Which city beginning with the letter “K” has more than 7 million inhabitants living within its metropolitan limits?
Kiev, Kinshasa, or Kuala Lumpur?
If you said Kuala Lumpur, which would have been my guess, you’d be wrong, as was the contestant who attempted to answer the question in the first round of the National Geographic Bee Final yesterday in Washington, D.C. The correct answer, Kinshasa, a city located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is one of the largest in Africa, comparable in size to Johannesburg (South Africa) and smaller only than Lagos (Nigeria) and Cairo (Egypt).
The Bee Final was characteristically exciting–and challenging for us onlookers (even those with degrees in Geography)! Ten contestants–all male–advanced past the semi-final round held Wednesday (a head-to-head match-up among winners from all 50 U.S. states, territories, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools), to compete for a chance at a $25,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society.
A few highlights from the Final:
Aadith Moorthy, the eventual champion, who now lives in Florida but was
born in India, serenaded the audience with a rendition of South Asian
classical singing before the contest even got underway.
During the competition, contestants were asked to identify the
geographic origin of a fulyara, a long, clarinet-like wooden instrument
used by shepherds in Eastern Europe to calm sheep, and played by a
musician in traditional dress onstage. I couldn’t help feeling caught
in the middle of a “Ricola” commercial myself. Alex Trebek, who
moderated the Bee, apparently also found the performance entertaining.
Ever the comedian, he quipped “”I think it’s working: I have an
insatiable desire to climb a mountain and eat grass.”
Just as he does on his hallmark show Jeopardy!, Mr. Trebek spent a
portion of the program interviewing contestants about their interests
- This year, a few of the students described hobbies that struck me as
particularly geographic. One collected luggage tags; another collected
license plates from around the world. His favorite: A bear-shaped plate
from Canada’s Northwest Territory.
A couple of the students cited aspirations to pursue geographic
careers. One wants to work in international relations, potentially for
the United Nations; another wants to be a meteorologist.
When asked which country they most wanted to visit, one of the
contestants chose South Africa, the site of this summer’s World Cup
soccer tournament. He also said he hoped an African team would win the
tourney–even over the United States. A very global perspective!
My Favorite Round: River Flow
In one round, students viewed Google Earth flyovers to identify rivers,
following the flow paths of the rivers from source to mouth. Very
cool–my favorite round for its application of Google Earth and
connections to Geography Awareness Week 2010: Freshwater!
Most Challenging Round: Map Errors
In another round, contestants were asked to look at maps of relatively
small geographic extents (usually a region of a country) and describe a
“major error.” The deviations varied in nature: the nation of Swaziland
absent from the interior of South Africa, a lake or river too far east
or west. I thought the exercise in spatial analysis was pretty tough!
Study Tips (three from contestants and two from my own observations)
- Learn one new fact every day!
- Anthony Cheng of Utah created 418 of his own computer games to study
- One boy slept on his atlas every night–ouch!
If you don’t know the answer from memory, use your noggin’ to do some
deduction! For one of the last questions, the final two contestants
were asked to identify the origin of Tswana, a Bantu language from a
landlocked country. Aadith got it right, presumably making the
connection between “Tswana” and “Botswana.”
Experience leads to excellence! For those of us without the
encyclopedic memories of these whiz-kids, personal geographic
experience can be critical to knowledge-building. Most of the answers I
got correct (fewer than I’d like to admit) I knew from my own travels,
or the journeys of others close to me. For example, I knew that Kakadu
National Park and Arnhem Land are in the Northern Territory of
Australia because I visited both when I studied abroad “Down Under.” I
guessed that Yerba Maté tea comes from Argentina because my twin sister
used to describe the students who drank it when she studied abroad in
neighboring Chile. And I only located the Trevi Fountain in Rome
because intern Sarah Evans wrote about it a few months ago here on the
Congratulations to first place winner Aadith Moorthy of Florida, second
place runner-up Oliver Lucier of Rhode Island, third place finisher
Karthik Mouli of Idaho, and all the other finalists and state winners.
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful world