Haddonfield Middle School’s Bisirri wins geography bee

Next step for eighth-grader is state championship in March.

Haddonfield Middle School eighth-grader George Bisirri – shown embracing the world via Google Maps – emerged victorious in the 2020 National Geographic Geography Bee on Jan. 9. Bisirri will next participate in the state championship, scheduled for March 27 at Rowan University.

Haddonfield Middle School eighth grader George Bisirri emerged victorious in the 2020 edition of the National Geographic Geography Bee, presented by HMS social studies teacher Mike Prevoznak.

Nearly 600 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students participated in the preliminary competition to determine the 32 students who competed on stage Jan. 9 — in front of the entire student body — for the championship. 

“I’ve always been interested in looking at maps of cities and stuff. I’m also interested in aviation, so when I look at airplanes and airports, it helps me better understand geography,” said Bisirri during a conversation at HMS Jan. 15.

Each year, nearly 10,000 schools — and hundreds of thousands of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Department of Defense-dependent entities — participate in the event. There are three levels of Geo Bee competition: school, state and national. 

Bisirri can now qualify for the New Jersey State championship, scheduled for March 27 at Rowan University.  

Befitting a world-renowned organization, categories within the geography bee were stratified. Some dealt with local issues, such as identifying states by their nicknames. Other queries probed the various physical features of different locales, such as the nature of Hawaii and its volcanoes. Still more concerned world locations and their parent nations.  

The preliminaries lasted for three rounds and was single elimination: one question wrong, and you’re out. In the next round, Bisirri said, there were only eight people left, and again, one wrong answer was enough to sink their chances. 

The final round came down to Bisirri and a seventh grader, where the pair had to answer three questions written on a white board. Whoever got the most right won. 

“I remember one of the questions was, I forget the name of the islands, but they were in the South Atlantic Ocean and Great Britain had control of it … That was the question (which I won the competition on),” Bisirri said.  

Whether he continues on, or another student knocks him from his perch, the New Jersey state winner will receive a cash prize, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the national championship.

“I was really happy that I won, because it shows that I was able to learn about various facets of geography,” Bisirri explained. “I have this app on my phone which has questions they would ask in the geography bee. I used that to prepare for the one here; I’ll be using that to prepare for the next round.”

At the nationals, contestants compete for more cash prizes, college scholarships and a vacation to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavor II expedition ship.

The National Geographic Geo Bee began in 1989, and, according to Prevoznak, Haddonfield schools’ participation stretched back to the inaugural competition. 

For further information about the geography bee, visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/student-experiences/geobee/