When Scott Nordstrom was younger, his parents used to tuck him in with a good bedtime story, courtesy of the family geographic atlas.
"We would concentrate on the places where there were professional football teams, so he could locate the Lions, the Ravens," said David Nordstrom, Scott's father.
All that geography training is paying off for Scott, a sixth grader at White Oaks Elementary in Burke. This Friday, April 1, he will join 100 students from across Virginia to participate in the Virginia Geographic Bee in Norfolk.
"I'm excited, and I feel really confident," said Scott. "I just like the subject altogether. It's something interesting, something I can sit down and study, without having to write anything, just to study."
Scott qualified for the state bee in mid-January, after passing through several rounds of competition at White Oaks. According to Ralph Davis, a fifth grade teacher and the school's social studies sponsor, White Oaks has hosted a "Geography Bee" for nine years, for its fourth through sixth grade students.
"I think our world is getting a lot smaller, and we need to be more adapt at knowing about our world around us," said Davis. "The more emphasis we put on geography in our in-class instruction, the more things we can understand about the places things are happening."
Davis offered the bee to any classroom that wished to participate, nearly 400 students at the school. After a spelling bee-format competition, each class crowned a champion, who moved on to the school competition. After finishing third as a fourth grader, and second a year ago, Scott was ready this year to take the next step up.
"I was happy he said. I got a certificate, and bragging rights," Scott said, crediting his parents, both educators, for instilling in him the love of geography, as well as computer games like the popular "Civilization" series.
"I've always been interested in history, and I guess that has something to do with it," he said.
OF COURSE, having a political scientist for a mom — mother Cynthia Watson teaches Strategic Studies at the National War College — and a professor for a dad — father David Nordstrom is a professor of computer science at George Mason University — hasn't hurt either.
"He's very aware. He's always been a kid who read newspapers and pays attention to what's going on," said Watson.
The National Geographic Bee is a program of the National Geographic Society and is open to students nationwide in grades four through eight. Each state winner will attend the two-day National Bee in late May, for a top scholarship prize of $25,000.
Win or lose, Scott will have a leg up when he starts middle school next fall, with his particularly favorite eras in history the Roman Empire and Middle Ages.
"He's very quick," said Davis. "If you say something about Bangladesh, he's already got a mental image of Bangladesh in his mind."