Dozens of very smart elementary and middle school students will be competing this month in the National Geographic Bee and the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Each year thousands of students participate in the programs that test their knowledge and build their learning skills. The finals for both bring students to the nation's capital to compete for scholarships — and for national bragging rights.
The National Geographic Bee tests students in grades four through eight, ages 10 to 14, using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society.
The spelling program is open to students who have not completed the eighth grade. This year's spellers range in age from 8 to 14. The E.W. Scripps Company and local sponsors operate the spelling bee. The Omaha World-Herald sponsors the Midwest Spelling Bee.
This year's 54 geography bee finalists represent the 50 states, District of Columbia, Atlantic Territories, Pacific Territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
The geography competitors include Theodore Jansen, a fifth-grader at Paddock Road Elementary in Omaha, and Jonathon Grunenwald, an eighth grader at Ames, Iowa, Homeschool Assistance Program.
The geography bee is marking its 25th anniversary.
The competition starts today. The top 10 finalists advance to the final round on Wednesday, moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. National Geographic Channel will air the final round at 6 p.m. Central on Thursday.
For the first time, multiple-choice vocabulary tests will be added to the annual spelling bee. A speller's qualification for the semifinals and finals is based on on-stage spelling, computer spelling questions and computer vocabulary questions. The vocabulary evaluation will count for 50 percent of the speller's score.
Bee Executive Director Paige Kimble told the Associated Press in April that “the changes were driven by the desire to reinforce the competition's purpose — to encourage students to improve their spelling and broaden their knowledge of the language.”
The first national spelling bee was held in 1925. In 1941, Scripps took over sponsorship of the National Spelling Bee. (There was no national bee during the war years of 1943–45.)
This year's contest will draw 281 spellers from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Dependents Schools, as well as from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
The Midwest Spelling Bee representative is Antonio Lansang, 13, of Neligh, Neb. He is a seventh-grader at Neligh-Oakdale Junior-Senior High School.
The spelling competition begins May 28. ESPN will air the rounds on May 29 and May 30. The finals on May 30 will start at 7 p.m.
Sources: Websites for National Geographic Society (nationalgeographic.com/geobee) and Scripps National Spelling Bee (spellingbee.com)