Do you know which desert is considered the oldest in the world? Or when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s expedition discovered the South Pole? (It’s South Africa’s Namib Desert, and in 1911 for those wanting to keep score.)
If you knew the answers, you may want to consider entering the Canadian Geographic Challenge. Grade 7 student Liam S., a member of the Middle School Geography Club, recently qualified for the Canadian Geographic Challenge National Final, after winning the school competition and then scoring high at the BC competition. He’s now one of 20 students among the best in Canada invited to participate in the National Final later this month.
“I was shocked when I learned that I got in the top 20 in Canada,” says Liam, who will compete against Grade 7-10 students in the national competition. “I’m a little bit nervous but mostly excited for it.”
He says his interest for geography began when he got an atlas for his sixth birthday. “I really liked that atlas. I enjoyed looking at all the places around the world.”
Since then, Liam’s interest has grown into a passion.
“I love to learn facts about places all around the world. I find learning about the people and culture of different areas very fascinating,” he says.
The Geography Club was new this year, and ran during Term 2 for Grade 7 and 8 students. Upwards of 20 students enjoyed spending lunch hours learning about and discussing geography topics.
“I really wanted to do this club because I knew there were students who are interested in geography, and it gives them an environment where they can spend time together and learn geography through quizzes and puzzles,” says Middle School teacher Jane Rees.
She says the format of the club also allowed students to prepare for the Canadian Geographic Challenge, if they so chose to compete.
The subject matter of the Challenge ranges beyond the scope of simply knowing world capitals, though Liam says that is his forte. Students can be quizzed on anything and everything geography related, from bodies of water and mountain ranges to demographics and exploration.
“Weather is the area I’m not the most experienced in so I will spend time studying that (before the competition); cloud formations, different kinds of precipitation; natural disasters,” Liam says.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s competition will be held entirely virtually. In a normal year, the top 20 would take the first two parts of the competition (a written test and a field work test) from school, and the top 5 students would then travel to Ottawa for a game show-like final round. This year’s final round will be virtual, too.
While it’s still a few years away, Liam says he’s already thinking about studying geography after graduation, potentially looking at a career in cartography.
Jane says she hopes Liam’s success following a passion inspires other Middle School students to do the same.
“It speaks to the idea that when you have a passion and interest in something, there are opportunities for you to explore that further, and we love to support students on that journey,” she says. “It’s extraordinary how well Liam has done. I know the level and depth of the questions, and for him to have performed as well as he has against students across Canada as old as Grade 10 is an amazing accomplishment.”