Geography Bee Brilliance at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

The energy from the Pennsylvania Geographic Bee competition at the State Museum of Pennsylvania on Friday, April 1, was palpable! I was proud to be part of our GeoDecisions volunteer team that supported the event throughout the day, from judging and event logistics to exploring maps with waves of brilliant geographers from across the Keystone State.

GeoDecisions employees help Pennsylvania Geographic Bee contestants find answers to Keystone State trivia.

GeoDecisions employees help Pennsylvania Geographic Bee contestants find answers to Keystone State trivia.

Why Geography is So Important

I started the day with great conversation and perspectives from Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education staff. Nicole Eshelman, a high school teacher at Manheim Township High School and active member of the Alliance, stressed the importance of bringing geographic education into the classroom, and how she integrates real-life lessons learned into her curriculum. Kristin Byers, Program Manager for the Alliance and the Pennsylvania State-Level Coordinator for the National Geographic Bee, described the value of hosting a geography bee competition at a state museum rich with Pennsylvania history, and the education mission of the Alliance.

“Geography is important because I think young people need to have an understanding of geographic concepts so they can apply them to problem solving…geography is knowing how locations affect people and the environment and how we can interact better with people around the world,” – Kristin Byers discussing geography education on PBS Smart Talk Radio with Scott LaMar.

Listen to Kristin’s and Nicole’s WITF Smart Talk Radio interview, and see them in action on the Alliance FaceBook page.

Engaging Opportunity

As geography bee competitors began to arrive, I worked with GeoDecisions Analysts Kristin Ditterline and Amanda Guers to help students explore the museum’s Giant Map of PA in front of the amazing statue of William Penn in Memorial Hall. In addition to finding physical map locations and answering Pennsylvania trivia, we helped students navigate an amazing repository of Esri® Story Maps on diverse topics.

Chris Bley at Pennsylvania Geographic Bee.

Chris Bley at Pennsylvania Geographic Bee.

The 101 geography superstars asked insightful questions about the timeline of our parent company, Gannett Fleming (celebrating its 101st anniversary in 2016), from the significance of GeoDecisions’ IRRIS and TGIS work for the U.S. military, to how Gannett Fleming helps support the government. We also shared a few facts from Winter Storm Jonas, from amazing scenes of Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market (just a few blocks from the State Museum) under nearly three feet of snow, to popular Philadelphia sledding spots. And of course, the presentation wasn’t complete without an April Fools' favorite appropriate for the day (real bee geography).

Ideal Event Setting

During the afternoon portion of the competition, GIS Manager Tim Cooley, GISP, and Database Administrator Matt Allen served as preliminary round judges, as Kristin and Amanda helped keep contestants on schedule throughout the museum. To round out the day, I toured the museum’s amazing Pennsylvania Icons and PA Turnpike exhibits with students, parents, educators, and Chris Bley – a GeoDecisions application developer and our own resident photographer.

From all corners of the Keystone State, congratulations to every Pennsylvania Geographic Bee contestant including the 2016 winner, Benjamin Fischer, a 5th grader from Vida Charter School in Gettysburg. For a little bit more about GeoDecisions and presentation tidbits of the day, our student handout also is available here.

Stay tuned for more sights, sounds, and perspectives from the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

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