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Edgeworth, Osborne students move on in geography bee competition

| Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, 3:24 p.m.
Fifth-grader Matthew Henry, middle, stands with two other National Geographic Bee participants from Osborne Elementary School that was held in January 2018. Matthew won his school's bee and took a state qualifying test for the statewide competition.
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Fifth-grader Matthew Henry, middle, stands with two other National Geographic Bee participants from Osborne Elementary School that was held in January 2018. Matthew won his school's bee and took a state qualifying test for the statewide competition.
Edgeworth Elementary School fifth-grader Reagan Fowler won his school's National Geographic Bee in January 2018. Reagan took a state qualifying test for the statewide competition.
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Edgeworth Elementary School fifth-grader Reagan Fowler won his school's National Geographic Bee in January 2018. Reagan took a state qualifying test for the statewide competition.

Did you know it's illegal to die in Longyearbyen, Norway, due to permafrost that prevents bodies from naturally decomposing in the cemetery? Edgeworth Elementary School fifth-grader Reagan Fowler does.

Last month, Reagan and Matthew Henry, a fifth-grader at Osborne Elementary School, won their respective school competitions of the 2018 National Geographic Bee. Some 10,000 schools across the U.S. participated in the annual contest.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students across the district took a preliminary geography test to see who would qualify for the bee, Edgeworth fifth-grade science and social studies teacher Brigid Robertson said.

Each school-wide competition — Edgeworth with 26 students and Osborne with 25 — featured seven preliminary rounds, a final round and a championship round.

During the championship round, with two students remaining at Osborne, Matthew found himself facing one of his best friends.

“It was almost like a joke to us before. We said, ‘There is no way we are both getting to the top two,'” Matthew said.

Matthew pulled through and won an opportunity to take a qualifying test for the Pennsylvania state bee set for April 6.

His commitment to preparation showed when he asked his teacher, Lara Grogan, for extended study time before taking the preliminary test. He is applying that same commitment as he prepares for the state qualifying exam, which he took last week.

“I've been studying on the National Geographic website, and I've been on a few other sites just checking out what they have for me to learn,” Matthew said.

Reagan said he was surprised when he came out on top in the Edgeworth competition.

“When I was in the top two, I had a feeling I was going to lose. I was just so shocked that it was me who won first place out of all the students there,” Reagan said.

But studying for the bee has been a hobby of Reagan's for quite some time. He follows several YouTube channels that focus on geography and travel, including Wendover Productions and Geography Now.

“It's crazy the things he knows. He knows capitals, major cities and exports of countries that I've never even heard of,” said Reagan's mother, Cristie Fowler, of Leetsdale. “He knows so much.”

Family trips also have stoked Reagan's interest in geography, and he seems to have a particular passion for the Nordic countries. This past December, Copenhagen became his new favorite city.

“I liked all the things there, from the way the signs were written, to the culture and the way they act. They're just really nice there,” Fowler said.

Both students will learn the results of their state qualifying tests in March. Winners from the state competitions will earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship, held at National Geographic Society headquarters from May 20-23.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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