LMS student to compete in state bee

Claire Hofius surrounds herself with maps and facts to satisfy her passion for  geography. She will be heading to Tacoma for the state geography bee early next month. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Claire Hofius surrounds herself with maps and facts to satisfy her passion for geography. She will be heading to Tacoma for the state geography bee early next month.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

LANGLEY — She might be shy but ask 14-year-old Claire Hofius a question about Ephesus, Turkey, and she’ll answer like a tour guide.

Not until after the morning of April 4, however.

Her family will be asking as many questions as they can to help her prepare for her first Washington State Geographic Bee.

The eighth grade Langley Middle School student has won the school’s geographic bee three years in a row, but this is the first time she’s been asked to continue on to the state level.

Her success is not much of a surprise to her teachers.

“She is very motivated. She’s done well all three years in the bee,” said Mary Bakeman, a social studies teacher at Langley Middle School.

“She is very interested in the subject of geography as a whole and maps.”

Claire is not leaving anything up to chance. She’s bought study guides and books, and reads maps when she can. She even has her hands on a book written by a previous national geography bee winner. She asks lots of questions also.

“She is always asking us to ask her questions and we’ve kind of run out of questions to ask her because I don’t know a lot more than opening up a map and asking her a question,” said

Doug Hofius, her father.

Doug is the main quizmaster because of his own interest in geography, which might account for why she likes it so much.

“Since I was a kid, I always liked looking at maps and so I guess Claire has some of that, too,” he said. “It might be in the gene pool or something.”

“We all like to travel. When we were younger, before we had kids, Betsy and I traveled all over Europe and the Middle East; into Turkey and Israel,” he said.

Last year when Claire’s brother Philip was an exchange student in Ismir, Turkey, the family joined him for a visit.

“We started in Istanbul and we traveled the southern coast of Turkey,” said Betsy Hofius.

“Claire just loved Turkey. She wanted to know everything about where we were going,” Claire’s father said. “She looked up a bunch of stuff on the map and found some places that she really wanted to go. That was really fun. Some of them were quite a bit out of the way, so we had to rent cars and find our way there over treacherous mountain passes, negotiating around goat herds on the roads.”

For Claire, the trip to Turkey was a chance for geography maps of Turkey to come alive.

“Traveling to Turkey was really interesting because it was a lot more different than

I thought it was going to be,” she said. “They had all these places, that if, in America, you would not be allowed to go, touch and see really up close.

“You could see Ephesus, where thousands of years ago, people actually lived,” she said.

“I think knowing about the world, global situations is really important in this day and age,” her mother added. “If she is studying places, she is also studying their culture, politics and how the countries and cities participate in the world.”

There was no singular moment when Claire recognized she loved geography.

“I have been interested all along,” she said. But for now, she is concentrating on Tacoma.

“I read maps. I study an hour on the weekends but on week days, I only read before bed. I am going to keep asking questions,” she said. “It is pretty exciting because if you do really well here, you get to go to nationals. And if you win nationals, you get $25,000 for a scholarship.”

For information about National Geographic Society’s geography bee or to try some sample geography bee questions, visit

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