The green feathered quetzal is not likely something that comes up in daily conversation at Pocantico Hills. It was, however, mentioned at the Geography Bee held on May 12, as in “the green feathered quetzal, once sacred to the Aztecs, is the national animal of what nation that lies in the place of the ancient Aztec Empire?”
The green iridescent bird hails from southern Mexico and Central America. The answer, by the way, is Guatemala.
This was just one of several queries that were part of the Geography Bee, a school tradition that had been put on pause since 2020. National Geographic opted to discontinue hosting the GeoBee, an activity they began in 1989. However, this year the Hackley School in Tarrytown stepped in and offered to develop a regional event. The finals took place on May 21 at the Hackley School.
Eighth grader Zayd R. was named school Geography Bee champion, and sixth grader Tasnim F. came in second place. The two faced off in the final rounds, after having to answer one last question: “Kujataa Glacier, inhabited by Inuit peoples, can be found on which large Danish Island?”
Tasnim answered Iceland, while Zayd committed to Greenland, which was the correct answer.
There were 16 students in sixth through eighth grade competing and the top five students will attend the regional event. Joining Zayd and Tasnim will be eighth grader Alessandro S. and seventh graders Yatee L. and Meadow G.
To prepare for the Geography Bee, Alessandro said he watched YouTube videos about different locales around the world while Zayd said he just had to think hard to recall what he knew after spending only one week reviewing material.
“It was fun,” Meadow said of participating in the event.
Tasnim is upholding a family tradition, as her older siblings are former bee champs too.
Principal Adam Brown first met with the competitors before the start of the competition to go over the rules. The first few questions would be multiple choice, then each participant had 20 seconds to write down their answer on a small whiteboard. They were not allowed to erase their response until instructed to do so. Each competitor was allowed one wrong answer and would be eliminated upon giving a second incorrect answer. Participants were told that spelling errors would not be held against them provided it was clear what they were trying to say.
Many of the participants’ classmates were seen in the audience, some of whom held up signs supporting their friends.
“It’s all about being supportive and positive,” Mr. Brown told those gathered at the event
Participants breezed through the first set of questions before several were tripped up when asked, “La Tomatina is held every year in the town of Bunol, where thousands of participants fire water cannons and over one hundred tons of over-ripe tomatoes at one another in one day. La Tomatine is celebrated in which country that borders Andorra?”
The answer is Spain.
A few more contestants were eliminated after submitting their answers incorrectly to a question asking what New England state the White Mountain National Forest can be found in.
Once the participants were narrowed down to two, the competition heated up and reverted to single elimination.
Both Zayd and Tasnim breathed a sigh of relief as they answered their first questions correctly. They answered “Ghana” when asked: “Ancient British forts can be found in the Volta near Accra in which English-speaking West African country?”
The two students missed the correct answer pertaining to a query about what country the Saryarka Steppe can be found in (Kazackstan), then answered incorrectly once again on a question about what island the Giant’s Causeway can be found (Ireland).
When Zayd was pronounced the winner and Tasnim the runner-up, the two received applause and shouts of congratulations from the audience.
Mr. Brown was excited for the Geography Bee to return in some form as it allows students to shine in a unique way.
“Geography, to me, is something we all should be interested in — students should be learning about the world around us,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s something kids can excel at. It’s a great opportunity for a different group of kids.”