Archive for Thursday, January 12, 2006

Around the world in 80 minutes

Sixth-grader crowned queen of LMS geography bee

January 12, 2006

Courtney Cochran should know a thing or two about geography - at only 11 years old, she's already moved six times with her military family.

Being well traveled seemed to pay off for the Lansing Middle School sixth-grader. On Friday, Courtney earned first place in the school's National Geographic Bee.

Courtney navigated through several rounds of questions such as, in 1697, Spain ceded control of what is now Haiti to which country? (France), the Danube River flows for about 1,800 miles before emptying into what sea? (Black Sea) and the Tibesti Mountains are located in which landlocked country east of Niger? (Chad).

Courtney Cochran

Courtney Cochran

Kathy Ray, facilitator of the geography bee, said the questions had "everything to do with geography and cultural information about a particular location." The first three rounds, Ray said, focused on United States geography; later rounds broadened to continents, world capital cities and cultural geography. Only the first round was multiple-choice, she said.

To prepare for the bee, Courtney said she had maps placed around the house so she could study them as she went about her daily routine. She read profiles of countries and answered practice questions online.

Even with her preparation, Courtney said she wasn't sure what to expect in the bee because it was her first one.

"I was kinda nervous, but once it started, it was really fun," she said.

The easier questions, Courtney said, were those about the location of states and countries. The ones she found harder were questions about the goods countries produce.

"It's harder to find that information than what state borders Texas to the north or that kind of stuff," she said.

Courtney said she hadn't expected to win this year's geography bee - she only intended to use it for practice so "then maybe next year I could do really well."

However, Ray, who is Courtney's gifted studies teacher, wasn't too surprised by her student's success.

"She has a very broad knowledge base in all areas, not just social studies," Ray said.

What Ray did find impressive, though, was that Courtney was able to compete so well with the other middle school students. Courtney was only a fourth-grader last year - when she moved to Lansing this summer, Ray said, she tested out of fifth grade and was placed in sixth.

"It's pretty astounding she took the middle school bee," Ray said.

Courtney received a medal and a certificate for winning the LMS bee; soon, she will take a written test to try to qualify for the state competition.

Up to 100 of the top-scoring students in Kansas will be eligible to compete in the state bee March 31. Ray said she would find out where that competition will be if Courtney is selected to take part in it.

Should Courtney win the state bee, she would travel to Washington, D.C., with her expenses paid by the National Geographic Society, to participate in the national championship May 23-34, where she would be eligible for a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership to the society. Alex Trebek, host of "Jeopardy!", will moderate the national finals.

But Courtney is taking the process one step at a time.

"If I make it into the state round, that'd be cool, but if I don't, it won't be the end of the world," she said.

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