Middle-schooler maps course from Hot Springs to D.C.

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published April 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 19, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Christian Boekhout, a seventh-grader at Hot Springs Middle School, won the Arkansas Geographic Bee and will represent the state in Washington, D.C., on May 20-22. This is the third consecutive year that Christian has won, setting a state record.

— Which Russian city, home to the Hermitage Museum, lies on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland? If you’re stumped, you may not be smarter than one Hot Springs seventh-grader.

Christian Boekhout answered “St. Petersburg, Russia” at the Arkansas Geographic Bee on April 5 and won the state title for the third year in a row. He will represent the state at the national level on May 20-22.

Christian, a student at Hot Springs Middle School, will find himself among 52 other competitors at the National

Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. Students ranging from fourth- to eighth-graders from across the country will compete in the bee. There are student representatives from all 50 states, along with three competitors from U.S. territories.

Christian’s mom, Sandra Billie, is proud of her son and his accomplishments.

“Christian gets in a zone when he’s on stage. He’s in his environment,” Billie said. “I don’t know how he does it.”

Christian said he is excited to go back to the National Geographic Bee. He started looking at maps and learning about places at a young age.

“I start studying early in the summer,” he said. “We have a policy where you can’t study the last day before [the bee].”

Christian and his family will get to spend about a week in the nation’s capital during the week of the bee and have the chance to explore what the city has to offer.

Christian said that on past trips to Washington for the bee, the competitors were taken into the Library of Congress and saw maps of the world made before some countries and landmarks were discovered.

“They took us into this room with all of these maps and globes that I didn’t even know existed,” Christian said.

Christian said his strategy on the oral questions is to cut out all extraneous information and focus on clues to guide him to the correct answer.

“You have to zoom in, like on Google Earth,” Christian said.

Although he is a National Geographic Bee veteran, Christian said he is always nervous before the competition.

“There’s no way you can learn everything,” Christian said.

The National Geographic Bee asks each student representative to bring a small gift to the competition to give to each of the other competitors.

The past two years, Christian gave the students Arkansas honey one year and quartz crystals the other. This year, he will take each of the competitors an “Arkansas stone,” whose geological name is novaculite, that is used to sharpen knives.

Christian said that at the end of the competition, he has 52 gifts to go through as if it were Halloween.

Although with three state titles under his belt, it would seem like all Christian does in his free time is study, the seventh-grader plays the saxophone, is on the quiz bowl team and is involved in Beta Club and student government at his school.

With all of his extracurricular activities, Billie said it’s harder for her son to find time to study, but he now uses the computer to study more broadly.

“Some of the questions just come out of left field,” Billie said.

Christian said he plans to watch last year’s competition to get his strategy together to make it to the top this year. He said he is hopeful, but he has one more year to compete nationally.

He’s just in seventh grade, and Christian isn’t completely sure what he wants to do as a career, but he wants to incorporate geography into his future and travel to the places he knows so much about.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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