Summer break is a time that many Edina High School students spend relaxing, hanging out with friends, or going to the lake; however, senior Ben Brandt is an exception to that trend. Brandt spent two weeks of his summer in Africa with his mother and aunt, seven of those days climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
At 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world– meaning that there are no other mountains surrounding it. It is also the highest point in all of Africa, making it one of the Seven Summits, the seven highest points on each continent.In order to prepare for his journey, Brandt said he ran roughly five miles every day for several months leading up to his departure. He also went to Hyland Lake Preserve, hiking the hills there in order to get himself in shape for climbing.
Brandt’s group hired four guides to assist them during their ascent of Kilimanjaro, all of whom were natives of the nearby town of Moshi. Once at the base of Kilimanjaro, Brandt began the weeklong journey on the Machame Route. This route covers about 25 miles and 14,000 vertical feet of climbing. Brandt commented on the expedition’s length: “It wasn’t that far, it was about 8-10 kilometers a day [including descent distance], which would take about 6-8 hours because it was so steep.”
Due to the high altitude of Kilimanjaro, there are many health risks involved in climbing the massive peak. One of the most dangerous issues is high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). The life-threatening condition occurs when the heart cannot pump blood as efficiently as it can at lower altitudes, leaving blood backed up in the veins. As the pressure in the veins rises due to the increased presence of blood, fluid is pushed into the air spaces in the lungs, making it harder to breathe. A member in Brandt’s group unfortunately contracted HAPE, and had to make an emergency descent down Kilimanjaro to a nearby hospital. Brandt’s aunt also got hypothermia due to the extremely frigid temperatures on the mountain.
Finally, after five days of endless climbing, Brandt and his group prepared for a final summit push. Brandt said “You start climbing at about 10pm hiking until 8am, so you hike the entire night, and get to the top at sunrise. It’s really difficult, super long. We spent maybe ten minutes at the top; we waited in line for a picture. You feel really sick from the altitude, you don’t feel great.”, said Brandt.
Kilimanjaro, as stated before, is one of the Seven Summits, and is the fourth highest. The others are Elbrus (18,513 ft.) in Europe (Russia), Aconcagua (22,902 ft.) in South America (Argentina), Everest (29,035 ft.) in Asia (Nepal/China), Denali (20,310 ft.) in North America (United States), Carstensz Pyramid (16,023 ft.) in Oceania (Indonesia), and finally Vinson (16,067 ft.) in Antarctica. During some discussion of the Seven Summits, Brandt commented “[I don’t want to climb] Everest,… maybe the one in Oceania because it’s just a little mountain. No, Kilimanjaro was pretty tough, I don’t know if I want to do something like that again.”
This story was originally published at www.edinazephyrus.com on Sept. 29, 2016.
For students at Normandale Elementary School, a furry friend brings comfort and excitement to the school day. His name is Oscar, an English Cream Golden Retriever and certified therapy dog. He works part-time at Normandale for three hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. It’s his first job.
Oscar received his certification this spring from Therapy Dog International after eight weeks of classes that provided training in obedience, adapting to different settings and working with children, followed by a one-hour evaluation.
Oscar currently works with three different classes, as well as the reading specialist. Students take turns coming into the hallway to read to Oscar, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups. In another class, pairs of students do math with Oscar, which was a surprise to his owner, Leigh Strauss. “It definitely makes sense,” she said. “Dogs can be very comforting to people. They increase confidence and self esteem in students as well as reading skills and, apparently, math skills.”
Oscar is Strauss’ second therapy dog. Her first worked in a nursing home about 10 years ago. She always had the idea of owning one again but was waiting for the right dog. With a second grader in Normandale, she thought that working in a school setting would be fun. “Oscar is always sweet and mellow with a hint of goofball,” she said. “I knew he would be great at this.”
While Oscar is new to the school this year, he isn’t the first therapy dog to visit Normandale. Once a week before school, Phil, also from Therapy Dog International, visits kids in the Success Center program. Phil is in his fourth year working at Normandale. Strauss thought it would be fun to expand the program to the school day. The idea has been very well received. “Many staff like having him around, too,” she said. Strauss recalled one teacher who spotted Oscar in the hallway and said, “I haven’t had my coffee yet, can I just give him a hug?”
“There is a very special connection between people and animals,” said Strauss. “I love seeing the joy when kids come into the hall to see Oscar and are instantly comfortable.”
Students, teachers, staff and family waiting behind Highlands Elementary School erupted into cheers when Julie Mickschl, the school’s physical education teacher, emerged from the school. Mickschl had received the Minnesota Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year award from MNSHAPE, a professional organization for physical education teachers in Minnesota.
Anne Thompson, an adapted physical education teacher at Creek Valley, nominated Mickschl for the award. “Over the last five years that I've been working with her I've learned what a caring teacher and strong advocate for our profession she is,” Thompson said. “Julie is always finding new and innovative ideas to implement in her lessons, and is always willing to share that with the elementary phys. ed. department.”
“I was shocked,” Mickschl said about the award. “This is the biggest complement I could have ever received. We have such a great team of physical education teachers here at the elementary level.”
Mickschl has been at Highlands for more than 10 years. She has received numerous grants over the years to fund equipment and advance programs that connect with students. Trying to stay cutting edge in her lessons, Mickschl said, is one of her main priorities. “I have a ton of cool ideas. I try to come up with lessons that will connect what kids are interested in to physical activity. If you can do that, it makes the lessons even more impactful.”
MNSHAPE will officially present Mickschl with the award at a banquet on Nov. 10 at Wayzata High School during the organization’s spring conference.