Photo: Map of languages

National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project strives to preserve endangered languages by identifying hotspots.

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Does the city or town in which you live have a neighborhood in which a language other than English is commonly spoken? Are there restaurants that specialize in foods from other countries? If you live in or near a large urban area, is there a mosque or Buddhist temple?

How did these diverse cultural features come to your city or town? The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a part of a process known as diffusion. And diffusion plays an important role in shaping the unique characteristics of the places in which we live.

Collecting Data

a) Engage students in a discussion of the process of diffusion. Have them identify cultural characteristics of the local area that may be a result of diffusion, e.g., foods, religions, historic or cultural markers, local place names, celebrations, etc.

b) Gather a set of phone books for your or a nearby city or town. Divide students into small groups and assign each group one of the categories of diffusion that the class has identified. Have students scan listings in the phone books, especially the Yellow pages, to identify specific examples of diffusion in your community or a nearby city.

Presenting the Data

c) Once the students have collected data about diffusion in your community or a nearby city, have them sort the data by country or major region.

d) Now have the students prepare maps that show the source areas for the examples of diffusion that they have identified. Have them add lines to their maps that show that these countries or regions are linked to your local area.

e) Display student maps and lead a class discussion of how your local area has been influenced by diffusion.

Extending the Activity

a) Encourage students to research major diffusion streams that have affected world cultural patterns, such as:

i. the spread of the English language

ii. the spread of major religions

iii. major population movements

b) Have students search the Internet for photos and maps that reflect cultural diffusion. Have them use presentation software, such as PowerPoint, to share their research with the class.

School Registration

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About the National Geographic Bee

Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.


The national championship preliminary rounds took place on Monday, May 23, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds featuring the top 10 finalists and moderated by humorist, journalist, and actor Mo Rocca were held on Wednesday, May 25, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.


The national champion receives a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a Lindblad expedition to Southeast Alaska provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.


Watch the 2016 National Geographic Bee Finals

The National Geographic Bee aired on the National Geographic Channel on Friday May 27, and may still be available via streaming services. It is also airing on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.


Meet the 2016 Champions


National Geographic Bee contestants aren't just geography geniuses. They're also savvy park planners! See where they would create a National Park in their own state.




Host Mo Rocca interviews the Top 10 Finalists on stage during the 2016 competition.

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    Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.

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