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Inquisitive youngster wins Madawaska Geography Bee

MADAWASKA, Maine — A seventh-grade Madawaska Middle School student with a keen interest in academic research won the Madawaska School District competition of the National Geographic Bee on Jan. 30.

Cole McCraith also won the Bee last year when he traveled to Farmington to compete in the state competition of the National Geographic Bee.

“I’m a person who likes to know more,” McCraith said on Wednesday.

Cole was one of 10 Madawaska students who won the first round of the geography bee in their grades 4-8 classrooms in December and moved on to compete in the District Bee.

The young geography enthusiast lives with his father, Sean McCraith, in Madawaska. His mother is Lacey Fox of Caribou.

Sean McCraith was deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army National Guard 133rd Engineer Battalion from 2013-2014, when Cole was 8 years old.

“When I was deployed to Afghanistan Cole wanted to know exactly where Afghanistan was and started researching all about Afghanistan,” Sean McCraith said. “By the time I came home, if you asked him any capital or country in the world, he could tell you. That is when he took an interest in geography.”

Cole McCraith said he was nearly stumped by a question in the District Bee pertaining to the capital of Poland, when he had difficulty understanding the pronunciation of Warsaw. However, once he asked Bee judges for a spelling confirmation of Warsaw, he was back on track and a final answer regarding a river in China sealed his win.

“I was excited, almost happy that I won it for the second time this year,” he said.  

Cole added that in his free time he enjoys playing video games and researching  information about the world on YouTube.

“He’s always coming up to me with these fun facts I know nothing about,” his father said. “He’s very smart.”

As a school district champion, the young McCraith took an online qualifying test with National Geographic for a chance to qualify for the state Bee in April. He will be notified on March 2 as to whether he qualified for the state competition.

The National Geographic Bee began in 1989 “in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States” and is “a geography competition designed to inspire and reward students’ curiosity about the world,” according to a press release from the National Geographic Society.

Bee questions are far from just basic city and country names. Sample questions provided in the release include: “Public steam baths called hammams are part of the culture in cities such as Casablanca and Marrakech in which African country?” (Morocco) and “Which country does not contain large areas of desert: Chad, Venezuela, or Iraq?” (Venezuela.)

Madawaska educator Connie Vanier coordinated the geography bee for the Madawaska School Department.

“This world is too globally connected to not know geography,” Vanier said.

Cole McCraith said he hopes to return to Farmington to compete in the state bee in April, and added he was motivated by more than academic curiosity.

“They have a hotel in Farmington with a  Jacuzzi and a pool,” the youngster said.

The other classroom winners who competed in the Madawaska District geography bee were: Chris Martin, Jenna Dube, Mason Ayotte, Sam Lausier, Jordan Clavette, Ian Beaulieu, Kyle Dube, Ben Caron and Hunter Schiesser.

For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.

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