Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Potomac teen in Germany for geography competition

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Theresa Moosburner, an eighth-grader at the German School Washington, D.C, competed at the National Geographic Wissen competition in Hamburg, Germany May 4.
Theresa Moosburner has called Germany, India, Canada and the United States home, so when she found out that she had beat 4,200 students in a geography competition she thought that may have had something to do with it.

‘‘I like moving to different countries,” Moosburner said. ‘‘I got informed about the countries; plus living in other countries and visiting places there helps, too.”

Moosburner, an eighth-grader at the German School Washington D.C. in Potomac, beat out winners from 47 German Schools worldwide to attend the National Geographic Wissen competition, a contest that challenges participants on questions of world geography, put on by National Geographic.

Moosburner, 13, competed against competition winners from Germany’s 16 states in Hamburg, Germany, on May 4.

‘‘We are very proud,” said Head of School Klaus-Dieter Bloch. ‘‘Surely it’ll be a motivation for the whole department of geography.”

German Schools, like the one in Potomac, follow a German educational curriculum and teach classes mostly in the German language. Five German Schools are in the United States and there are 117 worldwide.

Like Moosburner, many of the students at the school attend because they have German heritage and German-speaking parents. However, some parents send their children there for a challenging curriculum and to become fluent in the language.

Moosburner, a Potomac resident, is the first German School student to advance this far in the competition, which is in its fourth year.

‘‘I was surprised,” Moosburner said. ‘‘There are people going to be there watching you, taking pictures and I don’t want to lose.”

Moosburner was excited about her trip abroad. Although she has been to Germany – her parents’ native country — many times, she has never traveled to Hamburg. She hoped to do some sightseeing during her time there.

‘‘It’s exciting,” Moosburner said. ‘‘I really like to explore different cities and countries.”

Her mother, Kirsten, and her geography teacher, Goachim Bhrendt, traveled with her.

Moosburner has always held an interest in travel and different cultures. As a child, she used to page through a child atlas looking at the names and locations of different countries around the globe, she said.

She was born in Germany, spent three years in India and one year in Canada before moving to the United States.

‘‘She grew up in a foreign culture,” said Moosburner’s father, Johannes. ‘‘Also, watching world news on TV, and stuff like that, I think she picked up so many things without knowing it.”

She didn’t even study for the first three steps in the competition, which included a test against her fellow classmates, then a schoolwide contest for grades five through eight and finally a test against all German School winners internationally.

‘‘Theresa is number one in this class,” Bhrendt said.

The tests got progressively tougher but each included questions on German, United States and world geography.

‘‘It’s interesting,” Moosburner said. ‘‘They include everything you have to know for geography; rivers, mountains, states and cultures.”

A question Moosburner remembers as one of the tougher ones, showed a picture of an island and asked what country it belonged to and what it is called.

‘‘It was kind of fun seeing how far I could get,” Moosburner said. ‘‘I didn’t study for the other tests but for this one I said, I’m going to study now.”

Having a school curriculum that recognizes the importance of world knowledge also helped.

German School students are required to take geography classes from fourth through eighth grade. They not only learn how to locate countries on a map but also learn about current events and the United States’ relationship with Germany.

‘‘Geography is suitable to teach aspects of globalization,” Bloch said. ‘‘Wherever you go geography is important.”

In Germany, competitors took part in a quiz show-like event that has three rounds of questions.

The winners of this year’s and last year’s German competitions will form a team that will advance to the biannual international competition this August in San Diego, where they will compete against winners from other countries, including Japan, Russia and the United States.

At press time it is not known how Moosburner did.