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Hillary Conquers Everest
Grade Levels: 3–8

Project Snapshot
Scholastic's "Hillary Conquers Everest" invites you to join Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay as they become the first men to climb the highest mountain in the world — Mount Everest.

Learning Objectives
In the course of participating in this online project, students will:

  • Learn about the geography, history, and culture of the Himalayas
  • Improve content-area reading skills, applying various reading strategies
  • Use the Internet for research
  • Develop vocabulary and factual knowledge associated with mountain climbing, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Mount Everest

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Project Components
Relive Edmund Hillary's Trek to Top of the World. (Grades 3-8)
Students will experience this exhilarating historic climb through photos and text, starting in March, 1953 at the Tengpoche Monastery and ending at the summit of Mt. Everest on May 29, 1953.

Photo History of Sir Edmund Hillary (Grades 3-8)
Students will see Sir Edmund Hillary grow from a little boy in New Zealand who was put in a class for uncoordinated boys to become the first person to climb the highest mountain in the world. They will also learn the tragedy he encountered late in his life.

Interview with Sir Edmund Hillary (Grades 3-8)
Students have the chance to read an interview with Sir Edmund Hillary when he visited Scholastic. Here he gives the reader details of this very difficult climb.

Profile of Tenzing Norgay (Grades 3-8)
Students will learn more about Sir Hillary's teammate, a Sherpa from Nepal, who reached the top of the world with him.

Meet the Sherpas (Grades 3-8)
This short passage tells about the Sherpas who assist others in climbing Mt. Everest.

Mt. Everest Glossary (Grades 3-8)
Students are given the definitions of the words they will need to know to understand the story of this historic climb.

Meet Your Host Whitney Stewart (Grades 3-8)
Whitney Stewart is an author for young adults. Her special interest is the Himalayan countries and she has trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal. Students will learn more about Hillary from his good friend, who was interviewed by students.

Facts About Mt. Everest (Grades 3-8)
Here students can learn about the tallest mountain in the world and the history of attempts to scale it. Did you know that the first two women to reach the summit were American?

World Famous Mountains (Grades 3-8)
A chart of the most famous mountains in the world, where they are located, their height, and when they were first climbed.

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National Standards Correlations
This project supports the following standards for English/Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA):
  • Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
"Hillary Conquers Everest" also addresses the following thematic strands as set forth in the Curriculum Standards for Social Studies of the National Council for the Social Studies:
  • Culture: Students learn how to understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points.
  • Time, Continuity, and Change: Students will experience the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.
  • People, Places, and Environments: Students utilize technological advances to connect to the world beyond their personal locations. The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world.
  • Individual Development and Identity: Students learn to ask questions such as: Why do people behave as they do? What influences how people learn, perceive, and grow?
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions: Students will read about experiences that show how individuals must work together to achieve success.
This project also supports the National Geography Standards goals: to produce a geographically informed person who sees meaning in the arrangement of things in space and applies a spatial perspective to life situations.

The following are addressed specifically in this activity: The geographically informed person knows and understands:

  • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
  • The physical and human characteristics of places.
  • How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.
  • How human actions modify the physical environment.
In addition, this Learning Adventure supports the following standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics.
  • The study of mathematics should emphasize problem solving so that students can formulate problems from situations within and outside mathematics.
  • Students will compute with whole numbers and fractions to solve problems.
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Lesson Planning Suggestions
"Hillary Conquers Everest" offers a wealth of information, resources, and activities. This project can be used over several weeks of class time, or segments of it can be utilized during a shorter time frame. It provides opportunities for group collaboration and exploration as well as individual learning. Here are suggested ways you may use this program topic in your school or classroom.

Before beginning this unit, have available a map of the world so that students can see where Mt. Everest is located and the other highest mountains mentioned in this site. Help students compare these mountains' heights with distances that will have real-world meaning to help them comprehend how high Mount Everest is. Ask students to use their prior knowledge to discuss the difficulties of climbing the highest mountain in the world. Also, elicit any information students may have from viewing the IMAX movie "Everest" or from news reports of more recent Everest climbs.

Have students discuss the following questions.

  • Why would someone want to climb the highest mountain in the world?
  • What qualities would a mountain climber possess?
  • What would be some of the dangers of climbing?
  • Would the students be willing to accept the risks to accomplish this feat?
After this initial discussion, explain to students that they are going to be learning about the history of the first men to climb Mt. Everest. Read the Photo History of Sir Edmund Hillary together as a class or have the students read it on their own. After they have completed their reading, discuss the following questions:
  • What made Edmund Hillary want to become a mountain climber?
  • What incident in his early life did he have to overcome to accomplish his goal?
  • What tragedy did he suffer later in his life?
Now invite students to Relive Edmund Hillary's Trek. Have each student keep a journal imagining that they are actually taking part in the expedition. The reproducible skill sheet provides writing prompts for each stop on the trek. Students can begin their journals by pretending that they have arrived at the first site - Tengpoche Monastery. Encourage the students to answer as well the Activity Pack questions posed at each stop. Create a page labeled Think Ahead/Think Back. Have students imagine what they would do at each stop and then compare what Hillary did.

Review with the students all the words they will encounter from the glossary and then, after students have completed the trek, have them write a summary of Hillary's climb, including these same words. Encourage students to use the following problem-solving format to describe how the climbers overcame obstacles:


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Talk-Show Interview (All grades - Speaking, Listening, Research)
A fun follow-up activity that enables students to demonstrate their knowledge is to set up a modern-day interview show, "Oprah Meets the Climbers of Everest." Students can volunteer to act as the members of a climbing expedition and one student can be "Oprah." Students who want to learn more about other expeditions to Everest can visit Nova's Alive on Everest site.

Media Center (All grades - Art, Reading, Vocabulary)
Talk with your school librarian or media center director about featuring Mt. Everest through the library setting, providing reading materials and special resources in a specific area.

Time Line Bulletin Board Display (All grades - Art, Vocabulary, Writing)
Assign different groups to create a segment of a mural for each stop on the trek to create a pictorial timeline of the ascent.

Travel Brochure (All grades - Art, Vocabulary, Writing)
Have students create a travel poster or brochure encouraging people to travel to Nepal and make the climb to the top of Everest.

Slide Show (Grades 3-8 - Art, Technology, Research Skills, Writing)
Have students create a slide show about their climb to the summit of Mount Everest using multimedia software such as HyperStudio or PowerPoint. As a culminating activity, invite parents to an electronic fair where students can present their slide shows or parents can go to a computer station to view the presentations independently.

Newsworthy Travelers! (Grades 3-8 - Technology,Writing)
Have each student write an article about the first successful climb to the summit of Mt. Everest as if they were reporting on the event live. Remind them to use the "five W's and an H" (who, what, when, where, why and how) as they write their news articles. Compile the articles into a history newsletter. ClarisWorks, Microsoft Works, and The Writing Center all include newsletter templates.

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There are a variety of assessment opportunities built into this project. The use of journals throughout the project will provide an opportunity to assess both historical understanding and writing skills. The "Activity Pack" suggestions at each stop of the trek also provide opportunities for assessment of student comprehension and writing, as well as activities relating to math, science, and other curriculum topics.

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Online Resources

Be sure to visit Nova's site to read about the 1996 expedition to the summit. Here you will be able to compare the technology used today with what was available for Hillary and Norgay. There are also some great photos for students to add to their journals. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/everest/expeditions/96/

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