Five Brainerd lakes area students are among 100 students in the state who will compete Friday in a state contest of the 2003 National Geographic Bee at Macalester College in St. Paul.
Area state qualifiers are eighth-graders James Voelker of Brainerd, Jordan Gerads of Little Falls, Samantha Harder-Honstrom of McGrath and Emily Hunt of Wadena; and sixth-grader James Salmonson of Aitkin.
To qualify for state, the students had to win their school district geography bees and had to earn a top score on a written exam prepared by the National Geography Society.
Voelker, the son of John and Lynne Voelker of Baxter, said he did not do much to become a state qualifier. After taking the written test, he said he felt he did well. The eighth-grader said he is not nervous for the competition Friday. In fact, he is somewhat confident.
Voelker said geography is one of his favorite subjects and it comes easily to him. He said it is good to know where cities and other places are in the world.
"I learn most of it by watching the History Channel and the news," he said.
Voelker said the easiest question he had during the district bee was what U.S. state borders Lake of the Woods. The answer is Minnesota.
Hunt, the daughter of Robert and Teresa Hunt of Wadena, said she is hoping for the best when she competes in the state contest. She has been studying her geography book whenever she can at home.
Hunt has always been interested in geography. She enjoys learning where countries are located, about the cultures, about how other people live and how that compares with America.
"I like to know where things are so when I hear about them on the news I know where they are," she said.
Hunt said her most difficult district question asked in which country can the Manchu ethnic group be found. The answer is China. She said her easiest question asked in which state were scientists in May alarmed about an invasive species of fish found in the Chesapeake Bay. The answer is Maryland.
The Maryland question also was the easiest for Gerads, the son of Jeff and Melissa Gerads of Little Falls. Gerads said it was easy because he did a report on Maryland as a seventh-grader.
Gerads said during the final round in the district geography bee, he and a friend were the finalists and were asked the Maryland question.
Gerads gives credit to his seventh-grade geography teacher, Tom Stockard, for his interest in the subject.
"Mr. Stockard made the class so awesome," said Gerads. "It's (geography) really fun and interesting and now I'm into it."
Stockard plans to help Gerads after school today to study for the competition.
"He'll help pump me up," said Gerads.
Gerads won the district bee in Little Falls last year, but did not do well on the written test to qualify for state. This year he studied whenever he could to have a top score on the test. Now that he has qualified for state, he is cramming about 90 minutes a day. He is trying to learn where every mountain and every river in the world are located. He is using his geography book and the Internet, and has his family quiz him.
The hardest area for Gerads to learn is the Middle East.
"There is so much controversy there," he said. "It's hard to keep up. Soon it will be my best area."
The Middle East also is difficult for Salmonson, the son of Angie and Gunnar Salmonson of Aitkin. Salmonson said one of the reasons why it is difficult for him to learn about the Middle East is that there are so many towns and cities that are hard to pronounce.
Salmonson was surprised when he found out he qualified for the state contest. He said he had been studying geography before he even knew he qualified for the state contest.
"It's just so interesting," he said of the subject. "I really like to read the maps and the statistics in the world.
"I've been into it since kindergarten."
Harder-Honstrom, the daughter of Jackie and Robert Honstrom of McGrath and Darrin Harder of Hastings, enjoys learning about the people of the world.
Harder-Honstrom, who attends school in McGregor, said she has been busy studying. Her geography teacher, Steven Cummings, bought her a study guide made especially for the contest for her to look over. She said she spends about 90 minutes a day going through the study guide. She said her mother also quizzes her.
The winner of Friday's meet will advance to national finals May 20-21 in Washington, D.C., to vie for the 2003 National Geographic Bee crown. The winner will receive a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geography Society. Second-place winner will receive a $15,000 scholarship and the third-place winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship.
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