Eighth grader repeats as champ of geography bee at Grayling Middle School
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Baden Essmaker ascended to the top of world at the Grayling Middle School after the start of the year, as a rare repeat winner in the school’s National Geographic Geography Bee.
All Grayling Middle School students compete in a schoolwide National Geographic Geography Bee. The competition, which is overseen by the chairman of the social studies department for the Grayling Middle School and a U.S. history teacher, Craig Hofman, begins the week after the students get back from winter break.
All students start the competition, and it is then whittled down to the top three sixth, seventh, and eighth students based on how successfully they answered the questions.
Essmaker was the champ of the geography bee again this year.
Second place was seventh grader Caleb Sheldon, and third place was seventh grader Olivia Duba. Other competitors were sixth graders Sarah Schade, Angel Lane, Ahryn Lavign, seventh grader Ruby Stirling, and eighth graders Jacob Marshall and Tanner Paulus.
Essmaker said his knowledge of countries, places of historical interest, and natural wonders of the world helped him rise to the top again at the school.
“Compared to last year, this year was a bit easier,” he said. “There was a lot less competition, but last year was a bit of an anomaly as far as I know, because for the last few rounds it was just me and one person going back and forth,” he said.
Essmaker has a keen interest in World War II and the areas where significant battles were fought, which piques his interest in the subject matter.
“It’s a nice subject and it’s a good thing to know about, but I don’t see it as that important to my day to day life, at least right now,” he said.
Essmaker took an online test, which will determine if he will qualify for a statewide geography bee held in Kalamazoo.
He went to the competition last year, but said traveling downstate to southwest Michigan was a tedious part of the experience.
“I got pretty close, but I didn’t quite win,” he said. “It was fun to at least participate in it.”
Baden, the son of Laura and Erik Essmaker, moved to Grayling from Boulder, Colorado three years ago this July.
He said Boulder, like Kalamazoo, is an urban area, and he enjoys being in the small town environment in Grayling.
“I never really liked being around that many people,” he said. “It’s much nicer to have a smaller, closer town. It’s also nicer because I feel like I’m treated more like a person rather than one of just another one of the masses.”
Baden is planning on following in the footsteps of his parents, who both worked as computer software engineers. He is also considering pursuing work as a mechanical engineer.
“I just like engineering in general and I also like computers, and from what I know those are both pretty computer heavy fields,” he said.
Baden said he enjoys troubleshooting.
“I really like designing things to solve a problem,” he said.
Hofman said Baden’s interest in geography has helped pay dividends.
“You can tell that he’s put time into learning it and studying it,” he said.
Hofman said only a few students have been repeat winners since the competition has been held at the Grayling Middle School.
“We’ve had a couple, but it’s few and far between,” he said. “It’s not an easy competition, and the kids go through the preliminary rounds. It’s tough to repeat and get back to the finals.”
For the 2019-2020 school year fifth graders moved to the Grayling Middle School to help solve a crunch for the growing student population at the Grayling Elementary School.
They may be able to widen the competition when the geography bee is held next year.
“I’ve got to look and see if they’re eligible to,” Hofman said. “If they are, next year I’ll try to get them involved.”