He dances. He sings. He plays the saxophone. He is the class president. Now, the 8th grade Buchser geographic bee champion is heading to Fresno to compete in the state National Geographic Bee finals on April 6.
Blake Levins survived 10 rounds of complex geographic questions to prevail as school champion. He started competing when he was in 6th grade. In 7th grade, he won the school bee but did not make it to the state bee. This year, he made it.
The National Geographic Bee is an annual competition organized by the National Geographic Society “designed to inspire and reward students’ curiosity about the world,” (www.nationalgeographic.org/bee). Students in 4th through 8th grade from 10,000 schools across the United States will compete in the 2018 National Geographic Bee.
Only the top 100 scoring students in each state and territory qualified to move on to state Geographic Bees. With over 4,000 California school champions taking the test, Levins scored in the top 100.
“What helped me is that at Buchser, we have the Geography Club. [There are] five people, we meet every other Wednesday morning and play fun geography games and talk about the world,” Levins said.
Levins started the Geography Club last year at the suggestion of his social studies teacher, Louisa Capp. He said he has always been interested in learning about the world, though he has not yet been out of the country.
“Sometimes I just look up stuff for fun and I learn about the world. There is a contest called the Eurovision Song Contest, so I get a lot of influence from other cultures from Europe and all around the world. I’m very interested in all of that.”
Levins also used to play a Risk-like game online, called “mapping,” which got him even more involved in world geography.
“On YouTube there are these mapping videos where it’s a certain scenario, and the person who makes the maps gets to decide an alternate future, for example if countries separate or combine. It’s just a fun little thing to do. It’s like storytelling. A lot of the stuff can come from previous events in history, if there are ethnic groups, or things like that, so making a future is a good way to get in touch with the past,” he said.
Geography is not Levins’s only interest, though. Levin is also heavily involved in the arts. He plays the saxophone for the school jazz band and the advanced band.
He also dances.
“I do tap dance, jazz dance, acrobatics and hip hop. Now I’m on the performance dance team so we do performances at city events and we perform at Disneyland,” he said. In his spare time, he practices calligraphy.
“It’s fun being Blake’s mom,” Lisa Wright said with a smile.
The state National Geographic Bee competition will begin with sign-in at 8 a.m. at California State University at Fresno. A winner will be announced around 1 p.m. The state winner will then head to national championship at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I am happy to get that far. I know I probably won’t win because there are thousands of schools that send people. I’m lucky to be in the top 100. I will try my best and whatever happens, happens,” Levins said.