Our quest up Everest

Today marked my 3rd annual trek up Mt. Everest with my students. It coincides with our reading of Peak by Roland Smith and usually falls on a day about halfway through reading the novel. It is by far one of the most fun spins to a normal reading day.
It all begins with a hook…
Our journey began yesterday towards the end of each hour. I played a “voicemail” I just received on my phone the students “just had to hear.” The message informs them that they have been selected to go on a special excursion to ABC on Mt. Everest.
Then I passed out climbing permits for the students to fill out, which I collected at the end of the hour.
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The prep work…
After school the classroom transformation took place. To begin I put half of my desks in my reading corner (I told my students that corner was off limits because of a rockslide). This freed up a lot of my room for the students to set up their “camp sites.” Then I created a giant mountain out of construction paper. I also hung up some pictures of yaks and turned a couple of coffee thermoses into oxygen tanks (it’s the details that make the day fun). Finally, I created a mountain on my classroom door.


Climbing up Everest…
The students started in the hall waiting to enter Base Camp. I handed them their climbing permits and told them about the camps they could choose from: 3 pods of desks, a floor table, some comfy chairs, and the fave, a tent set up in the classroom. They were sent in one guild at a time to choose their camp site based on their guild standings.
Once the kids had their camps set up, I let them create a team banner for their campsite to replace their current guild crests they’ve been using since August. They also had a chance to create new names (my favorites were the YetiYetis and Blizzard Shakers).

While they worked on their banners I let them come over and get some hot tea to “warm up” like they do in the book. Many had never tried hot tea before. I let them add sweetener and honey to it. We also did a mini-lesson on appropriate responses when someone offers you a gift (only two responses: thank you or no thank you).

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The kids spent the rest of the hour reading the next chapter in the book at their camp site.


The finale…
The highlight was at the end of the hour I broke the bad news to the students. One of the groups in each hour got frostbite and unfortunately lost the fingers on one of their hands. I had a dramatic dice roll to determine which group would get frostbite. That group then had to spend the rest of the day not using the fingers on that hand. It was hilarious and fun. I saw kids in the hall all day trying to figure out how to carry their books and open doors with their missing fingers.
The cleanup…
The hardest part about the day is cleanup. This year I came up with a solution. To begin I let my homeroom students have a snowball fight with the paper snow on the ground. They loved it. Then I let them play paper basketball with the paper snow into the trash cans. It was great. They were having fun and cleaning at the same time. Finally, I bribed them with some more hot tea to help me reorganize my desks.

Overall, it was an exhausting but great day.
The future…
Next year I’m hoping to add more team building activities around the campfire, team chants and songs, and then have them share some campfire stories they write beforehand.
It’s things like this the kids remember.

Our Flight to Tibet

Last night I was in the middle of a great Twitter chat with the #xplap crew about immersive engagement and planning out today’s lesson at the same time when I got an idea. Why was I talking about immersive engagement and not creating an immersive lesson at the same time? It seemed a little hypocritical, so at 9:30 at night I changed up all of my plans and this was the result:
We are 7 chapters into the novel Peak by Roland Smith. At this point in the novel the main character is on a plane flying out to Tibet to climb Mt. Everest. My original plan was to have the students do a flipped reading of the next 2 chapters (using EdPuzzle). To make this a more immersive experience I decided that we would fly on the plane to Tibet as well.
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To start the hour I had the students wait in the hall until the bell ring. I had a sign on my door that said Stock Air: Gate SFT1. When the bell rang I walked out in a suit and tie (not my normal attire). They asked me why I was so dressed up. I told them that Flight Attendants always dress up and asked them for their tickets. When they couldn’t show me their tickets I told them I had extras for them and proceeded to pass out a plane ticket to each student.
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I then tore off a portion of each ticket and welcomed them aboard the plane. My desks were lined up in rows to look like airplane seating. The next time I do this I’ll hang some sheets from the ceiling to make it narrower and look more like a plane.


After everyone was aboard I told them that they would need to download the inflight entertainment by downloading the EdPuzzle app. I also told them that the airline would be providing headphones if anyone needed some.
Once everyone was situated and ready to go I played a safety video from the flight attendant:
https://youtu.be/cboLVVzxe2s
I then told them to prepare for takeoff and played audio of the pilot giving a message:
https://youtu.be/ajsO8roa-uQ
And that was it. The kids spent the rest of the “flight” reading their books. I put a picture of clouds on the screen to remind them that we were flying. They were doing exactly what I had originally planned, but after setting it up this way I had the greatest class period. The kids were engaged in their reading, I didn’t have behavior issues, and all of the kids got to work right away. Throughout the hour I would do things like ask visitors to the room how they were able to fly up to our plane and told kids leaving to use the restroom to be careful because of turbulence, anything to keep the illusion alive.
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When class was about over I asked them to put their trays in the upright position and clean up their seating area. Then I played an announcement from the pilot:
https://youtu.be/FiVLMsYsGMk
When the bell rang I thanked them all for flying Stock Air and asked them to consider Stock Air for all of their future travel needs:
https://youtu.be/sTIku2iCIj4
All of this came out of an idea I had at 9:30 the night before. Was it hectic trying to throw everything together at the last minute? Absolutely. Are there things I would like to do differently? Yep. I’m planning out all the ways I can improve this for next year. But those things didn’t matter to the kids. They enjoyed a new, unique experience.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and try something different even if you don’t have all the details worked out. Things have a way of figuring themselves out, and now I have an awesome idea for next year.

Help support my students…

When I was in elementary school I used to love getting book orders. I would spend hours poring over the selections, circling books I might want, and crossing out books that looked boring. Sometimes my parents would buy me one of these books, and there is nothing quite like the experience of getting a new book. The crisp pages, the glossy cover, even the smell of a new book is different. When that book is yours forever you treat it differently. You treasure it a little more and want to read every word on the page.
At my school we do an amazing job of helping support the needs of all of our students. We help locate affordable dental and optometry care. We’ve come together as a staff to provide furniture to families who got their first home and needed a leg up. We also send home backpacks with food for students who may have limited resources at home. However, many kids have never experienced the joy of a new book.
My goal this year is to get a new book for each student that may not have an opportunity to purchase a new book on his or her own. My goal is to get at least 40 books for the students to choose from at the end of the year. Hopefully this will be a program that will continue on for years to come.
Through points from Scholastic book orders and books I’ve personally purchased we have 12 books. It’s a great start to our goal. If you would like to purchase a book to donate to this project please choose one of the options below:

  1. Amazon:
    • http://amzn.com/w/GOBQ2FN54Y47
    • Look through the list and find a great book to donate to the class
    • Add the book to your cart and complete the purchase
    • The book will be shipped directly to my class
  1. Scholastic Book Order:
  • https://clubs2.scholastic.com
  • Click the parent section
  • Click “connect to your teacher”
  • Enter the code: NNNML
  • Click “see our wish list”
  • Choose a great book to donate to the class
  • Some people who have tried this were asked to type in the name of the child.  You can put “Donated Book” as the name and it should work or you can make up a fake name.  Harry Potter might be a good choice.  🙂

Thank you for enriching the lives of our students, one book at a time.