Global Virus Can't Stop MGAES Geography Bee

February 19, 2021 | Education | Malaika Childers

Owen Fleck, a sixth grader at Meadow Glade Adventist Elementary School in Battle Ground, Washington, won the school’s geography bee competition on Jan. 15, 2021. With pandemic restrictions in place, students participated via Zoom videoconferencing this year.

For decades, the school participated in the annual National Geographic Bee. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and community members gathered to cheer on the contestants. This year, the pandemic canceled the national bee.

Not wanting students to miss out on the contest, Malaika Childers, the fifth and sixth grade teacher who formerly coordinated the school portion of the National Geographic Bee, organized this year’s school-sponsored bee.

Despite MGAES being fully in person for learning, safety protocols didn't allow for visitors to attend or cohorts to mix across grade levels. Instead, students in each classroom from grades three through eight took a written test to determine who would represent their classroom in the school bee.

On the day of the bee, students “Zoomed” from their classroom. Teachers projected the combined competition in their rooms. Parents and grandparents were able to join on Zoom from the comfort of their own homes.

The bee began with a short video introducing the contestants. Students then took turns answering geography questions. Contestants were eliminated from the competition after their third incorrect answer.

When only two contestants remained, the bee continued to a championship round. The last two students, Ian Dowie and Fleck, were asked the same questions. Each answer they gave was messaged privately in the Zoom chat and read aloud by Childers. After three rounds, Fleck earned first place.

“I’m glad we still got to have a geography bee. I liked Zoom because I was less nervous and I couldn’t see the audience,” says Fleck, who participated in last year's school bee and was a state participant in the 2019 National Geographic Bee.

Fleck was awarded a $100 cash prize for his 2021 win. The prize, along with a $50 cash prize for second place, was donated by a friend of MGAES who learned the national competition had been canceled.

The MGAES competitors included third graders Beckham An and Dowie; fourth grader Anaya Johnson; sixth graders Fleck, Mia Patchin and Viena Johnson; seventh grader Logan Strubelt; and eighth graders Logan Pierce and Jaren Garbi.

“I liked that it was different on Zoom," says Patchin. "I’m glad that this year it didn’t seem like everyone was watching you even though the whole school is watching you still.”

The bee wrapped up when Ric Peinado, MGAES principal, and Tina Heinrich, MGAES office manager, visited each classroom to congratulate the winners and award their certificates.

“We are so excited to continue the geography bee at MGAES," says Peinado. "Although we were not able to partner with National Geographic Bee due to their cancellation of this national event, we moved forward ... . One way that we innovated with this competition was to open it up to our third graders. We are proud of all of our students who took part, and I want to congratulate our first place winner, Owen Fleck — a sixth grader — and our runner-up, third grader Ian Dowie.”