Are You Smarter Than a Fourth Grader? Mary Lin Elementary’s Charles Heydt Advances to the National Geographic State Bee

Mary Lin fourth grader Charles Heydt is headed to the National Geographic State Bee Championship on Friday, March 31. Photo courtesy of Colin Heydt

“Volcanic in origin, the Canary Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean and administered by what country?”

“The easternmost point on the Horn of Africa is part of which country?”

“Archaeologists have begun excavating an ancient lost city in the region of Mosquitia in which country north of Nicaragua?”

If you guessed Spain, Somalia, and Honduras, perhaps you are ready to compete against the fourth graders at Mary Lin Elementary. After in-class tests to narrow down the field, 10 finalists met on stage to compete in the inaugural Mary Lin geography bee.

By knowing that “Liberia” was the answer to “The Vai script is a unique indigenous writing system found in Sierra Leone and what country to its southeast?”, fourth grader Charles Heydt became Mary Lin’s first geography champion after a tense round of tiebreakers. Charles prepared for the bee “by reading geography textbooks and memorizing countries, capitals, and other information like GDP.”

Charles went on to become the only fourth grader in Georgia to qualify for the National Geographic state bee, which will be held on Friday, March 31, at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

Students in grades 4-8 from over 10,000 schools nationwide compete in annual geography bees. School winners take qualifying tests in order to advance to the state bees. The 50 state champions go on to compete in the national championship, with the chance to win a $50,000 scholarship. The National Geographic Society administers the program, which began in 1989.

Parent Kate Sandhaus worked with the school’s administration and fourth-grade teachers Charisse Barnes-Ferraro, Nancy Bates, and Clay Barnhart to bring the geography bee to Mary Lin. “Knowing places on a map is important, but geography covers so much more: climate, land forms, economies, political systems, human cultures, current events, and more,” Sandhaus said. “Geography brings a map to life and helps you understand the world.”

“We are so proud of Charles and all of the other students who made it into the school wide geography bee,” said Mary Lin principal Sharyn Briscoe. “They say the world is getting smaller and we have access to so many places due to technology and internet access. It is our hope that we can inspire our students to learn as much as they can about the world, learn respect for our differences, and learn to take care of it. The Geo Bee is a great step in this direction!”

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