The resources were created at Montana State University by geology professor David Lageson and MSU student Travis Corthouts, who are on Everest this spring as part of a team led by The North Face global team athlete Conrad Anker. Other climbers on the team are sponsored by The North Face and National Geographic. Researchers from Mayo Clinic are also part of the effort.
Not only are the students seeing exotic photos and reading updates on MSU's Everest Education Expedition website (http://www.montana.edu/
The climbers left for Everest in mid-March, arrived at base camp April 1 and are estimated to reach the summit in mid-May in an expedition taking place nearly 50 years after the National Geographic-sponsored first American ascent of Mount Everest. At 29,035 feet, Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain if measured from sea level to summit.
Montana State University prepared eight lesson plans and more than a dozen educational videos and interactives to be used in classrooms as the climbers ascend the mountain, Taylor said. One video features Conrad Anker explaining the type of gear needed for an expedition to Everest and can be seen at http://youtu.be/
Some participating students are climbing local hills and taking GPS readings. Some are using time-lapse cameras to monitor changes in nearby fields, and others are using geologic rock hammers to sample the same kind of rocks that Lageson expects to collect on Mount Everest, such as limestone, granite, garnet and schist. Lageson's research is funded by a grant from National Geographic's Expeditions Council.
"The students are really jacked up. 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.
His students appreciated the enormous feat it is to climb Mount Everest when they had to breathe through a straw while climbing stairs with 10 pounds of textbooks on their backs, Lee said. In another activity, his students had to find and identify rocks that he hid on the school grounds. As a bonus before Easter, the students used their GPS units to find Easter eggs that were hidden half a mile away in the city park.
Lori Chapman, math/science teacher at Sleeping Giant Middle School (SGMS) in Livingston, said one of her students was so enthusiastic about the Everest unit that he took a "Rite in the Rain" notebook and pen home to see if he could find any conditions where the instruments won't work. "Rite in the Rain" is all-weather writing paper that sheds water so explorers and other users can write anywhere, in any weather.
In other activities, Chapman's students calculated how fast they walk in Livingston and compared it to the climbers in Mount Everest's "death zone." The students are also keeping track of the climbers' progress by placing markers on a scaled version they built of Mount Everest.
"The students have been ecstatic about being able to follow MSU's Everest expedition,"
The lesson plans target fifth graders, but they can be adapted for other grade levels, Taylor said. Each lesson was designed to last about 45 minutes and together they cover meteorology, geology, climate science, the history/culture of Everest, glaciology and biodiversity. The educational outreach project was developed through a partnership with the Montana National Science Foundation EPSCoR program.
MSU's Everest Education Expedition website includes "MSU Science Zones," a series of one-page worksheets that offer a question, answer and short activity related to Mount Everest. Lageson also explains various aspects of Mount Everest science in one-minute videos available at the site.
Lageson and Corthouts have also been sending dispatches, photos and videos to the team's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/
National Geographic and The North Face are also covering the expedition on their websites, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/