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Greenwood Elementary School third-graders, left to right, Tyler Ross, Carson Miller, Becca Butler and Shane Iturbide look up El Salvador in a book. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
Greenwood Elementary School third-graders, left to right, Tyler Ross, Carson Miller, Becca Butler and Shane Iturbide look up El Salvador in a book. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Who needs a compass?

The 22 third-graders in Missy Rinker and Heather Johnsons class at Greenwood Elementary School do not.

All they need are four general hints to find virtually any country in the world.

This is the assumption one could draw after the students performance in a national geography contest put on by American Presidential Lines, a Seattle-based shipping company. The contest was open to grade school classes. Entrants had to find a country with the aid of just four clues.

Three of the clues were the facts that: the countrys ground was moving, it was in the Torrid Zone and that it was discovered by people who were looking for gold as their salvation.

Armed with their these clues Greenwood students began a process of diligent research. In the process they discovered that the Torrid Zone is the area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The children also determined which countries in the Torrid Zone had recently undergone earthquakes.

After a week of daily work under Rinkers guidance, the students determined that the answer was El Salvador.

The class was among 100 which came up with the correct answer. Several thousand classes submitted answers.

American Presidential Lines then randomly drew the names of 10 of the 100 classes, one of which was Greenwoods.

These classes are each being given $500. The money has to be donated to charity.

The students in Rinker and Johnsons class voted to give the money to a victory garden project at the Think Link Discovery Museum in La Grande. This $500 is a significant portion of the $1,200 which will be spent to create the patriotic garden.

Rinkers students did their work after school. They came up with their answer on their own, however.

They had heated debates, Rinker said.

The students narrowed their choices to four countries and then held a secret vote to narrow the number to two. A final secret vote was conducted to pick their final selection.

Rinker said that the experience has been very rewarding for her students.

We were pretty pumped. We screamed and jumped up and down (when it was announced that the classs answer was correct). We couldnt believe it, Rinker said.

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