A quick chat with Geography Bee champ Clyde Kelly.
N MAGAZINE: Can you give us an example of a really hard question you could get asked in the bee?
KELLY: “What is the longest river in South Africa?” or “What is the largest city in Turkmenistan?”
N MAGAZINE: When you’re answering a tough question like that, what’s going on in your mind? Are you visualizing the map?
N MAGAZINE: Outside of the United States, what region of the world are you most familiar with and why?
KELLY: I try to balance my knowledge of the world throughout many regions, but I am most familiar with European geography. Since it is the focus of a lot of wars and political revolutions, I have based a decent amount of research around it.
N MAGAZINE: Is there a part of the world that you really want to visit after training for this competition? If so, where and why?
KELLY: Training for this competition has taught me about the cultures of many countries, so I would love to travel to all different parts of the world. I would love to check out places such as Japan or the Scandinavian countries because they both have such different features from Nantucket.
N MAGAZINE: How do you train for a competition like this?
KELLY: Most of my training for the state bee has been with my teacher from fifth grade, Mr. Lucas. He is currently the sixth grade geography teacher, so I am able to go to his room and study with him after school most days. We cover a broad variety of subjects, including bodies of water, mountain ranges, political divisions, and history of regions. He quizzes me often, and working with him has been massively helpful.
N MAGAZINE: And it’s not just about memorizing maps, right? You need to know all sorts of information, right?
KELLY: Studying maps is certainly beneficial, but there is a lot of content that maps cannot provide. Knowing historical events and culture is just as important as knowing physical features.
N MAGAZINE: Did you find it difficult training for the competition while also juggling your school work? How did you manage your time?
KELLY: Studying for the competition has not affected my ability to handle schoolwork. My schoolwork is my top priority, so I would study for the geography bee right after school so I still had plenty of time to do homework in the evening.
N MAGAZINE: What’s one thing you’ve learned from this experience that surprised you?
KELLY: The thing that has surprised me most is the huge amount of content to learn. If you wanted, you could study forever and still have ground to cover. One surprising (and sad) fact I learned is that since the late 70’s the Aral Sea has been steadily draining due to human activity, and is now almost completely dry.
N MAGAZINE: What advice would you give someone who is trying to get better at geography?
KELLY: One of the things that I have been doing before I even knew about this competition is simply reading about and researching the world, one region at a time. Following what you find interesting is bound to give you some good knowledge if you dig around a bit.
N MAGAZINE: What part of Nantucket’s geography do you find most interesting and why?
KELLY: I think the most interesting thing about our geography here on Nantucket is the effort to save it. Because so much of the land on our island is conserved, we are able to keep things such as our marshland and animal life thriving and undisturbed. There are not many communities that can say that, so it just makes the island that much more special.