ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As children head back to class this week, there is a local whiz kid entering the third grade in Orchard Park, whose vast depth of knowledge makes all adults feel like they need to go back to school, too.
Jake Smith is being celebrated as this week's 2 On Your Side "Great Kid."
Jake is like so many other 8-year-olds. He likes Legos, Tai Kwon Do, skiing, and family vacations. But Jake is not your average 3rd grader.
"He knows more than I know. He can tell me countries and their capitals and flags, and which flags are the countries they are, and I just agree with him," said Jonelle Smith, Jake's mom. "I have no idea if he's right or wrong, but he's always right. "
He was a toddler in 2014 when he first put together the solar system with his dad.
"Snowvember. This all started when he was 3-years-old and we were snowed in," Jonelle said of the snow storm that brought 7 feet of snow to parts of Western New York over a matter of days.
"We spent hours for several days building models, coloring, and watching videos and cartoons about planets and space," said Jake's dad, Sheldon Smith.
Now he can list not just the order of the planets, but facts about them, their moon and rings, and oddities like the dwarf planets, too.
He also knows nearly everything about dinosaurs including the main time periods the dinosaurs existed and whether each dinosaur is a carnivore or herbivore.
But geography is where Jake is scary smart. Between the ages of 4 and 6, Sheldon said Jake developed a love for US state maps.
"He looked at tons of puzzles, maps, atlas books, etc. He began tracing maps to learn the shapes of each state and because he often ran out of maps to color, he created his own puzzles. He learned songs and played games to commit states and capitals to memory," said Sheldon.
Now Jake can draw the US map free hand by memory. He can say the name of any country in the world - and most of the capitals - just by looking at the outline of the country. Sometimes he can even name the countries surrounding it. He can also identify any country in the world just by looking at its flag.
Jake's magnificent mind is both brilliant and baffling. His teachers have embraced his vast knowledge by letting him teach things like state capitals and the solar system to his classmates at Windom Elementary.
"We embraced it and we encourage it and we let him be who he wants to be," said Jonelle.
Jake has a true passion for learning and is now teaching himself about the creatures of the deep sea.
"He is just a remarkable, loving, imaginative kid. He will color, draw, cut and paste, do puzzles, and play with Lego's for hours at a time," said Sheldon. "We never discourage his interests and he just thirsts for knowledge, every day."
Jake also has an older sister Sadie who is 10-years-old and also a straight-A student. She is a dancer and also loves swimming, Girl Scouts, and gives presentations on Epi Pens and raises money for food allergies.
If you know of a "Great Kid" who should be featured on WGRZ 2 On Your Side, email details to firstname.lastname@example.org .