Sparkle Schoolhouse
FIFTY Study Page – Alaska: " A Mountain to Conquer"

FIFTY Study Page – Alaska: " A Mountain to Conquer"

“A Mountain to Conquer” is about 14-year-old Epheem Kalmakoff and his unlikely victory in a popular Seward Alaska event. When he reaches the top of Marathon Mountain and peers out over the thick Alaska fog, he is suddenly reminded of three stories he heard when he was five years old: one from his Aleut grandmother, one from the Russian Orthodox priest of Analaska Island, and one from the teacher in the Methodist home for orphaned boys. These three stories fill him with a sense of history, identity, and then mission – the mission to win the race.

Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.


Alaska History - Alaska’s history from the Aleut, Spanish, Russian, and then American point of view - History of Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Protestant evangelism in Alaska - Biography of Benny Benson and Epheem Kalmakoff - Unique history of Alaska becoming a state

Alaska Geography - The Geography of “New Spain” in the 16th and 17th centuries - Map of the Aleutian Islands - The proximity of Alaska, Canada, and Russia

“A Mountain to Beat” Study Topics - The impact of the Spanish Flu on native populations - Various amazing and unique competitions that take place in Alaska


From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn that:

  • Loss, even great loss, will lead to another life path and set of opportunities. Epheem endured the great sorrow of his mother dying, and yet, he did find a home and life purpose beyond that grief. It takes time, and it takes a lot of support, but we can find our way in spite of such sadnesses.

  • Holding fast to what you believe is true takes courage and strength. Epheem refused to race on the day of the Sabbath, no matter how their dreams of winning the race were dashed. He also was determined to wear the racing outfit of a uniformed Boy Scout. He knew what they needed to do for their own integrity, and he stood by it.

  • Set goals and stick to them, even against the odds. No one would have favored Ephreem to beat the Marathon record, but no one had his determination, either.

  • Stories Guide Us! The stories that we love most are often the stories that guide and teach us. It was the three-stories-in-one that helped Ephreem cross the finish line! Listen to them! They speak.

About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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