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The National Geographic Bee (previously called the National Geography Bee) is an annual geography contest sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The bee, held every year since 1989, is open to students in the fourth through eighth grade in participating American schools.
The entities represented at the national level are all fifty U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. territories in the Pacific (Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa), the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
The National Geographic Bee Finals is hosted by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. The 2008 bee was held May 20-21, 2008 with the preliminary rounds being held at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington D.C., and the finals being held at Grosvenor Auditorium at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C.
The current titleholder as of 2010 is Aadith Moorthy of Florida.
The competition begins at the school level, usually in November, December, or January. This competition requires at least 6 people entered into the competition, whether it be a homeschooled, private, or public school bee. Any number of competitors may enter these competitions; normally an overall total of five to six million enter each year. There are two major stages in these competitions: preliminary and final. The preliminary competition is further split into two parts: preliminary rounds and a semi-final or tiebreaker round, which is used only in the event of a tie at the end of the preliminary rounds.
In the preliminary rounds, the competitors are split into groups of up to twenty, and each contestant is asked one question from each of seven varying categories. Categories in the past have included cultural geography, economic geography, across-the-country, around-the-world, plants and animals, and geographic comparisons. For each question answered correctly, the contestant is awarded one point. At the end of the seven rounds, the players with the top ten scores advance to the finals. A player may ask for a repeat or a spelling during these rounds, but only twice during the whole bee. A player cannot ask for a spelling or repeat in the semi-final round.
Quite often there is a tie, in which case a semi-final tiebreaker round is need. For example, if six players finished the preliminary rounds with seven points and fifteen finished with six points, the six who finished with seven points automatically advance to the final competition. The fifteen with six points move into the semi-final round where the top four are determined to fill the remainder of the seats in the finals. This is done by asking every player the same question at the same time and giving each player twelve seconds to write down the answer. Each question is automatically repeated twice. Everyone reveals their answer at the end of the twelve seconds and players are eliminated on a single-elimination basis. If, using the above example of four open seats in the finals, there is a question where eight players are left in the semi-final round and three players get the question right, those three advance to the finals. The other five who got the question wrong will continue with the single-elimination procedure to determine which competitor will take the last open seat in the finals.
The final competition consists of two parts: the final round and the championship round. Each of the ten finalists starts with a clean slate. A player is eliminated after two misses and this continues until the number of contestants drops from ten to two and a third place finisher is determined. A player is not officially eliminated until the end of a series of questions, since if all but one competitor makes their second miss in that round, that player stays in the competition. Again, a player may ask for a spelling or repeat on any question, but only once per question. Early in the round, questions may either require oral answers only or written answers from all the competitors at one time. Quite often, many of the earlier questions in this round contain visuals as part of the question, such as maps or pictures. At the national level, they may also include items such as flags, musical instruments, hats, and even live animals. After a certain point, all the questions require individual oral answers only.
If there is a tie for the championship round or third place as mentioned above, a single-elimination, written tiebreaker procedure is used. For example, if there are four players left and three make their second miss in one round, the fourth advances to the championship round and the other three enter the tiebreaker. The moderator will ask each of the three players to answer the same question at the same time on a piece of paper, asking the question twice (players may not ask for a spelling or repeat here). If one of those three answers correctly, he or she will take the other seat in the championship round and the other two will continue in the tiebreaker until a third place winner is determined.
In the championship round, both players start with a clean slate again. The moderator asks both contestants the same question at the same time, repeated twice, and both players have fifteen seconds to write their answer. Both players then show their answers and each player who wrote a correct answer receives one point. There are three questions in the championship round. The player with the most points at the end is the champion. If both players are tied at the end, the competition enters the a tiebreaker round. The rules are the same as for the championship round, except that the first player to get a question right that his opponent misses is the champion.
The winner of each school-level competition takes a written test, and the top one-hundred in each state or territory qualify for the state bee. The rules at the state level are same as that at the school level, except the preliminary rounds are eight in number instead of seven, and in the preliminary rounds each player is limited to two repeats or spelling for all eight rounds. Players are also limited to two repeats or spellings in the final round, if they qualify. All the state bees are held on the same date, at the same time (in early April) at all locations. State bees originally occurred for the fifty states, five U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands), Washington D.C., and the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS). The third place finisher from each state receives $50, the second place finisher $75, and the winner $100. All three finalists receive a trophy. The 55 state champions receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. for the national competition. In 1999 the state competitions for Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands were merged into one state competition known as the Pacific Territories, and since then there have only been 55 state competitions, instead of 57.
The rules at the national level are the same as those at the state, except the preliminary rounds are nine in number instead of eight. The championship round may also consist of five questions instead of three. The competition is held over two days, with the preliminary rounds on the first day and the final rounds on the second. The national finals are held in late May at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. and hosted by Alex Trebek. The ten finalists are guaranteed $500. The third-place finisher at the national level receives a $10,000 college scholarship, the second-place finisher receives a $15,000 college scholarship, and the national champion receives a $25,000 college scholarship, as well as a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. For the 2009 national bee, the national champion also wins a trip for two to the Galapagos Islands with Alex Trebek and the Jeopardy! Clue Crew.
There is an international competition, which is also moderated by Alex Trebek, but it is run differently. The top finishers from each country's national competition form a team representing their country and participate in an Olympics-style event which includes a team written competition and a team oral competition.
Of the nineteen National Geographic Bee champions, seventeen are male and two are female. Five are from the state of Washington, four are from the state of Michigan, two are from Kansas, and various other states have been home to one champion each. The winner of the 2007 finals received a $25,000 scholarship, the second-place finisher received $15,000, and the third-place finisher received $10,000. Other "top ten" finishers received $500. Champions and other top finishers are invited to apply to the four-member U.S. team sent to the biannual National Geographic World Championship.
Won the Bee on his first attempt at the school, state and national level.
Was a finalist in 2009
The 2008 National Geographic Bee state winners:
The 2007 National Geographic Bee state winners:
The 2006 National Geographic Bee state winners:
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