After reading about the great monuments in Egypt, Shreyan Mitra, 11, decided he would like to visit there someday. Another place worth visiting for Mitra is Iceland, where this sixth grader learned of the country’s geothermal activity and hidden volcanic vents in the ice cap glaciers. It makes sense that a boy who holds such a keen interest in places around the world would score the high rank of fifth place in California’s National Geographic State Bee, an annual competition that allows qualifying youth from grades four to eight to show their geography smarts.
“I feel happy but I would try to go farther in the future,” said Mitra of his accomplishment. “Geography is like a hobby but it is very engaging. It is different from other hobbies because it is something you can always learn more about with the people and places around you.”
Mitra’s father Swapnajit explained that Mitra first competed in the National Geographic Bee held at Peterson Middle School where he emerged as his school’s champion. Swapnajit also reported that of the 600 student champions representing 600 California schools, Mitra was one of 100 students chosen to participate in California’s National Geographic State Bee after taking a written test on a computer. This competition took place at Fresno State University in late March. After many rounds, Shreyan came in at fifth place.
“At the state tournament, I got a certificate of appreciation, a National Geographic T-shirt, and gifts from local businesses and from Fresno State University,” Mitra said. “For winning the school bee, I got a medal and a telescope.”
For Mitra, this was his second year competing in the state bee. He shared some tips, such as how competitors needed tenacity and stamina in addition to knowledge to go far.
“Even though the structure of this competition was the same as the one at my school, the questions were harder,” Mitra said. “[There were rules] about how many times you can request a question to be repeated and there were also time limits in which you had to give your answer…If you make two mistakes, you are eliminated in the final round. In the preliminary, if you don’t get all of them right, you have very little chance of going to the finals.”
To learn about geography and world events, Mitra read newspapers and watched the television news.
“[At the competitions], there are a variety of questions but most of them come from cultural geography,” Mitra said. “Cultural geography is like the study of the various peoples and ethnicities, cultures, traditions and food habits, and the category has expanded to even include cultural clothing. An example of a question I would be asked would be ‘Which country in Southeast Asia outside the Philippines has a predominant Roman Catholic population?’ The answer is East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste.”