Mountain Adventures

Welcome to Mountain Adventures: Exploring the Himalayas, Andes, and Appalachians. This curriculum is designed to introduce students (grades 5-8) to the role and importance of native plants in the United States and abroad. As students conduct situational simulated expeditions in the tallest (Himalayas), longest (Andes), and oldest (Appalachians) mountain ranges in the world, they explore different themes related to native plants, such as biodiversity and ethnobotany. Throughout the five modules comprising the curriculum students also conduct related local activities, enabling them to learn about their surroundings and to consider local/global commonalities.

Module 1: Why Mountains? piques student interest in mountains through the tale of the Ice Maiden, a 500-year old Incan mummy discovered on the summit of Mount Ampato in the Peruvian Andes. The module then presents the importance of mountains through open-ended questions that provoke curiosity about topics addressed in later modules. This module introduces mountains around the world as sources of water, play areas, sacred sites, homelands, weather barriers, "islands" of biodiversity, and geographic divides. Students also explore the definition of a mountain, how mountains are made, and graphic representations of mountains on maps.

Expeditions to the top of Mount Makalu (Himalayas), Nevado Huascarán (Andes), and Blair Mountain (Appalachians) are launched over the remaining four modules. Students work in expedition teams to "climb" their mountain. Along the way they explore the biodiversity (Module 2: Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots), cultural diversity (Module 3: Mountain People), ethnobotany (Module 4: Plants and People), and hydrology (Module 5: Mountains as Water Sources) of their mountains and local surroundings.

At the end of the entire unit, each expedition team shares what it has learned about its mountain. Although this unit incorporates the study of distant mountains, it is a place-based study with strong local connections. What does place-based mean? Students will compare and contrast their own surroundings with these distant places and come away with a better understanding of each.

Curriculum Framework

We recommend incorporating the entire Mountain Adventures unit into your curriculum. This requires approximately 7 weeks of class time, ranging from 30 to 60 minutes each day. However, each module is also designed to be used individually. To give students a general introduction to mountains, we recommend you use Module 1. You may also wish to incorporate one or several of the other modules depending on the subjects you plan to cover in your class during the year.

The curriculum is divided into a Teacher's Guide and Student Materials. Each student module has a corresponding Teacher's Guide which includes a suggested time frame for the module, a module overview, a statement of objectives, links to national standards, related resources and activities, a necessary materials list, a module outline, content background information, assessment opportunities, and suggestions for extensions. Questions in italics are those we recommend asking students.

In the Student Materials, you will find the reading materials for students. Except for the first module, the student materials are divided into expeditions. For example, students on the Andes Expedition Team will only be responsible for reading the materials associated with their expedition. The Teacher's Guide has instructions for using these reading materials in concert with related activities.

Additional Information

Throughout the unit, two types of mountains are compared: distant and local. The distant mountains are the subjects of team expeditions: Nevado Huascarán, Mount Makalu, and Blair Mountain. The local mountains are those located nearest to your school. If your school is located in a mountainous part of the country, the nearest mountain is probably obvious. If it isn't, a brief investigation will reveal what the closest mountain is. In fact, students are asked to identify their local mountain in the first module. Being located in an urban or suburban area is not an obstacle to using this curriculum. Every school has a "local" mountain according to our definition. For example, if your school is located in New York City, the Catskills are your "local" mountains.

We also use the word "schoolyard" throughout the curriculum. Again, if your school is surrounded by grass and woods, the schoolyard you will use is obvious. If, however, your school is surrounded by pavement, you will need to search for a site to use instead of your schoolyard. In this case, a nearby park may be accessible. Any patch of green will suffice; the only requirement is that something is growing there.

We recommend the use of journals throughout the curriculum. In addition to being an excellent assessment tool, journals provide an alternative to "filling in" the answers. Each student's journal will be an expedition log, in which he or she will record observations and keep handouts. We recommend a three-ring binder filled with blank pages. Encourage students to be creative with their journal keeping.

In addition to the journal, assessment opportunities are embedded throughout each module. In the Final Assessment you will find end-of-unit assessment suggestions.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

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Last updated on 07/31/2014
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