Students in Donna Hall’s Summer Learning Program class at Polk County Middle School took part in a novel study on Peak, by Roland Smith.

The main character in the novel is Peak Marcello, a 14-year-old climber trying to help his father, Joshua Wood, by becoming the youngest person ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

To deepen understanding of the novel, students researched the seven summits, read numerous nonfiction articles on topics such as Nepal, sherpas, litter on Everest, and how Everest is actually increasing in height. Students also developed a soundtrack for the novel based on themes such as friendship, sacrifice and loyalty.

Class members even completed watercolor paintings of Everest and wrote personification poetry, choosing to either write from the point of view of a benevolent Everest or malevolent Everest.

As a culminating activity, the class had a guest speaker visit and do a presentation on his mountain climbing experiences on some of the world’s tallest peaks such as Denali, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and even Everest. Jim Becker shared not only his climbing experiences, but some cultural experiences as well.

Becker brought in much of his climbing gear for the students to pass around and showed us incredible pictures of his many adventures.

“Mr. Becker went above and beyond as a presenter and even read the novel earlier this summer in order to be able to make connections between his real-life experiences and what we read in class,” Hall said. “We were very lucky to have Mr. Becker as a resource and appreciate his willingness to take the time out of his busy schedule to come and share his knowledge and experiences with us.

“He was a speaker who made an impact and who we will not forget! Thank you, Jim Becker.”