National Geography whiz:8th grader from Mohave County representing Arizona in national geography contest

April 15, 2019

Students heading to state competitions to compete is common against other schools in the state to see who comes out superior. It’s rarely heard of for students to head to nationals to compete against students from other states to see who will come out reigning supreme.

For Christian Aquino, he made it through state and on his way to the national arena.

Christian, an eighth grade student at White Cliffs Middle School, is heading to Washington, D.C. to compete in the 31st National Geographic GeoBee National Championship May 19-22.

Christian has participated in the GeoBee for three years and has qualified for state every year. This year is the first year he is advancing to nationals.

But the GeoBee isn’t like a regular spelling bee, where participants have to spell a word correctly to move on to the next round, during this competition participants have to answer a geography question to advance.

Christian Aquino participated at the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee State Competitions in Tucson on March 29 at the University of Arizona, where he won to advance to nationals in Washington, D.C. May 19-22.(Photo courtesy of Mary Grace and June Aquino)

Christian has had an interest in geography for quite some time, his father, June Aquino said when Christian was 3 years old they owned a fridge magnet with a map on it.

“We would catch him just staring at it for I don’t know how long, just looking at that map,” Aquino said.

Among his peers, Christian was the one to come out on top and have the opportunity to take the qualifying test to see if he can participate in state. Sure enough, he passed the test, made it to state and will be representing Arizona at nationals.

“I really couldn’t believe it,” Christian said.

Questions don’t just include facts about the United States, but about the different areas across the world. Questions can be on subjects like the ocean, ecosystems, biodiversity, South America and any corner of the globe.

One of the questions he found difficult was about the first radio station, and of course one of the easier ones, was about the state of Arizona.

Dana Kunert, WCMS eighth grade teacher, left, presented Christian with certificates of achievement for his accomplishments during the GeoBee at the Kingman Unified School District school board meeting on April 9, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Mary Grace and June Aquino)

“Which state was a part of Mexico during the 1800s?” Christian said.

The winning question he answered to advance to nationals was, which strait divides the Australian state of Victoria from the island of Tasmania? The answer is the Bass Strait.

On March 29, Christian competed in Tucson for the state championship where he competed against students from across the state to see who will represent the state of Arizona.

Christian was also recognized at the Kingman Unified School District school board meeting on April 9 in front of KUSD staff and board members.

School board member, Jen Shumway, was Christian’s fourth grade teacher and said she is really proud of him and he has always been an exceptional student.

Christian would tell other students who are considering participating in the GeoBee, if their school offers it, to study hard and often.

If he wins at nationals, he can win a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II. Second place receives a $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash. Third place receives a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash. Seven of the runner-ups will receive $1,000 in cash.

For students to participate in the GeoBee, their schools must be registered and students in grades fourth through eighth grade are eligible to participate. For more information for educators, visit https://bit.ly/2I4y24z.