Elms College will host 100 students from the fourth through eighth grades and their families on April 1 for the Massachusetts Geographic Bee competition.

Elms College to Host Massachusetts Geographic Bee

Elms College will host 100 students from the fourth through eighth grades and their families on April 1 for the Massachusetts Geographic Bee competition.

Elms to Host Massachusetts Geographic Bee

On April 1, Elms College will welcome 100 students of elementary school age through eighth grade and their families from across the state as the Massachusetts Geographic Bee comes to campus for the first time. The winner of this statewide competition will move on to compete in the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., in May, where the grand prize is a $50,000 college scholarship.

Each year, thousands of schools in the U.S. participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. The National Geographic Bee sponsors competitions in every state as well as the final nationwide contest.

“This is the second level of the National Geographic Bee competition, which is now in its 27th year,” said Sarah Duncan, the state bee coordinator for Massachusetts. “Bees were held in schools with fourth through eighth grade students throughout the state to determine each school's bee winner.” The school-level winners then took a test and submitted it to the National Geographic Society; the students with the top 100 test scores in each state -- as well as the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependent Schools and U.S. territories -- were invited to complete at the state level.

“The Massachusetts State Geography Bee is an exciting competition for students because they are competing against kids their age who love geography as much as they do,” Duncan said.

On the morning of April 1, an opening ceremony including remarks from Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos will welcome the students to campus; they will then be split up into individual competition rooms on campus, where the field will be winnowed to the top 10 finalists. The event will culminate in a session that will run from approximately 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., when the finalists will compete in Veritas Auditorium in Berchmans Hall. At that time, the Massachusetts State Geography Bee winner will be chosen; that child will go on to the National Geography Bee May 22-25. The finalist portion of the event is free and open to the public.

“I think that the public will be in awe of the vast knowledge these students have about the world at such a young age,” Duncan said. “As an audience member, it is always fun to follow along to see how much you know.”

The state winner will receive $100, a copy of the book The National Parks, and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent Massachusetts in the national finals, which will be held at National Geographic Society headquarters May 22-25. The national winner will receive a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the society, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the Galapagos Islands to experience geography firsthand through close encounters with the unique landscapes and wildlife of the islands.

Throughout the day, geography-related stations will be set up on campus for competitors, family members and the general public to visit. EarthView, a large inflatable globe that people can go inside, will be installed in Berchmans Gym, as will a large world floor map from National Geographic.

“Attendees will have a fun-filled geography-themed day,” Duncansaid. “From traveling out to Western Massachusetts and navigating around the Elms campus to competing or watching the rounds of questions, to exploring EarthView and the giant traveling floor map of Africa -- geography will surround us all day.”

This is the first time the bee will be held at a college or university; alumna Arlene Kowal '67 is co-coordinator of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance, which holds teacher workshops on campus, and she felt that Elms would be a good venue. Other Elms alumni have been recruited to serve as timekeepers, scorekeepers and tour guides.

"The Elms campus is the perfect venue for this state event, from its impressive rotunda in Berchmans Hall to the central meeting place in the quad area, its accessible location off Route 91 and the Mass Pike," Kowal said. "More than that, it is an institution of higher learning that provides education with high expectations to diverse communities.

"The 100 student participants from across the state have themselves high expectations and are proof of the pleasure in learning. To see these students in this competition is in itself an uplifting experience."