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Mapping a route to success

Bartlomiej Mozdzen’s geographical prowess has earned him one of only 20 spots at the national Canadian Geographic Challenge, the largest student geography competition in the country, in Ottawa this weekend.

SJK student Bartlomiej Mozdzen will spend his weekend in Ottawa as one of 20 finalists in the national Canadian Geographic Challenge.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
SJK student Bartlomiej Mozdzen will spend his weekend in Ottawa as one of 20 finalists in the national Canadian Geographic Challenge. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The tenth grade student who goes by the first name Bartek, attends St. John’s Kilmarnock School in Breslau and has taken the challenge twice before, but never made it to nationals.

“First you take the classroom challenge and you write a test in your classroom and then if you are the top two in your classroom, you go to the school-wide contest,” Mozdzen said. “Our school did a game show type thing in the chapel and I ended up winning that after a couple tiebreakers, so it was close. And after that you take the online provincial challenge and now I am going to the national one in Ottawa.”

He was the school champion last year but didn’t make it to nationals after taking the provincial test. Nationals are split up into three rounds, only the final one being open to the public. Participants will complete geographic field work for the first round and a written test for the second. The top five students will move on to the final round,  where they’ll be pitted against one another in a game show format.

Mozdzen’s early interest in geography can be partially attributed to his father.

“The whole thing started when I was still a kid, when I was still living in Poland,” Mozdzen said. “My dad did this thing, when we waited for a meal at a restaurant or we waited in a line to buy something, to go to the airport, anywhere that you wait, he didn’t want us bored because when we were bored we would be kids. Parents don’t want kids fooling around when you’re waiting for something. It became a part of our life, that trivia thing. Soon enough the questions got harder and harder and I started looking things up on my own and I started asking him questions.”

He and his family moved to Canada three years ago and he became knowledgeable about Canadian geography through teacher, Terry McDonald’s Grade 8 Canadian Geography class. He says the geography challenge is usually half international geography questions and half Canadian geography questions.

“The geography class we take in Grade 8 really started introducing me to Canadian geography,” Mozdzen said. “So I’d be missing out on 50 per cent of the contest, if not more without taking that class.”

In preparation for the challenge he’s gone through past national final questions and played online geography games to brush up on it. Having done the online test last year helped him know what to expect too.

“I just took a Canadian map and looked around it, and a Canadian atlas and skimmed through it. The best area for me in geography is international geography. I didn’t study for that at all and it turns out I didn’t need to,” Mozdzen laughed.

Aside from trivial differences he says adjusting to life in Canada has been easy. He already knew English, but French has been a challenge. He also had never taken a bus to school before moving to Canada.

“The distances are much bigger here than in Poland because if I lived there I could take my bike or walk to everything that I ever needed in life,” Mozdzen said. “It would be sufficient to walk all of your life and go everywhere, a cinema or shopping mall, school, everywhere you could manage. Here, you don’t have a car, you don’t live.”

This will be the last year he can compete in the competition, as it’s open to students from Grade 7 to Grade 10. The winner receives $3,000, the runner up gets $2,000, and third place receives $1,000.  Of the 20 participants, eight are from Ontario. He says he doesn’t expect to win because others might have better knowledge of Canadian geography.

“I could say that I hope for the third round which is where the top five go into this game show type of contest and it’s the final round of the national contest,” Mozdzen said. “Sure I would hope to get there, but reality will show how it goes.”

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