Weybridge 6th-grader proves a real quiz-whiz in geography

WEYBRIDGE — David Liebowitz is only 11, but he’s traveled to more places than a lot of people will see in their lifetimes. And the Weybridge Elementary School sixth-grader has the uncanny ability to remember where he’s been and what he’s seen — even in the pages of books and magazines.
His intelligence, memory and love of geography recently paid off in a big way. Liebowitz earned his place as Vermont’s representative at the 27th annual National Geographic Bee held in Washington, D.C., May 11-13. And while he didn’t take the title, he answered a majority of the brain-crushing queries tossed his way by the folks at National Geographic.
He brought home some souvenirs from a great family trip, along with some memories that will last him a lifetime.
“It was interesting to meet so many people,” said David, the son of Ron and Jessica Liebowitz. “It was really fun.”
Liebowitz had to clear two hurdles on his way to punching his ticket for the nationals.
It began with the annual Weybridge Elementary Geography bee that Liebowitz — referred to by many of his teachers and classmates by his middle name, Heshie — had won for three years in a row. He prevailed over other contestants in grades 4 to 6.
After completing a written test with some decidedly tougher questions, it was off to the state geography bee, held at Middlebury College, in late March. The competition involved dozens of Vermont students in grades four through eight.
“It was like the school bee, but times five,” he said of the degree of difficulty.
Contestants were eliminated upon missing two questions. Liebowitz — per his track record — breezed through more than 50 questions before (amazingly) getting stumped. He could not come up with the correct response of a St. John’s Bengal tiger.
Among the state bee questions he answered correctly: Where is saffron grown? (Afghanistan); what is the lowest point on Earth? (the Dead Sea); what city is La Boca located near? (Buenos Aires, Argentina).
The state bee came down to two finalists — Liebowitz and Ross Carr, a Mount Abraham Union High School eighth-grader. Liebowitz prevailed, and gave props to his teacher, Christina Wadsworth, for giving him the ability to answer the clinching question. He was asked to name the country in which the remains of a Spinosaurus dinosaur had recently been found. The response: Morocco.
“(Mrs. Wadsworth) made me read a National Geographic article,” he explained. “I knew (the answer) because of the National Geographic article I had read.”
Liebowitz went on to represent his state as one of 54 students entered into the National Geographic bee, held at Washington’s Plaza Hotel. He made the trip with his parents and siblings. David’s dad is Ron Liebowitz, president of Middlebury College.
The first day of competition involved paring the 54 competitors down to a top 10. David described the difficulty of the national bee questions as being “like the state bee, times six.”
He found the hardest question to be, “Which country owns Gomez Island”? The answer: Cuba. Liebowitz had guessed Spain.
David didn’t move on into the top 10, but he did answer correctly seven of the 10 questions he was posed. And these were questions that would leave the average adult with a slack jaw and blank stare. Example: Ras Dajen is the tallest mountain in which country. Answer: Ethiopia. Question: A lemur graveyard was recently found near the city of Toliara in what country? Answer: Madagascar.
Karan Menon of Edison, N.J., a 14-year-old eighth-grader at John Adams Middle School, took top honors at the competition.
Liebowitz had a great time in D.C., taking in a lot of the national landmarks and mixing in a visit with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Weybridge Elementary Principal Christina Johnston gave big kudos to David.
“We’re extremely proud of Heshie’s accomplishment and in awe of the depth and extent of his geographic knowledge,” she said. “That he could perform so successfully at the state and national levels with such poise is remarkable.”
His teacher was also impressed.
“He’s always shown a passion  for geography and world events,” Wadsworth said. “It’s an important thing for him to represent Weybridge School. It makes everybody pay attention to geography and world events. The more people pay attention to that, the better it is for everyone.”
And it’s clear that geography resonates with David beyond the classroom.
“It’s not just looking at a map, it’s understanding the complexity of our world,” he said.

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