Kaylan Patel is preparing for a new season of geography bees, which will culminate in Berlin, Germany, next summer
WINDERMERE With Windermere Preparatory School’s geography bee one week away, sixth-grader Kaylan Patel is going into the competition with an ace up his sleeve.
He already has qualified for the international geography bee taking place in Berlin, Germany, next summer.
But that doesn’t mean he’s taking it easy this year. He’s studying harder than ever, putting in about 20 hours of studying every week.
His journey to the international stage started two years ago when he qualified for his school’s bee in fourth grade.
“Out of the blue, our teacher told us to take this test,” Patel said. “I had no idea what it was for. My teacher told me the next day that I had qualified for the school geography bee. Before that, I had never heard of a geography bee.”
Patel always had a knack for memorization, even when he was little. He was once gifted a map of the United States and quickly memorized all the states and their capitals. From there, he began memorizing foreign countries and capitals.
“It was natural to me just knowing these things,” he said.
But when he won Windermere Prep’s geography bee that first year as a fourth grader, he surprised himself.
“Everyone was shocked,” he said. “I was surprised and shocked, because I didn’t expect to win.”
Since then, Patel has immersed himself in learning everything he can about geography. He has a collection of atlases and history, travel and quiz books that he reads daily. He examines maps, looking at everything from cities to topography, because geography bees aren’t just about knowing cities and countries.
“You have to know history and culture,” he said. “If you don’t know where a mountain or island is, knowing the spelling or how a word is said can help you figure it out.”
For Patel, the physical geography category is the hardest. Those questions are often scientific, addressing things like climate, ocean currents or even icebergs.
That’s why Patel studies every single day.
“I started studying more, because the questions are getting harder,” he said.
In addition to studying, competing in multiple competitions every year helps him learn more, he said.
“I’m getting more and more questions that some other kids (who I’m competing against) might not know because they weren’t at that competition,” he said.
Last year, in addition to competing in the National Geographic Competition at the state level, Patel also competed in the International Geography Bee and the North South Foundation Geography Bee where he placed fifth and second in the country, respectively.
It was that fifth place win that qualified him to go to the International Geography Bee in Berlin, Germany, and it’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“I get to go against people from other countries,” Patel said. “And the questions might be harder, so I might get something I’ve never heard of before.”
But before he gets to Berlin, Patel has another goal. In addition to winning Windermere Prep’s bee, he wants to win the state bee and advance to the prestigious National Geographic Bee in Washington D.C.
“I want to try to make it to the top 10 for the national bee this year,” he said.