No Atlas Allowed

And no help from the crowd

THUR 2/12

What's the secret of those kids who win the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee or Alex Trebek's National Geographic Bee? It ain't just smarts -- it's hard-core study.

The high school students who'll be competing in the World Affairs Council of St. Louis' WorldQuest Competition have been spending countless nights memorizing an endless stream of trivia on world affairs and leaders, geography, modern history, flags and international relations. They know the directional axis of the Suez Canal, the name of the country in the "donut hole" of South Africa and the name of the current president of Tuva (that's north-south, Lesotho and Sherig-ool Oorzhak, respectively).

All of this frantic studying can pay off on Thursday at the Benjamin F. Edwards III Learning Center (on A.G. Edwards' corporate campus, 2801 Market Street, 6 to 9 p.m., 314-727-9988). The students' friends, families and teachers, along with curious onlookers, will watch 30 teams compete in a sort of extra-brainy game show for the right to move on to the national contest. (The second-place team will score 500 bucks in MasterCard gift certificates.)

For $10, visitors can watch these ambitious delegates from Generation Z prove that hard, hard work can bring glory -- and/or the opportunity to work even harder to train for nationals. -- Byron Kerman

We Want Candy!
Give us candy!

SAT 2/14

Kids, this Valentine's Day, declare an embargo on those chalky candy hearts with the cutesy messages on them. Demand the good stuff. Demand gourmet candy, and refuse to pay for it (not that kids are known for picking up a check, at least when the parental units are around). The Garden Gate Shop at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard, 314-577-9400) will rot that sweet tooth of yours with free samples of Jelly Belly-brand jelly beans all day long (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Those Technicolor marvels come in exotic flavors, but when in doubt, eat the red ones. You can't go wrong with red candy. Admission to the garden ranges from $1.50 to $7, but if you're younger than twelve, you're in for free. Free admission? Free candy? What's not to love? -- Paul Friswold

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