STEPOnline.com, a Web site that promotes healthful choices for teens, turns an Everest expedition into a mountain of lessons about facing personal challenges. Included: Links to lesson plans about the expedition and live chats with team members and others who have conquered their own personal challenges.
An Everest expedition being tracked on a prevention-education Web site can help teachers jump-start discussions about challenges in their students' lives.
Called theEveryone Has an Everest Expedition 2001, the program is sponsored by STEPOnline, a Web site aimed at preventive education. STEP stands for Students, Teachers, Employers, and Parents; the group stresses that all community members have to work together to help adolescents make good choices.
STEPOnline views the expedition as a "teen metaphor," a representation of the challenges they face, according to Annie Fox, the site's director of online content. "We hope it gives teachers the opportunity to work with students day-to-day," she says.
Through STEPOnline, teachers and students can follow the expedition's progress through Nepal and up Mount Everest. The team includes Canadian Ben Webster, who has climbed Everest before, and American Nancy Feagin. The group expects to get to the top of Everest, the world's highest peak at 29,035 feet, by May 25. "STEP is using our expedition to teach the lesson that with hard work and healthful choices, people can overcome life's obstacles," Feagin said in a prepared statement.
Stationed at the expedition's base camp, at 17,700 feet, is photojournalist Heidi Klaschka, an English teacher from Toronto, Ontario. Klaschka is also writing an online journal and supplying photos for the Web site. She has developed 36 lesson plans (see Teacher's Tool Kit) related to the trip, aimed at students ages 13 and older. These include Everest math, in which students calculate distances or heights related to the journey, and the opportunity to create and edit a photo story.
STEPOnline became involved with the climb when Webster approached the owners of the Web site about sponsoring a trip up the mountain, according to Fox. Feagin joined Webster because "it has been a goal of hers to climb Everest," Fox says. The Web site features information about avoiding substance abuse and other high-risk behavior and learning to make good choices, so the Everest project fits in with the theme of setting goals and meeting personal challenges, Fox adds.
"STEPonline's whole purpose is prevention," says Ricardo Valencia, the supervisor of the Everest project and executive vice president of Affinity Place, STEPOnline's parent company. The Everest climb is a good example of people setting high personal expectations and meeting them. "This is perfect material," Valencia adds. "It tells kids if they make healthful choices, they can truly reach the goals they set for themselves."
Links on the STEPOnline Web site include information about the trip, the team, and the mountain as well as journal entries from team members. Audio and video clips, photos, and e-mails will also be accessible. "We're trying to put the kids as close to the climbers as possible," Fox says.
Webster told Education World in an e-mail message that he has been surprised at how informed the students are about the climb. "In many cases, the questions are geared more to the philosophical than they are to the physical," he wrote.
Anne McQueen, a special education teacher at R. H. King Academy in Toronto, where Klaschka also taught, says students enjoy lessons with a real-life connection. "Most of the kids seize on that [reading a first-hand experience] and thrive on that," McQueen tells Education World. "They also get excited about using the technology."
Students and teachers can tune in Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. Pacific time for Everyone Has an Everest live chats, in which people discuss overcoming challenges in their lives. "It gives kids an opportunity to think, 'What is my Everest?'" Fox says.
Students can also ask questions and receive updates about the expedition in chats with Feagin and Webster. Those chats occur at 8 a.m. Pacific time and need to be scheduled in advance. To join the chats, go to STEP chat. Response from students has been very positive so far, Valencia says. "Students have been asking Ben and Nancy about aspects of the trip and their own goals."
Webster says what he enjoys most about working with STEPOnline is that "We share the same message. I've always believed in reaching for one's dream, and while doing so, living a healthful lifestyle. It's great to work with a company that shares that point of view."