Before the moderator could finish uttering the multiple choice options, 10-year-old Ethan Puritz had already spit out the answer.
“Hawaii,” he said quickly, scoring what would be one of many points that earned him the win at Palm Beach County’s National Geographic Bee for homeschooled students. His trick? “I played a lot of games,” the West Palm Beach boy said with a smile.
On Thursday, twelve students battled it out at First Boynton Church in several rounds that tested them on U.S. and world geography. To participate, students had to be in grades 4-8 and be a full-time homeschooled child.
Ethan clinched the win by correctly identifying the location of the Cisa Pass in the Apennines. “I made a sculpture of Italy so I knew where the Apennines were,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to win … but it’s fun, you learn a lot.”
Ethan will move on to next level of competition: a written exam that will be scored by The National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C.
Public and private schools host their own bees and also submit written exams. No more than 100 Florida students are chosen to compete in the state bee in April. The national bee, now in its 26th year, will take place in May.
“It’s easy to push geography to the side but it’s just as important as [the spelling bee],” said moderator Lynn Unruh. “Our children, in the global world we live in today, need to understand that the U.S. is not the end all.”
During the hour and a half bee, some students high-fived their fellow competitors while others nervously swung their legs as they waited their turn.
“Some of the questions sounded like gibberish,” said Ammi Green, 13, who spent at least 30 minutes a day practicing since September.
But she had a different kind of rivalry: her little brother, Elijah, ended up winning second place.
“We’re super competitive and at first I was a little frustrated but then I was proud,” said Ammi, of West Palm Beach. “I always beat [him] at everything else,” she added with a smirk.
Test your geography knowledge:
Q: What country north of Italy has four national languages, including Romansch, a descendant of ancient Latin? A: Switzerland
Q: One of the world’s largest wooden structures, the Old Government Building, is found in the city of Wellington in which island country? A: New Zealand
Q: Joropo is the unofficial national dance of which South American country that is also home to the Orinoco River Delta? A: Venezuela
Q: Which state is located in the Corn Belt? A: Illinois
Q: Which state produces more peanuts – Georgia or Utah? A: Georgia
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