You can learn a lot from a map. Just ask 12-year-old Eric Juarez — he’s been studying maps since he was a toddler. “They’re very interesting to read and learn about different areas that you might not see every day,” said Eric, a sixth-grader at Scottsdale’s Mountainside Middle School.
Eric will get to show off his knowledge Friday at the Arizona Geographic Bee at Arizona State University’s Memorial Union, where he will be one of 100 students from around the state competing for top honors and a chance to represent Arizona in the national bee this May.
One student from each state will vie for the national title and a $25,000 scholarship in Washington, D.C., where “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate the contest.
At the state level, participants have won school competitions and completed a written qualifying test.
Forty-two of the fourth- through eighth-graders in the Arizona competition are from the East Valley.
This is Eric’s third time in the state geography bee, so he said he knows what types of questions to expect — capitals always come up, for instance.
“Those are pretty easy to remember,” he said. “There’s only 190 countries, and most of them only have one capital.”
But there’s more to the bee — and more to learn from maps — than city names and distances between landmarks.
For instance, world atlases hold information on a nation’s language and culture and offer a few hints about what life is like in those countries.
“You can tell from the life expectancy how life would be in different countries,” he said. “You can tell from Mozambique that quality of life probably isn’t pretty good because they live for only 33 years and have a lot of child mortality.”
And different maps hold different clues. Eric likes learning the names and altitudes of mountains he sees every day on his topographical satellite map of Arizona.
He also likes to study his family’s old atlas, which is about 20 years older than he is, to see how things have changed.
While Eric hasn’t made it past the preliminary rounds in the past two state bees, he has high hopes this year.
“It’s my third time,” Eric said, “and there’s an old saying that says, 'Third time’s the charm.’ ”
Scottsdale and Paradise Valley students in the Arizona Geographic Bee:
• Robert Sundermeier: Mohave Middle School
• Tessa Jessup: Pima Elementary School
• Joseph Schornak: Phoenix Country Day School
• Natalie Brown: Pope John XXIII Catholic School
• Eric Qi: Copper Canyon Elementary School
• Steven Bassett: Cocopah Middle School
• Kenny Hulpach: BASIS Scottsdale
• Eric Juarez: Mountainside Middle School
Arizona Geographic Bee
When: Noon Friday
Where: Memorial Union, Arizona State University in Tempe
Arizona Spelling Bee
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: KAET-TV (Channel 8) Studio A, Stauffer Hall, B Wing, ASU
Broadcasts: 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. April 18, 4:30 a.m. April 23 and 2 p.m. April 29 on Channel 8