Seventh-grader Justin Carpenter is tops at Inza R. Wood Middle Schools geography bee

Which continent in the southern hemisphere experiences severe winds and is also the driest continent?

If you answered Antarctica, you might have stood a chance at the National Geographic Bee held at Inza R. Wood Middle School. Questions about the laughing kookaburra bird’s native habitat, the smallest Canadian province and Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall, stumped many, though not all, of the middle school competitors gathered in the school library Jan. 14.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Semifinalists battled through three tie-breaker rounds at Inza R. Wood Middle Schools geography bee Jan. 14. From left, Katie Walter, Ally Finkbeiner and Justin Carpenter all competed.Following seven rounds of questions, three finalists emerged. Based on their performance in the qualifying rounds, sixth-graders Katie Walter and Ally Finkbeiner joined seventh-grader Justin Carpenter in advancing to the final round of the school tournament arranged by teacher/librarian Stuart Levy.

The three finalists easily identified Maine as the state containing the city of Portland, home of the eastern terminus for an oil pipeline that originates in Canada. They had more trouble with the next few questions, concerning Chesapeake Bay, a desert region in China and the island of Bali. With no clear winner, Levy presented a series of tie-breaker questions.

Only one student was able to correctly answer this question: “The Donets Basin is an industrial area shared with Russia and which neighboring country to the west?”

Justin answered correctly — but how did he do it? He said that his answer, Ukraine, was an informed guess, based on his study of the atlases in his home.

“I use clues,” he said. “In my head I see Russia, and I go to the west and I see World War II and how they were grouped together. I just put down Ukraine,” he said.

Justin’s prize was a handsome almanac of geographic terms. He also won the right to compete for a spot in the state level Bee on April 4.

The next step will be to take the written multiple choice test that is given to winners of school geography bees. If he scores high enough, he will then be able to take part in the state Bee for a shot at the national Bee that will be held May 19 to 21.

“They look at all the different kids in Oregon who take the test and they take the top 100 kids to the Oregon geography bee,” Levy said.

To prepare for the quiz, Justin said that he planned to study a lot. Fortunately, he and his mother share an interest in geography and have a variety of atlases and maps in their home.

“I like maps in general,” Justin said. “I like looking at maps. I think mountain ranges and rivers are interesting, knowing what you want to go and see.”

Justin’s curiosity about geography spills over into his other studies.

His science classes are his favorites, he said.

“I like figuring things out. Even (geography) is figuring things out,” he said.

“I am very proud of him,” Justin’s mother, Debi Carpenter, said. She was at Wood to cheer for her son and because she shares his interest in geography.

“I’ve just always liked maps,” she said. “I’ve always loved history. I love seeing where things happen.”

Learn more — and test your geography knowledge — online at

Kate Hoots can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter: @CommuniKater.

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