By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – Local middle school students participated in the fourth annual Geography Bee Jan. 11.
“This morning now marks our now annual Geography Bee,” said Principal Dr. Susan Genco as she addressed the students sitting in chairs ready to watch the event.
She said it was the first time that fifth-graders had been invited to this assembly. And she thanked teachers Danielle Burke and Sara Fernandez for “all their hard work.”
Ms. Fernandez said that on behalf of team social studies they want to wish all the contestants the best of luck and let them know that they are “super duper proud of them for getting to this place.”
“Each year, the Nat Geo Bee empowers four million students to be informed, curious, and knowledgeable global citizens,” she said.
The National Geographic Bee local competition featured 15 finalists – Ayub Ahmed, Anthony Berloco, Emma Borden, Jack Callahan, Jonathan Chen, Rohun Chivate, Grace Cooke, Chris Engelbert, Timmy Evidente, Evan Kohut, Uma Mani, Priva Patel, Haylee Resnick, Samantha Resnick, and Nate Sawant.
Out of those 15 finalists, three students from fifth grade, four from sixth grade, four from seventh grade and four from eighth grade were selected.
“Today we will determine our school champion, and that student will have the opportunity to advance to the next level of the competition,” she said. “The national champion wins a $50,000 scholarship and a prize trip from National Geographic.”The geography bee lasted six rounds during which participants had 15 seconds to answer the question before moving into the championship round where seventh-grader Emma Borden was declared the champion. Eighth-grader Uma Mani placed second while seventh-grader Jonathan Chen placed third.
The tie-breaker round question was: “Earth’s coldest place with an annual average temperature of negative 94 degrees is located on which continent?”
Emma answered the question correctly: Antarctica.
Emma said she participated last year in the bee. “I knew what was going on but I was still nervous,” she said, adding she felt like she had a reputation to kept up because she was in it last year, although she didn’t place in the top three.
“I was surprised because I didn’t think I would win it,” she said, adding she didn’t feel prepared. She said that she looked up some sample questions online to prepare for the bee. “But there was only a few,” she said.
Emma will move on to compete in the state competition later this year. She needs to complete a written test that will be submitted to the bee officials. If she scores high enough, she will compete in the state competition held at Rowan University in April.
Uma said participating in the bee was exciting.
“I always get really nervous during the class one,” she said, adding that she has been in the bee for the past three years. “Last year, I got fourth,” she said.
She said she didn’t prepare but she did practice mapping because that is what she got wrong last year.
Jonathan said it was his first time participating. “I was pretty nervous,” he said, but added he was pretty happy about placing third.
Ms. Fernandez said that the school has been participating in the event for about 10 years.
“However, it became a middle school event four years ago for the entire middle school to watch the finals on the stage,” she said. “We used to conduct the finals one day at lunch. Clearly, as a school event, this is much more exciting.”
She said that the school got involved through the Social Studies department before either one of them began teaching there.
“Danielle Burke began it in Cranbury nine years ago and continued the event,” she said.
Ms. Fernandez said they there are 12 middle school Social Studies classes in the building and three fifth-grade classes.
“Each individual class held a preliminary round where all students were involved,” she said. “The preliminary bee had seven rounds of questions in each class. The child with the most correct answers, would be the class champion and move on to the finals.”
However, in many classes, tie-breaker rounds needed to be held to determine the champion, she added. “It was very exciting,” she said.
The class competitions were held Jan. 4.
“Many students who are interested in the bee will use the online quizzes or apps provided by National Geographic to help prepare,” she said. “Also, our curriculum, especially in sixth and seventh grades, (World History in sixth and World Geography, History and Culture in seventh) affords the students opportunities to learn about our world.”
By Amy Batista, Special Writer