Annual Bee to bring young geography whizzes to campus

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KALAMAZOO—About 100 middle-school geography whizzes will gather Friday, April 5, at Western Michigan University's Fetzer Center Kirsch Auditorium for the 2013 Michigan Geographic Bee. Participants will test their knowledge of the world and complete to win a trip to Washington, D.C. for the U.S. championship at National Geographic Society headquarters.

This is the National Geographic Bee's 25th anniversary and the sixth time WMU has been host to the Michigan Geographic Bee. The competition begins with preliminary rounds at 12:30 p.m., followed by the competition finals at about 2:15 p.m., says Dr. Lisa DeChano-Cook, WMU associate professor of geography and coordinator of the Michigan bee. The top geography student in Michigan will be selected from a field of 10 students who make it to the final round. The public is invited to attend the competition's finals portion only.

Similar competitions will take place the same day in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Department of Defense schools around the globe. Some 100 fourth- to eighth-graders will compete in each location, with the state competitions sponsored by Google and Plum Creek.

The state bees are the second level of the annual National Geographic Bee. The first level began last November with contests in nearly 11,000 U.S. schools, in which millions of students participated. Bees were held in schools across the country to determine each school's winner. The school-level winners then took a qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The society invited students with the top 100 scores in each state to compete at their state-level competition.

National finals

Winners in each state will receive $100, the "Complete National Geographic" on DVD and a trip to Washington, D.C., where they will represent their state at the national finals May 20-22. The first-place national winner will receive a $25,000 college scholarship and lifetime National Geographic Society membership. The winner also will travel with a parent or guardian, all-expenses paid, to the Galápagos Islands to experience geography firsthand through up-close encounters with wildlife and the landscape of the Galápagos. Travel for the trip is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. Second- and third-place finishers receive $15,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively.

"The year 2013 is a special year for us as we celebrate two important anniversaries: the Society’s 125th and the National Geographic Bee's 25th," says John Fahey, National Geographic Society chairman and CEO. "As we look to the future—and an exciting new age of exploration—our work of fostering young talent who will be the scientists, explorers and brightest minds of tomorrow is more important than ever. Through the National Geographic Bee and our other activities, we hope to encourage a lifelong passion for learning about the world and its many wonders, challenges and opportunities for exploration and discovery."

The National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild will air the final round of the 2013 National Geographic Bee, moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, Thursday, May 23. The contest will be broadcast later on public television stations. Check local listings for viewing dates and times.

For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com/geobee.