Another Trip Up Everest

Today was one of my favorite activities we do in my class all year. We took my 4th annual trek up Mt. Everest, and it was epic!

The Setup:

It all started with the setup yesterday. I had a few kids tell me it must take me a long time to set up, and I told them it did. Then I told them that they are worth it, and they definitely are worth every minute I spent cutting out paper mountains and yaks, shopping for tea supplies and reorganizing my room. But it is definitely a lot of work.

For the setup I drew a mountain scene on the chalkboard cabinets (which is one of my all-time favorite ways to relax). Then I created mountains out of construction paper and covered my windows with them. I also had to move all of the desks off to one side of the room and attempt to hide it with green and white paper representing more mountains (it didn’t work, so I just told the students the desks were a rock slide).

I also set up a tent in one corner of the room and made six other campsites. Two were round tables, one was my comfy chair section in the free reading corner, one consisted of the two wooden benches I made this summer, one was a set of floor chairs and one was just a spot on the floor. Then I set up the tea station. By the time I left the room was almost ready to go.

This morning I added a few finishing touches, created some rules signs and it was ready to roll.

The Climb:

I always start the climb the same way. I stop them at the door and ask if they have their climbing permits. Today I was wearing a heavy coat, gloves, a hat and sunglasses. I told a few students they were going to freeze to death because they had on shorts. Then I pass out their climbing permits and go over the rules for Mt. Everest. The rules are framed like climbing rules but they are reiterations of regular classroom rules. I emphasized that they shouldn’t pick up the snow (which I learned from prior experiences to tell them not to do).

Then I start letting groups go in to set up their campsites. I base the order they get to choose their campsites based on their current team rankings in my gamified class. First place got first pick which was always the tent. Then the rest of the groups filled in.

Once everyone was situated they designed banners for their camps. They had a blast coming up with new names for their teams that combined their current names with snow/mountain terms. It also gave them a chance to be social at the beginning which I knew would be important later on. After about 10 minutes we shared names and then I explained the plan for the rest of the day.

For about 30 minutes they read their novel, Peak by Roland Smith by following along on an EdPuzzle video of me reading the chapters with them. While they were reading I called groups up to get a cup of hot tea with honey. A lot of the kids said they had never tried tea before.

After about 30 minutes of reading and enjoying their tea we had an epic dice battle. Camps went head to head rolling the dice to see which team would come out victorious. The winning team earned 100 points for their team. The losing team had to wait until the end of the hour to find out their consequence. The dice battles were a great break in the block and then they read for the last 20 minutes of class.

At the end of the hour I broke the bad news to the class. I had every team that lost the dice battle raise their hand. I said, “bad news. Unfortunately you all got frostbite.” Then I rolled the dice. Whatever the dice landed on they lost that many fingers for the rest of the day. There was a huge wave of laughter and groans. I found out from students after school that most of them stuck with it. They told me stories about trying eat lunch with only one hand or trying to figure out how walk their bikes down the sidewalk with those “missing fingers.”

It was such a fun day, and here’s the reality. The bulk of my lesson plan today was reading comprehension. I got kids to read for almost an hour and covered all of the same things I would have normally covered. The climb up Everest and the game elements were just added layers on top of my existing content. And since it’s a block day I get to do it all tomorrow!

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