On Friday, March 31st, PA Leadership’s very own 7th grade student, Danny Gauntlett, competed in National Geographic’s Pennsylvania Geography Bee (“Geo Bee”) in Harrisburg, PA. Students around the country in grades 4-8 who met the criteria were invited to compete. This was Danny’s 2nd time competing at the Geo Bee; he once competed when he was in 4th grade at his previous school and is looking forward to competing a final time in his 8th grade year. This year, he made it all the way to the semifinals and PALCS could not be more proud!

Danny first enrolled at PALCS in 2015 and lives with his family in Chester County. He is a member of the University Scholars Program and attends the blended program at the Advanced Ideas Center in West Chester 2 to 3 times a week. We recently had a chance to speak with Danny’s mother, Deanie Gauntlett, about the Geo Bee, her family’s experience with PALCS, and her son’s accomplishments.

Q: What is the Geo Bee?
A: The Geo Bee is the National Geographic Geography Bee. The Bee was started by National Geographic to promote knowledge of geography in schools. However, geography is only the start, for the Bee itself asks questions that involve geography in context of current events, biology, archaeology, and the earth sciences. It goes beyond just memorizing places on a map, and is an extremely challenging competition. Schools can participate by holding their own school bee. The winner of the school bee qualifies to take an exam to see if they can go to the state competition of the Bee. Only the top 100 student scorers move on to the states. This year, the Geo Bee for PA was held on March 31st, 2017 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Q: How did the competition go?
A: Danny was eliminated after missing one question and was in very good company. At the state competition, they hold preliminary rounds of approximately 15 kids, to get down to 10 students for the finals. This year, there was tie breaker, for 15 students missed no questions. If you win the state Geo Bee, you get to move on to the national competition in DC, which is recorded and broadcast on tv.

The winner receives a $50,000 scholarship, a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine, a trip, and $500 cash. The 2nd place winner receives a $25,000 scholarship and $500 cash. The third place winner receives a $10,000 scholarship and $500 cash. The 4th -10th place winners receive $500 cash each.

Q: Any memorable stories from that day that you would like to share?
A: Our most memorable story was Danny getting a question right that involved Ancient Rome, for he had covered the very topic with Mr. Parris, his Civilizations teacher the year before. Mr. Parris was the USP coordinator for the Bee, and had attended to cheer Danny on. Danny was eliminated on a question regarding where the Lassen Volcanic National Park was located, but apparently knew Burundi was bifurcated by Malaysia.

Q: Why did you choose to enroll Danny at PALCS?
A: I’m very passionate about gifted education. I chose to enroll Danny at PALCS/USP, basically, because his needs were not being met in his local public school. Danny is considered profoundly gifted academically. From a young age, he read early, and became quite passionate about science and math. As a parent, I actually founded a parent support group for gifted parents in our local school district, and advocated passionately for him to have his needs met, only looking for an individualized education, where he could go at the pace he was able to.

After many years, it was apparent the school district could not meet his needs. University Scholars Program had no issue with accepting him as a 6th grader and letting him dive into high school math, so he could get to Honors Chemistry, which he is taking this year as a 7th grader. In the public school, they had difficulty understanding that Danny just needed more. Acceleration for kids like this is a standard academic intervention, but it was made so much easier with the smaller and welcoming environment of PALCS/USP.

Q: How does he like cyber school compared to his previous brick and mortar school experience?
A: Danny tells me he really likes the freedom of the self-directed cyber-schooling. He says he can chose to do assignments in any order he chooses, and that makes him less bored. Danny also really loves his University Scholars Program teachers, and the chance to see them on-site, as well. Danny enjoys that USP really challenges him.

Q: What are some of Danny’s interests? Academically? Personally?
A: Danny is passionate about chemistry and math academically. He loves video games, dungeons and dragons, and Pokémon, and is an avid reader. Danny also plays the drums, and loves to hike, bike, and swim.

Q: Does Danny have any specific goals he hopes to accomplish in the future?
A: Danny wants to go to college to study chemistry and possibly physics, because he would love to work at CERN, the large hadron collider in Europe.

We would like to congratulate Danny on all of his accomplishments and for making it to the semi finals at the GeoBee! What a wonderful accomplishment and we are so honored to have him represent PALCS and the University Scholars Program. We would also like to thank Deanie and Danny for sharing their story with us!