With the school-wide bee just days away, about 14 fourth- through sixth-graders are gathered in Ginger Becker?s classroom at Marion Elementary School, demonstrating uncommon fluency in the language of geography.
The energy in the room is palpable. Terms like Pangea, fiord, savannah, meander and atoll send most people scampering to a dictionary, but these students rattle off the definitions as easily as they would their home address.
Not bad for 8 a.m. on a Monday.
?The excitement is like a big vitamin for me,? said Becker, who teaches second grade. ?It?s kind of neat to see the kids get excited about it.?
It was Becker?s idea to start a Geography Club at MES. It began meeting last week, and combinations of the 28 students who signed up for it have been meeting each school day since.
?Our earth is just rich and full in the knowledge we can gain,? Becker said. ?I feel like sometimes geography is lost in our curriculum, and the kids need to have that knowledge base to be a well-rounded citizens.?
The students seemed to agree. Asked why geography was important, they were quick to respond.
?It gives you a chance to learn about a place you?ve never been to,? Ethan Thornborough said.
?Sometimes I want to go to every country in the world, and I want to know about all the countries when I go there,? Larry Zieammermann said.
Logan Waner offered, ?So I can learn about other countries and see what it?s like there.?
Some responses were more immediate and practical.
?You can learn better, so whenever you take a test you can get a better grade,? Joey Nickel said.
?If you?re flying, you know where the mountains are,? Brad Schultz said.
The students learn about places most of their classmates outside of the club probably don?t know about.
For Christian Becker, it?s the Badlands of South Dakota. For Jack Schneider, it?s the Caspian Sea.
It also whets their appetite to travel. Molly Hett is dreaming of a trip ?somewhere in China? while Nathan Baldwin has his eyes on Rome, Italy.
Geography Club will continue to meet every day until the bee on Friday afternoon. Becker said the club will continue on a weekly basis after that.
Activities, which begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 8:15 a.m., range from oral quizzes to game shows such as ?Landforms,? ?Earth Trivia? and ?Map Skills.?
?It?s a commitment, for some of them, to come this early,? she said. ?They get to bring their breakfast in, so it?s pretty casual.
?I think it builds their confidence as well.?
To qualify to compete in the school-wide bee, all students in the school take a written test. More than two dozen students are expected to compete in the bee, which begins at 1:30 p.m.