GREENDALE, Wis. — Do you think you could identify the flag of Cyprus? Or could you determine which populations was the first to emerge from stage one of the demographic transition model in the late eighteenth century? Probably not. But a teenager from Franklin can, and he's putting his talent on display at the 2nd annual International Geography Championships. It's like the spelling bee, but for geography.
“I mean, I might not win. I kind of just want to do it for fun and knowledge. I don’t really care about winning that much, but obviously I want to win," 14-year-old William Peelen said.
He has loved geography ever since he was in 5th grade. His room is decked out with flags, globes, his bed sheets are a map of the world, and the centerpiece is a giant mural of a world map that takes up an entire wall.
Peelen said that he likes geography because it isn't linear like history. Things are constantly changing when it comes to geography and geo-politics, and that keeps things interesting for him.
"Well, with geography like there’s countries. The borders are always changing, like rivers change directions. Mountains can move and stuff like plate tectonics."
When it comes to the test though, it's not just about identifying borders of countries. Here are examples from a 2018 version of the test:
- Vredefort Crater is significant for which of the following reasons? A. it contains a massive saltwater lake B. it is the largest verified impact crater on earth C. it is the most important center of the diamond mining industry in South Africa D. it is the source of the Orange River
- Which of these pairs of countries have the greatest irrigated land area in the world? A. Mexico and Russia B. Pakistan and Brazil C. China and India D. the United States and Canada
- Which of the following best defines the term urban primacy? A. a city that is geographically situated at the center of the country in which it is located B. one city that serves as a national capital and serves no other significant function C. a city that serves as a cultural and economic center but is not the largest in population within its country D. a country that has a primary city with three to four times the population of the next largest city
They aren't easy questions at all, but Peelen is up to the test.
"I'm pretty excited, but I’m also a little nervous for it because its a pretty big deal," he said.
He studies for about two to three hours a day. He focuses on learning about countries region by region. He incorporates a mixture of books and videos to help him learn about all these different characteristics of these places.
The competition runs over seven days in Burlington with a day trip to Montreal. There are a total of nine tests throughout the competition. One test is specifically about North Macedonia. Whoever wins that competition gets to actually go on a trip to North Macedonia to visit the place they learned so much about.