Athol 7th grader wins school geography bee

  • Dylan Marion inside the Athol-Royalston Middle School Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Dylan Marion inside the Athol-Royalston Middle School Thursday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo


  • On the evening of January 24th, a small group of finalists participated in the school-wide National Geographic Bee at A.R.M.S. The finalists were from grade 5; Lorelai Roberts, Aaron Ouellet; grade 6; Katelyn Stone, Noah Wein, Riley Reed; grade 7; Dylan Marion, Brandon Ouellet, Emma Martin; grade 8; Jacob Quaille, Julia Lafosse. Contributed photo—

  • Athol-Royalston Middle School geography teacher Elly Hunter, left, awards 7th grader Dylan Marion with first place at this year's National Geographic Bee. Contributed photo—

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

ATHOL — A bridge connects Hokkiado to what island?

“Honshu,” declares seventh grader Dylan Marion, 12, repeating the winning answer — his answer — of the National Geographic Bee held last week at the Athol-Royalston Middle School.

“It’s the largest island in Japan, which is home to capital Tokyo,” he recites, sitting at a table in the Pleasant Street school’s library. Around him, students work on homework before Thursday’s lunch hour.

Over the past month or so, Dylan, who lives in Athol, stepped up his geography training to prepare for the school’s National Geographic Bee — which he entered but did not win last year — by watching videos and taking online tests.

In the weeks preceding the competition, teachers administered a schoolwide 20-question geography test in individual classrooms, and then selected the top seven or so achievers for the geography bee — a three-round knowledge competition held in the cafeteria that ended in a four-way tie. Those who reached the final round were fifth-graders Lorelai Roberts and Aaron Ouellet; sixth-graders Katelyn Stone, Noah Wein, Riley Reed; seventh-graders Dylan, Brandon Ouellet, Emma Martin; and eighth-graders Jacob Quaille and Julia Lafosse.

Questions are random and pulled from a large bank.

A tie-breaker followed the final round, which Dylan won with “Honshu.” Because of his achievement, Dylan was allowed to take an online 60-minute test this week to qualify for the state’s National Geographic Bee. Based on results, the top 100 students will be invited to compete later this year. The winner of that will receive a $50,000 college scholarship.

Dylan, a soft-spoken student who enjoys video games and reading, “flourished in sixth-grade geography. He’s bright, and has a lot of world knowledge,” said Elly Hunter, a sixth-grade geography teacher at the school. “He was a delight in class — always participated, and he knew all the answers.”

“I think he has a good shot at it,” she continued, noting that in past years other Athol-Royalston students have made it to the state competition.

For his part, Dylan noted that Hunter inspired him to learn geography, which is also his favorite subject. Geography is important for students to know because it conceptualizes their home in relation to the rest of the world, Hunter said.

“So that students of Athol have an understanding there’s life beyond their town of rural Massachusetts,” she noted.

Today, Dylan estimated that he knows every country, “all except Macau. Honestly, I know where every country in the world is, except for Macau,” he said, then explained, “it’s a micro-nation in Asia. I don’t know exactly where in Asia, but it’s in Asia.”

His future aspiration, aside from winning the state geography competition, is to travel the world, particularly to Greece.

“It’s just the landscape — all around southeastern Europe is all rolling hills. It’s beautiful,” Dylan said, noting his dream is to see the ruins of ancient Athens.

“I’ve only seen New England, part of Michigan, and Puerto Rico,” he said.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

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