THE annual New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee is underway and calling for entries from secondary schools across the country. Event Organiser, Janet Lucas, says there has been an excellent response from schools keen to offer this opportunity to their students, but there is still plenty of time to enroll and is free to enter. Over the next two months, wordsmiths in Years 9 and 10 will hone their spelling skills in the hopes of winning $5000 cash along with the National Spelling Bee trophy. In late June, students will conduct a written spelling test in their classrooms. The New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee organisers will then determine the top 200 spellers from around the country who will then advance to one of five regional spelling bees held in August. The top finalists at each regional spelling bee win travel and accommodation to compete in the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee Final in Wellington on October 12. Lucas says that while the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee is an orthography challenge, the words selected are ones the students will definitely see and use again such as, prejudice, epidermis, salubrious and itinerary. “I have found that when the students prepare for the Spelling Bee they gain a real interest in extending their vocabulary and learning new, and often incredibly difficult words that are out there. “The challenge ultimately helps students in their future education, which is the aim of the National Spelling Bee,” says Lucas. “As well as gaining a deeper appreciation of the English language, the students gain new study skills and for those who advance to the regional competitions and the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee Final there is the opportunity to meet like minded students and to refine their public speaking skills. “None of this would be possible without the commitment and ongoing support of long term sponsors including Kraft Vegemite and ZM radio,” adds Lucas.