SF sixth-grader to compete in California State National Geographic Bee 

For the past month, 11-year-old Henry Rothert has spent each one of his 30-minute bus rides to and from Marina Middle School with his nose is buried in an atlas.

The sixth-grader had no idea until this school year that he has a self-described knack for geography. Henry discovered the skill after qualifying earlier this month to compete as one of 100 semifinalists in the California State National Geographic Bee on March 27.

The winner of that bee will go on to participate with other state champions in the National Geographic Bee Championship to be held in May in Washington, D.C.

Henry surged to the top of his class after Marina Middle School teacher Jennifer Sparks kicked off a series of geography competitions in the school’s 22 social studies classes. The sixth-grader beat out all the other students in his school to ultimately take a written exam from the National Geographic Society.

The exam tested Henry’s knowledge of U.S. cities and states, countries, mountains, rivers and other bodies of land worldwide — subjects he had never been particularly interested in before, but for which he quickly identified a skill set. He found out he qualified for the state bee March 2.

“I remember I had read a few years ago something in an atlas that ended up being really important,” Henry said. “[It was] the capital of Poland being Warsaw. I remember seeing that in an atlas.”

Since qualifying for the state bee, Henry has been hitting the books with his best friend, Zephyr Anderson, who made flashcards to help Henry study. The school principal and library teamed up to buy Henry an atlas, and teachers and students have been rallying behind Henry as well.

“I’m pretty excited. I try not to think about it a ton, just study,” Henry said. “I know if I think about it I’ll get supernervous.”

Up to 100 top-scoring students from each of the 50 states and U.S. territories will compete in the state bees. In addition to heading to the national championship, winners will receive $100 and a “National Geographic Atlas of the World, 10th Edition.”

The national champion will receive a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, plus as an all-expenses-paid trip to the Galapagos Islands.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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