In late May and early June, local PBS stations  air the finals of the year's National Geographic Bee. This article explores the Bee and some tools you can use to hook your children on geography. The National Geographic Bee

On May 24, 2012, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Houston won the 2012 National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C.  Rahul Nagvekar, who has loved globes since he was three, and preparing for this contest since he was in fourth grade, won in a four-round tie-breaker. Rahul is the third Texan in four years to win the national bee., but this is not the best state performance: Michigan has had a winner in four years, and Washington State in five years. And while most of the state winners are in sixth, seventh ,or eighth grade, this year's winner from Idaho was a fifth grader , Matthew Miller, and from Hawai'i was a fourth grader, Mika Ishii.

The contest has seen homeschooled national champions in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007. There were two homeschooled state finalists this year, Caroline Peterson from Indiana and Philip Huang from Michigan.

Since 1989, National Geographic has been sponsoring a national geography contest, now called the National Geographic Bee. Like a spelling bee, students must answer questions in turn, and advance from local contests to a nationally televised final. The contest is open to public, private, and home-schooled students grades 4 through 8.. Students who compete must not have reached their 15th birthday on September first of the sign-up year. Students who are enrolled in more than 3 academic courses in grades 9-12 or above (college-level) are not eligible. School bees must have at least 6 students and produce one winner.  The sign-up process is described on the National Geographic website.

Preparing for the Bee

if you're looking for tips on how to study for the National Geographic Bee, the website has a "Study Corner"  where you can find information about and specific tools for preparing. There are links to 17 activities, and further recommendations for material to obtain (an up-to-date world map; an atlas, a geography reference and blank outline maps); suggestions for gaining geographic knowledge (for example, follow current events); and tips about analyzing the questions.

Expanding your Geographic Knowledge

If you or your child is inspired by the National Geography Bee and either wish to prepare for entry or learn more about geography, the National Geographic website offers a wide range of materials that can enhance geographic knowledge. Here are some materials and tools to help:

National Geographic Magazine is a gorgeous magazine for photographs, even before children can read the articles.  Each issue focuses on a variety of topics.

For back issues, you can check out the The National Geographic Magazine DVD collection has 122 years of the Magazine here.

There is also a version of the magazine devoted to children  ages 6-14, National Geographic Kids

As well as a version for younger children ages 3-6, National Geographic Little Kids.

A wealth of other products of various types are also available under the National Geographic aegis. On the site you can access daily news, articles in the magazines, maps, movies, blogs, and more. Online you can also:

* Visit the beta version of the education website.
* Play Atlas Puzzles
* Download games
* Play online puzzles and quizzes
* Use an interactive mapmaker
* Find activities and games
* A homework help section is under development.

If you are looking for materials to purchase for home, homeschool, or school use, you can find:

* Globes

* Map puzzles

* Historical Games

* Map software

* Atlases

* Apps and Games


Geocaching is a  cross between an educational outdoor activity and a game that families can play together. It involves using maps and compasses or GPS or a mobile device to find hidden treasure troves (caches) and/or create them for others to find.  A cache usually has a log book to record one's visit, and sometimes a collecting of trinkets for trading--you take one and leave one for the next visitors. There are several Internet sites where geocachers can either find records of where they should look for caches, or record their created caches for others to find. National Geographic encourages this and has an article about geocaching here. There are rules and etiquette points (geocachers should avoid crossing private property or ruining the game for others) that you can learn about online, starting with the links National Geographic posts at the bottom of the article.