James Davis, an 8th-grader at Sabattus Central School, is a typical kid living in rural Maine. He likes the outdoors and his family. He likes to read, but isn’t concerned about being the smartest or best. But his proud parents — Jim Davis and Christine Smith — are ecstatic that he will soon be competing in the 22nd annual National Geographic Bee in Washington D.C.
Davis, 14, won the opportunity after beating the top 100 geography school bee winners in Maine last month. Nationwide, nearly 5 million students from fifth to eighth grades tried for one of the national spots, according to a National Geographic press release. This year marked the third time Davis competed at the state level and the fifth time he won his school competition.
On May 25, Davis will compete with 53 other state geography bee winners to find out who will make it to the final round. On May 26, the top 10 students emerge to compete for the national championship, which includes a $25,000 college scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to the Galapagos Islands. The final round will air at 6 p.m. (eastern standard time) that day on the National Geographic Channel and moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.
The National Geographic website press links display brief profiles of each of the state and U.S. territory winners and calls them “geography brainiacs.” Proof: Last year’s winner, 7th-grader Eric Yang of Texas, knew that Timis County shares its names with a tributary of the Danube in the western part of Romania.
Davis says he has no idea what his competition will be, but is simply looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with his parents and his younger brothers — Jared, 8, and Javin, 6. He’s happy to know every inch of Sabattus Pond and is appreciative of how much his 7th-grade social studies teacher has helped him.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be and why? My family doesn’t really travel much. The farthest I’ve ever been is Boston. If I could go anywhere, I think I’d stay in Maine. Maine is cool. You can hunt and fish. I like the country. I don’t like being around a lot of people – it makes me feel claustrophobic. Sabattus isn’t a big city, but there are always places you can go.
How did you get interested in geography? Since I was a little kid, I’ve always liked looking at maps. I used to like the colors on the maps and globes. Then I liked seeing what the world looks like. I just remember whatever I see. I started reading the depth chart maps for all the Maine lakes and stuff when I was about 8. I like science and history too, and you get a lot of geography that way. The History Channel is my favorite station to watch. I just like knowing interesting things, and if it’s interesting, I remember it. I don’t even know myself how I remember it.
How did it feel to win the state bee? I didn’t think I was going to win. I didn’t really want to win – I didn’t want all that pressure. This was my third one, and I had been getting farther and farther each year. Actually, I just got really lucky and got all of the easiest questions. Some of the questions that the other kids got, I didn’t know. I guess my parents are really proud of me.
What do you think the National Geographic Bee will be like? I have no idea what it will be like. It will probably be all rich kids. It seemed like it was all rich kids at the state bee. They probably have tutors and stuff. I don’t know. I think it’s cool that I get to go. I’ve never been to Washington D.C. before. The one place I want to see the most there is the Smithsonian (Institution). I bet that will be pretty interesting.
What are you doing to prepare for the national competition? I’ve been studying a lot. I take the daily quizzes on the National Geographic website as often as I can. I study with Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell after school. Mr. Caldwell has sort of been my mentor since I won the school geography bee in fourth grade. He’ll be going to Washington with me. (Jeff Caldwell teaches 7th-grade social studies and Judy Caldwell teaches fifth grade at Sabattus Central School).
What do you think it will be like to win the national bee? I guess it will be cool to meet Alex Trebek. It will be really cool and interesting to go to the Galapagos (Islands) and see all of the animals, because they’re all weird and strange. I’m not really thinking that far ahead.
What do you like to do for fun? I like to hunt and fish with my dad. I like to ride my four-wheeler. I like to sleep late. I don’t know. I like to go out in the woods. I like to hang out with my family. I guess just normal stuff.