VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Seventh-grader Ben Rieber won the Valhalla Middle School Geography Bee last December by knowing that Vancouver was a Western Canadian city that hosts a soccer championship.
In April, he competed in the New York Geographic Bee State Finals and tied for 21st place. After winning his school’s competition, he passed an online test in January to qualify for the state bee. Then, over Spring Break, Rieber raveled to Albany to compete. He was happy to participate at such a high level, but was nervous as he did not know his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
The students were given eight questions – one of which was knowing an Algerian mountain range and another requiring knowledge of animals in a specific region. They needed to answer seven correctly to advance to the next round. Rieber got six correct.
“I was pretty happy about it overall,” he said. “Some of the questions were pretty hard. I was kind of upset that I didn’t make it further. But I did better than most others, so I’m proud of that.”
Rieber’s interest in geography began two years ago and was sparked by a curiosity about places he liked. He began looking up random facts about countries he wanted to visit, and later put more effort into his research. In addition to studying American geography, Ben likes learning about Europe and the Middle East because they are very diverse and represent many cultures. Similarly, he enjoys his social studies class at Valhalla Middle School, and is also a fan of science and art.
“Ben is such a talented guy,” said Valhalla Middle School teacher Brett Erenberg. “I didn’t know how gifted he was. He’s a modest guy and I admire him a lot. He is our school’s geography celebrity.”