Experiencing the Thrill of Everest from the Safety of the Classroom

Do you have what it takes to ascend the world’s loftiest summit? It’s daunting to imagine the equipment and support a team needs to undertake such a demanding feat of mountaineering, not to mention the mental resolve and perseverance to push through endless nights of bitter cold and wind. But that’s exactly what three members of the Montana State University community are experiencing in the 2012 Mount Everest Education Expedition, sponsored by National Geographic, the North Face, and other partners. Montana State University geologist David Lageson, MSU student Travis Corthouts, MSU alumnus Kris Erickson, and North Face global team athlete Conrad Anker are part of the expedition team. 
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Mount Everest in the Himalayas. Photo by Jodi Cobb.
Following their journey are more than 1000 students from across Montana who have gained access to a unique way of learning about the technical challenges of mountaineering.

“Not only are the students seeing exotic photos and reading updates on MSU’s expedition website, but they are using some of the same equipment in the classroom that the climbers are using on Mount Everest,” said Suzi Taylor, assistant director of outreach and communication at MSU’s Extended University.

“Hundreds of others are following the expedition’s dispatches, photos, and videos via Facebook.”

Extended University prepared 40 teacher kits and eight lesson plans as part of their educational offerings. The kits include geologic hammers for rock sampling, handheld GPS units, National Geographic maps to track the expedition progress, and waterproof tablets for writing down observations, just to name a few items. In total, the kits contain an estimated $500 worth of equipment to help students understand the science and geography behind the journey.
Teachers of elementary and middle school-aged kids are reporting that their students are “jacked up” and very excited to be able to experience firsthand what climbing up Mt. Everest would entail–without the risk of frostbite and altitude sickness. Many teachers are having kids participate in activities that are meant to emulate the physical limits of the human body at such altitudes, such as walking up stairs with ten pounds of books strapped to their back while breathing through a straw.

 “Some days it is hard to get them to think about the other parts of their education,” said Bill Lee, who teaches fifth and sixth-graders at Winifred School, located in North-Central Montana between Havre and Lewistown. 

Read more about the Everest Education Expedition, and about how Montana students are experiencing the action, in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The National Geographic website about the expedition, On Everest, features dramatic photographs and videos, including scenes of an emergency evacuation of photographer Cory Richards.

-Mickey

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