Unpacking the Everest StoryMap: My Four Instructional Tips

Educator Heidi Ragsdale wrote this post.

Living in a state with some of the highest peaks in the United States, I often wonder about the amazing views from these mountaintops. In 2015, I got to see one firsthand when I traveled to the top of Imogene Pass in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Time stood still as I took in the vista surrounding me, listened to the languages of other visitors, and began to shiver in the swift breeze. As an exploration-minded educator, I filed the experience away in my mind’s “Favorite Moments” file. These types of Earth experiences bring excitement to educators like myself and to our classrooms of budding explorers.

With the release of National Geographic’s new interactive StoryMap Expedition Everest, classrooms across the world can take a peek at the world’s highest peak. Using this immersive resource, students can virtually summit Mount Everest, learning about relevant science, technology, and culture along the way. Not only do they encounter beautiful scenery, but students also consider how innovative solutions can address concerns related to climate change and human impacts. Take your classroom on an adventure they will never forget!

You can start with these ideas:

1. Review the “Expedition Everest” StoryMap, then:

  • Introduce the StoryMap structure and have your students explore the chapters. For younger students, present chapter one as a class, then have students access the next chapters individually or in small groups.
  • Ask students to find two to three key ideas to share as micro-presentations during class time.
  • Divide students into teams, and have each team research one of the chapters and report back on it to the class.
  • Use a collaborative whiteboard like Google Jamboard to have students identify the traits of Everest explorers, other explorers, and themselves as explorers.

2. For more of a problem-based–learning approach, build teams of five students apiece, with each team member representing one of five key focus areas for the 2019 Everest expedition that inspired the StoryMap: biology, geology, glaciology, meteorology, and mapping. After splitting up the roles of biologist, geologist, glaciologist, meteorologist, and geographer or mapper, each team could collaboratively design a StoryMap showing off findings from each expedition expert. The team could then present their work at a public learning presentation within the community. Students can access geospatial mapping tools through National Geographic’s MapMaker and ArcGIS MapViewer. Schools can learn about signing up for free ArcGIS and StoryMap accounts here.

3.  Integrate the StoryMap into specific content or courses:

  • Math: Direct students to build a StoryMap using oxygen levels, pack capacity, or other data from “Expedition Everest.”
  • Science/STEM: Activate students’ inventive muscles by having them devise a capture tool for micro-waste or a more sustainable and protective crampon for Everest climbers. Basic classroom supplies or even recyclable items can make great invention materials! They could even design a 3D map model of the region using clay, recycled materials, or 3D printing.
  • ESL/ELD: Encourage students to use their native languages to help tell the story of Everest, and have students record their voices as explorers. Students could also write or speak from various perspectives or roles involved in the expedition.

History: Have students investigate and present on the various explorers who have ascended Everest. Educators can also introduce their students to a range of National Geographic Explorers through National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom.

4. After integrating the StoryMap into your instruction, extend the learning with these ideas:

  • Involve your students in local citizen science projects to better understand pollution sources within their own community.
  • Have them design a solution to regional air pollution then share it with their community.

No matter the direction you take in using the “Expedition Everest” StoryMap, remember to showcase your own curiosity and wonder and to share and celebrate the development of students’ Explorer Mindsets. Most importantly, let them know that their curiosity as explorers will lead to fantastic future adventures!

Heidi Ragsdale is a STEM educator’s educator! After nearly 20 years in eighth-grade science, Heidi now runs STEM is My Future, LLC, where she provides professional development for teachers with geographic information systems (GIS) technologies, problem-based learning, National Geographic’s Geo-Inquiry Process, and Maker Ed. Currently, Heidi works at Grand Junction MakerSpace and the Business Incubator, a community makerspace in western Colorado. She serves as a Space Exploration Educator Crew Orion member with Space Center Houston; a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison; a Solar System Ambassador; a recipient of funding from the National Geographic Society; an Esri teacher trainer for GIS; a teacher forum member of 100Kin10; a Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) ambassador; the webmaster for Colorado Delta Kappa Gamma; and on the board of the Latin Anglo Alliance Foundation. She is the founder of the the Geo Maker Institute and #GJSpaceLadies, a group of like-minded space-loving educators who get it done! Heidi’s favorite things to make are beautiful digital maps, geo-jewelry, and a difference on Earth.

Featured image by Mark Fisher

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