Sixth-grader Jackson Martz has won Cooperstown elementary school's eighth annual geography bee.
"It actually was the best geography bee we had to date," said Principal Teresa Gorman.
Gorman credits the success of this year's bee to a change in its format that was implemented this year.
The finalists in previous years were determined by in-class geography bees, with the top five finishers in each grade competing against one another in the finals. This year's finalists were determined by a geography test given to the fifth and sixth grade students, with the top five scorers in each grade qualifying to compete in the finals.
The fifth-grade finalists this year were Alexander Bohler, Michael Crippen, Phoebe Jones, Ian Quinn and Alexander Hascup. The sixth-grade finalists were Kara Gildea, Eric Kukenberger, Reed Porter, Jackson Martz and Alex Woeppel.
One of the reasons the change was adopted was to prepare the students to participate in the middle school geography bee, as a geography test is the method by which the finalists for the middle school geography bee are selected.
"When they transition into the middle school, that is how it's done," said Gorman.
Gorman also said that selecting finalists through the test produced very strong competitors this year, with even the incorrect answers showing the strength of the competitor's knowledge.
"The incorrect answers were close," said Gorman. "In every answer ... they were on the right track."
The test was devised by teachers Diana Garcia and Anne Killian Russo, from the questions used in the geography bee. The decision to switch from in-class bees to tests for qualification was made by Garcia, Russo, Gorman and middle school teacher John Brotherton.
The spelling bee questions are given to the school by the National Geographic Society, which runs the National Geographic Bee, which the CCS bee has the potential to feed into. The questions cover topics that include political geography, physical geography and regional resources. The answers are often in the form of a geographic region, such as a country, state, city or continent but can also be a geographic or natural feature. Students in the bee had to write down there answers on a white board in a certain amount of time.
The competition began with a round of questions that did not count towards the competition. After this round, students could get one question wrong, but a second wrong answer would eliminate them from the competition.
Gorman said that the competition lasted for approximately five rounds, before going to the final round. The top three students were Jones, Porter and Martz.
After Jones was eliminated, Porter and Martz faced off in the final round, which is a best two of three questions. Both Porter and Martz got one question wrong and two questions right. This sent the two competitors into tiebreaker rounds, where the first competitor to get a question right that the other competitor got wrong would be the winner.
Porter and Martz ended up doing two tiebreaker rounds. The last question asked what substance under the earth becomes lava when it reached the earth's surface. Martz wrote magma, the correct answer, while Porter wrote molten, and with that, Martz was the geography bee champion. Porter said that he was trying to write molten rock, but didn't have enough time to do it.
None of this year's competitors made it to the finals of the geography bee last year, although Martz was a finalist in both fourth and fifth grade in the geography bee at his old school, Lynnewood Elementary, which is located near Philadelphia. This is Martz's first win.
Last year's winner, Eric Deysenroth, made it to the middle school finals this year.
All the participants in the contest expressed a positive attitude towards this year's bee.
"Some of us have been looking forward to this event," said Porter, who said that he and Kukenberger had wanted to participate in the bee since they were in second and third grade.
Others participants warmed to the bee through their involvement with it.
"I thought, if I'm going to be in this I might as well try to do well," Woeppel, who hadn't originally wanted to be a part of the event, but decided to put in an after qualifying for the finals.
Woeppel finished fourth.
Martz will be taking a geography test this year. If he is among the top 100 scorers among elementary school and middle school geography bee champions in the state, he will be able to compete in this year's New York National Geographic Bee. Winning the New York National Geographic Bee qualifies the champion to compete in the National Geographic Bee. The top prize at the National Geographic Bee is a $50,000 scholarship.
In order to make it to the state competition, however, Martz will also have to outscore the middle school champion, Tom Knight, in addition to getting one of the state's top 100 scorers, as a school can send only one competitor. Knight has qualified for the New York National Geographic Bee for the last three years.
"Not very good," said Martz, when asked about his chances of outscoring Knight, who has won the middle school bee twice, although he said that he would try.
Gorman, however, takes a different view of Martz's odds of catching Knight
"I think they're excellent," said Gorman, who said that Martz would be provided with studying materials to prepare for the test.