Mount Everest: What Goes Up Should Come Down Unit Driving Question: How can we enjoy and explore unique natural areas while still protecting our environment?

Summits with a View Lesson Driving Question: Why do people want to climb Mount Everest?

1. Engage students by watching a video that captures the emotions of reaching Kilimanjaro’s summit.    

  • Begin with the still shot at the start of the video, Kilimanjaro – The Summit. Have students look for clues in the image to determine where the video takes place and confirm the correct answer (Tanzania, Africa). Have students find Tanzania, Africa, on a world map.
  • Then have students watch the video from the 2:36 minute mark until the end.
  • Ask students: What is happening in this video? What details do you notice? What seems both challenging or enjoyable about the experiences these people are having?

2. Using an image of the Seven Summits, discuss what inspires people to climb these mountains.

  • Show students this image of the Seven Summits and explain why there are eight images in the collection. Explain that one of the peaks known as Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid, was not originally one of the Seven Summits because it is politically part of Indonesia, which is part of the Asian continent. Therefore, it would not be the highest peak in Asia because Mount Everest is much taller. However, being in New Guinea, it is also considered part of Oceania, so peakbaggers now traditionally identify Puncak Jaya to be the highest point in Oceania, and Mount Kosciuszko to be the highest peak in Australia.
  • Ask students: Why would someone want to risk their lives in order to reach the top of these mountains?
  • Consider showing images from the summits, in addition to the summits themselves, to inspire more responses. Possible images include:
  • As a class, discuss student's responses and document big ideas on a surface that can remain visible throughout the activity, such as chart paper or a whiteboard.

3. Students learn about two mountaineers, Patrick Morrow and Kit DesLauriers, and learn what the term peakbagger means in terms of mountaineering. 

Peakbagger (n): A mountain climber whose principal goal is the attainment of a summit, or a specific set of summits.

  • Emphasize that Patrick Morrow would be an example of a peakbagger because he attained all eight of the highest peaks on each continent, which is a specific set of summits.
  • Next, have students watch the video Surviving the Seven Summits about Kit DesLauriers and her preparations to climb and ski the Seven Summits.
  • As a class, add new reasons to the collective list of what inspires a person to keep trying to reach dangerous summits even after repeated failures.

4. In groups, students research one of the eight summits to begin the jigsaw portion of this activity.

Informal Assessment

Prior to the next activity, Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation, review students’ expert peak information on the peakbagging card that they completed to assess whether the information was mapped appropriately and if this information is accurate based on the articles that were provided.

Extending the Learning

ELA Extension: Expository/Informational Writing—Have students choose one of the Seven Summits and complete additional research about the summit in order to present an informational presentation, including written information and a visual element. Have students practice evaluating sources for credibility and cite text evidence within their essays.

Math Extension: Have students use researched information about the Seven Summits in order to create a graph that compares the number of people who reached each summit and the elevation of the peaks to see if there is a correlation. 

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand that peakbaggers are individuals who are drawn to mountaineering for the purpose of summiting many difficult mountains as a collection of accomplishments.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Jigsaw
  • Multimedia instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7:  Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • Writing Standards 6-8:  Text Types and Purposes, WHST.6-8.1B.

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Geo.2.6-8:  Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics. 

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Scissors

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Monitor/screen, Printer, Projector, Scanner

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Arrange students' desks so that students are working together in groups of four or eight. This will improve student collaboration capabilities during the jigsaw portion of this activity.


  • Jigsaw grouping
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Other Notes

This activity carries into the next activity, Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation. The tabletop world map (one per group) and the Peakbagging Cards handout will need to be kept in a location that can be accessed for later activities.

Background Information

There are several definitions of the Seven Summits that include different summits based on definitions of continental boundaries and whether Oceania/Australia is one continent versus two. The two most common lists were developed by mountaineers Dick Bass and Reinhold Messner. Bass’ list included Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko and was based on continental outlines. Messner’s definition replaces Mount Kosciuszko with Puncak Jaya, the highest peak in Indonesia as the highest peak in the combined continent of Australia/Oceania. While Reinhold Messner developed this list, Patrick Morrow was the first to successfully summit all of the mountains in 1986. 

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



the distance above sea level.


one of the seven main land masses on Earth.


height above or below sea level.


making and using maps.


someone who climbs mountains.

Mount Everest

highest spot on Earth, approximately 8,850 meters (29,035 feet). Mount Everest is part of the Himalaya and straddles the border of Nepal and China.


region including island groups in the South Pacific.


the very top.


mountain climber whose principal goal is the attainment of a summit, or specific set of summits that meet certain criteria of altitude of prominence.


to reach the highest point of a mountain.


highest point of a mountain.