The world’s largest ice shelf, located in Antarctica, is known by what name? It was questions like this that Rishabh Raman, a sixth grade student at Coppell Classical Academy, answered while competing in the state of Texas’ qualifying round for the 2017 National Geographic Bee.
It was an exciting time for seventh grade science and social studies teacher Billy Walker because exactly twenty years before he had competed in the same competition as Rishabh.
“In sixth grade I won the National Geographic Bee competition at my school. I didn’t make it to qualify for the state competition so I am living vicariously through Rishabh,” Mr. Walker said.
The past semester he has had the opportunity to help Coppell Classical Academy’s school champion, Rishabh prepare for state level competition. Luckily for Mr. Walker, Rishabh has had a passion for geography since he was young.
“In first grade my mom got our dictionary, and she kept telling me to look at the words. In the back it had a map, and instead of spending all my time on the words I just looked at the map. I learned the 50 states of America in first grade. So I guess that is what made me interested,” Rishabh said.
In preparation for the state competition, Rishabh studied two to three hours a day, reading geography, history and science books. While there are study guides for each grade level of the competition, Mr. Walker believes Rishabh’s study method is better in the long run.
“Rishabh’s way of studying actually gives him a better chance of winning next year or the year after that. The study guide can limit you,” Mr. Walker said.
As the school champion, Rishabh took the qualifying test for the state bee. Scoring in the top 100 students, he moved on to the state competition which took place in March. In preparation, Rishabh focused on brushing up on the finer details and comparing and contrasting countries.
“I studied the minor cities. For example, in Egypt I studied Alexandria instead of Cairo. I also needed to learn the order of mountains. I have learned a lot, particularly how to compare and contrast. For example, if Egypt has a lot of this resource, then what does Mexico have?” he said.
Rishabh missed making the top ten in the state to compete for nationals by one question, but he has learned a lot in the process and is planning to win nationals next year because he wants to win the trip to another country, which is the prize, so he can see some of the landmarks he has studied.
“I want to see the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye and the Berlin TV Tower in Europe. I would also like to visit a lot of cities in Asia like Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas Towers or Jakarta,” Rishabh said.
In addition to a trip, the first place national champion also receives a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the society and a subscription to National Geographic magazine.
Only the sixth grade students participated in the National Geographic Bee this year, but campus director Christopher Sisk says because of the excitement it has generated, next year more grade levels will be able to participate.
“Only our middle school participated this year, but next year we will invite the whole school in grades fourth through eighth to participate. We have a lot of kids of the same mold as Rishabh and we want to offer them competition opportunities where they can be challenged,” said Mr. Sisk.
Rishabh’s advice to anyone studying for next year’s competition is to study lots of countries and focus on knowing their size, population, GDP, the location of major rivers and the tallest peaks.