Nygaard wins Thompson Falls GeoBee competition

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Thompson Falls Junior High held its geographic bee Jan. 28 and eighth-grade student Theo Nygaard, holding up the white board, won the contest. (Chuck Bandel/Valley Press)

Socrates once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

He also admitted, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”

A more modern version of those statements could be, “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” They made a TV show about that.

If participants in the Thompson Falls Junior High annual spelling bee are any indication, Socrates was onto something and the answer to the TV show question for most adults would probably be, NO!

Last week 10 students in grades five through eight gathered in the school’s band room for the annual National Geographic GeoBee, a nationwide contest backed by the National Geographic Society to test young student’s knowledge of the features of the world in which they live.

After a series of questions in their various grades, the top two finishers from each grade advanced to the school finals with the eventual winner being crowned the school champion.

To get the school final round, contestants had to correctly answer all six geographic related questions. Those who made it to the final round were then asked questions one student at a time to determine who would advance to the

next round.

Students had 15 seconds to answer questions ranging from seas, to rivers to countries throughout the planet.

By time the final round arrived, two students were left in the chase for the school title. The final question was “if rain falls on the highest peak in Glacier National Park, it eventually flows into the Pacific and Atlantic and what third ocean?”

Eventual winner Theo Nygaard, a Thompson Falls Junior High eighth-grade student correctly wrote “the Arctic Ocean” on a white board, edging out fifth-grader Addi Traver for the title. Seventh grade student Gabriel Hutton finished third.

When asked how much studying was required to win the contest, Nygaard said, “not much, really. We learned these things in class.”

The GeoBee was developed in 1989 over concerns about lack of knowledge of even basic geography questions. Since then, more than 120 million students have participated in the contest with state-wide qualifiers advancing to the National Finals this spring.

Also at stake for the qualifiers are scholarships, cash prizes and an all-expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands aboard the National Geographic’s Endeavor II, a research ship.

Next up for school champions such as Nygaard is an on-line qualifying test where up to 100 top scorers from each state will advance to the state finals.

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