Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards Submission: US Geography Challenge

The sixth and final entry for the inaugural Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards has been officially submitted.  David Madden and Enrico Contolini propose to advance the United States affiliate for the International Geography Olympiad.

Feel free to comment on the proposal and let the board know what you think!

Project Name

US Geography Challenge

What is your definition of geography?

The word geography derives from Greek and it means ‘to write about the earth.’ Expanding on that, we also understand the term geography to include a full accounting of the physical spaces of our planet, and humanity’s interactions with them. Ultimately, geography impacts poverty, rivalries between peoples and nations, public health, environmental concerns and nearly all of the other major issues facing our world today. We hope and expect the US Geography Challenge to encourage American students to learn more about the world and its people, embrace a spirit of thankfulness for the advantages they have in life, and work toward a more just world.

Explain what your project is and how it would be accomplished.

The US Geography Challenge ( is meant to be the official qualifying competition for US high school students for the International Geography Olympiad (also known as “iGEO” - see held every summer in a different country around the world.  Founded in 1996, iGEO has never had a participating USA team, as no one has ever established a nationwide qualifying competition for it until now. The organizers of the USGC have been coordinating with both the National Council for Geographic Education in the USA, and with the organizers of iGEO to make it possible to field a US team beginning in 2013, consisting of the top students from the USGC National Championships. Additionally, the USGC is meant to fill a gap in academic competitions for high school students, as there is currently no widespread national geography knowledge competition for US high school students (the National Geographic Bee is only for 4th-8th graders).

The US Geography Challenge consists of about 80 regional competitions held during the school year throughout the United States. For the first year, these will consist of a geography knowledge exam, though once the USGC reaches a critical mass of participating students, the regional competitions will be extended to mirror the National Championships in format. The National Championships, which will be held in the Washington, DC area in the spring, will consist of three different exercises.  Two of these will be a written-response exam and a multi-media exam, both of which will be modeled after the two such exams that are part of iGEO. The third part of the National Championships will be an exciting, buzzer- based geography quiz tournament, with in-depth questions designed to reward a broad knowledge of geography. As the top half of students at each regional competition will qualify for the National Championships, this inclusive approach will also help to encourage students from around the country to learn more about geography.

The US Geography Challenge will also initially utilize the resources and infrastructure of The National History Bee and Bowl, a successful academic competition that has been held across the USA since 2010 and has seen the participation of thousands of students ( The regional competitions and the National Championships of the USGC will be held in conjunction with the regional and national competitions of The National History Bee and Bowl, which will provide a natural base of students who will be interested in participating in both competitions. David Madden, a co-founder of the USGC, is also the founder and President of The National History Bee and Bowl, and thus has considerable experience with establishing nationwide academic competitions.

Explain how your project would be useful in promoting geo-literacy.

Many US states do not include much geography education in their required high school standards and curricula. This has resulted in a lack of geography literacy among young Americans. The US Geography Challenge will not only offer an exciting opportunity to participate in a competition, but will also offer a Facebook page ( where students interested in geography can interact with each other and discuss geographic topics and issues. Combined with an incentive to learn more about geography by competing in the USGC, this will help stimulate geo-literacy and an interest in geography among students across the USA.

Explain what your project’s “afterlife” will be (distribution, legacy, etc.)

Some 15,000 elementary and middle schools participate each year in the National Geographic Bee.  The US Geography Challenge thus provides a way for hundreds of thousands of students to continue competing and keep learning more about geography in the process. Over time, the USGC will continue to grow and expand in the USA, while at iGEO, the American students who participate will have a unique opportunity to meet other highly talented geography students from around the world. Finally, we also anticipate that we will enter into sponsorship relationships with other geography and educational organizations (e.g. exchange student programs, programs for American students to volunteer overseas, and geography departments at colleges) which will provide further opportunities for students participating in the USGC to take full advantage of their geographic knowledge and interests.

Additional File:  Flyer for the US Geography Challenge

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