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THE SIX-YEAR-OLD GEOGRAPHER

Окт 27, 2017
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At three he learned how to read; at four he received a globe as a present. Now Yegor Kunitski, from Minsk, knows the capital cities of 196 countries and can easily identify any country by its outline on the map. He is getting ready for a seventh-grade geography Olympiad. As if all of this weren’t amazing enough, we must add one fact: Yegor is only six years old.
Yegor’s mother’s name is Kseniya, his father’s – Dmitri. On the walls of their apartment, there are maps and flags, on the boy’s desk, there are books and atlases. The boy is not in the least shy around journalists: He recently participated successfully in the popular children’s TV show “Best of all!”.
It was Yegor’s own idea to participate in the show.
“I told my mother: ‘Let’s try it.’ We submitted our application form, with no particular hope, but two hours later we got a phone call and an invitation to an audition.”
Yegor passed the audition without any problem – he surprised everyone by recognizing countries just by looking at their outlines. To make it more difficult for him, people even tried turning the outlines upside down, but the six-year-old geographer confidently named the countries and their capitals.
“How do you do it?” I asked him.
“I just do,” the boy shrugged. “I can also tell you about GDP (gross domestic product). Which one are you interested in – general GDP or per capita?”
While I’m thinking, Yegor asks me another question: “Do you know what city the Statue of Liberty is in?» I can see from his shining eyes that this is a trick question, and I raise my hands: I give up. “It’s not only in New York!” Yegor says. “There are copies of it in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and there’s also a statue of liberty in Tokyo!”
Although the boy’s parents jokingly call him ‘the geezer’ for his seriousness and perseverance, Yegor enjoys running around, jumping and playing, like any other little boy. However, he very quickly tires of games and wants to get back to his geography textbook.
“Ever since he was little, for some reason he has paid special attention to symbols and signs,” recalls the mother of this wunderkind. “Sometimes, I would ask him: ‘what should I draw for you: a rabbit, a dog?’ But he says ‘I’d rather you show me A, B, C.’ By age three, he had learned how to put letters together to make words. Then, a friend of mine brought Yegor his son’s books, including a children’s encyclopedia, to use when he got bigger. At first, Yegor just looked at the pictures, and then – suddenly – he started reading. And then it started: ‘Mom, where’s Asia?» What’s Africa?’ So, I realized that I had to buy a globe. Yegor was just over three at the time.”
The young geographer learned the globe quickly – after all, there are only six continents. Then, he wanted to learn about countries. That’s how a world map appeared above his bed.
“He spent days standing by the map,” Kseniya recalls. «He looked at it, read it, and memorized it. When he was five, he knew all the countries and their capital cities.”
«So you didn’t work with him on this?”
“No, he did it on his own, and very quickly. After the countries, he started learning their flags. Where did he get the information? He looked up countries on his laptop, a flag appeared on the screen, and my son painstakingly copied it.”
The flags were followed by coats of arms, but they turned out to be difficult to draw. Yegor only visually memorized whose was which.
And suddenly he panicked: «There’s nothing left to learn!”
“I said, wait, there are so many things in geography – rivers, volcanoes, lakes,” the mom recalls. “He calmed down. Now he’s interested in country ratings: the largest, the smallest, and the most dangerous ones.”
“Are you worried by the fact that your child is developing so quickly?” I asked the parents. They are not geographers. The mother is a journalist, and the father is an engineer.
«We were worried by the fact that our knowledge of geography was no longer sufficient to help our son,» Kseniya explains. “So, we began to look for a tutor. But as soon as we told people that their future student was only six years old, all potential teachers immediately rejected us. We tried to talk them into meeting him first. After all, he can read and write already… But nobody wanted to do it.
“We were saved by accident. Our water pipe burst, and we flooded the apartment downstairs. We went down to apologize and met the people who lived there. It turned out that our new neighbor was a student. Dmitri told her about our son’s interest and about the problem with tutors.”
“She burst out: ‘Geography is my passion,’” Dmitri says, smiling. “I took advantage of the opportunity to say: ‘Do you want to meet our Yegor?’ So, now our son studies his favorite subject under her guidance.”
In October, the six-year-old boy will have his first geography Olympiad. He is preparing for it using ninth-grade textbooks.
“Yegor, you must be a little bored already in second grade, aren’t you?” I asked the geography expert.
“No, I’m having fun. There are also many other interesting things besides geography. I have a friend at school who knows much more about outer space than I do.”
Yekaterina Antipova, doctor of geographical sciences at Belarusian State University, says: “The questions that Yegor answers, I give to juniors and seniors studying geography at the university.”
Recently, this amazing boy was invited to join the Minsk club of young geographers, where the youngest participant before Yegor was 16 years old. Yegor won’t start taking geography in school for another four years.
Credits: tut.by and Anna Volkovets
By Yekaterina Panteleyeva Photos: Olga Shukaylo

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