Schools in the Diocese of Charleston are doing their best to make liars of that old song that proclaims students “don’t know much about geography.”
This year, 12 schools had students who qualified to compete in the 2016 South Carolina National Geographic State Bee held in Columbia. Of those 12, two students made it to the Top 10 list of finalists out of 100 competitors: Reece McCarthy from St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, and Brady Roberts from St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach.
And last year, Nicolas Grigat from St. Anne School in Rock Hill was named the 2015 South Carolina State Champion and advanced to the finals.
Teachers and parents of these kids remarked on how much dedication it takes to make it to state because it is something they do almost entirely on their own.
Debbie Wilfong, principal of St. Andrew, said the students do some prep work before the school geography bee, but mostly they study solo.
What happens is, each class holds its own geography bee, with the class winners advancing to the school-wide bee. The overall school winner then takes a qualifying test to see if they can advance to state. The state bee takes the top 100 test scores.
“These students are really motivated. It’s a tribute to them,” said Kelly Malyszek, social studies teacher at St. Mary Help of Christians.
To prepare for the state bee, Reece said he took the daily quizzes at the National Geographic Bee website. He also drew maps of the world, and wrote down all the countries, their capitals and their industries.
He said the finals were extremely challenging because everyone was very smart.
“I mean, you ask these people where Vinsson Massif was and they could answer it in half a second. The questions were very challenging but it was fun too,” Reece said.
Vinsson Massif? For the record, it’s the highest peak in Antarctica and one of the renowned Seven Summits. Seven Summits? Ask Reece. Or Brady.
Brady said he became interested in geography because his family is always traveling — Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Germany, England, Italy, France, much of the United States, and more. He also studied the online quizzes, plus bought geography books and had his family quiz him constantly.
Reece said the best thing about geography is that you don’t have to physically travel anywhere to learn about the world.
“I love how you can explore the world while just sitting at home and opening an Atlas. Anyone can do it — it’s that easy,” he said.
Schools that competed:
Charleston Catholic, Brendan Elliott
Christ Our King-Stella Maris, Mount Pleasant, Mariana Bakle
Our Lady of the Rosary, Greenville, Matthew Loewer
St. Andrew, Myrtle Beach, Brady Roberts
St. Anne, Sumter, Andrea Clark
St. Anne, Rock Hill, Harrison Kirol
St. Francis, Hilton Head, Gigi Graziano
St. John Neumann, Columbia, Sam Appleton
St. Joseph, Columbia, Patrick Walsh
St. Joseph, Anderson, Luciana Strathern
St. Mary Help of Christians, Aiken, Reece McCarthy
Summerville Catholic, Joey Benton