After nearly three hours of quizzes and questions, it all came down to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers at Friday’s state-level National Geographic Bee.
The question: The city of Baghdad is located on what river in Southwest Asia?
If you said Tigris, you’d be right.
And so was 12-year-old Krish Patel, of Summerville, who took the title of state champion for the second consecutive year. He will represent South Carolina in May at the national competition in May.
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The nail-biting final round took about an hour to complete and followed a morning of preliminaries as 101 students and their anxious parents from across South Carolina filled the S.C. State Museum in Columbia.
Held on the same day across the nation every year, the geography bee’s state competitions are organized by the National Geographic Society. Each state winner receives $100, The Complete National Geographic on DVD and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition in Washington, D.C.
The national champion receives a $25,000 college scholarship, lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
To prepare for such a challenge, most of South Carolina’s contenders pored over maps, studied current events or practiced by taking National Geographic’s daily GeoBee quiz online.
“We bought a nice atlas and have been studying that,” said Cynthia Davis, whose son Tanner Reagle, finished in the middle of the pack in the preliminaries Friday.
With only four weeks to prepare, the 14-year-old Crayton Middle School student used both the online quiz and the new atlas to get ready. But a great deal of his knowledge came from his love of soccer.
Tanner’s father, John Reagle, said his son learned a lot just by watching the World Cup on TV.
“He would find out which teams came from which countries,” Reagle said.
It’s those sorts of connections that University of South Carolina geography professor Jerry Mitchell likes to hear about.
Mitchell, who moderated Friday’s bee, said a common misconception is that geography is only about place names — as in state capitals or what river runs through what country.
“A good analogy is that history is all about dates,” he said, adding “we’ve tried to get them to understand there’s more to it than that.”
Mitchell said many things, such as a country’s economic impact on the world or recent events that could lead to political upheaval, come into play when students begin to study geography.
“If there is a discipline that focuses on what’s happening now, it’s geography,” he said.
Making connections is what helped Patel, who loves pouring over maps almost as much as he enjoys memorizing sports stats, walk away with the state title Friday afternoon.
One question in particular stood out Patel’s mind: “In October, 2011, a cargo ship stranded off the coast of North Island began leaking hundreds of tons of oil, causing an environmental disaster for which South Pacific island country?”
New Zealand, of course.