45 mins
The Sherpa people often work as mountain guides in the Himalayas as they live at high elevations and are adjusted to those conditions.

Students explore images, videos, and articles related to the Seven Summits, their various definitions, and mountaineers who have been inspired to conquer these dangerous peaks. Students then collaboratively research and map the summits using the jigsaw method, ultimately "bagging" all the peaks while learning about their locations, elevation, and other facts.


This activity is part of the Mount Everest: What Goes Up Should Come Down unit.

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: What might inspire someone 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. 

1 hr
Khumbu Ice Fall, Nepal. A Sherpa packs down gear from Camp Two on Mount Everest.

Students investigate reasons for mountaineering, including exploration, recreation, and vocation. Students identify text evidence of these mountaineering goals in action and consider how each of these goals inspires the climb. Students look at how Everest has been a common destination for mountaineers for all three reasons.


This activity is part of the Mount Everest: What Goes Up Should Come Down unit.

1. Students learn about each of the Seven Summits through a jigsaw and mapping.
    • Redistribute the students’ world maps that were started in Danger Versus Desire: The Inspirational Power of the Peaks activity and have students complete the Seven (Eight) Summits World Map Jigsaw.
    • Group students so that there is at least one peak expert from each of the eight peaks. Have students share what they learned about their summit with the rest of the group, one at a time, helping one another complete the other seven of the Peakbagging Cards.
    • Once all students have collected the information for all eight peaks from their group members, have students attach their peak cards to the tabletop world map with the corner of the card pointing to the correct location of the peak. Once students have attached each of the eight peaks, they have successfully “bagged” all the peaks.

2. Using a graphic organizer, students research how exploration, recreation, and vocation inspire mountaineers to climb.
    • Distribute one copy of the Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation worksheet to each student, explaining that it will be used to collect evidence from text-based and video resources that explain how mountaineering can have goals related to exploration, recreation, and vocation.
    • Model for students how to use resources to complete Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation.
    • As a class, watch the George Mallory's Route to Everest video (1:54) as an example of mountaineering one of the Seven Summits as exploration. Demonstrate how to organize information by using evidence from the video to complete Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation, especially focusing on exploration. The first row of the worksheet has been completed as an example.

3. Students read articles considering the varying goals of mountaineering and complete the Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation worksheet.
    • Have students read the following seven articles. As students read, have them record what they learn on their copy of Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation.
    • Once students have completed their reading and assignment, discuss as a class: How do each of these goals inspire the climb? In what ways do people rely on these mountains? (Possible response: The Nepalese government and Sherpas depend on income from providing expedition support to mountaineering tourists.) 

4. Students participate in a whole-class discussion on their findings.
  • Suggested questions to prompt discussion are:    
      • What is the greatest difference between those who climb for exploration and those who climb for recreation?
      • How have the goals changed for Sherpas who initially climbed Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary compared to those who climb with tourist and expedition groups today?
      • Besides Sherpas, what other types of vocations may involve climbing? 
      • Why don’t Sherpas work in much less dangerous fields?
      • How do the costs of mountain climbing contrast with payoff in each of these goals (exploration, recreation, vocation)?
      • Describe how mountains like Mount Everest or the Seven Summits have been a common destination for explorers, recreationists and career-based expeditioners.
      • Has mountaineering and trekking tourism changed the area near Mount Everest where the Sherpas live?
      • Are Sherpas the only ethnic group of people residing in Nepal that assist with mountaineering and trekking-based tourism?
      • Are there any non-Sherpa guides?
      • By your observations, is mountaineering on Mount Everest sustainable?

5. Using the Mount Everest: KWL Chart, students list what they know and want to know about Mount Everest.
  • Distribute the Mount Everest: KWL Chart to each student. Have students complete the K (What I Know) column with what they know or have learned about Mount Everest up to this point. Have students brainstorm additional questions they have on why Everest is such an important landform for all who rely on it and who want to conquer it, and add these questions to their W (What I Want to Know) column.

6. Introduce the unit project.
  • To connect students to the culminating project, explain that in this unit they will be learning more about the impacts of mountaineering and tourism on unique natural areas like Everest.
  • Inform students that their final project will be to create an Everest Bill of Rights as a class that makes a plan to protect the mountain. Students will then work to create an infographic that informs the community on best practices for taking care of the natural world.

Informal Assessment

Collect the Mountaineering as Exploration, Recreation, and Vocation worksheet from each student and look for examples in each row that address discovering previously undiscovered areas or passageways (exploration), mountaineering as a sport or hobby (recreation), and Sherpas, mountain guides, and others who climb mountains regularly as a part of their career (vocation). If students have other examples, scan for accuracy or make notes if students have missed key points.

Extending the Learning

Biographical Research Extension: Have students research a known Everest explorer, Sherpa, or recreational mountaineers such as Edmund Hillary, George Mallory, Patrick Morrow, Kami Rita Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, or Junko Tabei, and present a short slideshow providing basic biographic information, as well as images related to the types of equipment the mountaineers used during their time.

Career Research Extension: Have students choose a profession related to mountaineering, whether it be climbing guides, equipment development, technology-based engineering, and create a short presentation about the responsibilities the career entails, the estimated pay, and the education necessary to be able to obtain such a career.

45 mins
Mountaineers and sherpas perched on the peak of Mount Everest on May 17, 2018.

Students read about the history of mountaineering and create a mountaineering timeline. They investigate the likelihood of George Mallory summiting Mount Everest without the second step ladder that is often used today. After analyzing the evidence, students decide how they think Mallory’s experience should be recorded within the timeline.


This activity is part of the Mount Everest: What Goes Up Should Come Down unit.


1. Students collaboratively read and create a timeline of major events in the history of mountaineering.  
    • Distribute one copy of the History of Mountaineering Timeline worksheet and a copy of the Reaching for the Heavens: The History of Mountaineering article to each student. In collaborative groups, have students plan how to best split up the reading and completion of the worksheet.
    • After students have completed the reading and creation of their timeline, conduct a discussion on the impact of technology on mountaineering. Ask students: How have technological advances and other changes made mountaineering better and worse over time?
        • Possible responses include:
          1. New technologically advanced tools, like the 10-point crampon, made difficult climbs easier and safer.
          2. Climbers began regularly using bolts for added safety and climbing help, and even the bolts improved over time.
          3. Increased safety has increased the popularity of mountaineering and the number of amateur climbers who attempt climbing, putting themselves and others in danger.
          4. If the equipment endows someone ill-prepared to do the climb with a false sense of confidence, that climber would take on more risk than they might be capable of managing successfully.

2. Students update their Mount Everest: KWL Chart.
        • What I Want to Know: What are some of the greatest challenges in climbing Everest? 
        • What I Learned: In order to summit Mt. Everest, a mountaineer ascending from the northern side must climb an overhanging cliff at about 28,000 feet known as the Second Step.

Informal Assessment

Review students’ History of Mountaineering Timeline to determine accurate understanding of how mountaineering has changed over time and to get an overview of the class opinion regarding Mallory’s possible summit of Everest. Correct any misunderstandings.

Extending the Learning

Debate Extension: Is the reward of summiting Mount Everest worth the possible risks? Use the Replicating 1920s Gear video to launch this debate topic.

ELA Extension: Have students write a poem from the perspective of Mount Everest or a mountaineer attempting to summit the mountain that addresses the risks and rewards, and that which inspires the climb. For students who may need additional scaffolding, use a formulaic poem template, such as the I AM poem.

Did Mallory Make It? Debate Extension: Using the resources from Did Mallory Make It? have students debate whether or not George Mallory ever summited Mount Everest. Have students watch the two video clips and cite evidence to support or refute whether Mallory ever summited Mount Everest.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Conservation
  • English Language Arts
  • Geography
  • Social Studies
    • Economics
    • World History


Students will:

  • Be able to map the location, elevation, and other facts about the eight peaks of the Seven Summits on a world map.
  • Be able to work independently and collaboratively with others in order to complete research and mapping.
  • Be able to map the location, elevation, and other facts about the eight peaks of the Seven Summits on a world map.
  • Understand that peakbaggers are individuals who are drawn to mountaineering for the purpose of summiting many difficult mountains as a collection of accomplishments.
  • Understand that there is a natural allure that inspires people to take risks in order to conquer dangerous mountain summits, even after repeated failure.
  • Know that the Seven Summits are the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents (Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Antarctica, Australia/Oceania).
  • Understand that peakbaggers are individuals who are drawn to mountaineering for the purpose of summiting many difficult mountains as a collection of accomplishments.
  • Know that mountaineers climb for different reasons, including exploration (to discover unknown routes), various types of recreation, and vocation (such as climbing guides and Sherpas).
  • Place major mountaineering events on a timeline to show changes over time.
  • Acknowledge that the rewards and possible risks of mountaineering have changed over time similar to the way equipment and climbing methods have changed.
  • Acknowledge that there are different points of view when considering cost versus payoff that are based on the goal of the climb.
  • Know that mountaineers climb for different reasons including exploration (to discover unknown routes), various types of recreation (including self-evaluation and personal actualization beyond the activity), and vocation (such as climbing guides and Sherpas).
  • Collaborate with classmates through sharing information and discussion.
  • Close read multiple texts to organize and summarize information, using text evidence and citing sources used.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Guided listening
  • Information organization
  • Jigsaw
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Reading

Skills Summary

This lesson targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.7: 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. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources. 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.  D2.Geo.4.6-8: Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places. D2.His.12.6-8: Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to identify further areas of inquiry and additional sources. D2.His.14.6-8: Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past. D2.His.2.6-8: Classify series of historical events and developments as examples of change and/or continuity. D2.His.3.6-8: Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant. D2.His.4.6-8: Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

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

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.
  • If students begin in jigsaw groups, it is easiest to have students partner up at these groups having each one of the students read one of the two articles and share their findings with their partner to fully consider how mountaineering goals vary.
  • If the students have one-to-one computer and internet access, have students read the articles digitally rather than having copies printed for each student.


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

Accessibility Notes

  • None

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 reasons a person may choose to be a mountaineer. They may be explorers looking for new pathways or never before seen natural areas untouched by human development. They may be recreationists who enjoy mountaineering for the scenery, tourism, challenge, athletic, and even spiritual experiences that summiting a mountain can offer. Mountaineering may be a part of their vocation, or career, where they have chosen to make a living off of climbing mountains, whether it be as a mountain guide, a research scientist or geologist, a professional athlete, or another career that requires one to climb regularly. Or, mountaineering may be any combination of the three with some seeing the activity and pursuit as part of a greater lifetime pursuit of self-actualization and wisdom.


No matter the reason, as climbing technologies, athleticism, and mountaineering tourism have evolved, the number of people attempting daring climbs and summits, such as that of Mount Everest, have increased. The question is: with the mountains calling more and more people to attempt their summits, how will we answer that call—haphazardly, or safely and sustainably? 


This lesson is part of the Mount Everest: What Goes Up Should Come Down unit.

Prior Knowledge

  • Mount Everest is one of the Seven Summits and the highest peak in the world.

Recommended Prior Lessons

  • None



mountain climber specializing in high, difficult ascents.


the distance above sea level.

altitude sickness

illness caused by reduced oxygen levels at high elevations.


person who studies and works at an activity or interest without financial benefit or being formally trained in it.


one of the seven main land masses on Earth.


height above or below sea level.


study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.


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.


having to do with activities done for enjoyment.


climb up or reach the top of a mountain or other high point.


people and culture native to the Himalayan region of Nepal and China. Sherpa often serve as mountaineer guides and porters on mountain-climbing expeditions.


to reach the highest point of a mountain.


highest point of a mountain.


the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.


the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.


having to do with instruction or guidance in an occupation or career.