by Dennis Dalman
Yazaan Anjum’s disappointment quickly turns into hope when he remembers he has three more years, three more tries at the Geography Bee.
Anjum, a Sartell fifth-grader, is one of 100 Minnesota students who competed in the State National Geographic Bee April 6 at Mankato State University. Yazaan is the son of Shakeel and Zurya Anjum.
In a preliminary round, he correctly answered seven questions but missed the eighth, which could have propelled him into the final round.
The question he missed was, “What is the national bird of Panama?” Correct answer: harpy eagle.
“I kind of got a little disappointed,” Anjum said. “But there will be three more GeoBees when I’m in grades six, seven and eight, so I’ll have three more chances.”
Last year, Anjum was the GeoBee champ at Oak Ridge Elementary School. This year, he attends Sartell Middle School, and his GeoBee advisor is Lori Dornburg, the school’s academic extensions coordinator. She and Yazaan’s mother accompanied him to the competition in Mankato.
Most of the GeoBee state competitors were seventh- and eighth-graders. There were only five fifth-graders competing among the grade levels, which was a bit intimidating for Anjum and the other younger students.
“Big kids were sitting next to me,” he said. “When questions were asked, I’d stand up and give the answers into a microphone.”
Yazaan was disappointed his father couldn’t come to the GeoBee. A physician for CentraCare, he had to work that day.
“If I’m in it again next year, then my father will be able to come, too,” he said.
The GeoBee covers a vast spectrum of knowledge of the world, including connections between history, culture, political realities and world-place locations.
Anjum gave some examples:
In Tehran, women were arrested for wearing casual, Western style clothing. In what country is Tehran? Answer: Iran.
Because of political instability, Venezuela had to close the airport in its capital city. What city is its capital? Answer: Caracas.
Anjum knew the answers to those questions. Not surprisingly, his favorite school subjects are history and social studies.
There is another “winner” in the Anjum family, Yazaan’s sister, Sumbla, of who he is very proud. Sumbla, an eighth-grader, will compete in the state Academic Triathlon competition in Woodbury in a couple of weeks.
Now in its 30th year, the National Geographic Geography Bee program takes place at the local and state levels, with the culminating National Bee held in Washington, D.C.
In previous years, a Sartell student, Gopi Ramanathan was twice a Minnesota champion and twice a competitor in the national competition. Anjum has had several conversations about the GeoBee with Ramanathan, who is now a student at Cornell University.
The Bee is open for students in grades four through eight. About 500 Minnesota schools are registered to participate each year in the GeoBee.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.