WORTHINGTON — Eighth-grader Vince Vander Kooi will get the opportunity to represent Worthington Christian School later this month in the National Geographic GeoBee, but he won’t be travelling to St. Paul for the March 27 competition as planned.
Earlier this week, it was announced the annual contest will be online only this year due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19.
Vander Kooi topped his competition — approximately 30 fifth- through eighth-grade students in the school — during the local GeoBee Jan. 24. This was his third year taking part in the contest. He placed second as a sixth-grader and fourth as a seventh-grader.
The local contest featured seven rounds of questions, with each student asked one question per round.
“There’s a round about countries, like they’ll ask you what the capital of Ecuador is,” Vander Kooi said. “There’s a Weird but True question from the book series that National Geographic has, a True or False round, an ocean round.”
Vander Kooi said the round that focused on countries was his most challenging, while the true/false questions were easier.
“I’m not great at anything, but I’m OK at everything,” Vander Kooi said of competing in the different rounds in the contest.
He cited his affinity for reading about history — particularly World War II — and his use of the National Geographic GeoBee app on his school-issued iPad for helping prepare him for the contest.
“Wikipedia is also a good source because you can read about events like World War II,” he added. “My dad likes going on Wikipedia and looking at random articles and I look at them with him.”
Vander Kooi said he also goes to the public library with his mom and likes to peruse the world record, weird but true and National Geographic books they have available.
“It’s a fun way to study … and then they quiz you as you read along, too,” he shared.
Among the questions students may have had to answer during their school competition this year were: “Which country does not border the Atlantic Ocean, Moldova, Angola or Ireland?”, “The Matterhorn is an iconic peak in the Alps on the border between Switzerland and what other country?” and “Government designated preserves have helped protect giant tortoises in the Seychelles, a country made up of over 100 islands located north of Madagascar in what ocean?” (For the answers, see the last paragraph of this story.)
During the school competition, Vander Kooi was fairly certain of his answers until it came down to the final question. The answer was the United Kingdom, and he admitted it was a complete guess.
When he was told it was correct and that he’d won, “everybody came and mobbed me and said, “You get a phone!”
That was the deal his parents had made with him if he won the school GeoBee.
Vander Kooi followed up his school win with the state qualifier test Feb. 6. Given 60 minutes to answer 70 questions, he said he finished the test in about 20 minutes. An email sent to his teacher declared him a state contest semifinalist.
As he prepares for the state contest, Vander Kooi said, “I’m confident, but I don’t think I’m confident enough. There are a lot of other good kids in the state that are competing in it.
“The work that you put in to win or try to succeed, that’s how much you get out of it,” he added.
Up to 100 top-scoring students in each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents schools and U.S. territories are invited to compete in the state GeoBees.
Vander Kooi is the son of Joe and Rita Vander Kooi of rural Worthington.
By the way, the answers to the questions posed in this story: Moldova, Italy and Indian Ocean.