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Jon Pardeon with Nathen Mercer, Nathan Gorman and Ethan Jacobson


The Geography Bee has been a beloved tradition for Lincoln Elementary students since it began in 2015. The idea originated with memories of teacher Jon Pardeon’s school days when a teacher used a timeline with maps in classroom discussions of history. It made the lessons come alive, he recalled.  

As the Geography Bee entered its 16th and final round this year, focused on world capitals, just two students were left, sixth-graders Nathan Gorman and Nathen Mercer. Their excitement and nervousness were visible to everyone watching. Gorman hopped in place a little, while Mercer wiggled. Teacher Jon Pardeon nodded at 2019 Geography Bee winner/current Corona del Mar High School student Dania Obaidi to ask the first question.

All interested fifth- or sixth-grade students at Lincoln are given study packets by their teachers starting in January. Pardon incorporates elements of the National Geographic curriculum, art history, famous photographs, state senators, and United States presidents to give students a well-rounded worldview. 

“I wanted the Geography Bee to be challenging for the students, but I also wanted them to have fun,” Pardon said.

A scheduled full-group study session gives students an overview of what to expect at the Geography Bee. Some students also met in their own groups to study together for the qualifying tests, which mainly consisted of blank maps. This year, 17 students qualified to compete in the Bee. 

“This is a highlight of our school year. These students have diligently studied for months for this big, exciting moment. It’s a unique learning experience, and the students truly support one another. I’m proud of all of them,” said Principal Kristin DeMicco. 

students compete in Lincoln's Geography Bee

The students were quizzed by Pardeon and two past Bee winners while two winners from the 2023 Bee kept score. Maps lined one wall, as students lined up with sheets of colored dot stickers. The rounds flew by, with the students sharing their knowledge of the world’s continents, countries, and oceans, as well as the United States, while placing red, blue, or green dots on maps, often turning to Pardeon for confirmation once their hands were off the sticker. If a student missed the mark, he simply responded, “Good try.”

A screen was lowered for rounds focusing on art history, iconic photographs, historical landmarks, and politicians. In keeping with the geography theme, students named where artworks were created and where they are located now. 

Sixth-grader Leo Nguyen whispered, “I know this one” as Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” appeared onscreen. He smiled as he correctly answered Tokyo, Japan, for the painting’s location then and now. Fellow sixth-grader Shwaas Kurada bounced over to congratulate him as they waited for the next round.

Fifth-grader Ethan Jacobson left the penultimate round as the third-place finisher. He smiled at his friends and wished them both luck. “I’m coming back next year, and I’m going to win,” he said later. 

In the end, this year’s Geography Bee was won by Gorman, who was one of four champions from 2023. “I love geography and history, and the Geography Bee combines both of those things. It was fun competing last year, and this year was more exciting. I know I’ll be back to help next year,” he said.