AYER -- In 1985, a light was shined on the need for emphasizing geographic literacy through an essay titled "Geographic Ignorance: Time for a Turnaround," written by National Geographic Society's president Gilbert Grosvenor. An act of Congress a few years later, additional attention was drawn to this issue when Congress instituted Geographic Awareness Week, which is celebrated during the third week of November.

According to National Geographic, geographic education provides the values, knowledge, concepts and skills to better understand ourselves, our relationship to the earth and our interdependence with other peoples of the world. The Page Hilltop School in Ayer is embracing all of these ideals and has instituted a geography bee to allow the fourth- and fifth-graders to show off their "geo-knowledge."

To start out, each classroom administered geography assessments, and the top two scoring students from each class went onto the bee. In late January, the fourth- and fifth-graders assembled in the school's cultural arts room to support the contestants for the bee: Garreth Austin, Abigail Clemence, John Dupell, Amy Esielionis, Nick Granger, Max Leger, Olivia Logan, Will MacDonald, Anthony Mavilia, Olivia Oestreicher, Riley Plamondon, Davis Preston, Jakob Roy, Dawson Testa, Alex Mills and Leo Simpson.

Hours went by and many challenging questions were asked about rivers, deserts and mountain ranges within the United States.

"This was an exciting competition that showcased a high level of knowledge and academic excellence on behalf of the student competitors," Page Hilltop Principal Fred Deppe said. "I was pleased to have our school host a geography bee this year, to go along with our annual spelling bee. This event provides our students with another opportunity to celebrate academic excellence. I believe it is important for students to learn all about our wonderful country as well as the global community that they will grow up in. This event provides certain students with their moment to shine."

After numerous rounds of the competition, including a postponement to another day due to the necessity of additional rounds, a winner was finally crowned. Fourth-grader Alex Mills was named the first Page Hilltop National Geographic Society's Geography Bee winner, with fifth-grader Leo Simpson coming in as the runner-up.