Geo Bee gets campus buzzing

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For 2nd consecutive year, Rowan hosts N.J. finals of National Geographic bee.

One hundred three of New Jersey’s brightest young minds gathered in Rowan’s Boyd Recital Hall April 1 for the state finals of the National Geographic Bee and a shot at glory.

The students, in grades 4 to 8, racked their brains in the semi-final round as the group was winnowed down to ten.

Then, under the stage lights, flash of cameras and anxious gaze of parents and well-wishers, they competed for the prize: a trip to Washington, D.C. and competition in the nationals.

Moderated by Dr. William Carrigan, an associate professor in Rowan’s Department of History, the questions ranged in degree of difficulty from pretty easy to you’ve-GOT-to-be-kidding-me.

An easy one: “Which state does not border another country: Delaware, Arizona or New York.”

The final, killer question: "Tuareg traders traditionally cross the Tenere region of the Sahara. Most of this region is located east of the Air Massif in what country?" (The answer: Niger.)

The bee, brought to Rowan largely through the work of Dr. Zachary Moore, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, tested students in a wide range of topics, from land use to cultural interactions; from urban and regional planning to the global impact of events such as fighting in Libya and the catastrophic earthquake in Japan.

“The human and the physical are the two most important overarching themes,” Dr. Moore said.

A big coup for Rowan

Dr. Moore, who began working with National Geographic while in graduate school, obtained a $60,000 grant from the publisher last year to start the New Jersey Geographic Education Alliance, a statewide organization that promotes the teaching of geography in public schools.

He said National Geographic does not designate permanent homes for its statewide competition but has committed to holding the New Jersey program at Rowan for the next four years (including the 2011 competition).

“We gain so much by hosting it,” Dr. Moore said. “First of all, bringing 103 of the best and brightest young students to the University is very positive exposure.”

And, he said, some 25 Rowan students from a variety of majors volunteered during the competition.

“They worked as timers, as scorers, and with registration,” he said. “They’re interacting with young students, teachers and parents. It’s a service project that they can put that on their resume.”

He also said the affiliation with National Geographic bestows value and prestige on the host university.

“Everyone knows National Geographic,” he said. “It’s the type of thing that can bring enormous benefits down the road.”

Students are the stars

Seventh grader Kevin Pang of Stewartsville in Warren County successfully answered the final question and advances to the nationals May 24-25 where Alex Trebek, long-time host of television’s “Jeopardy”, will moderate.

The state competition included about a dozen students from southern N.J. including Michael Rozanski, son of Rowan’s Director of Alumni Relations, Kathy Rozanski.

Michael, 14, an 8th grader at St. Michael the Archangel in Clayton, was cut just prior to the final round, thrown by a question about the location of the European Food Safety Authority in Parma. But he still had a good time.

“I thought it was Spain but Parma’s in Italy,” he said, shrugging off the loss. “But that’s OK. I liked answering the questions. For me, just being part of it was fun.”

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