Ben Hanson, a sixth grader at Jefferson Middle School, won Columbia Public Schools’ Geography Bee Wednesday evening.

Seven middle schoolers from across the district competed in the first district-hosted “CoMo GeoBee,” where students demonstrated their geographic knowledge by answering a series of situational and location-based questions. There was also a map reading round, said Joy Bess, the district’s K-12 social studies curriculum coordinator, who also helped organize the event.

Smithton Middle School student Max Casteel and Oakland Middle School student Ameir Smith, both eighth graders, placed second and third respectively. KOMU 8 anchor Emily Spain emceed the event.

The district has held geography bees in past years, which were formerly hosted by National Geographic, district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said in a news release Wednesday.

Bess said when National Geographic discontinued the bee, she and a group of middle school teachers started the GeoBee.

The district plans to have more GeoBees in the future, Bess said. She added it will continue to host a district competition for middle schoolers. Meanwhile, elementary schoolers in fourth and fifth grade will likely participate in contests within their individual schools. She said she expects there to be more schools participating in the future.

Bess said she hopes to potentially expand the bee to other local schools outside the district.

  • K-12 Education reporter, studying print journalism. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • K-12 education reporter, spring 2022. Studying print journalism. Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

  • I am an Assistant City Editor for Summer 2022. I study print journalism and political science at MU. You can reach me at, on Twitter @KAdissem, or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

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