Education feature: Geography buff

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Marshall Middle School seventh-grader Patrick Merrill’s love of history and geography is taking him to the state-level of the National Geography Bee.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Being the son of a military family, Patrick Merrill learned quickly the best way he could prepare for the family’s next move was to learn about the place he was going.

Merrill, who was born in Germany, began to enjoy his research about the places he and his family would live.

Now a seventh-grader at Marshall Middle School and armed with years of research, Merrill is headed to the state finals for a shot at the National Geography Bee on April 3.

Merrill said he embraced geography and history early on.

“Geography is my favorite and best subject,” the 12-year-old said. “When I was young and we moved, it seemed like the whole world changed. I wanted to see where I was going, what the culture was.”

He said he especially enjoys maps.

“Maps tell you where you are, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there,” he said. “And they’re so precise. If a map was a person, it would be a neat freak.”

Bill Pullings, Merrill’s counselor at Marshall, said that he has high hopes for Merrill at the state-level bee.

“In my 10 years of doing this, he’s the first seventh-grader that was a school champion,” Pullings said. “I think he has a strong shot at being the state champion.”

Pullings said Merrill stuck his head right back into books and maps after winning the school’s bee.

“I’ve never seen such hard work and diligence to prepare for something like that,” Pullings said.

Pullings said he wishes more students were as interested in our planet as Merrill.

“This is our world, our home. It’s important to know where places are. There is only one world that humanity lives on and this is it,” he said. “And besides that, it’s an awful lot of fun.”

The winner of the state bee will go to Washington, D.C. for the National Geography Bee and a chance to win a $25,000 college scholarship, Pullings said.