A special message from our Chief Education Officer about the 2020-2021 GeoBee

This post was written by Vicki Phillips, Chief Education Officer, National Geographic Society

Dear GeoBee Community and Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world we live in. And it’s changed education. We are experiencing a tremendous amount of disruption. Closed schools. Cancelled events. Remote learning. Hybrid learning. Around the country, school districts at every level are grappling with how to safely carry out their charge, while navigating a web of public health guidelines. Anxiety is high. Many are overwhelmed. Superintendent of San Diego Public Schools Cindy Marten described this moment as, “the biggest adaptive challenge…in the history of public education.”

We are seeing a similarly historic shift with the GeoBee. This year, registrations for the 2020-2021 competition are down 75 percent. We recognize this is a response to this moment in time, as educators, families and communities navigate the countless challenges in their lives. We’ve worked diligently to respond to the needs of our community, making adjustments to provide more flexibility. But the education landscape continues to evolve. In light of these shifts, we’ve decided to cancel this year’s GeoBee and are taking the opportunity to reimagine what a geography experience for young people could look like altogether.

We’ll take this time to talk to students, educators, and community members, and determine how to adapt and innovate in ways that engage even more young people around the power of geography. We’ll announce in the fall of 2021 what this geography opportunity will look like for 2022.

In the meantime, all schools that registered and paid for the 2020-2021 GeoBee will receive a full refund of the registration fee. 

We are enormously proud of the impact that the National Geographic GeoBee has had on the millions of students, educators, parents, schools and others who’ve participated in this iconic competition over its 33-year history. But we believe, with difficult decisions, can come new levels of transformation, innovation and impact. We always have been and always will be about geography; it’s part of who we are. It’s why we invest significantly in geography education and it’s why we seek to empower young people with an explorer’s mindset. Today, the fight for geographic competency is critical because it’s uniquely suited to solving the challenges of the 21st century. 

We hope you will continue to join us on the journey to empower a generation of learners, leaders, explorers and architects of meaningful change who share our passion for geography.


Vicki Phillips
Chief Education Officer
National Geographic Society 

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