Going places: WMS Geography Bee goes to eighth-grader Appel

WORTHINGTON -- These kids know their way around the world. At the annual Worthington Middle School (WMS) Geography Bee Tuesday, it was a test of knowledge and nerves, with a little luck-of-the-draw thrown in for good measure, as 32 fifth- through...

Kalea Appel (right) holds her first-place ribbon Tuesday after the WMS Geography Bee. Elijah Bates (left) won first runner-up. Submitted Photo

WORTHINGTON - These kids know their way around the world.

At the annual Worthington Middle School (WMS) Geography Bee Tuesday, it was a test of knowledge and nerves, with a little luck-of-the-draw thrown in for good measure, as 32 fifth- through eighth-graders competed in the school’s media center.
But when every state had been identified, every continent named and every country called out, it was eighth-grader Kalea Appel who emerged as the victor, with sixth-grader Elijah Bates as the contest’s first runner-up.
“My family drove all the way to North Carolina last spring, and we’ve been to St. Louis and traveled to other places in the United States,” said the smiling Appel by way of explaining her geographic prowess.
“I think that helps.”
A savvy group of students kept the bee’s moderators, WMS teachers Paula Wolyniec and Sally Darling, on their toes.

Eight of the 32 competitors qualified for the final round with six out of seven correct answers in the preliminaries; nine additional students notched five correct answers each and duked it out for the remaining two spots in the top 10 during a tie-breaker round.
“You’re all doing very well,” encouraged Wolyniec, clearly impressed that so many of the qualifying participants were offering correct responses to questions such as “Which state is known as the Great Lakes State because it is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes?” and “To see an acrobatics show in Beijing and walk along the Great Wall, you would travel to what country?”
The bee began with easier questions about various U.S. states, with themes for the rounds ranging from “U.S. Road Trip” to “Discover National Parks” to “Weird but True.”
Before long, though, contestants were expected to pull the names of continents and countries out of their heads with scant clues - some more specific than others - to guide them.
“That was a tougher round,” observed Wolyniec after Preliminary Round 6, which required them to name which of three cities, states or countries did not belong with the others, tripped up many of the young scholars.
Still, the students appeared to relish the intellectual stimulation the Geography Bee afforded them, with many faces lighting up as they registered the answers to questions their peers were being asked.
“I enjoy the competition of it,” affirmed Bates, who was competing in his second consecutive WMS bee.
“It’s not just all easy questions, and I like the challenge of it.”
The 32 competitors landed in the bee by logging the highest scores among their local peers on a qualifying written exam.
Appel, as the 2016 WMS school champion, now gets the chance to take the qualifying test for the state competition, which will occur April 1 at St. Cloud.
School bees, such as yesterday’s at WMS, are the first level in the 28th annual National Geographic Bee, which culminates with an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for state winners to participate in the national championship rounds from May 22-25.
The first-place national champion will receive a $50,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, including a National Geographic magazine subscription.
For WMS winner Appel, a medal, ribbon and certificate will do for now, although her geographic wish includes seeing Paris, France; her contender, Bates, said his dream destination is Mozambique.
It’s that kind of aspirational international thought Wolyniec loves to see the study of geography inspire in her students.
“This is a great way to help students wake up to the world around them,” said Wolyniec. “Our students did a terrific job, and I hope they’ll keep taking every chance they get to learn and travel.”
Besides finalists Appel and Bates, other WMS students in the top 10 at Tuesday’s bee were Matthew Becker, Erkinesh Bonnett, Blut Doh, Ben Dykema, Jacob Hagerman, Eli Hansberger, Kent Lais and Azael Rodriguez.

Ten Worthington Middle School students made it to the final round of the school’s annual geography bee yesterday. They were: (front row, left to right): Matthew Becker, Elijah Bates, Jacob Hagerman, Kalea Appel and Erkinesh Bonnett. Second row, left to right: Eli Hansberger, Kent Lais, Ben Dykema, Blut Doh and Azael Rodriguez. Submitted Photo

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