Beau Benson held on tight to the hand grips, reaching one arm above his head to find the next grip and pull himself higher and higher on the rock wall.
After reading a book about a 14-year-old who climbs Mount Everest, Mrs. Katie Casey’s 7th graders at Isanti Middle School experienced the thrill of rock climbing themselves on Tuesday by scaling a rock wall brought in by the Army National Guard.
When Benson’s feet returned to solid ground, he said the book — called Peak by Roland Smith — taught him not to give up.
“Just don’t look down, just keep going and don’t give up,” he said. “Keep on climbing.”
After Casey’s students read the book, former teacher and current School Board Chair Gary Hawkins came up with the idea to bring in the rock wall to tie in to their learning.
As part of their project, Casey said the students also used what they learned from the book to create game boards, slideshow presentations, videos and, in one case, an edible, three-dimensional model of Mount Everest made out of Rice Krispies and fondant.
She loved the idea of having the kids climb a rock wall so they’d get first-hand experience of climbing.
“I want them to experience it,” Casey said. “It’s not an easy climb. It takes a lot of muscle and physical fitness, so they’ll get an understanding of how hard climbing can be and they can compare and contrast what they think climbing is like and having the experience for themselves.”
To ensure safety, several people from the Army National Guard were on hand to strap students into the safety harnesses and oversee the climbing.
Through the book, Casey said the students learned geography, how people scaling Mount Everest have to breathe and acclimate to the altitude, the types of dehydrated food they can eat and the type of equipment used for mountain climbing.
With the rock wall on Tuesday, they learned how much physical fitness goes into and were able to use their vocabulary — for instance, she said, the carabiners used for support.
“They’ve learned a lot,” Casey said. “I’m just floored. They’ve grasped the whole book now because we’ve done so much about it.”
Along with geography and vocabulary, Peak also taught the students some valuable life lessons.
“If you think you can’t make it, just try,” Jeremy Melland said.