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Governor praises geography bee contestants for dedication to STEM

Scottsdale fifth-grader wins AZ Geography Bee at ASU.
March 31, 2017

Scottsdale 5th-grader beats 100 contestants on question about prehistoric cave

Fifth-grader Aditya Narayanan knew that a dinosaur tail with feathers was discovered in a mine in Myanmar and that the world’s largest marine protection area is off the coast of Antarctica in the Ross Sea.

But what he really likes is Europe.

Aditya, a student at Sonoran Sky Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, won the Arizona Geography Bee on Friday, held at Arizona State University. He’ll compete in the national bee, sponsored by National Geographic, in May in Washington, D.C.

He knew that “Spain” was the correct answer to the final bee question: Altamira cave, known for its prehistoric paintings, is in the province of Cantabria, in the northern part of which European country?

Aditya beat 100 other students in fourth through eighth grades at the bee. The second-place winner was William Anderson, a seventh-grader at Basis Peoria, and third place went to Gayatri Kaimal, a sixth-grader at Basis Tucson North. The bee included questions on states, endangered animal habitats, country borders and locations on a map.

“I like Europe because they preserve their monuments and all the ancient stuff,” said Aditya, who said he didn’t study too much but did train more than last year, when he also made the top-10 finalist round.

Aditya’s mother, Roopa Chidambaram, said the family emigrated from India two years ago, and they all agreed that winning the bee would be a great way for them to visit Washington, D.C.

“I’ve loved geography ever since my childhood, but math ranks up there too,” Aditya said.

And that’s important to the future of Arizona, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, who visited the bee to compete in a geography contestDucey and his team of students defeated former Rep. Matt Salmon and his team 10-7 in a contest of Arizona facts that featured the questions: On average how many inches of snow fall in Flagstaff each year? Answer: 100 inches. What is the name of the reservoir created by Hoover Dam? Answer: Lake Mead. with two teams of students.

“Geography is a STEM discipline and it’s incredibly important to not only know your way around your neighborhood or city or town, but it’s something you’ll use all your life,” he said.

“It will use all the skills from analyzing these maps to something we’re doing now at the state level, testing driverless cars. That is a real use of this mapping technology along with the satellites that provide it,” he said.

The Arizona Geographic Alliance, a center housedThe Arizona Geographic Alliance is in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. at ASU, provided support for the bee, including a giant floor map for the students to play with. The co-coordinator of the center, Gale Ekiss, told the contestants to stick with it.

“I encourage you to keep going because there are jobs in geography,” she said.

Top photo: Aditya Narayanan, a fifth-grader at Sonoran Sky Elementary School in Scottsdale, holds up an answer during the Arizona Geography Bee at the Memorial Union at Arizona State University on Friday. Aditya outlasted 100 students from all over Arizona to win the bee. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Where in the world is the Arizona Geography Bee? At ASU

Students learn geography by playing on AZ Geographic Alliance's giant floor map.
March 28, 2017

Arizona Geographic Alliance at ASU promotes study of maps, cultures and history

Update March 21: Governor praises geography bee contestants for dedication to STEM; find out who won.


Geography trivia: What building is at 33.4 degrees longitude north and 111.9 degrees latitude west?

If you’re a map lover, you might know that it’s the Memorial Union at Arizona State University — site of the Arizona Geography Bee on Friday.

On that day, 101 young students in grades four through eight will compete, answering questions about map locations, events, history, climate and culture until one is crowned the champion. Gov. Doug Ducey is scheduled to open the final round of competition with a geography quizExamples of geography bee questions: On a map, locate where the Tiananmen Square Massacre was. Which lake in Africa was created to provide power? (Answers: Beijing and Lake Volta in Ghana.). The bee is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, and the state winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in May for the national competition.

Geography is part of the state’s social studies curriculum in every grade, and classroom teachers get a lot of help from the Arizona Geographic Alliance, housed in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU. The alliance holds workshops, field trips and conferences for teachers.

The subject is much deeper than learning the names of rivers and mountain ranges, according to Gale Olp Ekiss, co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance.

Gale Olp Ekiss, co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance, shows teachers how to use the giant floor map that the alliance lends for free to schools.

“Geography is the place in the curriculum where diversity is taught. It’s where teachers spend time on culture, regions and learning about others and how we’re interconnected,” Ekiss said.

Last fall, the alliance’s “GeoConference” ran workshops on how to teach the impact of wildfires on the ecosystem, using sonar to map the ocean floor and how technology changed society when the Pacific Railroad was built.

Map skills are big, too. Giant, actually. The alliance has two new 21- by 17-foot floor maps made of heavy vinyl that it lends to teachers around the state at no cost. Elementary students play games on the maps, like relay races and scavenger hunts, to learn about legends, directions and longitude and latitude. The maps will be in the Memorial Union on Friday, and students who are eliminated in the early rounds of the bee can play with them.

The cost of the two giant maps was covered by the National Geographic Society, but the alliance held its own crowd-funding campaign last year to pay for a new map that will teach ecosystems and topography. Ekiss hopes that giant map will be ready to lend by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The alliance, funded by the National Geographic Society, the state and ASU, was launched in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in 1992. Back then, Ekiss was a classroom teacher at Powell Junior High School in Mesa, and she was one of the first teachers the alliance sent to Washington, D.C., for training with the National Geographic Society. She became a “teacher consultant” who taught other teachers before coming to ASU.

“We’ve touched 19,000 teachers and influenced more than 100,000 students,” Ekiss said of the alliance’s work.

Ekiss said that geography is a hot field for careers.

“Geospatial technology is one of the three biggest fields emerging for employment,” she said.

“If you’re going to be economically competitive, it’s good to have your workforce understand the world.”

The Arizona Geography Bee will start at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Arizona Ballroom in the Memorial Union on ASU's Tempe campus. Gov. Doug Ducey is scheduled to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to meet the contestants and will kick off the final round of competition with a trivia game at noon. For details, click here.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News