Teaching Profession

Florida 6th Grader Wins the National Geographic Bee

By Elisha McNeil — May 27, 2016 2 min read
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A 12-year-old 6th grader from Florida won the 2016 National Geographic Bee Wednesday at the 28th annual ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Rishi Nair earned the championship title and top honors by correctly answering the question, “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?”

The answer: “Galápagos Islands.”

Nair received a $50,000 scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park. (He also will get a new iPhone, a trip to Switzerland, and a golden retriever puppy, all courtesy of his parents.)

The National Geographic Bee contest was founded in 1989 to encourage teachers to include geography in their classrooms, inspire students to be curious about the world, and increase public awareness about geography.

Educators have long called for more of an emphasis on good geography instruction to boost academic skills, and for good reason—only 27 percent of 8th graders nationwide are proficient in geography, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

In fact, the nation’s 8th graders have made no academic progress in their knowledge of geography since 2010 and the overall average test scores in geography have essentially remained flat since the 1990s, according to NAEP’s test results in 2014, the most recent scores available.

Administered to 29,000 8th graders at more than 1,300 schools across the country, the tests found that 48 percent of students scored in the “basic” range and 25 percent scored below basic levels. Only 3 percent scored “advanced.”

Almost 3 million students in grades four through eight from 11,000 schools across the U.S. participated in the 2016 National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Bee’s study corner offers resources, tips, and activities for teachers to get students engaged in geography and improve instruction—such as creating a postcard, building vocabulary with a scavenger hunt game, and investigating endangered animals.

The competition airs tonight on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD at 8 p.m. ET.

In other bee news, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for the third consecutive year on Thursday. Nihar Janga, 11, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, were declared co-champions—Jairam won on the word “Feldenkrais” and Nihar won on “gesellschaft.”

Image: Rishi Nair of Florida participates in the final round of the National Geographic Bee this week at the National Geographic Society in Washington.

--Andrew Harnik/AP

More on geography in education:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.