A Virtual Field Trip with Erik Weihenmayer
In a companion post, Virtual Graduation, I described the process that was used to successfully accomplish a virtual graduation for our students. As virtual graduation was being planned, it occurred to me that another time honored tradition of our school was the senior graduates’ field trip, another milestone in our students’ lives that was, sadly, not planned. However, it seemed to me that in this digital age, a virtual field trip was not an impossibility, but was entirely plausible.
We had formed a graduation committee as described in the Virtual Graduation post comprised of faculty and administrators and one of the faculty members suggested that we should “think big” in finding a speaker for graduation. I did an internet search for blind and visually impaired luminaries and actually emailed several, including Stevie Wonder and Johnny Depp, who I discovered is functionally blind in one eye. I heard back from Erik Weihenmayer who offered to be a speaker and a candidate for a leader on a virtual field trip for our BVI students. For those who don’t know, Erik Weihenmayer is one of the world’s most intrepid adventurers. Mr. Weihenmayer, although blind, has many incredible accomplishments that most people can only dream of that includes being the first blind person to summit Mount Everest and actually the highest peak on every continent, among with many other adventures. Erik was also the most appropriate person to lead our students on a virtual field trip. Serendipidity at its finest. In preparation for the field trip that preceded the graduation, the students became acquainted with Erik’s many feats. Erik has had several movies made, the most notable being about his summit of Everest, Touch the Top of the World and a more recent one about his kayaking the rapids of the Grand Canyon, The Weight of Water.:
Skyler Williams, business manager and COO on Erik’s staff in addition to his several movies,sent these additional links:
Essential Message: https://vimeo.com/199056964/68cff18771HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: https://vimeo.com/128534721/b9dbc5ed29 (16:00) HBO Real Sports Update: https://vimeo.com/240074625/92561513c1 (16 minutes) Today Show 7/24/2017: http://on.today.com/2tutt8K (4 1/2 minutes) Today Show 2/18/2019: https://www.today.com/video/meet-the-blind-mountain-climber-who-conquered-mount-everest-1444279875672 (5 minutes) CNN Great Big Story: http://greatbig.is/2z2lPpt (3 1/2 minutes) Men’s Health: https://www.menshealth.com/trending-news/a19528546/blind-man-erik-weihenmayer-mountain-climber-everest/ ( 4 1/2 minutes).
However, of all Mr. Weihenmayer’s adventures, the most impressive experience for this author was the fact that he spent three years as middle school teacher in a regular school despite being blind. This would frighten me more than climbing Mount Everest.
The virtual field trip consisted of a Zoom question and answer session with Erik and all had an enjoyable, inspiring and fulfilling adventure.
The point of this post is, of course, to describe a virtual field trip for our graduating seniors, but more importantly, to demonstrate how perseverance, courage and “thinking outside the box”, A No Barriers Life as Erik Weihenmayer calls it, will allow one to live a fulfilling and rich life no matter what obstacles one encounters. It is my humble opinion that all BVI educators and students would benefit greatly from reviewing Erik Weihenmayer’s life and the movies that depict that life. This author and the students were profoundly inspired by the experience. All it took to have this marvelous virtual field trip happen was a little contemplation of the No Barriers Life.