Canadian Geographic Education


Canadian Geographic Challenge

Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic

The Canadian Geographic Challenge is Canadian Geographic Education’s longest-running program. Established in 1994 and called the Great Canadian Geography Challenge, this program is designed to connect students with their peers and to highlight the importance of geography and being a geo-literate citizen.

The Canadian Geographic Challenge (Can Geo Challenge) is a competition that is continuously evolving, melding traditional learning styles with geographic literacy skills and new technology. It is designed with busy teachers in mind, allowing them to adapt the competition to their students and pedagogy. The support of the Trebek Family Foundation has meant the competition can continue to be accessible, relevant and engaging for all students.

The Can Geo Challenge is a great way to get students involved and excited about geography. Students of all levels and learning styles can participate. It allows students to explore the versatility of the subject and learn about its importance to global issues and our everyday lives. This is a friendly competition that starts in the classroom but can also offer students the chance to compete and strive for national recognition. The Can Geo Challenge program is an inclusive and engaging resource for teachers and students.

Students taking notes in forest setting
Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic

The Challenge consists of three levels to reach a wide age range.

Level 1 is open to students in grades 4-6. It focuses on developing fundamental geographic facts and skills and igniting passion in students’ early academic careers. Students participate in the Classroom and School rounds, finishing the competition by naming a School Champion.

Level 2 encourages students in grades 7-10 to push the limits of their geographic knowledge and apply geographic thinking skills. The competition begins in the classroom and progresses to name a School Champion. The School Champion is then invited to compete in the Provincial/Territorial round. A total of 20 of Canada’s best geography students (the Provincial/Territorial Champions and top scoring students) will be invited to participate in the National Final at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society headquarters at 50 Sussex, in Ottawa, Ont. The National Final includes a written test, a fieldwork round, and a live trivia-style final.

Under normal circumstances, the National Final happens in person. To ensure safety during COVID-19, the National Final is conducted virtually and through online testing.

Level 3 is open to all students ages 16-19. There are three phases of testing, which include multiple choice questions, short answer and essay questions, and a fieldwork round, as well as an interview component. The four students with the top scores will be asked to join Team Canada to attend the International Geography Olympiad.

Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic

Highlights from past years

  • In 2023, Christian Stenner, cave explorer and RCGS Fellow, hosted the Can Geo Challenge National Final, which aired on Can Geo Education’s YouTube channel. Also, Team Canada competed at the International Geography Olympiad, with Xavier Spano winning a silver medal, and Matthew Stasiw and Brayden Zhang winning bronze medals. Read about it here!
  • In 2022, the Can Geo Challenge National Final was hosted by RCGS Fellow and podcast host David McGuffin and aired on Can Geo Education’s YouTube channel.
  • In 2021, Team Canada members Akib Shamsuddin and Nikita Serikov earned silver medals, while Ryan Sharpe and Matthew Woodward earned bronze medals at the International Geography Olympiad.
  • In 2020, the Can Geo Challenge National Final went virtual to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2019, the Can Geo Challenge live National Final was hosted by world-renowned underwater explorer and RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth.
  • In 2019, Team Canada competed in the International Geography Olympiad, in Hong Kong. Ben Woodward, a former Can Geo Champion, took home a gold medal, placing 3rd in the entire competition. The team placed 17th overall and won three medals.
  • In the 2018 International Geography Olympiad, in Quebec City, Que., Team Canada placed 13th overall and won five medals.
  • In 2017, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques hosted the Can Geo Challenge live National Final in Ottawa, Ont.
Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic
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