My experience with the Canadian Geographic Challenge

This year, I got the amazing opportunity to compete in the Canadian Geographic Challenge. It was something that I’d been looking forward to doing for a very long time. The Geo Challenge was one of the most prestigious Geography Competitions for Grade 7–10’s throughout Canada. Hosted by Canadian Geographic Education, a branch of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, I knew that this was the ultimate goal. This was something that I managed to do well in through alot of dedication and practice, but overall the experience was just fantastic.

So, in order to begin preparing for this test, I had to first break it down to the basics. What is geography? Well, according to the dictionary, Geography is “the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries.” That meant that everything about our planet, ecology, demographics, human impacts, physical geography, sustainability, political geography, and many other subjects would have to be studied. Now here comes a few key things that I learned through an organization called TKS. These were life lessons that I had learned and could be applied in many situations. In order to do well on this test, I decided to put a few into practice.

  1. Connect/Network: I reached out to just about everybody I knew in regards to Geography. I contacted my teachers, classmates in higher grades at my school, reached out at LinkedIn and met people competing in this event while I was at the Canada Wide Science Fair(if you want to check out my project check below.) Something that TKS taught me that was of high importance was networking with like-minded individuals. Contacting, asking constant questions, and just in general picking the brains of people who’ve been here before really aided me. I understood the whole process and got many useful tips, like buying an Atlas, practicing questions constantly, memorizing landforms, and many other important things that helped me throughout the contest. Without networking, I would have definitely fallen short in this contest.
  2. Have a growth mindset: When I first started practicing for this test, I was not good. I constantly failed to get questions correct, I couldn’t memorize 2 things, my answers were short and brief, and I constantly found myself spending hours just trying to understand 1 or 2 pages of a geography textbook. I felt hopeless and honestly, though there was no point or tried to convince myself that “I could do it next year”, or “it won’t actually be this hard.” Deep down, however, I knew that I was going to get absolutely obliterated if I didn’t practice. This is where having the growth mindset came into play. Knowing that I could get better and improve, training my brain to understand that not I don’t know everything about geography, that failing on these practice tests was ok because I kept learning from them was something that was not easy, but helpful. This was definitely hard to do, but once again, without that growth mindset, another valuable asset from TKS, I would’ve been doomed.
  3. Get stuff done: Procrastination is probably your greatest enemy when it comes to taking on large goals. The feeling of “I’ll get it done tomorrow,” or “this is easy, I’ll do it later,” is the hardest thing to bypass when it comes to accomplishing huge tasks. Knowing that I have to start studying, making myself understand that 60 days ISN’T a long time when it comes to LEARNING EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW THE WORLD WORKS!!! These were all things that I had to do and push myself to get there. Having to miss out on things that I really enjoyed, like my favourite tv shows(check out The Bad Batch!), was very difficult. Unfortunately, completing tasks requires sacrifice and sometimes, the things you really like have to be sacrificed in order to do the things you really need to do.

These 3 lessons from TKS along with many others helped propel me in this contest. The contest itself was great. I encourage each and every one of you to go outside of your house and explore the natural world around you. There’s so much to learn and experience. Why not go out and identify trees, look at soil profiles, observe birds or wildlife, investigate what biome you’re in, enjoy a nearby national park, or the many other things that geography lets you to do. How about charting a new path to the plaza you like to go to with your friends, going on a long walk with your dog and trying to find your way back using basic memory and landmarks you observed, or becoming a bird watcher and enjoying the avians in your own backyard.

These lessons aided me in not only getting to the top 20 in all of Canada, not only the top 5 in all of Canada but winning 2nd place in all of Canada. These lessons are not only applicable when you’re trying to start your own company, or learn how to code, but in contests, school, and everyday life.

Further reading:

I took place in this challenge. Watch it and see if you can get some of the questions right!

(My CWSF Bronze winning Science Fair project on AI sound recognition.)

Hi! I'm Angad, a Grade 9 student from the University of Toronto Schools who loves learning anything and everything!