March 29, 2019

Windham Middle School seventh grader headed to National Geographic GeoBee state finals

By Craig Bailey

On Friday, March 29 Windham Middle School seventh grader, Caden Violette, will be heading to the state finals for the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee.

For the 31st year, the National Geographic Society is holding the GeoBee for students in the fourth through eighth grades. Thousands of schools are competing in this year’s contest from across the United States and the five U.S. territories.

Caden Violette. Submitted photo.
The National Geographic Society developed the GeoBee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the U.S. Over more than three decades, 120 million students have participated in the GeoBee.

Violette mentioned, “My understanding of geography stemmed from an interest in history. I really enjoy knowing about the past. On hearing the names of various places, I wanted to know where they were and how these countries interacted geographically, not just politically.”

When asked what transpired to get him to this point, Violette stated, “I heard about the GeoBee over the intercom last year. I was interested, did some studying, and came in fourth. This year I started preparing in October. I feel like that preparation definitely helped.”

The qualification process began with all students participating in a written test. The students who qualified then participated in the school finals, similar to a classic spelling bee. There were a few rounds for which each student was asked a question. Then, the top two moved on to the school championship round where each finalist was provided a written question, they both had to answer. The final question was: There is a skiing competition that takes place in the Scandinavian country with the highest population. What country is that? The answer: Sweden.

Violette, the Windham Middle School champion, after answering the above question correctly, will now move on to the state level contest taking place at the University of Maine, in Farmington, on March 29. This event includes the top 100 qualifiers for the state.

When asked how he prepared, Violette responded, “I used the NatGeo website which shows maps, country names as well as questions similar to what would be asked in the contest. In addition, I studied the World Atlas.”

In providing guidance to other students who may participate in this contest in the future, Violette had a few suggestions. “Don’t just focus on the map, its lines, stars and dots,” he began. “Study cultures and other things that have to do with the country. Learn why the boundary lines exist and where the capitals are, about the habitat and ecosystems. It is much more than knowing the capitals of the 50 states. And, you’ll want to start practicing a month or two before the school qualifiers. That way, when you get into further rounds you’ve had more practice.”

Violette shared a profound perspective when asked how he felt this contest and the accumulated knowledge would benefit his life. “I feel like knowing our world, not just how it works scientifically, can have a major effect on how we decide to live our lives,” he stated. “This includes things like voting. It all comes down to how it impacts our culture.”

During the interview, Violette’s teacher Mrs. Roberts stopped by to indicate, “I am privileged to have Mr. Violette as an excellent student in my class.”

When asked, “Do you believe you can win the overall contest,” Violette humbly responded, “Well, I’m not sure what the competition looks like, but I’ll do my best.”

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