Kansas Teen-Ager Wins First U.S. Geography Bee

From Associated Press

A teen-ager who attends a six-student church school in Great Bend, Kan., walked away Friday with the championship of the first National Geography Bee and a $25,000 college scholarship.

Jack Staddon, 6-foot-6 and 15 years old, correctly named a flat intermountain area in the central Andes to defeat Michael Shannon, 14, of Reading, Mass. The answer is altiplano.

Shannon, finishing second, will receive a $15,000 scholarship, while Kieu Luu, the third-place winner from Landover, Md., won a $10,000 scholarship. The money will be put into interest-bearing accounts until the winners go to college.


Some 15,000 to 20,000 schools in 55 states and territories participated in preliminary rounds of the bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and open to students in grades 4 through 8. The 55 state and territorial winners, aged 10 to 15, were in Washington this week for semifinals and the 10 top winners competed Friday.

Moderator Alex Trebek, host of the long-running TV trivia quiz show, “Jeopardy,” used maps and slides in questioning contestants on everything from Zanzibar’s most profitable 19th-Century trading commodity (cloves) to the two points connected by the Alaskan pipeline (Valdez and Prudhoe Bay).

The National Geography Bee, set to become an annual event, is part of a campaign by the National Geographic Society to improve geography education. The group also sponsors teacher workshops and various other programs for students.

The initiative was launched after an international Gallup Poll commissioned by the society in 1988 showed that Americans rank among the bottom third in geographic knowledge. Those aged 18-24 came in last.