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To Mount Everest and Beyond: A Lesson on Mountain Climbing for Children

Updated on March 10, 2015

This is part 2 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. This lesson is on Mountain Climbing. Sketch Mount Everest, compete in a "Base Camp" relay race, use a ladder to cross a "crevasse," and more! My lessons are geared toward elementary level children. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 16 children between the ages of 2-9. Use this fun lesson with your class, family, camp, after school program, or homeschool co-op group!

The first mountain my children climbed by themselves was Stone Mountain in Atalanta.
The first mountain my children climbed by themselves was Stone Mountain in Atalanta.

Introduction

1. Pray. Read Philippians 3:13-14. Ask, “How is climbing a mountain like our Christian life?”

2. Review the Arctic & Antarctic. (Possibly have each child share one thing they learned about last week.)

3. Some people just love to explore. After the exploring the countries of the world and exploring the top and bottom of the world, the poles, men decided they wanted to explore the tops of mountains. Ask if any of the children have ever seen a mountain. Have any of them climbed a mountain?

Creating a fold mountain using playdough
Creating a fold mountain using playdough

Types of Mountains

4. There are 4 types of mountains and scientists classify them according to how they think they were formed. The 4 types are folded, and fault block mountains, volcanic, and dome.

-During the flood during the time of Noah, were all the mountains covered with water? Yes, even the highest mountains were covered. Then God had the waters recede, kind of like what happens when you drain the bathtub. Where did the water go? Into the oceans. It drained so fast that some of the water shoved up the dirt and rocks so fast that mountains were formed. Some of the land bumped into each other, and some of the land shoved up into a mountain. Some scientists think it took a long time to form these mountains, but we know from the Bible that they were formed quickly after the flood during the time of Noah. (Note: As a Christian, I believe the Bible is true, including the account of the worldwide flood during the time of Noah. According to some Creation scientists, it was when the waters receded rapidly after the flood that caused parts of the land to jut up into the mountains we have today. I also believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, not millions of years old. To watch a short video clip with additional information on this, go to http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=KLGNNN8X.)

-The most common type of mountain is a fold mountain. (Have everyone say, "fold mountain.") During the flood, layers of sediment (dirt, rocks, dead plants & animals, etc.) piled up on each other. That's what each of your layers of play-dough will represent. Then the flood waters started draining into the oceans and the water shoved under the land. This folding process has formed the Alps, Himalayas, Appalachians, Rockies, and Urals.

* As you speak, have the children make 3 layers of play-dough, each layer a different color. Then have them use their hands (which we'll pretend are the flood waters) shove under the 2 ends of the play-dough to push it up in the middle to form a mountain.

Creating a fault-block mountain using playdough
Creating a fault-block mountain using playdough

- A fault-block mountain was formed when the flood waters shoved up some of the land on one side. This forms a mountain with two steep sides or one steep side and one gently sloping side. (Have everyone say, “fault-block mountain.”) The tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, is classified as a fault-block mountain.

* As you speak, have the children divide their play-dough into 2 blocks “of land”. Have them push the 2 pieces of play-dough so that 1 piece goes up above the other piece.

-A third type of mountain is a volcanic mountain. (Have everyone say, “volcanic mountain.”) Lots of magma/lava shot out of a weak place in the earth’s crust. It hardened to make a mountain. Mauna Loa in Hawaii and Mount Hood are examples of volcanic mountains.

* As you speak, have the children create 1 layer of play-dough with a crack/hole in the middle. Have them take a second color of play-dough and shove it up through the crack/hole.

-The fourth type of mountain is a dome mountain. (Have everyone say, “dome mountain.”) The magma/lava can’t shoot up and escape through a crack. It’s trapped. The magma pushes the layers of rock above it into a round or dome shaped bulge, and the magma gradually hardens into rock. The Black Hills of South Dakota and the Adirondacks of New York are dome-shaped mountains.

* As you speak, have the children create a flat piece of play-dough “land.” Then have them make a small ball of play-dough “magma” and place it under the flat “land” so that a dome appears. Since there are no cracks, this time the magma stays under the land.

YOU WILL NEED: a book that shows a picture of each of the 4 types of mountains, 3 colors of play-dough per child, and something to cover the table (such as a plastic table cloth)

Pointing out the seven summits
Pointing out the seven summits

Seven Summits

5. About 40 years ago a man named Richard Bass decided he wanted to climb the highest mountain on every continent. Ask, “Who remembers the Continent Song?” Sing through the Continent Song twice.

(sung to the tune of "Love and Marriage")

North America, South America,

Europe, Asia, Africa,

Don't forget Antarctica,

or way down under in Australia.

YOU WILL NEED: a world map

6. Richard Bass climbed to the top of the highest mountain on each continent, including Antarctica. These are called “The Seven Summits.” Today it is the goal of many very experienced mountain climbers to summit, or climb to the top, of all seven of these mountains. Point out the general area of where each one is as you name each one. (Ahead of time you can look on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Summits to see a map of where each one is.) Have the children repeat the names of the mountains after you:

Asia: Mount Everest

North America: Mount McKinley

South America: Mount Aconcagua

Europe: Mount Elbrus

Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro

Antarctica: Mount Vinson

Australia: Mount Kosciuszko (Richard Bass climbed Mount Kosciuszko, which is the highest mountain in Australia. “Australia” has now been expanded to be part of Australasia. The modern mountain peak goal is now Puncak Jaya in Indonesia, which is the highest peak in Australasia.)

YOU WILL NEED: a world map

Our Favorite Books on Mount Everest

"The Boy Who Conquered Everest" by Katherine Blanc is a good book for upper elementary aged children. It is the true story of a boy who at age 8 decided he wanted to climb the seven summits. He was 13 when he climbed Everest. It is a very inspiring story presented in a scrapbook style. "Sacred Mountain: Everest" by Christine Taylor-Butler has some nice illustrations. "Everest: Triumph and Tragedy on the World's Highest Peak" by Matt Dickinson is the book we used to show Mount Everest when we sketched it. It is a neat book with reproductions of Mount Everest memorabilia such as a 1921 map of the mountain, a Tibetan prayer flag, the envelope found on George Mallory's body, and more. "DK Readers: Danger on the Mountain -- Scaling the World's Highest Peaks"by Andrew Donkin is an action-packed advanced easy reader book we enjoyed. "Everest" by Joy Masoff is also good.

To the Top! Climbing the World's Highest Mountain (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5)
To the Top! Climbing the World's Highest Mountain (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5)

This was our favorite picture book on Hillary & Tenzing's assent to the summit of Everest. It includes both illustrations and photographs and is interesting to read. It is an advanced easy reader book.

 
The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest
The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest

This is a longer picture book that includes not only information about the first assent of Everest, but also includes lots of tidbits about mountain hiking in general. It is illustrated by Steve Jenkins, who always has exceptional paper-cut out style illustrations.

 
A sketch of Mount Everest done by a 5 year old
A sketch of Mount Everest done by a 5 year old

Mount Everest

7. Of the "Seven Summit" mountains, Mount Everest is the highest. It’s 29,029 feet high. That’s as high up in the sky as airplanes fly!

-What continent is it on? (Asia)

-What type of mountain is it? (Fold mountain)

-Most mountains aren’t just single mountains. Usually they are a part of long lines lots of mountains. We call these mountain ranges. Have everyone say, “Mountain ranges.” Mount Everest is part of a mountain range known as the Himalayas. Have everyone say, “Himalayas.”

-Even though the Himalayan Mountain range is the tallest mountain range in the world, do you know what’s been found toward the top of some of those mountains? Fossils from the ocean! How do you think ocean animals would have gotten on the top of the highest mountain in the world? Yes, during the flood!

8. Before we learn about climbing the mountain, let’s look at Mount Everest itself. (Show a picture from a book of the mountain.) Ask a few of the children to describe it.

YOU WILL NEED: a picture of Mount Everest

9. Lead the children in drawing a picture of Mount Everest by following these directions: http://www.dragoart.com/tuts/17009/1/1/how-to-draw-mount-everest.htm, stopping at step 15. Have the children use a pencil and lightly draw in step 1. For the rest of the drawing they should use a black or blue marker. Go through each step one a time, drawing your picture so the children can see what you’re doing. Don’t focus on having a perfect picture or adding in the exact details. This should be a quick sketching exercise rather than a long, detail-oriented drawing.

YOU WILL NEED: an easel, white board, clipboard, or other item to use so that the children can follow along with each of your steps as you draw, 1 sheet of paper per child, 1 pencil per child, and 1 black or blue marker per child

Our Favorite Books on Mount Everest

You Wouldn't Want to Climb Mount Everest!: A Deadly Journey to the Top of the World
You Wouldn't Want to Climb Mount Everest!: A Deadly Journey to the Top of the World

We love this series that combines lots of humorous illustrations and fun tidbits with lots of factual information presented as though you were actually part of the team.

 
Peak (A Peak Marcello Adventure)
Peak (A Peak Marcello Adventure)

You'll definitely want to include this chapter book in your study of Mount Everest! It is a fictional book about a teen who climbs Everest. We listened to the audio version in while on a long trip. I loved it as did my 11 year old son. We learned so much about climbing Everest. Even my husband, who is quite knowledgeable about climbing Everest, enjoyed most of the book and confirmed that the information was accurate. He did find the ending lame, though. The fact that he wanted to listen to the entire book speaks volumes as to how interesting it was, though.

 

Edmund Hillary

10. Read 2 paragraphs on Edmund Hillary.

YOU WILL NEED: book on Edmund Hillary

The Picture History of Great Explorers
The Picture History of Great Explorers

This is the book we used to read about Hillary and Tenzig. It covers the basics about their expedition and has nice illustrations. You can also look for the picture book "Hilary and Tenzing Climb Everest" by Bob Davidson.

 

Mountain Climbing Gear

11. (Optional -- if you have mountain climbing gear) Just like Hillary, many mountain climbers of today use special mountain climbing gear. Name each of the pieces and let some children try on some of them. Explain that sometimes mountain climbing is just a hike, so all you need are comfortable shoes. Other times, like if you climbed Mount Everest, you might have to repel on ice faces, so you’d need rock climbing gear.

YOU WILL NEED: mountain climbing gear (carabiner, rope, harness, crampons, mountaineering gloves/clothes, ice axe, etc.)

Preparing to Climb a Mountain

12. Before anyone climbs a tall mountain, they need to be in great physical shape. People who prepare to climb Mount Everest spend at least a year doing lots of exercising in order to be in good enough shape to spend a few weeks climbing a mountain. Lead the children in doing a few minutes of basic exercises such as jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, etc.

Less Oxygen

13. We’re now going to pretend to climb one of the seven summits.

-Up on those mountains, they don’t have stores for you to go to get food or hotels for you to stay in. You have to carry your food, clothing, sleeping bag, and whatever else you’ll need with you. Have each child put on a backpack with items in it.

-The higher up you go on a mountain, the less oxygen (which there is in the air), so it’s harder to breathe. At the top of Mount Everest, the air has 60% less oxygen in it than we are breathing down here. We’re going to simulate in our activity when we use a straw to breathe.

-Divide children into 3 groups, with an adult leading each group. Take each group to a set of stairs.

-Have them quietly walk up the stairs wearing the backpacks. Then have them do the same thing (climbing up and down the stairs) while breathing through a straw to simulate the constricted availability of oxygen.

-After everyone in your group has gone, ask them:

a. Did the added weight of the backpack make climbing the stairs difficult?

b. Were you out of breath after climbing the stairs with the backpack?

c. What was it like breathing through the straw while climbing the stairs with the backpack?

d. Did you feel like you needed to rest or take a break?

e. Do you think climbers on Mount Everest have to take breaks while climbing?

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: a straw and a backpack with items in them to make them heavy (such as books or with items you make take on a climb such as food, jackets, and a blanket)(This activity idea and the questions came from http://www.montana.edu/everest/resources/lessons.htm.)

Crossing a Crevasse & Sherpas

14. Sometimes mountain climbers will need to get across a big crack called a crevasse. The cracks are so wide you can’t just jump over them, kind of like these 2 tables. Ask, “How do you think they can get across them?” (Let children guess.) Some of them carry a ladder with them and they place it across the crevasse and climb across. Do you think it would be easy to carry your big backpack and a ladder? No! Many of them hire someone who lives near the mountain to help them carry the items they’ll need. Around Mount Everest they are called Sherpas. (Have everyone say, “Sherpa.”) In other places they call them porters. Let’s find 2 Sherpas to carry our ladder for us and place it across this crevasse. (Have 2 adults carry the ladder around the tables and then place it across the tops of the 2 tables.) Make sure the tables and ladder are study enough to hold the children. Have the children climb over the ladder, one at a time, from one table to the next.

YOU WILL NEED: 2 tables and a ladder

Picture Books on Sherpas & Yaks

Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest
Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest

This tells the story of Tenzing Norgay who accompanied Hillary to the summit of Everest. It is written in free verse, so the details are completely clear on his life. It's not ideal, but it's still worth reading if you would like a picture book on him. If you would like to read more on Sherpas, other okay picture books include "Pemba Sherpa" by Olga Cossi, "Namaste!" by Diana Cohn, "Kami and the Yaks" by Andrea Stenn Stryer, "I See the Sun in Nepal" by Dedie King, "N Is For Nepal" by Anita Adhikary, and "Zak the Yak with Books on His Back" by John Wood.

 
Mountain climbing snack: trail mix
Mountain climbing snack: trail mix

Mountain Climbing Food

15. As children finish crossing the “crevasse,” let them clean their hands and then eat their trail mix and drink their water.

-After all the children have gotten their food, mention that during a long mountain climb, you use lots of energy. They need to eat good foods that are high in calories to give them lots of energy. They might bring along dried meats like the beef jerky we made into pemmican last week or they might eat chocolate or trail mix. When mountain climbers get high up into a mountain, the altitude affects their taste, so they try to bring food items that they really like to eat.

-They need to drink LOTS of water to re-hydrate themselves. If desired, hand a child 2 gallons of water. Ask if they would like to carry those around with them all day while climbing a mountain. Probably not. Ask, "How do you think some mountain climbers get water then?" (Allow children to guess.) They melt the snow.

YOU WILL NEED: wipes or hand sanitizer for children to clean their hands, cups for water, cups for trail mix, 1 large bag of trail mix that includes chocolate, and 2 gallons of water (optional)

Belaying
Belaying

Belaying

16. Sometimes when mountain climbers get to dangerous areas where they may fall or slip easily, they might attach themselves to the mountain using special ropes, harnesses, and carabiners, or they might attach themselves to another person or other people who will catch them if they fall so the person won’t get seriously injured or fall and die. This is called belaying. Have everyone say, "belay."

-Go outside to the playground. Divide children into groups of 2 or 3. Have each group stand in a straight line and hold 1 jump rope, or have pairs attach the ropes around their waists. Tell them to pretend the jump rope is a harness wrapped around each of them. Have them walk around the playground set up the slide and down the stairs while all holding onto the rope. Remember that if someone falls, the other children are supposed to hold them up using the rope.

YOU WILL NEED: 1 jump rope for every 2-3 children

Camp relay
Camp relay

Camp Relay

17. Ask, “What is at the top of lots of high mountains?” (Snow) “Why do many mountains have snow at their peaks?” If you were to travel up a mountain, you would notice that as you went higher it would become colder. At higher altitudes, the air is thinner and it is therefore colder. Sometimes it might take you more than one day to climb a really tall mountain. It takes about 6 weeks to climb Mount Everest, though much of that time you're spending trying to acclimate, or get used to, the air with less oxygen. The places where you camp are called “camps.” Sometimes you might leave some of your gear at one of those camps so that you don’t have to carry everything all the way up and down. The main reason you set up camps, though, is to allow your body to acclimate/adjust to the lower amount of oxygen at that level.

-The children are going to do a "Base Camp Relay Race." Walk along the relay race route as you explain this to them: The first camp you start out at is called “base camp.” Have everyone say, “base camp.” It’s a little warmer toward the bottom of the mountain, so all I need is a t-shirt. Next you’ll go to Camp 1. Walk 10 steps. I’ll sleep overnight at Camp 1. I'll need to get use to the air here. I’ll eat here. I know on the way back I’ll want food when I stop there, so I’ll leave a little bit of food at Camp 1 for my trip back. (Put a can of food at that spot.) Walk 10 steps. A few days or weeks later, I’ll camp here. I’ll call this, “Camp 2.” It’s getting very cold here, so I’ll pull out my jacket and put it on. I’ll leave more food and some clean clothing (a shirt) here for when I get back. (Pull out a jacket and a can of food.) Walk 10 steps. The next day I reach the summit, the top of the mountain. Then I return to Camp 2. I get to eat the food I left there and put on this clean clothing. The next day I sleep over at Camp 1. I eat my food I left there. Finally I arrive at Base Camp and I can go home.

-Divide the children into 3 teams to do a relay race. Have them go through the same steps you did. An adult will need to lead them through each step. Be sure to use the words “Base Camp, Camp 1, Camp 2, & Summit” with each child. Have the youngest children go first and the oldest children go last.

a. Start at Base Camp (starting line) with a backpack with 2 cans of food and 2 jackets.

b. Walk/run to Camp 1. Sit down “to eat and sleep.” Pull out 1 can of food. Put on 1 jacket.

c. Walk/run to Camp 2. Sit down “to eat and sleep.” Pull out 1 can of food and 1 shirt.

d. Walk/run to the summit.

e. Walk/run back to Camp 2. Sit down “to eat and sleep.” Put the can back in your backpack.

f. Walk/run to Camp 1. Sit down “to eat and sleep.” Take off the jacket and put it, the can, and the t-shirt in your backpack.

g. Walk/run to Base Camp and hand the backpack to the next “mountain climber.”

YOU WILL NEED: 3 backpacks, each with 2 cans of food, 1 t-shirt (that will be easy for the children to put on and take off), and 1 child-sized jacket (This can be the same backpack used in the earlier activity on oxygen.)

Review & Mountain Climbing Expedition

18. Review what we learned about mountains: Ask questions such as: What do we call the group of the highest mountain peaks on each continent that many mountain climbers want to climb? (Seven Summits.) Name one of the Seven Summits. How are mountains categorized? (By how they were formed.) Name one type of mountain. What is the tallest mountain in the world? What continent is it on? Who was the first person to climb to the top of Mount Everest?, etc.

19. (Optional) Go on a mountain climbing expedition. (We drove a few miles down the road and walked up and down a hill.)

How did the big mountain know that the little mountain was fibbing?

Because it was only a bluff!

Material List for the Lesson

*Everyone needs to bring per child:

-3 colors of play-dough or modeling clay

-1 sheet of blank paper (drawing paper or computer printer paper)

-1 pencil

-1 black or blue marker

- mountain climbing gear (carabiner, rope, harness, crampons, mountaineering gloves/clothes, ice axe, etc.) if you have any of those types of things (optional)

- a backpack with some items in them such as a few cans of food and a blanket. (They should be heavy enough to add a bit of weight to the children but shouldn’t be too heavy it would hurt them. Younger children don’t need to have items in their backpacks. If you don’t own backpacks, you can just have your children bring canvas bags, purses, or something like that.)

- a jump rope (1 per family)

*Items to be assigned to individuals to bring for the group:

-book showing different types of mountains

-book showing Everest

-book on Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

-a world map

-sturdy ladder

-straws

-something the cover the tables with (such as newspaper)

-an easel or clipboard or other item to use so that the children can follow along with each of your steps as you draw

-wipes or hand sanitizer for children to clean their hands

-cups for water & cups for trail mix

-1 large bag of trail mix that includes chocolate

-1 backpack with 2 cans of food, 1 t-shirt (that will be easy for the children to put on and take off), and 1 child-sized jacket (This can be the same backpack you bring for your child to use in the earlier activity.)

-1 backpack with 2 cans of food, 1 t-shirt (that will be easy for the children to put on and take off), and 1 child-sized jacket (This can be the same backpack you bring for your child to use in the earlier activity.)

-1 backpack with 2 cans of food, 1 t-shirt (that will be easy for the children to put on and take off), and 1 child-sized jacket (This can be the same backpack you bring for your child to use in the earlier activity.)

More Good Books on Mountain Climbing

"Maxwell's Mountain" by Becker and "Pog Climbs Mount Everest" by Peter

Haswell are both simple picture books that would be fine for reading for fun to preschoolers.

This Place Is High: The Andes Mountains of South America (Imagine Living Here)
This Place Is High: The Andes Mountains of South America (Imagine Living Here)

This is a longer picture book that describes the Andes Mountains and includes quite a bit on what life is like on those mountains.

 
High As A Hawk
High As A Hawk

This picture book is based on the ascent up Longs Peak in Colorado in 1905, describing a young girl's determination to climb to the top of Colorado's highest peak.

 

Great YouTube Clips on Mountains

Ready for More Lessons?

Make ocean floor pies, carry "eggs" like a penguin, sketch Mount Everest, compete in a "Base Camp" relay race, prepare and eat pemmican, and more in the exciting 3 week adventure as we explore the poles of the Earth, the heights of the mountains, and the depths of the oceans! This unit includes habitats, food chains, earth science, oceanography, and more!

This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. Train like scientists do for trips to Antarctica, make and eat pemmican, carry eggs like penguins, and more!

This is part 2 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. This lesson is on Mountain Climbing. Sketch Mount Everest, compete in a Base Camp relay race, use a ladder to cross a “crevasse,” and more!

This is part 3 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. This lesson is on Oceanography. Sculpt ocean floor pies, act out what creates tides, create ocean wave bottles, try on scuba gear, make ocean zone flip books, and more!

Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons here.

Konos Volume III
Konos Volume III

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children! You can even watch free on-line videos as Jessica, one of the co-authors of Konos, walks you through a unit. (Look for the Explanation Videos tab.)

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2014 iijuan12

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