” she told them.

You could feel the energy in the room while students were answering their questions. In true Nueva fashion, there were smiles all around for correct answers and support for those who missed a question. After two days of preliminary competition, eleven finalists remained, necessitating a tie-breaker round on Monday, January 29. The suspense continued when the tie-breaker yielded yet another tie between two students, sixth-grader Anping Z. and eighth-grader Jack T.

The final championship round was a nail-biter as these two students answered question after question. In the end, Anping emerged victorious. He will advance to the online qualifying test, which will determine his eligibility for the California Bee on April 6. The champion from each state will be invited compete in the National Championship in Washington, D.C., from May 20–23.

Our two finalists, both seasoned Bee competitors, each described their love of geography and learning about the world. "When we lived in China, I used to look for hours at the map of the world on the wall in my parents room," said Anping. "Since then, I started looking at more and more detailed maps, and now my interest has expanded to history, includling wars of the Persians and the Greeks."

Jack shared that his interest has been lifelong, and includes travel plans. "When looking at maps or atlases, I often make travel itineraries of places I want to visit," he said.

“We participate in the National Geographic Bee every year because students learn so much about themselves from competing. It’s so much more than the answers to the questions,” Cynthia shared. Cynthia emphasized the importance of continually offering students opportunities to break the biases and preconceived notions they hold about themselves.

Cynthia said, “This is a great way for students to step out of their comfort zones in a fun and safe space. Some come in with a friend and discover they know the answers, or can figure them out. It’s wonderful to see them discover their own competence."


January 31, 2018

 

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