Geography bee is the buzz with students

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2003

Fifth graders Tyler Slack and Alixandra Borland waited patiently for the deciding question.

"Which state on the Mississippi River has the least amount of federal land?"

"Iowa," Borland answered, winning the competition.

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The two students sat on the stage as the finalists of 30 fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Neveln Elementary School geography bee Thursday.

The school-level competition is the first round in the 15th annual National Geographic Bee.

Students are asked a series of oral questions, which they must answer in 15 seconds in a total of seven rounds.

Once the student gives two wrong answers, he or she is eliminated. Questions in the rounds pertained to topics from U.S. cities to geography of culturally important places and issues.

The school's winner, goes on to take a written test, said Sherri Pike Neveln's high potential coordinator and third grade teacher.

If the student's test score places in the top 100 students in the state, that student will compete in the state bee on April 4.

The state champion will travel to Washington D.C. and advance to the national bee, where the student would have the chance to win a $25,000 scholarship.

Borland, who finished third in last year's competition received

achievement and participation certificates. As a winner, she also received a world atlas.

"I thought I be out by the sixth round. I thought maybe I'd get third place again, but not first," Borland said.

To prepare for her written test, Borland said she will use the atlas she won and pay more attention to the news.

First runner up Slack, also a fifth grader, said he was happy to have made it as far.

"It was cool. I didn't prepare or anything, but I knew some stuff that I had heard from TV," he said.

Slack received certificates of appreciation and participation and a gift certificate for a new world almanac for kids.

"There were some very hard questions. Some I never seen before," said moderator Brian Smith of KAAL-TV, as he presented the winners.

All 30 participants received certificates of participation.

Social studies teachers Pat Purvis and Diane Wangsness said the beginning rounds dealing with United States geography were more along the lines for the fourth graders. The fifth graders did pretty good with U.S. history. But once it got outside the United States, it became more difficult for the students because they have not studied those areas.

"They did very well," Purvis said.

Participants in three other elementary schools around Austin competed in the same event, facing the same questions.

Fifth grader Preston Higbe was the winner at Sumner Elementary School after fourth graders Yueyu Li and Michael Thorsheim answered both of their questions incorrectly.

"I was surprise that I won. I want to make it to the finals," Higbe said.

To prepare, Higbe said he will continue to study the manual that was given to him prior to the competition.

Li and Thorsheim competed for second place. Li won after answering Iowa as the state which does not experience hurricanes.

Fifth grade teacher Pat Anderson, who help organized the event, said it's important to have these type of competitions "so they know about the world, economy an geography of the land."

Winners at Banfield Elementary School were Joey Beck in first place, Meg Brucker in second place and Tim Erickson in third place.

the Southgate Elementary School geography bee winner was Noah Weis. Laura Astrup placed second in the competition.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at