Social Studies

New Jersey Boy Wins National Geographic Bee

By Jessica Brown — May 14, 2015 2 min read
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A 14-year-old boy’s knowledge of African waterways earned him the title Wednesday of 2015 National Geographic Bee champion.

“I’m on top of the world right now,” said Karan Menon, of Edison, N.J., in a news release. He also won a $50,000 college scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society, which hosted the event at its Washington D.C. headquarters. The second and third place winners won scholarships of $25,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Watch the video clip of the final question.

The annual Bee showcases America’s top geography students in grades 4-8. These kids definitely know their stuff. But recent research indicates they are in the minority.

Last week a national report revealed 3 out of 4 8th grade students are not proficient in geography. Those results concern experts and educators, who worry geography is taking a back seat to subjects like English, math, and science.

That lack of geographic literacy is what prompted National Geographic to create the bee in 1989. It wanted to get students and schools excited about geography.

“The Bee is about teaching kids about the world and how it works,” said Dan Beaupré, vice president of experiences in education and children’s media for National Geographic in a news release. “To be a bee champion you have to be curious, have an understanding of the systems at work in the world, know how to apply information to real challenges, and be an effective communicator,” he said. “It’s all about our basic belief here at National Geographic that science, exploration, and storytelling can change the world.”

This year, 4 million students from 11,000 schools—12 percent of the schools in the United States—competed in local geography bees.

The 54 winners of state and territory-level bees traveled to Washington for the finals. A preliminary round Monday narrowed the field to 10 finalists.

In the end, it was Menon versus Shriya Yarlagadda, an 11-year-old from Michigan.

Here was the final question:

Question: If built, the proposed Grand Inga Dam would be the world's largest hydroelectric dam. Near the Inga Falls, it is on which African river? Answer: The Congo.

Menon and Yarlagadda both got the answer right, but Menon had more points so he won. Menon, who attends John Adams Middle School in Edison, told National Geographic that winning would be the highlight of his life.

The third place winner was Sojas Wagle, 13, of Arkansas.

The other finalists this year were: Kapil Nathan of Alabama, Nicholas Monahan of Idaho, Patrick Taylor of Iowa, Abhinav Karthikeyan of Maryland, Lucy Chae of Massachusetts, Shreyas Varathan of Minnesota, and Tejas Badgujar of Pennsylvania. All 10 finalists won $500.

The competition was hosted by journalist Soledad O’Brien and will be televised on the National Geographic Channel and Wild, starting on Friday night.

Image and video courtesy of the National Geographic Society

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.