Schoolteacher Uses WebTV to Bring Students Along on Climb of World’s Highest Peak

KATHMANDU, Nepal, March 23, 2000 — When Kim Gattone decided to climb Mount Everest this spring, her heart’s desire was that her 6 th grade students in Santa Fe, New Mexico, could come along. Joe Poletto, an executive at Microsoft’s WebTV Networks, read about Kim’s hopes in a newspaper while traveling in New Mexico and offered an idea: broadcast the climb on WebTV. So when Kim reaches for the summit in early May, students from her classroom and across the nation will be right there with her, thanks to a unique curriculum created by Gattone and a fellow teacher, and the support of WebTV and Quokka Sports.

“My students can pull up the lessons and get the daily dispatches,”
Gattone says.
“It’s almost as if I’m still in the classroom while on Mount Everest.”

In fact, everyone around the world can join Gattone. Beginning March 23, when she and five other climbers begin their ascent of the world’s tallest summit, WebTV Networks and Quokka Sports will launch
“Dreams Happen: Everest 2000,”
an interactive event that will enable millions of TV viewers and internet users to virtually climb along via WebTV and Quokka.com. Students from Gattone’s classroom in Santa Fe will have the opportunity to interact directly with her and other expedition team members during the eight-week expedition, using the WebTV set-top box donated by WebTV. In addition, WebTV is working with a number of other schools throughout the country to provide WebTV set-top boxes and service for the expedition.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity as a teacher,”
Gattone says.
“I realized when the doors were opened to go to Everest, I wanted to share the climb with my students and students around the nation. I wanted to combine my passion for climbing with my passion for my students.”

Gattone’s curriculum will be available at the Quokka Sports Web site and to all WebTV subscribers beginning March 23. The 15 lessons will teach students about the climate and landscape of Everest and the surrounding Himalayan region; the history, people and culture of Nepal; mountaineering strategy and techniques; and equipment, training, teamwork and high altitude physiology.

“Climbing Mount Everest has many lessons attached to it,”
Gattone says.
“I’ve taught my students that when you have a very big goal the best thing is to break it into parts. You achieve small goals on your way to the big one.”

Poletto, vice president of Microsoft’s WebTV Network Media Group, says the event presents an opportunity to deliver a virtual adventure experience for TV viewers and get WebTV involved with local and national schools.
“We’re supporting a very committed woman who is trying to impress upon her students that you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish,”
Poletto says.
“When we spoke with her, we got a real strong feeling how committed she was to her children and her class, and how thoughtful she was in creating a real-world learning experience around her climbing a mountain. We just felt we could help provide that, as well as extend the reach beyond just one classroom.”

WebTV offers a range of enhanced TV services for set-top boxes, satellite products and other TV-related devices. Today, these services include the WebTV Classic Internet service, the WebTV Plus Interactive service, and WebTV Personal TV service; delivering Web access, email, interactive television programs, an electronic program guide, digital video recording, live TV “pause” and much more to over one million subscribers.

Quokka Sports, Inc., a leader in sports entertainment for the digital world, will collaborate with WebTV to offer virtual adventurers around the world the chance to share the excitement and experiences of the Mount Everest expedition team online at http://www.quokka.com/ . The
“Quokka Sports Immersion”
style of innovative sports puts virtual adventurers closer to the real expedition experience.

While WebTV subscribers follow the expedition using their TVs, Quokka Sports will offer daily coverage of the expedition for PC users. Online coverage will include audio and news reports, expert commentary, email journals from team members, and digital photo and video images dispatched directly from Mount Everest via state-of-the-art satellite communications.

Poletto says WebTV was motivated to sponsor
“Dreams Happen: Everest 2000”
as a way to complete the marriage between the Internet and broadcasting. As such, it will be a double first for WebTV: its first foray into extreme sports, delivering the rigors of climbing the world’s highest peak to viewers from the comfort of their living room, and the project also marks the first time WebTV has been fully involved in the end-to-end creation of an interactive TV program.

Filmmakers and seasoned climbers Michael Brown and Dave Hahn will accompany Gattone and the other climbers during their Everest expedition. They will provide video footage for the Quokka Sports site, as well as produce a first-ever interactive television documentary about the climb. This unique documentary will include interactive elements such as maps, photos, video, audio, text and more, enabling TV viewers to experience the excitement first-hand and
“virtually hike”
each step of the expedition — without having to eat freeze dried food or sleep in subzero temperatures. The documentary is expected to air this fall.

Gattone and team will arrive at Kathmandu, the capitol of Nepal, on March 22. They are expected to reach the summit — recently remeasured at 8,850 meters or 29,035 feet above sea level — on May 5.

Together, the six members of the expedition have climbed an 8,000-meter mountain once before — the Himalayas’ Cho Oy, the world’s sixth highest peak, in 1997. Gattone is the veteran female climber on the team, which was organized by Everest veteran Eric Simonson of Expedition 8000 LLC . Simonson and Robert Link of Mountain Link Guiding Services will lead the expedition. The team also includes climbers Mike Dunnahoo, a lawyer; Steve Greenholz, a pediatric surgeon; and Andy Mondry, an antique car specialist. Gattone and her teammates will approach the summit from the south, following the same route used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they reached the peak in 1953.

Gattone’s mountaineering expeditions began on Mount Rainier in Washington and include the volcanoes outside of Mexico City and Mount McKinley in Alaska. Gattone has reached the summit of Mount Aconcagua, a difficult climb in the Andes of western Argentina, and the highest mountain in the western hemisphere reaching 22,841 feet. She prepares for each expedition by playing various sports in which she is skilled, including trail running, mountain biking, snowboarding, skiing and soccer.

The 38-year-old sixth-grade teacher wanted to be able to share the experience of climbing Everest with her students.
“I like to encourage students to be a participant in life, not a spectator, and to encourage them to find joy in the process,”
she says.

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