Shippensburg students participate in annual geography bee
By AMBER SOUTH
SHIPPENSBURG — Winter skiers flock to the Green Mountains in which state that borders Canada?
Don’t know the answer? Fifth-grader Sean Meehan does, and that knowledge put him at the top in this year’s Geography Bee for fourth and fifth graders in Shippensburg.
The answer is Vermont. Meehan and the runner-up, fifth-grader Emily Eveland, were tasked with writing the correct answer on white boards in an extra round of the annual bee held Friday at Shippensburg Area Intermediate School.
Meehan said afterward that he did not know the answer immediately, but went with Vermont after thinking about what state would be popular with skiers.
“If you have an idea and you know your states, you kind of know it,” added Jeff Root, geography bee coordinator and fifth-grade teacher.
Meehan was the winner out of 20 participants that qualified as the top geography students in the fourth and fifth grade classrooms in the district; a 21st student was absent from the bee. Tristyn Keefer, fifth grade, took third place.
Besides knowledge of geography, Root said he thinks confidence was the boost behind the top three contestants.
“The top three all were very confident when they came up (to answer). Even if they weren’t sure, they came up with confidence,” he said.
The bee was composed of six regular rounds each with specific themes, and questions covering topics including U.S and world landmarks, locations, borders, bodies of water, culture, vegetation and natural resources, U.S. state nicknames and more.
A final round consisted of the final three competitors answering questions by writing on a white board. Meehan and Eveland moved on to an extra round in which they got three questions to answer, and then had to do a tie breaker.
“Every year these kids come in here and answer these questions and it amazes me that they are even close to it. I thought they all did a very great job,” Root said.
As the school winner, Meehan will take a qualification test that will determine if he moves on to the state competition. Winners of the state competition go on to the national championship May 22 in Washington D.C.; first prize is a $25,000 college scholarship.
The geography bee program is open to students in fourth through fifth grade. According to Root, Meehan will compete against mostly all eighth graders for the qualifying test.
“Whether he qualifies or not, he’ll do a great job on the test,” Root said.
According to Root, Meehan is the fourth consecutive winner from his wife Diane Root’s class at Grace Luhrs University Elementary School on the Shippensburg University campus.
“I think it’s a combination of the kids, parents and the university and things that they offer and all those things combined help round those kids,” he said.
It was also noted that each winner over the past several years were involved in band or orchestra.
Meehan said his studying regimen began about a week before the geography bee and involved taking quizzes online. Keefer said he used a globe to study and asked his parents to ask him questions, and Eveland said she did not study at all.
Joanne Meehan, Sean’s mother, said he actually began with his geography studies when he was a toddler.
“To be honest, ever since he was in a high chair he had a placemat with the states on it and he knew from a year and half old, he would point to each sate,” she said.
Root said he has organized this geography bee for about 10 years. He thinks it is important to keep geography in schools, especially given that the sciences are being pushed out of the way more in exchange for more math and language arts.
“This is a great way to keep reminding people that, hey, we still have geography and social studies, and it’s good for the kids and it keeps their interests up. They get to appreciate the world a little more and what’s out there,” he said.
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.