MONTVILLE, NJ – Ben Halpern, a 4th grade student at William Mason Elementary School, has been notified by the National Geographic Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2015 New Jersey National Geographic State Bee, sponsored by Google and Plum Creek. The contest will be held at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ on Friday, March 27.

This is the second level of the National Geographic Bee competition, which is now in its 27th year. To qualify, Halpern emerged as the champion of the William Mason School Geo Bee. School Bees were held, throughout the state, in schools with fourth through eighth grade students, to determine a school champion.

"It's a special chance to be with 99 of the other best geographers in the state and have all of us put our knowledge to the test," Halpern said. "I'm excited about being there and representing William Mason and feel proud that I'm only the second student in school history to make it to the [State] Bee."

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To become school champions, students had to answer such questions as:

  1. Six-time Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, play football near the source of the Ohio River in which state- Alabama or Pennsylvania? (Pennsylvania)
  2. Balboa Park, with more than ten museums, performing arts centers and gardens, is located in which southern California city? (San  Diego)
  3. Taylor Swift performed songs from her album Red last summer in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of which Asian country that borders the South China Sea? (Malaysia)
  4. Disney's blockbuster movie Frozen is set in the fictional land of Arendelle, which was largely inspired by the country of Norway. Norway is located on which European peninsula? (Scandinavian Peninsula)

School champions, like Halpern, then took a qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top scoring students in each of the 50 states, District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories to compete in the state Bees.

Each state champion will receive $100, the "National Geographic Atlas of the World, 10th Edition,” a medal and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent  their state in the National  Geographic Bee Championship to be held at National Geographic Society headquarters, May 11-13, 2015.

The national champion will receive a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the Society. The national champion will also travel (along with one parent or guardian), all expenses paid, to the Galapagos Islands, where he/she will experience geography firsthand through up-close encounters with the islands' unique wildlife and landscapes. Travel for the trip is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.

Visit www.nationalgeographic.com/geobee for more information on the National Geographic Bee. National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD will air the 2015 National Geographic Bee Championship final round, moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien, on Friday, May 15, at 8 p.m. ET. The final round will be aired later on public television stations.  Check local television listings for air date and time in your area.

With a mission to inspire, illuminate and teach, the National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. The member-supported Society, which believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world, reaches over 600 million people each month through its media platforms, products and events. National Geographic has funded more than 11,000 research, conservation and exploration projects, and its education programs promote geographic literacy.