Students hold worldly competition

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Mesa Elementary fifth-grader Emma Clemmons answers a question during the third round of Monday’s geography bee at Mesa Elementary School.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Lane Kelley said he has a map of the U.S. in his head.

If he is asked where something is, he closes his eyes and visualizes the map.

“Then I know where things are,” he said.

Lane Kelley, a fourth-grader at Mesa Elementary School, won first place in his school’s geography bee Monday morning.

Kelley said he has a map of the U.S. on a wall in his bedroom, and he spends hours scouring over it, soaking up details of the country’s terrain.

“I just look at it,” he said. “You can learn a lot if you just look. I’ve liked learning about the U.S. and all geography since I knew what geography was.”

Kelley said he’s been interested in geography since he was six. To prepare for the geography bee at the school, Kelley said he studied his map and took tests on the Internet.

Fourth-grade teacher Zane Klein has organized the bee since it began in 1993.

“I want to help encourage the students to learn geography and local and national news,” Klein said.

The school’s geography bee is a program of the National Geographic Society. There are school, state, and national levels of competition in the society, which are open to students in grades 4-8.

Klein said the winner of the school’s bee will take a written, multiple-choice qualifying test, and if passed, will participate in the state level geography bee.

Students who participate in the national bee will be competing for a $25,000 college scholarship and other prizes.

Yucca Middle School hosted a geography bee last week. Yucca teacher Lena Willis said 85 students participated in the bee this year.

“Knowledge of geography is critical in today’s world because of our world today. We are connected to other places and have become a global society,” Willis said.

Willis said geography doesn’t only deal with maps and landforms, but with culture as well.

“Learning about other cultures may promote tolerance and accpetance of other,” Willi said.