Elementary school holds geography bee

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- If someone were to ask you, "Colombia, with low coastal plains along both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean borders which Central American country?" would you know the answer?

If you were to ask Thomas Stokes, a sixth grade student from Osan American Elementary School, he would be able to tell you it is Panama because that's the question he answered to win the OAES National Geographic Bee Dec. 11.

He is now eligible to compete for a $25,000 college scholarship and $500 cash sponsored by The National Geographic Society.

The National Geographic Bee is held yearly at all Department of Defense Dependents schools.

Individual social studies teachers began training their students about two months prior to the competition using questions from the previous years, and Web sites such as www.mywonderfulworld.org

The competition had seven preliminary rounds followed by a finalist round and finally the championship round.

"This year, we had 29 students participate in the Bee," said Ms. Erin Howe, a teacher at the elementary school and National Geographic Bee sponsor for more than 15 years. "We had 12 sixth graders, eight fifth graders, eight fourth graders, and a second grader. The second grader, Joshua Breckenridge, did very well, making it to the semi final round."

Overall, the competition was stiff. So stiff, in fact, that, "We had to add another qualifying round and call it the semi-final round," said Ms. Howe. "After the preliminary round, there were supposed to be only 10 finalists, but we ended up with fifteen! Those fifteen students answered questions until we had our first finalist, Michael Gonzales, a sixth grader."

Four other students tied to compete with Michael for the championship round. Thomas, won the next phase and the opportunity to challenge Michael.

Due to another tie in the end, the championship round had to go to a single elimination tie-breaker, which Thomas Stokes won.

Thomas' next step is to take a written 70 question test, which will be scored against all other DODDS students. If he out performs all other school winners in DODDS, he will receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national competition May 22 and 23, where he will compete against winners from all 50 states. Jeopardy's Alex Trebek is scheduled to host the competition.