Avondale 8th grade student knows his geography

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Walker Miller knows countries in the farthest reaches of the world. The 8th grade student at James Weldon Johnson Middle School also knows about those countries’ natural resources, crops, weather, religions, monuments and land formations.
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“I have always liked geography and in the fourth grade, I participated in the school-wide geography bees. I won the school bee and then took a test to qualify for the State Bee, held in April. I qualified by scoring in the top 100 of students in the state. Only one other fourth grader was there,” Miller said.

Although he didn’t make the Top 10 then, last year while in 7th grade, Miller won the State Bee and attended the National Geography Bee in Washington, D.C. He is the first student from Duval County to win the state title.

“It was a great experience. I missed a week of school and got to see the final round live with Alex Trebek hosting,” Miller shared. “The National Geographic Society hosted a bunch of events for the students, parents and teachers including a picnic, a tour and a special viewing of maps at the Library of Congress.”
The Florida Geography Bee is hosted at Jacksonville University, run by geography professor Ray Oldakowski, another Avondale resident. “Each year, 100 finalists from all over the state (students in grades 4-8 who have won their school geography bees and have the highest scores on a statewide test) compete to represent Florida in the National Geography Bee,” explained Dr. Oldakowski. “The Florida winner receives a trip to Washington, D.C. with his teacher and parents, and receives trophies, prizes, and a small cash award. The national winner receives a $50,000 scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.”

Miller again represented his school in this year’s state geography bee at JU on April 4, but unfortunately did not make the Top 10. “The kids who won studied really hard,” said Miller. “One of the kids in the top three took off six weeks of school to study.” Ameya Mujumdar, an 11-year-old 5th grader from Turner Elementary School in the Tampa area is the Florida State Bee winner.

But, this year’s loss aside, Miller will always cherish that last year he was one of 50 finalists from among millions of students nationwide who participate in the National Geographic Bee.

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