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What is the name of the only Dutch-speaking country in South America?


Well, Siddharth Shah will tell you it’s Suriname, and he is right! Siddarth is a 4th grade student at Cumberland Elementary School whose interest in geography prompted his father, Jignesh Shah, to start a Geography Club at Cumberland. The club holds weekly after-school meetings and is open to all Cumberland students. Eighteen students joined the club in the fall and club members enjoyed learning the basics about US and World Geography. This spring, the club has 12 students and each week one club member presents a geography lesson on a country/region of his/her choice. They also play geography-related games and take quizzes. They learned a fun song which has the names of all 50 states and their capitals.


This is the first year that Cumberland has participated in the National Geographic Bee. A minimum of six 4th-8th graders (in Cumberland’s case, 4th-5th graders) are required. Cumberland PTA paid the registration fee of $100. Nathalie Faure, 4th/5th grade teacher at Cumberland, devoted her time and energy to administer and grade the written and oral tests in December. Eleven students took part in the Bee, and a school champion was selected, which happened to be Siddharth. He then took a written test which was sent to the National Geographic Society, and the top 100 students (4th-8th graders) from California were called to the State Bee (April 5th, Consumnes River College, Sacramento) where a State champion was crowned. Siddharth, as a 4th grader, was one of the youngest semi-finalists. The winners of all 50 states and territories qualify for the National Finals in Washington D.C., May 20-22, which is hosted by Alex Trebek.


The State Geographic Bee was held on April 5th at Consumnes River College in Sacramento. One-hundred-and-five 4th-8th graders from all over California were invited, out of which around 65 were from the Bay Area, and only five 4th graders.

In the preliminary round, there were 8 questions ranging from US, World and Current Events. Siddharth got 7 out of 8 correct. However, that was not enough to advance to the next round. He was ranked 30th out of 105. The Championship round was very interesting and the winner was a Bay Area student, Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, a 6th grade student at The Nueva School in Hillsborough. Siddharth enjoyed the experience and hopes to attend again next year.

For a school to participate, the principal has to send the registration fee and a letter to National Geographic requesting participation and designating a teacher as the main contact (deadline is in the Fall). More information may be found at Jignesh Shah hopes the interest in the Geography Bee continues at Cumberland and that it can spread to other Sunnyvale District elementary and middle schools. He is thankful for the support he receives from Cumberland’s principal, teachers, and PTA. Shah is excited that the Bee gives everyone an opportunity to learn more about our planet, he shares, “as the world gets smaller and resources scarcer, there is a need to understand our world and each other better.”

Article by Nina Wong-Dobkin, with input and photos from Jignesh Shah, Cumberland Elementary School parent

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