Invited schools are asked to confirm that they will participate by January 27, 2020, and to send names and grade levels of a total of three nominees currently in fourth through eighth grade in the school, by February 10, 2020 or as soon as possible, and to provide their mailing addresses or to ask the Knights to send their invitations c/o the school.
Some schools choose to alert students and determine whether they will be available before nominating them, while others let our invitation arrive as news to their nominees. Either way is fine. If unsure whether the nominees will be able to participate, schools are encouraged to name alternates along with the nominees, so that we may prepare additional invitations quickly in the case of a student being unable to make it to the bee.
Each school is welcome to select participants by any criterion it chooses. Some schools choose students based on:
Our timetable places nomination of students in early February specifically because many schools have within-school bees associated with National Geographic in January and often factor results of those bees into their nomination decisions.
In early-mid-February, the Knights send nominated students an invitation like this one which provides them with topics and sample questions to help them know what to expect. However, we never suggest that they to do any preparation for the bee. They all attend excellent schools with thorough curricula, and we wouldn't presume to ask further work of them.
And of course the Knights welcome faculty, clergy, parents, etc. to come to the bee on March 14 and cheer on the students!
Five grade levels in a single bracket is surprising to some. We followed National Geographic's lead, as it seems to work for them. On geography material at a contest level of difficulty, differentiation among students in these grade levels appears to be related more to student ability and passion for geography than to grade level. One school recently was represented solely by fourth-grade nominees who had defeated grades 5 through 8 in their school bee, and they held their own in our bee. Some younger participants in our bee seem to get a charge out of stretching up to reach the microphone left high by their older competition, and so far we haven't had any younger competitors seem very flustered. We gently welcome them each to take a practice question before the bee, so that, before it counts, they have a chance to get used to standing at a microphone in front of an audience and a panel of judges. Then when the bee starts, the first speaking round has somewhat easier questions, so that most participants enjoy the experience of getting at least one or two correct. The younger participants who ultimately get eliminated realize that they have more years ahead to try again. And three fifth-graders have won awards at our bee. So it seems to work for us too.