Do you ever play along with the TV show “Jeopardy!” For years, I’ve tried to match wits with the game show’s contestants and although I do know a good number of the answers (or I guess I should say, questions), I just can’t react fast enough. Sometimes the answer is right there on the tip of my tongue, within reach and I can’t close the deal.
Oh well, I accepted the fact long ago that I’d never be on the show.
At this morning’s Geography Bee, I also played along ... in my head. This is the annual event that at the local level, challenges the geography skills of Philomath Middle School students. They all take a test and from the results, eight finalists are determined. This year’s winner was sixth grader Levi Storch. (Check out the story here).
The questions range in type (some you just answer, others you write down, one was a multiple choice) and area of expertise. For example, the first round was limited to geographic areas or features in the United States. The following rounds covered areas such as habitat, oceans/continents, map reading and the world.
In the very first round, one question had me stumped and the student that was unfortunate enough to get it had an immediate miss. I can’t remember the exact spots that were part of the question but the answer was Alaska. There were a few key words in the question that made me think it was Alaska and I had a correct guess.
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For the rest of the morning, I probably had the incorrect answer on two or three occasions (I was busy keeping track of the students’ performances, not my own). In the championship round, the first question involved the location of the Mobile River — the last-known slave ship to sail to America was discovered there within the past few years. My sister was born in Mobile, Alabama, and so that one turned out to be easy.
The Swedish city where climate change activist Greta Thunberg made headlines was Stockholm. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t think of the name of the city in time — the Jeopardy! curse reared its ugly head. The last question involved the identity of the country that rules over the Ascension Islands territory and Great Britain is the answer.
I’m not the only one that plays along. I know some of the teachers do the same. I asked the co-organizers, social studies teachers Meegan Benbow and Rachael Dawes, if they could’ve answered all of the questions and they both said no. It’s amazing some of the knowledge that students at the middle school possess — especially a certain winning sixth grader.
The Geography Bee is one of my favorite school events to cover. As it turns out, this was the bee’s 30th year. It started back at the local level in 1991 by Mark Dorr. He ran it for several years before passing the torch to Paul Miller, and he organized it until his retirement in 2018.
Side note: I actually did try out for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” back in the early 2000s when Regis Philbin was hosting the prime-time series. At that time — the audition process has changed over the years — you called a toll-free number and participated in a timed phone quiz. I remember answering the questions correctly and hearing a recording that my name would go into a random drawing. If chosen, I would move on to the next step.
I’m sure my name went into the hat with many thousands of others. As you might guess, I was never notified that my name had been drawn for the next round.