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.

Five finalists in the Jan. 10 Sand Creek Elementary School geography bee were Jessy Kowal, Walker Hurrelbrink, Audrey Anderson, Hannah Belka and Mackenzie White. Joslin Mumm, Jack Yoraway and Riley Peterson failed to advance in the geography bee but still scan their minds for correct answers as the contest continues in the media center. Mackenzie White looks to administrative intern, Tanya Buchholz (not pictured) as she listens to the world geography question while competing in the sixth and final round of the Jan. 10 bee at Sand Creek Elementary School. Principal Paul Anderson congratulates Sand Creek Elementary School’s geography bee champion, Walker Hurrelbrink. Hannah Belka looks to the ceiling for inspiration as Walker Hurrelbrink steps to the microphone and delivers the correct answer during the Jan. 10 geography bee at Sand Creek Elementary School.Photo by Sue Austreng
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Mackenzie White looks to administrative intern, Tanya Buchholz (not pictured) as she listens to the world geography question while competing in the sixth and final round of the Jan. 10 bee at Sand Creek Elementary School.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]