Global ‘conquest’ is his goal


Having enjoyed taking in the City of Lights with his family for a few days this past summer can only boost Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos’ chances as a contestant in the New Jersey State Geography Bee this year.

In 2015, the Washington Middle Schooler from Harrison placed 17th overall and now the eighth-grader has his eyes on finishing among the top 10 in the state — and perhaps at the top of the heap — when he faces off against his peers April 1 at Rowan University.

Some 100 youngsters in grades 4 to 8 in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools will be vying for a spot in the 28th annual National Geography Bee championship in the nation’s capital May 23-25.

Each state Bee champ gets $100, the National Geographic book, “The National Parks: An Illustrated History” and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the national Bee. The national winner is awarded a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. The national winner travels, at no cost, to southeast Alaska, including Glacier Bay National Park, courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions and the NGS. Second- and third-place winners each collect $25,000 and a $10,000 college scholarship.

Washington Middle School teachers Karen Tavares and Tara Kraenzlin, who hosted the school’s bee, will accompany Daniel and his family to Rowan on Friday, the last day of spring break. “We wouldn’t dream of missing it,” Tavares said.

Daniel, who wrote about his experience during July in Paris, recounted how he “couldn’t wait to try out my French after having spent two years at the French Institute Alliance Française.”

Daniel wrote that he and his family “strolled the Champs Elysees, stopped at the Arc de Triomphe, walked across many of Paris’ nine bridges and absorbed the culture with its sounds, sights and of course food … everywhere you went ….”

Other highlights, he wrote, included visits to the Palace of Versailles where “Louis the XIV’s majestic quarters filled with over-the-top furnishings and extravagant fixtures literally took my breath away,” the Musée D’Orsay with its collection of “some of the world’s great impressionist works,” L’école Militaire, Shakespeare & Company — where “sitting at the typewriter used by some of the world’s most famous writers seemed like a dream” — plus the Musee Rodin and the Louvre, where he viewed the Mona Lisa (“much smaller than I imagined”), Egyptian mummies, “artifacts from every corner of the world [and] enormous paintings of every major French battle,” Euro Disney and the Eiffel Tower with its “breathtaking views” from its top.

For Daniel, this brief adventure represented “every geographer’s dream.”

And for teacher Kraenzlin, Daniel’s enthusiasm was proof that, “he’s captured the whole spirit of the Geography Bee — not a simple memorization of landforms and capital cities, but a pure and unabashed love of place.”

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