Iditarod Dogs!

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I had to ask myself today, “How many pictures of dogs do I really need?”  Not enough it seems.  I wanted to share a few on this post, but realized “a few” was the hard part.  The mushers we teachers have met over the past few days have all been open about sharing their dogs and their dog knowledge.

We began Tuesday at Jon & Jona VanZyle’s beautiful home and kennel.  The dogs there are always happy to see people and get an ear rub.  They are eager to meet new people and treated us all (humans) with respect.  We always love going to VanZyles where one dog demonstrated the wheel for us.  Dogs are free to jump on and off the wheel – they love to run!

On Wednesday we went to Iditarod Headquarters where many mushers were gathering for their Vet check.  Again, the mushers were generous with teachers and let us ask them questions and pet their dogs.  The Vets doing the check-ups were a calming influence as dogs politely let them poke and prod.

Teachers ended the day at Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel.  Martin has an exceptional relationship with his dogs based on mutual respect.  As we stood among his almost 90 dogs, the only sound we could hear was our own voices talking to the dogs.  A barking dog is an unusual sound.  Unleashed puppies (18 months old) raced through the crowd of teachers down a trail following a snow machine.  They are already being trained for future Iditarods.

So I guess the answer to the question to myself is, I don’t think I’ll ever have enough dog pictures.

            fingerprintpupsALSO . . . an update on an earlier post.  I heard from Kathy Booth at Wesley D. Tisdale School who used the Fingerprint Dogs idea and added her own twist.  Thanks for sharing Kathy!

Hello Texas!

DSC_2031The 2013 Winter Conference for Educators is now officially underway.  Teachers and presenters are gathered here from Alaska and the Lower 48 states.  New for the conference this year is presenter Barbara Cargill who is the chair of the State Board of Education in Texas.  Barbara is committed to Science curriculum in her state, and what better way to incorporate Science but by using the Iditarod.

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Temperature in Alaska on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 2:45 PM

So Texas students, let’s do a quick weather comparison.  Right now in Anchorage, Alaska the temperature is 36  degrees.  In Nome it is -10 degrees.  Let’s get some comparisons.  What is the temperature in Texas?  What is the difference?  Please let me know at

How about other states?  A great activity is to track the weather in your town and a checkpoint during the race.  Make a graph to show your comparisons.  No matter where you are – I hope you are having good weather.

Iditarod Vet Check

The other day, while visiting Iditarod Headquarters, I had the opportunity to DSC_1671witness a vet check.  Cim Smyth was there with his dogs getting their pre-race check-up.  This included having blood drawn and getting an EKG – the dogs, not Cim.  :-)  A few of the dogs were skittish about coming into the vet trailer, but the technicians were calm and comforting and each dog settled right in.  As one dog was getting blood drawn, the other was laying on the table having an EKG.

While the technicians drew the blood, Cim sat at the head of the EKG dogs, petting them and DSC_1667keeping them reassured as other techs attached the leads needed to run an EKG.  The dogs calmly laid on the table enjoying all the pets and attention.  They were amazing during the process; I was impressed with their trust in the techs and relaxed demeanor.

This dedicated group of veteranarian technician volunteers will continue the same process for every dog in this year’s race.  66 mushers x 16 dogs = 1,056 check-ups.  They do it with smiles on their faces and a devotion to the animals they work with.  Excellent job!

And The Winner Is . . .

Congratulations Noah Pereira, the winner of the 36th running of the

Noah Pereira welcomes Conway Seavey to the finish line.

Noah Pereira welcomes Conway Seavey to the finish line.

Junior Iditarod.  It wasn’t a run-away victory – Noah and Conway Seavey shared the lead throughout the race.  Conway followed Noah into the chute 4 minutes later to take second place.

The first woman to come in and third place finisher was Jenny Greger.  She was so exciting to watch cross the finish line. Jenny’s dogs didn’t want to stop as they tugged at their harnesses and howled at her to keep moving.


All of the Junior Mushers have been fun to watch these past few days.  At the final banquet, they were all poised as they thanked family, friends, and sponsors.  Teamwork seemed to be the theme of the evening and the 2013 Junior Ididtarod Mushers achieved that.  Congratulations!

The Junior Iditarod

DSC_1806Standing on Knik Lake, I watched 13 young men and women ages 14 -17 venture out on the 150 mile Junior Iditarod.  It was exciting seeing them leave the chute, go across the lake, and disappear into the wilderness.  About 8 hours and 75 miles later, the first teams arrived at Yentna Station.  All mushers were very calm as they arrived with their 10 dogs and mandatory items.  The dogs looked happy and healthy coming into the DSC_2050checkpoint.  After checking in, the young mushers fed and bedded down dogs for their mandatory 10-hour layover.  Later in the evening, they started the traditional bonfire.DSC_2012

 Dog teams are one way to get to Yentna Station, snow machines are another, but I arrived via airplane.  Pilot Phil Morgan picked us up at Willow Airport and delivered us to the river right in front of the checkpoint.  It was a magical evening waiting for teams to come in as a gentle snow began to fall.

 Yentna Station is an Iditarod piece of history in its own right.  The cozy DSC_1967roadhouse, run by Dan and Jean, is a busy place this evening with not only Junior Iditarod volunteers and parents, but also people on snow machines stopping in for a delicious homemade meal.  Iditarod pictures, articles, posters, and other paraphernalia can be found on every wall.  I was able to get a little sleep before heading outside once again to see the mushers out.  The first musher left at 3:43 a.m. with the second one leaving 2 minutes later.  By 7:00 a.m. all mushers were back on the trail headed 75 miles back to Willow.  Good luck and safe travels to all Junior mushers today on the trail.

The 2013 Jr. Iditarod


Saturday, Feb.23, after attending the start of the 2013 Jr. Iditarod, Linda headed out to Yentna Station to observe the 2013 Jr. Iditarod.

13 Jr. Mushers are racing in this year’s Jr. Iditarod.  Learn more about the Jr. Idiarod at this link.

Linda will be sharing her observations of the race after she returns from her stay at Yentna.


Larson & Big Lake Elementary Schools

LarsonWhat a great day!  It began at Larson Elementary School.  Students and staff were warm and welcoming as I found my place in the gym to present to about 400 Kindergarten thru 5th grade students.  After my presentation, I was  given the opportunity to be a part of their Idita-Math wrap up.  Students studied math facts andDSC_1653 competed against other classes for the most time spent studying their facts.  This all culminated today as students quickly answered math facts in a relay against time and other classes.  Congratulations to all the winning classes and to the entire school for putting forth the effort.  Thanks also to Mrs. Lamont for the Alaska gift bag.  The books will be shared with my third grade students at the WLC.

Next it was on to Big Lake Elementary where I spoke to 2 groups of 200 students. DSC_1745 Students and staff were kind and courteous as I shared lessons on the Iditarod race, the Iditarod Air Force, and  preparations for my adventure on the trail.  I would also like to thank your principal, Mr. Simon, for the cap.  It will be worn with pride by a grateful teacher.

Meadow Lakes, Shaw & Sherrod Elementary Schools

DSC_1605Part of my job as Teacher on the Trail is to visit schools and present information about the Iditarod and what my role is in the race.  The last two days were spent at 3 amazing schools in the Mat-Su Valley.  I started yesterday (Wednesday) at Meadow Lakes Elementary where I spoke to students from K – 5th grade.  The view they have from their school is something we don’t have in Wisconsin.  Yes – those are mountain peaks rising up behind their building.  Thanks Meadow Lakes!

I began the day today (Thursday) at Shaw Elementary DSC_1645where Mrs. West and Mrs. Cook helped me set up in the IMC.  (Thank you for your help!)  Again, an amazing view from the school. Students listened to my presentation and had great questions for me.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer all of them.  So students, as I promised, here is my Teacher on Trail address: Before you try to get me to answer one of your Trivia Questions – remember to try to find the answer yourself!  :-)

DSC_1627Before I left the WLC to come to Alaska, I promised my students that Juneau – our class mascot – would accompany me and get his picture taken wherever possible.  As you can see, Juneau enjoyed a pizza lunch with Mrs. Cappa, her staff and students in the Deaf Ed. room at Shaw Elementary.  It was great getting to know all of you and I thank you for sharing your meal with us.  Juneau also had fun getting to know all of the classroom dogs.

Next I went to speak to the 4th grade students at Larson Elementary School.  About 120 4th graders squeezed into a classroom while we talked about the Iditarod, the Iditarod Air Force and my preparations for the race as well as comparisons between Alaska and Wisconsin.  Even with the tight quarters, students listened and even participated in my presentation.

Thank you Meadow Lakes, Shaw and Sherrod Elementary Schools for inviting me into your schools and making me a part of your day.

Classroom Checkpoints

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After a 13 hours of airports and flights from Wisconsin to Alaska on Monday, I’m finally getting settled.  It may take a few more days to acclimate to the time change, but I’ll get there.  This week I am visiting schools around the Wasilla area and I’m looking forward to that.

Back at the WLC, preparations are in place for the start of the race.  Each classroom was assigned a checkpoint (a few classes had to double up because we are a big school) and they decorated their door with their checkpoint name and other interesting facts.  Each class – and other support staff –  has a musher they are following during the race.  When the race begins, they will move their mushers to the checkpoints around the building.  This is a great way to get an entire school involved in the race bringing a different part of the world into your part of the world.

The Iditarod Games

What a sendoff!  The teachers, administrators, support staff, and students kicked it into high gear as they sent me on my way to Alaska.  To begin the day, I saw all staff in T-Shirts with my picture on it.  It was overwhelming.

At the end of the school day there was a Pep Rally, aka, The Iditarod Games.  To start the games, they all surprised me by singing Hobo Jim’s “The Iditarod Trail Song”.  600 voices singing the trail song . . . awesome.  Next came the games.  Each grade level developed a game and chose students to participate.  They were simple, quick, and a lot of fun.  View the video to see what we did and how it was done.  Try this at your school to ignite your student’s enthusiasm for the 2013 race.

The school year up to this point has been preparing me – and my students – for the day I would leave for Alaska as the 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.  With the help of a wonderful class and fantastic staff, I’m ready.  Signing off from Wisconsin – next stop, Anchorage!

Collaboration & Problem Solving


The activities I love best in the classroom are problem solving activities.  Adding collaboration to these activities enhances the learning process.  My students (3rd graders) had the opportunity to collaborate with 5th graders in building a DSC_1448dogsled.  It wasn’t easy.  Each group of 2 or 3 students was given a packet.  Items in the packet were:  1 small paper plate, 2 straws, a 3×6 (approximately) inch piece of tin foil, 1 paper clip, and 4 rubber bands.  Hmmm.

DSC_1444There was a lot of thinking and discussing within the groups as they tried to find the best way to put their items together.  Tape was not allowed, although a few students asked.   Two groups asked to use scissors and that was allowed.  Students did an amazing job with their dogsleds and no two sleds were alike.  I’ve also done this activity with adult groups, and the students’ sleds were as well thought out as many of the adults’ sleds.

To close the activity, each group shared their sled.  It was equally split between 3rd graders and 5th graders who did the talking for the group.  I don’t think they planned who would talk, it was a natural process.  Thank you Mr. Harms and your 5th graders – working together, all students were successful.

Use Your Fingers


DSC_1410Here is a cute, easy project for elementary students.  These dog teams were made using thumb and index fingerprints.  The sled is clip art.  Students added legs, facial features, and a gangline.  The idea for this piece of artwork was created by my friend and colleague, Missy Durrant.  Students in her class each made one and they decorated their door with the finished products.  Teachers in my school are coming up with so many clever ideas to celebrate the Iditarod.  More ideas on the way.

Triangle Poem

A Triangle Poem is a quick, easy poem students of any age can do.  The first line of the poem states the subject and an action.  Line two describes the action and the third line tellsDSC_1393 where the action takes place.  Ava’s poem in the picture is about the dogs on the Iditarod trail, while Gabe’s poem in the video is about the mushers.  Any topic can be used.  The third grade sentences are fairly simple, but older students can add more detail.  Have fun with the poem!  Triangle Poem

On another note, WBAY Channel 2 out of Green Bay, Wisconsin recently visited my classroom for an interview.  Here is the link to the piece they put together. 

My students were so excited.  One of them said, “I was so nervous I was sweating the whole time.”  Students in my class were quiet and cooperative while the reporter and cameraman were in the room.  Thanks students and thanks WBAY!

Getting Ready

DSC_1400I said good-bye to my trail sleeping bag, bed roll, boots and a few other items as I sent them ahead to Alaska.  They are on their way to Anchorage where I will be meeting up with them in less than 2 weeks.  LESS THAN 2 WEEKS!

The sleeping bag is covered with patches from all the past teachers who pavedDSC_1189 the way for me and future teachers to experience the Iditarod first-hand.  This Wisconsin patch that was designed by my niece, Madeline, joins the patches of teachers from all over the United States:  DSC_1191Indiana, South Dakota, Florida, Arizona, Minnesota and even another Wisconsinite to name a few.  I am proud to have my name join their ranks.

My patch is a celebration of the Iditarod Air Force and all the volunteer pilots who help make the race possible.    I look forward to flying with them on the ultimate volunteer position – Teacher on the Trail.  Sleeping bag – I’ll see you in a few weeks!

Choose A Musher

As the Iditarod Race quickly approaches (27 Days 6 Hours 26 Minutes  48DSC_1333 Seconds and counting so the clock at tells me) it is time to choose a musher.  There are a few different ways to do this.  The classrooms at my school – including the kitchen staff, office staff, custodian, and aides – all picked a name out of a hat.  Students in my class, however, had to do some research.  They studied the musher profiles and had to come to me with a name and a fact about the musher they would like to follow.  Not an opinion – a fact.

DSC_1335It was interesting because in the past students were a little more random so we had rookies in the mix with the veteran mushers.  This year’s class is a little more Iditarod savvy.  They already know names of some of the top mushers and they know a little more about what it takes to be a top contender in the race.  I also encouraged them to choose a musher who had a website for easier access to information about them and their dogs.  They now each have a musher to follow and this coming week they will create their musher trading card.  MusherTradingCards  27 Days 6 Hours 4 Minutes 30 Seconds and counting . . .