By Dillon Tabish, 4-29-12
||Caption: Montana State University student Travis Corthouts in front of Mount Everest on the trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. - Photo by Dave Lageson/courtesy of MSU
Breathing only through a straw, grade school students carrying heavy backpacks tried running up and down flights of stairs at St. Matthew’s School recently. That's almost what it's like for the group of Montanans currently hiking the world's tallest mountain.
From inside St. Matthew’s, students are following a Mount Everest expedition involving a geology professor and others from Montana State University and Bozeman. The two-month expedition, led by renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker, began in March and is a historic one. Climbers are attempting to reach the summit 50 years after the first Americans. The expedition includes MSU geologist David Lageson, MSU student Travis Corthouts and MSU alumnus Kris Erickson.
Myrna Matulevich at St. Matthew’s received one of the teacher kits from MSU that was delivered to schools across the state to follow along and learn from the expedition. Students are introduced to Everest up close through lesson plans and activities and learn about the biodiversity of the Himalayan Mountain ecosystem. The kits include a whole list of equipment and tools for students. A time-lapse camera, which climbers have set up to record shrinking glaciers near Everest, has been situated near a garden at St. Matthew’s so students can see the evolution of spring. Students are also becoming familiar with GPS devices, climbing tools and rock samples.
"They're really liking it," Matulevich said. "I was surprised because overall in all three grades most of the kids don't much know much about serious hiking and rock climbing or mountain climbing. They've maybe been up Big Mountain or Jewel Basin but that's it, and not very many have even done that."
Forty schools across the state received Everest kits, which were made available through donations.
“The students have been ecstatic about being able to follow MSU’s Everest expedition,” Lori Chapman, a teacher in Livingston, said in a statement from MSU. “I feel this has been an excellent opportunity for students to tie in our earth science content into real world connections so they can better understand why and how scientists go about their investigations and the continuous opportunities to understand the history of how Montana and other similar geologic regions have formed and are changing.”
In Kalispell, Matulevich's students have been experiencing all aspects of mountaineering and geography, whether it's going on scavenger hunts or testing their pulse after strenuous exercises. They've also been checking photos and updates from the team currently on Everest on MSU's Expedition website (www.montana.edu/everest) and the National Geographic's blog (nationalgeographic.com/oneverest).
"It's just a really cool project," she said. "It's even cooler when you have that connection between the people that are there right now and the students."
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