What are the capitals of Angola, Switzerland and Mozambique?
What continent is the Leaning Tower of Pisa located on?
What mountainous country is completely landlocked in South America?
Robert Maharry and Justin Cullen know the answers to all of those questions and more - and they are only in the sixth and seventh grades.
Maharry, a student at Alta Elementary School, and Cullen, a pupil at St. Mary's in Storm Lake, will showcase their geographic knowledge in Des Moines on April 4, as they will be competing in the Iowa Geographic Bee, a tournament that could be the first step toward a $25,000 college scholarship for the young middle schoolers.
Both pupils advanced to the state bee by winning their own school-level bees and then taking a written test on geography afterwards. The top 100 scorers on the test were then invited to compete in their own individual state or territory bee events, which will be held on the same day nationwide early next month.
The 55 winners of those statewide bees then travel to Washington, D.C., where they are able to compete for a $25,000 scholarship at the National Geographic Bee, held May 20-21. The second- and third-place winners will receive $15,000 and $10,000 scholarships, respectively.
Jeannie Strock, Maharry's teacher at Alta, said she encourages all of her students to take part in the school-level bee, and said Maharry has put in a lot of extra time and effort to maintain and enhance his knowledge of current geography and geopolitics.
"It's very exciting to have him go to the state level, because he's done a great job with this," Strock said. "All of the questions are pretty current, so the students really do have to study. They aren't all easy questions at all."
Maharry said he and his parents, Fred and Robin, looked through different atlases and other geographic material about 20 to 30 minutes each day prior to the school-level bee, and will likely continue that time commitment to geography each day leading up to the state competition.
The school bee was the first level in a competition that asks students a full range of geographic questions on topics such as the location of countries, terms of physical geography, maps, the trade, commerce and agriculture of different countries and the location of natural features, cities and tourist attractions in the United States and around the world.
While the answers to some questions, such as where Niagara Falls and the Great Pyramids are located, do not change, other questions have answers that are constantly changing. These could include questions asking about the names of leaders of different countries or what the biggest exporter of a certain crop was last year.
The first National Geographic Bee was held in 1989, and students in public, private and homeschool systems have participated each year since then.