Sand Creek Elementary holds geography bee

After a moment’s thought and a confident nod of his head, fourth-grader Walker Hurrelbrink leaned toward the microphone and said, “Canada.”

With the championship medal baiting their best efforts, Rowan Thom, Hannah Morris and Jack Yoraway listen as a fellow geography bee contestant struggles to answer, “Which continent in the Southern Hemisphere experiences severe winds and is also the driest continent?”Photo by Sue Austreng

With the championship medal baiting their best efforts, Rowan Thom, Hannah Morris and Jack Yoraway listen as a fellow geography bee contestant struggles to answer, “Which continent in the Southern Hemisphere experiences severe winds and is also the driest continent?”Photo by Sue Austreng

“Correct,” declared administrative intern Tanya Buccholz after evaluating his response to the question, “Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely within what country?”

The question was one of dozens presented during the Jan. 10 geography bee at Sand Creek Elementary School, Coon Rapids.

Gazing toward the ceiling and wrinkling their brows, 16 fourth- and fifth-grade students (the top two in each of their classes) gave their best answers to questions about world and national geography.

The geography bee – delivered game-show style in the school’s media center and broadcast live to students seated in their respective classrooms down the hall – included hundreds of questions scripted by National Geographic Society staff members and given to fourth- through eighth-grade students around the country.

Each school’s winner then takes a regional test (also written by National Geographic staff) to qualify for the state National Geographic Geography Bee.

“Just getting to the top 16 (in our school) is a big deal. It’s something to be very, very proud of,” said Principal Paul Anderson after the students sometimes struggled to come up with the answers.

“And remember, this is the same test given to older kids, all the way up to eighth grade.

“So this is hard, but as you advance in school, by the time you get to eighth grade, you will learn all of this.”

After about 60 minutes and six rounds of questions in the Jan. 10 bee, Hurrelbrink emerged victorious and Anderson presented him with the champions certificate and draped a medal around his neck.

Once the applause had ended and parents finished snapping photographs and congratulating the students, Hurrelbrink stepped aside for an interview.

With a proud smile stretched across his face, the fourth-grader said he “did a little studying last night” when asked what he did to prepare for the bee.

Geography, he said, is his second favorite subject, right behind reading, and so perhaps that attributed to his success.

Next, Hurrelbrink will take a written test to determine whether he advances to the state National Geographic Geography Bee.

The 16 contestants in the geography bee final were:

Fourth grade: Evan Althoff, Carter Hoyt, Walker Hurrelbrink, Hannah Morris, Riley Peterson, Brianna Prickett, Mackenzie White and Jack Yoraway.

Fifth grade: Audrey Anderson, Hannah Belka, Jessy Kowal, Damien Krause, Joslin Mumm, Carter Robinson, TJ Scott and Rowan Thom.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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