Lisa: My youngest daughter, Birdie, is in love with Geography. We really didn’t put two and two together that Geography was a serious passion until the Men’s FIFA World Cup in 2014. She of course loves soccer, but was quick to tell us all about each country and region in the tournament. And I’m not talking about countries we’ve all heard about or studied in school. But countries that make you go, Hmmm, I think I remember where that is…. She was all over it. That was the summer she asked for a globe for her birthday.
Last year in fourth grade, her teacher announced the school would be holding it’s first ever Geography Bee, affectionately called the Geo Bee. It’s a contest that starts at the school level and moves up to the national level, like a spelling bee, and is sponsored by National Geographic. The official name of the national bee is of course, the National Geographic Bee, but we’ll just call it the Geo Bee.
Birdie was thrilled at the idea of the Geo Bee at her school (she was certain she could win it!) but a little terrified to get up in front of the school and answer questions. Thankfully, the school made the decision to hold the GeoBee immediately after school rather than during school. That alleviated much of her worry and she could focus on the actual bee.
What’s funny is that she wasn’t nervous at all about the questions just about being up in front of people. She was extremely confident she could handle the questions. I had done a little research on the internet about the types of questions and was a bit concerned. Some are extremely hard – or appear that way to me as a non-geography obsessed person. What I discovered about the Geo Bee is that it isn’t simply knowing the names and locations of countries, capitals and oceans. The National Geographic Bee asks questions about physical, political, economic, and cultural geography of the world as well as some on current affairs. That’s a lot of information.
To further educate myself on the Bee and ensure Birdie wasn’t missing knowledge any specific area I bought her a few books and resources from Amazon to help her prepare. Now, when I say “prepare”, do not assume in any way that my Birdie crammed for the test. As I mentioned before, geography is one of her passions. Merely having these books and resources in the house was enough to entice her to look at them. We did very, very little Q&A in advance of the bee. She wanted to simply absorb the information in her own way.
The books specific to the Geo Bee helped me guide her into areas I thought she might need learn a bit more. For instance, I discovered that it was important to have knowledge of the US National Parks and top areas of interest in other countries. So I attempted to interest her in the national parks through pictures and discussion on which ones we’ve been to and which ones we would still like to visit.
Now that we are on the other side of the Geo Bee and looking forward to the next one, I wanted to share our resources that helped her as a competitor and me as the mom. These books and resources from Amazon were instrumental in helping Birdie prepare for the GeoBee.
- A Desktop Globe– I cannot overstate the importance of having a good globe or wall map handy. Many times we jump up and spin the globe to verify a location being discussed. Or look up countries to see their location in relation to another fixed point, like the equator, Antarctica or another country. It is a must for your house.
- National Geographic Student World Atlas – This atlas is written for middle to high school students, but its 100 plus maps, flags & stats pages, charts and photos kept the focus of my geography obsessed 9-year-old. I found myself looking through it when she wasn’t around trying to learn something she didn’t know.
- National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book – A valuable resource for looking up facts or studying, the National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book was essential for getting the basics down on each country. When Birdie flipped through it for the first time, she couldn’t believe there were so many tiny countries she didn’t know. It became her mission to learn about each one.
- How to Ace the National Geographic Bee; Official Study Guide – I read this book to find out the specifics of the Geo Bee and how to help Birdie prepare for the big day. It gave me a true overview of the large knowledge base from which the questions draw from. There are sample questions in the book for each round and the book included helpful tips for breaking down the questions to help determine the answer.
- Geography Bee Simplified – While this guide is not an official guide to the Geo Bee, it contains over 1750 questions, study tips, and a mock-bee. Now that we’ve been through a bee, I can appreciate the true value of this book in asking true geo bee style questions. Next year we will spend more time with the Q&A sections of the book.
- The Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook – This is a book that has been recommended to us to pick up to help prepare for next year’s school Geo Bee. It has over 1,000 sample questions, strategy tips and facts to learn.
- US Road Atlas – My large Rand McNally US Road Atlas was a primary source for looking at the United States, but I also picked up another book that encourage her to learn about each state. The National Geographic Kids Ultimate US Road Trip Atlas includes the following for each state – a map, 5 cool things to do in that state, a summary paragraph, roadside attractions and odd information. It is a fun, informative book at a great low price right now on Amazon.
These are only suggestions based on what we used for our prep. If you don’t want to purchase books, there are a TON of digital resources as well. But that’s another post. I do have a Geography Pinterest board if want to go over and take a look at some of our favorites.
When preparing for the Geo Bee, focus on what your child wants to learn. Let them be your guide. Birdie very much set the tone as to what
she was interested in studying (and most definitely what she did NOT want to learn.) For instance, Birdie hated doing practice Q&A, so we mostly avoided it. There were a few times I invited her to ask me the questions, she was thrilled each time she could stump me. Which was more often than I’d like to admit.
How did Birdie do in her first GeoBee? She was adorable! And so very shy about answering questions out loud, stating her answer in this teeny tiny little girl voice. It was a great experience. She answered tough questions correctly surprising me and missed at least one I thought was super simple. That’s the way it goes. We discovered that some of the tips and strategies we learned in the books above were correct and helpful to figuring out the answer when you weren’t quite sure. In teh end, she was absolutely crushed she didn’t win the first school wide bee. But, she was very pleased to come in 2nd place to a fellow classmate. Watch out, Birdie is determined to win next year!
Does your school have a Geo Bee? How does your child prepare for it?