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Preparing for a Middle School Geography Bee

by Kelly Chester, studioD

A geography bee seeks to connect kids to the world by making them more aware of different lands, cultures and people. Furthermore, a geography bee pushes students to work to learn map skills, geography and history, subjects sometimes overlooked in elementary and middle school classrooms. For the National Geographic Bee, students must be in grades four through eight in order to participate. However, any school or classroom can incorporate a geography bee to encourage a love for social studies and map skills.

Map Skills

Familiarizing students with maps is one of the best ways to prepare students for a middle school geography bee. Teach students the basics, which include latitude and longitude, map scale, continents, the oceans, and major islands and seas. From there, challenge students to learn about countries, cities and important bodies of water. Be sure that the maps you are providing students with are current, as many maps are outdated. A great way to have students reinforce their understanding of maps is to recreate them using blank map templates.

Curricular Reinforcement

After students have been introduced to world maps, teachers should move to deepen their understanding of those maps by exploring cultures. If the geography bee is going to focus on the United States of America, for example, create a unit that introduces students to the different regions and states. Students will better understand geography if a background is provided that explains why boundaries between countries and states exist and why bodies of water are important. Supplementary readings, class discussions and research projects will support cultural and geographical learning.

Weekly Current Events

Assigning middle-schoolers a current events activity each week not only furthers their learning of geography, it makes them stronger readers and writers. Ask students to find a newspaper article that deals with cities, countries, cultures or geography. After students read the article, they should write two paragraphs to summarize what the article is about. At the end of the week, each student should share their current event with the class. The students will all benefit from the articles their peers have provided.

Review Games

Before the geography bee takes place, teachers should allow students to play geography review games in class. The class can go through a mock geography bee where the teacher drills the class on map- and-culture related questions. In addition, students should be able to review with one another in small groups. Finally, many websites, including the National Geographic Bee website, provide learners with online geography review games in order to prepare them for upcoming geography bees.

About the Author

Kelly Chester is an educator and writer who has worked in both public and private schools for almost a decade. Her areas of expertise include literature, writing, history and art for adolescents. In addition to writing reports for NYSAIS, she has also written a biography on artist Frank Covino, which was published in the anthology “Teaching Lives.”

Photo Credits

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