Benny Binder wins Edgartown School geography bee

Where in the world did the Geography Bee finalists pose for this photo? From left to right: Molly Pogue, Spencer Pogue, Samantha Hargy, Connor Donnelly, John Morris, Curtis Fournier, Matheus Brito, Auguste Pizzano (in back), Benny Binder, Hannah Rabasca, and Owen Hess in repose. — Photo by Gail Gardner

For fifth-grader Benny Binder, Edgartown School’s 23rd National Geographic Society geography bee all hinged on one question. Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, is located in the Rhineland region of what country?

Benny answered “Germany,” and clinched the win over his worthy opponent, six-grader Curtis Fournier, at the conclusion of a fierce competition on January 26.

“The two duked it out back and forth in the last rounds,” fifth-grade teacher Gary Smith, the bee’s coordinator, said.

About 130 students in grades four through eight took part in previously held classroom geography bees, which determined the 11 semi-finalists. The school-wide competition was held in the gymnasium and attended by all students. Library media specialist Ashley Lambacher served as the bee’s moderator and cafeteria manager Gina DeBettencourt and head custodian Mike Lynch as judges.

“The bee was very competitive this year, and the students went numerous rounds, with the final few very exciting,” Edgartown School principal John Stevens said. “The kids answered a lot of very difficult questions related to graphs and geography questions, using high order thinking skills, not just rote memory.”

As the winner, Benny was given the opportunity following his school bee to complete a written test, in order to try to qualify as one of the top 100 geography students in the state.

Each state winner is invited to Washington, D.C., in May for the national finals to compete for a $25,000 grand prize scholarship awarded by the National Geographic Society. Edgartown school eighth grader Conor Smith competed at the state level in 2008.

Benny received a medal and a certificate of championship, and his name will be engraved on a plaque with past winners hanging in the school lobby.

He also received a large atlas, as did the other competitors, including fourth-graders Molly Pogue, Spencer Pogue, and Hannah Rabasca; fifth-graders Benny Binder and Matheus Brito; sixth-grader John Morris; seventh-graders Owen Hess and Auguste Pizzano; and eighth-graders Connor Donnelly and Samantha Hargy.

Benny, age 10, is the son of Barbara and Richard Binder of Edgartown.