Holly Brown and her classmates picked up their pencils and began to answer multiple-choice questions about geography.
One of the questions: “The Bitterroot Range is located on the border of Montana and what other state?”
Brown, an eighth-grader at the , put herself on the map by winning the school level of the National Geographic Geography Bee.
Now, she’s headed to state competition.
Brown has been putting in time after homework—about half an hour, but not every day—to study geography, from US cities and states to international locations to physical geography—“like the continental shelf”—to bodies of water and cultural geography.
“There’s a lot of stuff,” she said.
She finds some of the categories easy. US states, for example. Which of the following two states borders the Chesapeake Bay—Illinois or Maryland? It’s Maryland. She’s studied US geography “almost every year” she’s been in school, “since first grade.” She attended the
Questions about overseas locations are harder, said Holly, who described herself as a student who “pretty much gets ‘A’s.”
Her primary study tool? “We just bought” the National Geographic Collegiate Atlas of the World. Holly’s geography teacher, Douglas Lentz, compiled past bee questions. Her parents, Lee Brown and Julie O’Connor, quiz her, she said, on those materials.
“I’m a little nervous,” about the next level of competition, Holly said, appearing calm. She’ll be competing against 99 other students who “are studying as much as I am.” Students who received the top 100 scores on a second test will compete at the state level, Holly explained.
The winner of the state contest will go to Washington, D.C. for nationals.
Last year, Brown made it to the school’s top 10 in the geo bee.
The first bee test was like a quiz, according to Holly. “No stress.” She took a second qualifying test that felt more like an MCAS-type test, with a separate question book with the National Geographic logo on it and answer sheet.
When she competes at Worcester State University on March 30, most questions will be asked verbally, according to the materials she received about the geo bee.
At school, Holly said she likes French, math and science.
She’s “always been interested in different parts of the world” and likes to travel. She’s been to Chicago, St. Louis and Niagara Falls and, her dad pointed out, Hershey, PA.
“It’s fun,” Holly said, "to see different places and see how life is different in different parts of the world or country.”
So what other state does the Bitterroot Range run alongside? Idaho.