CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Jacob Ramthun, an eighth grade student from Athens School in Mercer County, on Friday became West Virginia's 2009 Geographic Bee champion.
Ramthun was one of nearly 100 fourth through eighth grade students from across the state to compete for the title. Benjamin Taylor, a home-schooled seventh grader from Monongalia County, finished second. Samuel McClung, a seventh grader from John Adams Middle School in Charleston, finished in third place.
“Geography knowledge plays an increasingly important role in today’s global economy where students are not only competing with students in other states but with those in other countries,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “It is imperative that students are prepared to live in a diverse and tolerant society if they are to succeed. These students have grasped that knowledge and will benefit from it.”
As champion, Ramthun wins an all-expenses paid trip to the National Geographic Bee finals in Washington, D.C., in May. He also receives $100 and a National Geographic globe. First place in the national competition is a $25,000 scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Second and third place finalists will receive $15,000 and $10,000 scholarships, respectively.
The West Virginia competitors earned their place in the state competition by winning local geography bees and then getting a top score on a written exam prepared by the National Geographic Society. Geography bees also were held on Friday in the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Department of Defense schools.
The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. In a 10-country Gallup survey conducted for the Society in 1988 and 1989, Americans ages 18 to 24 scored lower than their counterparts in the other countries.
For more information, contact Regina Scotchie, social studies coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education, at (304) 558-5325, or the Communications Office at (304) 558-2699.