Friday, December 11, 2015

Three ways to celebrate Mountain Day in the classroom

Today is International Mountain Day. How have you celebrated? Hopefully you will find some time to visit a mountain or a big hill. There are tons of things to do in the outdoors related to Mountain Day - hike, view the scenery, play in the creeks, or nap in a hammock. Let's take a look at how Mountain Day can inspire engagement in your classroom ( or life in general). 

Learn to read a Compass - All that wander are not lost, true, but knowing how to use a compass is a great skill to have when you want to be found. Check out Compass Dude to learn basic to advance navigation skills with a compass. Compass reading, as a part of Social Studies class, is a great way to teach students about the outdoors, environmental protection, and situational awareness. 

Learn about Topo Maps - The best online topo map website I've found is This site integrates with single sign on for Google and Yahoo. Users have access to a great map selection, distance and marking features, and ability to print custom PDF maps for hiking. There are also Google Earth/GPS files. Now that your students can read a compass, teach them how to create a map of their school or neighborhood using this website. Give them homework that requires them to navigate to parts of their neighborhood using a topo map and compass only. They can document the distance using the map scale, triangulate their location, and estimate how far to other areas of their surroundings. 

Geocaching - This is grown up hide and seek. There are thousands upon thousands of containers hidden on trails, trees, and urban settings. These containers, known as caches, hold a wide variety of trinkets inside. The owner of the cache post the GPS coordinates online to a website such as Geocaching. You (or your students) can now take your new learned map reading skills and a compass or GPS to search for caches hidden in your area. Rules are inside explaining the value of the treasure and what you have to do to replace it. This builds global awareness and community among the participants. Better yet, teachers can build caches and bury them around your school with test question answers, homework passes, or extra recess time for those that find it.