Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Sixth-grader Vladan Chase likes geography.
He also happens to be good at it, which helped him win Christian Heritage School's first geographic bee Wednesday.
"I'm kind of excited," Chase said shortly after claiming his prize of a medal, a candy bar and a certificate from the National Geographic Society. "I like studying geography because my mom is from a different country, and I like learning about different languages and countries."
Chase outlasted four Christian Heritage School students during the finals and championship rounds moderated by school Principal Tim Calkins. Fourth-grader Daniel Melvin, fifth-grader Tara Spitellie, seventh-grader John Cutter and eighth-grader Annie Kuczkowski were the other finalists.
Chase will have the opportunity to take on students from across the state depending on how well he performs on a written test from the National Geographic Society, which sponsors the annual National Geographic Bee.
Up to 100 of the top scorers in Colorado will earn a spot in the April 2 state-level bee. The state champion will travel to Washington, D.C., in May for an all-expenses-paid trip to the national championships.
Calkins, in his first year as Christian Heritage School principal, said he decided to bring the competition to the school after its success at a school at which he worked in Washington. And, he said, geography knowledge is a skill many American students lack.
"Geography is one of those things I think has shown up in America as a weakness in education," Calkins said. "A lot of kids really like geography, and I think this is a good opportunity for them to study it."
Even after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent focus on Middle Eastern countries, 83 percent of young Americans couldn't identify Afghanistan on a world map, according to a National Geographic-Roper Global Geographic Literacy Survey. Less than half the Americans surveyed could identify France, the United Kingdom or Japan on a world map.
National Geographic uses programs such as its annual geographic bee to try to improve geographic knowledge. The winner of the National Geographic Bee receives a $25,000 college scholarship.
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