Sagarmatha Trek

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Students observe evidence of weathering,erosion, and technology that makes life easier in the Himalayas

Big Idea

This personal journey to Nepal by a Wisconsin paraprofessional is an outstanding way to have students understand the remoteness of the area and how weathering affects the lives and the land.

The Why Behind the Video

10 minutes

This lesson can be taught in conjunction with Learning About Geotechnical Engineering Through Literature or adapted.

Students wondered why I had switched gears today and didn't just start our new investigation! I told them that someone had shared this beautiful experience with me through a video and I realized that it was more knowledge for them I simply couldn't ignore! I changed my mind because I knew that my students had just had one glimpse of Nepal and wanted them to see what this wonderful person had done in memory of her brother.

I shared that people often take journeys, hikes, walks or expeditions to honor a person or a major event in their lives. Mary is the head of building maintenance at Lac du Flambeau School near Minocqua.  She put together this very personal video for the kids at her school at Lac Du Flambeau. After I watched it the first time, I was in awe and needed to share! 

Because I wanted them to enter watching this documentary through scientific eyes, I posed four questions on the board, explaining that I wanted them to take notes during the movie and find answers to each of the questions as well as ask a few of their own.

1.  What kinds of weathering do you see?

2. Describe the rivers. What kind of soil do you see around the river? Why is it like this instead of muddy and sandy like the Karnali?

3. How is life different in this region of Nepal vs. the area near the Karnali River?

4. What types of technology is making lives easier in this remote area

I also told them that any thoughts or questions they had should be jotted down along with their notes.

They wanted to know if there were airplanes there and how would she get down? 

I asked them if they had any questions and right away they offer some very rich questions before the movie began! I didn't answer any of them but encouraged them to try to answer them during the movie and then share what they discovered.

During the Video

25 minutes

As we began the film, students sat on the floor completely in awe of the footage of Kathmandu and commented about the narrow streets, crowds and the little cars. They noticed animals and how people dressed. When Mary (in the film) began to speak, they were excited! As the film progressed, I was sure to stop it at areas they wanted to see again. I stopped the film at the bridge scene because I wanted them to understand how far down the raging river below was. We discussed why it was a swinging bridge and why the other one doesn't seem to be used any more. Why did they build it 900 feet high? It is so much higher than the old one. Students commented about how scary it would be to cross it.

I asked why they thought a rigid bridge was not built there. One student shared that perhaps it would be too heavy. I explained that the flexibility of the bridge helped it withstand the winds and weather. It was one point of interest and we noted it for research later.

The other point of interest was the toilet. They couldn't believe it! I asked them if they thought this technology was satisfactory in their eyes? Could they make a more efficient design? We laughed a little and I kept moving the video along as they noticed the metal roofs, stonewalls and homes, rescue helicopter, and some "weather station looking" rods poking out of the ground. One student wanted to know how a restaurant could possibly exist. The man carrying the boards and sack on his back fascinated them. The comment that Mary made about us looking very lazy compared to the people there got a bold agreement. They were totally amazed! 

This film really opened their eyes to understanding this remote culture. I made a remark that this could be one of them in a few years. When I sent them back to their desks to finish their questions, I told them we would be discussing their observations and thoughts in about 10 minutes.

Wrap it Up

10 minutes

As we finished up, I began to read the questions off the white board for students to answer. They raised hands and shared different ideas about what they noticed about all of the rocks everywhere. They talked about the terrain is different and how it had gotten increasingly rocky and snowy. Then there was plant life that looked almost like moss. I told them that she was almost 29,000 feet about sea level.

The information in this entire movie mind boggled them. The bridge was probably the most intriguing part to them. We discussed the technology that we saw, but we also talked about how simple technology solved simple problems. They understood the idea that even at high altitudes people lived in communities. They talked about the glacier and how it looked dirty with rocks. We talked again about how the glacier moves and breaks more rock down. Erosion was happening before our eyes! I told them it was time to pool their notes together in groups and discuss three things. I asked them to break up in groups of three so we could begin.

Collaborative Board

15 minutes

After my students grouped themselves together, I explained that I wanted them to use their notes to compile information about  evidence of erosion, technology and what amazed you and then produce sticky notes to put up on the board to collaboratively share. They quickly set to work. I allowed about 10 minutes for them to come up with their ideas. I roved the classroom and listened to them discuss their ideas. When it was done, we shared our sticky notes and I could see that they were on the right track in recognizing erosion and simple technology in the real world!