Newcastle Elementary School organizes inaugural geography bee

January 31, 2012

By Christina Lords

Winner Colby Vuong has chance to enter state competition

Colby Vuong, a Newcastle Elementary School fifth-grade student, waits to reveal his answer to a written question during the final round of the school’s Jan. 13 National Geographic Bee. By Christina Lords

Just slightly and not at all.

That’s how much runner-up Bridget Ury and first-place winner Colby Vuong said they studied for Newcastle Elementary School’s National Geographic Bee — which concluded in a showdown of 14 contestants vying for the top spot in front of their instructors, classmates and family members.

Newcastle Mayor Rich Crispo and Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen served as official judges at the Jan. 13 event.

Each fourth- and fifth-grade class held a geography bee of its own — sending two representatives of each class to go head to head with their peers for the school’s National Geography Bee.

“These questions were a lot harder than the ones in class,” Ury said. “Then we had multiple choice answers of A, B, C, D … here you just pretty much had to know them.”

Because Newcastle Elementary’s bee is a part of the National Geographic Bee, Vuong will have the opportunity to take a written test to qualify for the state bee.

Vuong and Ury, both residents of Newcastle, represented the top-two qualifiers from Mariel Hanna’s fifth-grade class.

The other 12 participants were Olivia Lesnik, Andre Wax, Brooke Ury, Dillon Gyotoku, Joey Eigo, Trisha Jaggi, Tristan Brecht, Jacob Robblee, David Heyward, Toshin Rao, Tommy Todderud and Nathan Jackson.

The top 100 students in the state, who are selected based on qualifying test scores, go on to represent their schools and compete at the state level March 30. Children in the fourth through eighth grades are eligible to compete each year.

State winners are then invited in late May to the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals for scholarships in the amount of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000.

This is the first year Newcastle Elementary has joined thousands of schools across the country in the national test for geographic knowledge using materials from the National Geographic Society, event organizer and Newcastle PTSA member Stina Fluegge said.

“We’re hoping to give an opportunity to create a sense of excitement and knowledge for these kids to learn about the world we live in,” she said. “We try to give students an arena for recognition at the school outside of athletics … There aren’t always those opportunities for students to shine academically.”

But make no mistake, Fluegge said, the questions are far from easy.

“These are some really tough questions on here,” she said. “It’s not as simple as you might think.”

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