The Roof of the World

Mount Everest has always fascinated me (and probably most of the population). The fact that people can climb through such a slippery, crevasse filled, oxygen poor environment and live to tell the tale is a feat of humanity that boggles the mind. My 5 year old has shared my interest in Everest since I read him a book about climbing it when he was around 3, so I thought we’d spend a week digging into the technicalities of climbing, the lives of the Sherpa people who are instrumental in getting anyone to the top, and the mountain itself. Come climb along with us as we study the roof of the world!


Climbing vocabulary: This is a great activity to do first if your little isn’t familiar with mountaineering…and a good one to end with if they are (as a recap). I helped my little sound out each word by pointing to the letter and saying the sound, then we went over the meaning together.

-Mountain range ABCs: I cut out 26 triangles and wrote an upper and lowercase letters on each one. Then I had my littles take turns finding the next letter in the alphabet and adding it to the range.

-Mountain retelling graphic organizer: I drew a mountain with beginning at the top, middle in the middle and end at the bottom. Then we read a story about Sir Edmund Hillary (one of the first two men to summit Everest) and I had my little tell me what happened in the story. I wrote down his thinking on the mountain.

-M is for mountain writing practice: I printed two “M is for mountain” writing practice pages- one for my 5-year-old and one for my 3-year-old then had them complete them and color the picture.

-Mt. Everest writing prompt: My original prompt was to have my little write a fiction story about climbing Everest, but he said he’d rather do nonfiction and tell facts about it, so each day he thought of a fact, wrote it down and illustrated it. At the end of the week, we had a book!

-Everest book list: Here are a few great kids’ books on Everest and the Sherpa people of Tibet that we enjoyed this week- but if you want a nail biting adult read I highly recommend “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. It’s a nonfiction account of his attempt at Everest and what went wrong…


-Climb the mountain counting practice: I drew a mountain on paper then wrote the numbers counting up climbing up the mountain, and the numbers counting down on the down slope. Then we practiced counting up and back using the picture together, independently, with tiny hamster voices, with big giant voices, with whispers and with loud voices.

-Mountain math: We did a basic mountain math activity where we wrote a number, then broke it down into the value of the tens plus the value of the ones, wrote the number word, and wrote how many tens and ones there are in it. I did one as an example, then had my little pick the next number for an example, then had him pick a number and write his own (with help of course- this was new!) Each one you finish resembles a mountain since it’s smaller at the top and larger at the bottom.

-Math mountains ie. number bonds: This is a recent strategy for teaching adding- you write the two addends in the bottom circles, draw dots or O’s on each side to match the numbers then write your answer at the top (ie. the two bottom numbers are “bonded” or added together to make the top number). I got some practice worksheets on this at Teachers Pay Teachers. There were 3 of these so you can do them on more than one day to practice!

-Shape yaks: I cut out the shapes needed to make a yak then gave my littles oral instructions on how to put them together. We focused on shapes they don’t know yet like trapezoids, but you can use whatever shapes you like!

Science/social studies:

-Elevation maps: I printed an elevation map of the world as well as a map of Asia. We usually use political maps in our lessons, so I explained to my littles what that is and how there are other maps that give you different information about the world- like how tall the mountains are. Then we looked at the elevation map and discussed the key, then used it to find the tallest areas of Earth. Then I showed my littles about where Everest is in the Himalayan mountains between Nepal and Tibet. Then we found it on the map of Asia too!

-Tibetan tea tasting: I have always been curious about what yak butter tea- a staple of the Tibetan diet- tastes like, so I found a recipe on Food and Wine’s website. Obviously we don’t have any Naks around (I was today years old when I learned that’s what a female yak is called!) so I used gee (aka clarified butter from cows), whole milk, black tea and salt to make my butter tea. To brew it I steeped black tea in a cup or so of boiling water for about 5 minutes, poured it in my bullet blender with 1 tsp gee, 3-4 twists of the salt grinder and a splash of whole milk then blended it (it’s traditionally steeped for half a day and then shaken up with the butter and milk or cream, but I was on a time crunch!) The result was a frothy, rich, slightly salty and buttery flavored tea that was actually quite delicious!

-Gather items needed to climb: You’d be surprised at the amount of “climbing gear” you probably have around your house (even if it’s not the true high tech stuff they use on the mountain). We looked at the list in “Top of the World” and then I had my littles go on a scavenger hunt around the house to see how many of the items (or close to them) they could find.

-Low oxygen demonstration: Even the base camp of Everest has lower oxygen than sea level, so climbers who aren’t acclimatized move very slowly when making and attempt on the mountain. Even after spending weeks getting used to the thin air, climbers describe it as breathing through a straw while trying to run a marathon. In videos, you’ll see them take a few steps, then stop and pant. We discussed this along with the fact that the higher you go, the less oxygen is in the atmosphere and then to experience it ourselves we sat still breathing through a straw then tried to run while breathing through a straw. It’s mind blowing anyone can push through that and survive for weeks on end!

-Videos on climbing Everest: I used to do a mini unit in reading on Everest, and I’d always start off with a few videos so kids could see what it’s like before reading about it. My favorite is this one of people climbing through the Khumbu Ice Fall (the most dangerous part of the climb- it’s made of a glacier that moves 3-4 feet down the mountain each day so it’s constantly in flux…crevasses open up, seracs topple over, and avalanches are most common in this area). Here’s another interesting one on the youngest person to ever summit.


-Prayer flags: The Sherpa people put up prayer flags on Everest to ask the gods for protection during the climb. We discussed this, and how some people around the world don’t believe in one God or in Jesus but have different beliefs because that’s what they have been taught. Then we made our own Christian prayer flags and strung them up to hang in our home.

-Mountain sunset picture: I gave my littles cardstock with red, purple, orange, yellow and pink paint on them, then had them paint back and forth to mix the colors and make a sunset. When they were dry, we added black mountain silhouettes to the paintings. I got this idea from The Pinterested Parent.

-3D hair yak: I printed yak pictures and then had my littles cover them with yarn to make hair.

-Mountain range cutting practice: I had my littles each cut out some triangles from grey paper, then tape them together on the back and color the tops white to make a snowy mountain range!

-STEAM: build a marshmallow mountain: I usually do STEAM stuff in science, but I figured it takes some creativity too, so it’s landing in art this week. I challenged my littles to make the tallest mountain they could with marshmallows then let them create!


-Letter of the week: Qq, each day we do a different activity focused on our letter- introduction/have your little practice it on the chalkboard (or white board), think of words that start with the letter and make a list, workbook letter writing practice, workbook word writing practice.

-Word of the week: dad, each day we do a different activity focused on our word- introduction/sound the word out/have your little practice writing it on the chalkboard or whiteboard, word family list- think of other words that rhyme with your word of the week, use the word in a sentence (have your little come up with the sentence and write it for them) then have your little illustrate the sentence, and workpage practice.

-Bible verse: This month’s Bible verse is “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 I write each word in the verse on a post-it, stick them to the wall then have my little point to each word and read it each day all month.

-Character trait of the month: empathy…this word is reviewed and posted at the start of the month then each time one of my littles freely demonstrates generosity I use the word to specifically praise what they’re doing and encourage the trait in them. (ie. “You could tell your brother was upset and you comforted him like your own feelings got hurt- thank you for showing empathy.”)

Supply/shopping list:

  • “Top of the World” story
  • snow boots (or boots)
  • goggles
  • jacket
  • rope
  • carabiner
  • other “climbing gear”
  • drinking straw
  • string
  • brown yarn
  • marshmallows
  • gee
  • whole milk or cream
  • black tea
  • salt
  • blender or drink shaker

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