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EDUCATION REPORT – June 6, 2002: Geography Competition - 2002-06-03

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The National Geographic Society is a private organization that studies and explores the world. In nineteen-eighty-eight, the Society did a study of what people knew about geography. The results showed that Americans knew less about places on the Earth than did other people around the world. So the National Geographic Society started an education campaign to improve knowledge about geography.

One part of the campaign was a geography competition for school children. Since nineteen-eighty-nine, young American students have competed for the National Geographic championship.

Final judging of this year’s competition was held in May in Washington, D.C. The youngest person in the National Geographic competition won the event. Calvin McCarter of Jenison, Michigan, won twenty-five-thousand dollars to attend college.

Calvin will have to wait a while to start university studies, however. He is only ten years old. He defeated nine older students in the final event of the geography competition. An estimated five-million students took part in earlier competitions at their schools and at state contests.

Calvin won by correctly saying that the Lop Nur nuclear test center is in China. He does not attend school. His mother teaches him at home. Eleven others taking part in the final event of the National Geographic competition also study at home.

The second-place winner was Matthew Russell of Bradford, Pennsylvania. He won fifteen-thousand dollars for college. Erik Miller of Kent, Washington won third place and ten-thousand dollars for college. Matthew and Erik are both fourteen years old.

The winners answered a number of questions like this one: In what country are the rivers called Churchill, Slave and Peace? The answer is Canada. Or, name the two remaining republics of Yugoslavia. The answer is Serbia and Montenegro. Or, which country controlled Papua New Guinea before it became independent in Nineteen-Seventy-Five? The answer is Australia.

The final of the National Geographic competition was broadcast on television. Some adults who watched said they wished they knew half as much about geography as the children did.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.