Thank You Iditarod

My year as 2013 Teacher on the Trail™ is coming to a close and I have yet to wrap my brain around the fact that it actually happened.

I can’t finish this adventure without a few thank yous.  Thank you Andrea Aufder Heyde (Finney) for having the tenacity to pursue bringing the Iditarod into the classroom by experiencing it first hand.  Thank you also to the Iditarod Trail Committee for seeing the value of her experience and continuing the Teacher on the Trail™ program.  Thank you to all the mushers, vets, pilots and volunteers who let me ask questions, take pictures, and who stopped what they were doing to talk to students on Skype at different checkpoints along the trail.  Thank you to the Waupaca School District, Waupaca Learning Center, and my class for all of your support during the entire school year.  Finally, thanks to all the teachers and students who followed my blog making this the largest classroom an educator could wish for.

At the Volunteer Picnic at Iditarod Headquarters in June I will officially pass the torch to Jennifer Reiter who is the 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™.  I’m so excited for her and I look forward to reading about her experiences.

Being a part of the Iditarod was a dream come true for me.  My life will forever be changed as I carry the experiences of the 2013 Iditarod with me.  If you have a few hours, just ask me about them. :-)

2013 Iditarod Comes To A Close

DSC_4387Christine Roalofs closed the door on the 41st Iditarod earning the Red Lantern Award.  Since Tuesday night, 54 of the 66 mushers who started the race, finished it under the Burled Arch in Nome.  It’s been exciting to see mushers cross the finish line filled with emotion and gratitude.  It’s even more fun watching the dogs finish with tails wagging and smiling eyes.DSC_4499

It’s a dog’s race, but mushers are their voice.  At the Finisher’s Banquet Sunday night, mushers thanked sponsors, family and friends and especially their dogs.  Awards were given and stories were shared.

Personally, being a part of the Iditarod was the realization of a dream.  While I’m sad to see it come to a close, I’m excited to get home to share my stories and experiences.  Dogs, mushers, volunteers and vets are all heading home, but the memories and lessons of the 2013 Iditarod will live on.


There’s No Place Like Nome

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Nome, Alaska is a city of almost 4,000 residents that sits on Norton Sound at the edge of the Bering Sea.  There is a lot to see and discover here, but the week the Iditarod comes to town, there is something for everyone.  Events began on Monday, March 11 with workshops, talks, tours, an Arts & Crafts Fair, and Fine Arts Fair to name a few.

My time here has been busy – not only with Iditarod – but trying to fit all the other interesting events into a day.  One of the highlights includes watching Velvet, a pet reindeer, go through town  the back of a pick-up.  I also attended the largest basketball tournament in the world.  I can’t forget about the beautiful sunsets over the Bering Sea and the poetry reading by Richard “Hello Central” Benevelle.  I didn’t drive anywhere because gas prices are hovering at $6.15 a gallon and I didn’t grocery shop because there were fabulous cooks at the church where I am staying, plus groceries are very expensive.  I was even interviewed on a radio show for local station, KICY.

Read more about Nome at their website, Nome, Alaska and visit the Nome, Alaska Visitor’s Center website to read more about the rich history of this city.  True to its own tagline, there is no place like Nome.

Angie Arrives in Nome!

DSC_4276Last fall I contacted former 2nd grade teacher from Ketchikan, Alaska,  Angie Taggart to ask if I could follow her training for the 2013 Iditarod and share it on this blog.  She immediately agreed.  Angie worked hard training with little snow and even some winter rain.  Last night, at 11:50 Nome time, Angie finished the race under the Burled Arch.

I started watching for her a little after 11.  Looking down the trail on the Bering Sea, way off in the distance, we could see a faint light bobbing up and down.  Angie!  As she got closer, the light got brighter.  Her hard work paid off as she was met by family and friends.  In her interview, when asked how she felt, she replied, DSC_4291“Sad.”  Sad the race is over and sad that she won’t run it again.  Sled dog racing is an expensive sport and Angie feels she needs to get back to teaching.

Angie’s decision to run the Iditarod was the realization of a dream.  Good for you Angie, thanks for sharing your training, and welcome to Nome.

The Dog Lot


DSC_4193Dogs and crates everywhere!  That’s the dog lot in Nome.  Once the team crosses under the Burled Arch, Dr. Stu Nelson, Chief Veterinarian does a quick check on each dog.  Every dog on the team gets lots of pets and love from the musher, family and friends.  They have, after all, just run about 1,000 miles – they’ve earned it.

After that, the team is run down Front Street toward the Mini Convention and parked in the big dog lot where they join dogs from other teams that have finished.  They are cared for by the mushers and handlers and given a more thorough check up by vets.  Each dog has a crate thatDSC_4191 is filled with straw and they bed down for a well deserved rest.  The mushers are in charge of flying them back either to Anchorage or wherever their final destination may be.

The dog lot in Nome is a temporary home for Iditarod dogs.  Soon the dog lot will be empty and the 2013 Iditarod will be over.


Linda dog lot 2013

The Courage To Join

DSC_4081Before I came on the Iditarod Trail, many students thought I was a musher competing in the race.  My answer was always, “No way, those guys are crazy!”  Now they may be crazy, but I say that with the utmost respect.

The top 10 finishers have come in and they have been praised by the media and fans for their performances.  As of this writing, 43 mushers have come through the chute in Nome and finished the Iditarod under the Burled Arch.  Some mushers had to withdraw or scratch from the race.  But there are still 11 mushers out there.  11 mushers I admire for their courage to run in the Last Great Race.  Keep cheering these mushers on – they deserve it.

“The thrill is not just winning, but the courage to join the race.”  Helena Johnson




The Last Word on Dog Pee

DSC_4036A student from Westport, CT asked me why they collect dog pee.  Pee is collected so it can be tested for drugs.  Like human athletes, they are looking for any kind of drugs that make the dogs run faster and stronger.

Over the past few days, they took the final collections here in Nome and sent them off to a drugDSC_4039 testing lab in Colorado.  This is the same lab where they analyze pee from greyhounds and some race horses.  Once again, security was a factor.  Dr. Morrie, who oversees the collection, and Marilyn who is on the collection team, brought the locked cooler to Alaska Air to send it off.  After the paperwork was completed and the “keep frozen” stickers attached, it was sent off to the lab in Colorado.

Go doggies has a whole new meaning for me.  That’s the last word on dog pee.

White Mountain


Wednesday, March 13 was another crisp, clear day in Nome, Alaska.  I was just about to write my post for the day about the winning teams, when my friend and pilot Marty asked if I wanted a ride to White Mountain to deliver some items and pick up dropped dogs.  Hmmmmm – YES!

White Mountain is a beautiful little village on a hill overlooking the Fish River. DSC_3967Once again I was met by friendly volunteers, coms people and vets.  The winners may be in, but there are still mushers on the trail.  Matt Failor was there trying to massage the feet of one of his dogs.  All the dogs were enjoying their 8 hour mandatory rest on the river with the sun shining.  4 dogs had been left behind by previous mushers and needed a lift to Nome so we loaded them in the plane and took off.

Friend and former Teacher on the Trail, Terrie Hanke told me about the term “severe clear”.  Today, like the past 2 days, is severe clear.  You can see for miles and not understand how far you are looking.  It’s an amazing view with theDSC_4013 Alaska expanse.  Miles and miles of mountains meeting the sky. Severe clear could work anyplace on earth, but in Alaska it has a life of its own.

There were a few added bonuses on this trip.  After seeing 2 moose on take off, Musk Oxwe had a few more surprises on this flight.  The first was a herd of musk ox.  Wow!  Next we spotted caribou.  So Rowen (student who always asks if I have seen any animals) I saw lots today.  What a treat.  Thanks Marty and safe travels back home.

10:40 PM – Nome, Alaska

DSC_3895It was just after 10:30 pm when  the word spread down the chute that Mitch Seavey was in town.  He officially finished Tuesday, March 12 at 10:39:56 pm Nome time as the winner of the 2013 Iditarod.  He was met by family as he crossed under the Burled Arch.  His gear was checked to make sure he had his mandatory items and he was declared the winner.  It was an exciting race this year with the lead changing hands several times.  At 53 years old, Mitch is the oldest person to win the Iditarod.  Keeping it in the family, his son Dallas was the youngest winner last year.

Aliy Zirkle came into town 23 minutes later as the second place finisher.  BothDSC_3909 Mitch and Aliy looked exhausted as they grabbed a bite to eat and answered questions from the media.  They joked around with each other – each showing the utmost respect for their fellow musher.

Jeff King arrived under the Burled Arch just over an hour after Aliy to claim third place.  As of this writing, 20 teams have arrived in Nome, and there DSC_3921are 36 mushers still out on the trail making their way to Nome.  For them, the race is not over.  The tenacity to keep going knowing the winners are already in Nome is what makes the Iditarod the Last Great Race.

The Teacher on the Trail Arrives in Nome


After another amazing flight with Pilot Marty, I arrived in Nome.  We flew out of Unalakleet with blue sky and panorama for miles and miles.  The camera does not do the beauty of the land justice.  There were a few teams on the IditarodDSC_3828 Trail as they left the Unalakleet checkpoint on their way to Shaktoolik.  It’s hard for me to imagine living in small, remote villages along the coast, but we flew over a few.  I was able to see by air the checkpoints of Shaktoolik, Elim, White Mountain and Safety.  We followed the Iditarod Trail into Nome where tonight a few teams will battle for the title of Iditarod Champion.

DSC_3878Once in Nome, I made my way to the Methodist Church where Deb helped me find a spot for my sleeping bag and travel bag.  This will be my home away from home for the next few days.  After a bowl of homemade chicken soup, I walked to Iditarod Headquarters.  On Front Street, under the Burled Arch, workers are preparing for the finish early – very early – Wednesday morning.  I will be there to watch the winner come in.  Stay tuned – it’s going to be exciting!

Unalakleet’s Quiet Dogs


I flew into Unalakleet (You na la kleet)  from Anvik with Pilot Diana on an unusually clear, crisp day.  With blue skies and no clouds, I was able to see for miles up the Yukon River.  Once we landed and unloaded, I walked from the airport to the checkpoint.  After a few wrong turns and getting directions from friendly people, I found my way to the checkpoint.  Now familiar faces greeted me here and a moose burger (yes, moose burger) was put in my hands.

DSC_3706I couldn’t sit for long because I felt I needed to take advantage of the beautiful day.  After visiting with some of the mushers and dogs that are currently in the  Unalakleet checkpoint, I took a walk up the Iditarod Trail towards Norton Sound that leads out to the Bering Sea.  Wow!  I think I need to write that sentence again to make sure it really happened.  I took a walk up the Iditarod Trail towards Norton Sound that leads out to the Bering Sea.  Coming back toward the checkpoint, I followed the trail for a while and found a paw print that made me marvel.  This paw has been 700 miles – my footprint is bigger, but it somehow feels small in comparison.

When I came back into the checkpoint, I found myself alone with empty sleds DSC_3721and 44 sleeping dogs.  There wasn’t a sound.  Dogs have had all their needs met:  food, water, straw, exercise, and a thorough vet check.  This is an impressive race, not only due to the volunteer force that makes it run, but the canine athletes who run this distance with wagging tails and happy faces.  Right now some of them are sleeping, but soon they’ll be back on the trail headed for Nome.


Speaking Russian in the Iditarod


I was able to get out of McGrath Sunday morning with pilot Marty Carlson.  It was smooth flying for a while, then the low clouds moved in.  Marty reacted by turning around and getting on top on the clouds to fly me safely into Anvik.  I can’t believe I’m actually at the Yukon River where I even spotted a few moose as we flew in. The Iditarod has the best bush pilots!

DSC_3542Anvik is where Martin Buser won his “First to the Yukon” dinner.  Shortly after I arrived, Mikhail Telpin drove his team into this checkpoint.  It MUST be hard for him.  He came into the checkpoint with his beautiful dogs still wagging their tails after 486 miles.  Mikhail is from Russia and speaks little to no English.  He tried to communicate with the checker and finally got down on a knee to ask his question by drawing a picture in the snow.  He was curious about what the next checkpoint was and how far DSC_3553away – we think.

He switched out his lead dog, pulled a few things out of his bag, signed a few autographs, and then headed down the trail where he will have to try to communicate with the checkers at the next checkpoint.  Not only does he have the challenge of the Iditarod Trail, but he also faces the challenge of communication.  Good for him.  He made it 486 miles, so he must be doing something right.

The Clean Up Crew

The weather plays a factor in the way a musher runs a team.  This year it has been unseasonably warm and that affects the dogs who like it much colder.  The weather also affects the flights of the vets, volunteers and the Teacher on the Trail.  The air currents on Friday were strong enough to keep planes grounded.

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Because of the strange weather, I find myself behind the race at this point – even behind the Trail Sweeps (TS on the GPS Tracker).  BUT, because I’m behind I was able to learn about the clean-up of a checkpoint.  We were stranded here in Takotna Friday night so leftover food was brought out and volunteers took over.  I found myself grilling the left-over steaks the mushers missed out on.  It was a festive atmosphere because there was nothing we could do about our situation except make the best of it.  Once again, the people made it worth the stay with conversations about this year’s race and past races these great volunteers and vets have been a part of.

Saturday, while we waited for our flights out, the clean-up was in full gear.  Leftover dog food and people food was distributed to people in the village,  items that could be safely burned were thrown into the burn pile, and items that are only used once a year were put into a cupboard and locked away.  While other checkpoints are just beginning to get ready for mushers, Takotna is closed down.

The Trail Sweeps quickly ate a hamburger here and are headed down the trail.  Hopefully, the Teacher on the Trail will pass them and not meet up with them until Nome.  Thanks Takotna for a great stay!  :-)

A Tangled Team

DSC_3487One question students always tend to ask is, “What happens if a dog team gets tangled?”  Well, that happened today to James Volek as he left Takotna.  James brought his team from behind the checkpoint building and a few dogs decided to head up the trail, and a few decided to go down trail.  What was left in the middle was a tangled mess.  James calmly got off his sled and began the untangling process.  It wasn’t long before all the dogs were heading in the right direction.  Amazingly, the entire process only took a few minutes.

DSC_3489So the answer to the question of tangled dogs is, “Remain calm, get off the sled, untangle the mess, and head down the Iditarod Trail.”


DSC_3405I flew into Takotna early Thursday afternoon.  A few mushers are here taking their 24 hour layover.  Both Rudy Demoski and Charlie Benja came through soon after I arrived.  Rudy thought he would stay a bit, but decided to continue up the trail.  Charlie stopped long enough to check his bags and have a piece of world famous Takotna pie.  (Speaking of pie, my piece was delicious!)  Charlie’s dogs looked on enviously as he devoured his pie, but he shared the crumbs.  He talked to some of the local children and let them pet his dogs before he got back on the trail.DSC_3410

It is unseasonably warm here with temperatures soaring at 38 degrees.  Good for me, but not good for dogs.  I talked to Rudy while he was feeding his dogs and he said that as soon as the dogs felt the cool wind they started running faster.  Amazing!

It has been so much fun hearing from students and teachers across the United States who are following the 2013 Iditarod.  Here’s a special shout out to students in Ryan Hanson’s class in Spain who are following the race.  I’ve known your teacher since he was in 4th grade.  :-)  Keep watching this year’s exciting Iditarod!


Leaving Nikolai



Nikolai from the air.

After being in Nikolai for 28 hours I was flown back to McGrath.  The timing was later than anticipated due to the weather in McGrath and no flights out for most of the day.  With Marty as my pilot, we took off from the small airstrip.  The flight was exciting for me because I was in the plane with 4 dropped dogs – this was one of the experiences I was looking forward to.  The dogs were mildly anxious getting into the plane, but once they were on they settled right in on top of my suitcase and each other.  While I marveled at the scenery all around me, the dogs slept.

DSC_3366As we landed in McGrath, one dog raised his head to see what was happening, but the rest of them slept right through.  They were quickly unloaded by the waiting vets.  Paperwork was exchanged and the vets did a check up on each dog.  The logistics of dogs is something taken very seriously by not only the vets, but the pilots who transport them.  Dogs were given blankets, straw, and a warm meal.  They are now waiting for their flight to Anchorage.

It’s hard to leave a checkpoint after having made connections with people.  Hopefully we will meet up down the trail or eventually in Nome.  Next stop for me . . . Takotna with pilot Glen.


Pee Collection? Yes, Pee Collection

DSC_3292As Teacher on the Trail, I was sent to this race to experience it from all aspects.  I never, in my wildest dreams, thought one of my experiences would be to collect pee from Iditarod dogs.  It is a job taken very seriously by the vets and the two women, Kidrin and Maureen, whose sole job it is to collect the pee.

A small canister (about the size of a large pill bottle) is open and a dog from a DSC_3295team put on a leash.  The dog is then walked around until the urge to “go”  hits.  The women will quickly position themselves to hold the canister underneath the stream and make a collection – half full.  Next they get another dog and fill the canister.  The canister is tagged with the name of the musher and the 2 dogs.  The lid is DSC_3299screwed on and evidence tape is put over the top.  Mushers’ signatures are taken and go with the specimen.

The small cooler with the pee is locked away if the two women are not with it.  They protect the key so no one can tamper with the specimens.  From here the pee is flown to a lab in the lower 48 and analyzed.  Just like CSI.

After 2 days of watching the women work non-stop, they decided that the Teacher on the Trail needed to give it a try.  I have to say, I did OK.  I didn’t spill anyway.  They were kind and only gave me males for an easier collection.  :-) Thank you Kidrin and Maureen for letting me experience being part of the vet team.  Thank you Jan Steves for letting me be a part of the vet DSC_3288team for your dogs.   I know to expect the unexpected, but pee collection?  Yes, pee collection.

Nikolai Morning

DSC_3229The last 10 mushers are just making it into Nikolai this early morning – a few are here and a few are on the trail trying to get here.  Our friend and fellow teacher Angie Taggart just came in.  She and her dogs look good although she is contemplating dropping a dog here.  She reported that the gorge was not so bad, but the burn was horrendous.  She tipped once and ran into a tree that ripped her bag.  As of now she’ll leave it as is, but will try to repair it further down the trail.  She’ll rest here for 6 hours then make her way to McGrath.


As of my last count, 77 dogs have been dropped from the race.  I visited the DSC_3249dropped dog lot here this morning where 19 dogs currently reside.   Most of them are resting, but one is pacing, perhaps wondering why he’s still here.  The dropped dogs from this checkpoint will be sent to McGrath where they will meet other dropped dogs from nearby checkpoints.  From McGrath they are sent back to Anchorage and cared for there.

As for me, I’m not sure what checkpoint I’ll be sent to next.  Wherever it is I know I will be met by friendly volunteers and vets who make this the Last Great Race.


DSC_3022I lost my lead (for those of you who are tracking me on GPS) and flew back down the trail to Nikolai.  The pilots of the Iditarod Air Force have been wonderful flying me across the beautiful state of Alaska.  With pilot Danny, I was able to see the Iditarod Trail from the air and for an added treat, was able to see John Baker on his way to Nikolai.  We landed and walked to the checkpoint where John Baker was just coming in.DSC_3033

It’s getting busy here as vets are checking dogs who are bedded down during the warm, sunny day.  Mushers are checking over their gear and walking to the school for a bite to eat and a quick nap.  The 7 students who attend the DSC_3108school here are cross country skiing down to the river through the checkpoint.  Aaron Burmeister was the first out of this checkpoint leaving at 12:25 pm on his way to McGrath 48 miles away.

It’s turning out to be an interesting race with strategy discussions all around me.  3 days in is still too early to determine a winner.  We’ll have to wait and see further down the Iditarod Trail.

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Skwentna to McGrath



DeeDee Jonrowe checks in at Skwentna.


Angie Taggart checking her dogs.

“Dog traffic.”  That’s the start of the Communications (Coms) report from the Skwentna River to the cabin at the top of the hill.  Martin Buser was the first musher to arrive at 8:45 PM.  He stopped briefly to snack his dogs, then he was off down the river.  Mushers soon arrived at intervals through the night although at one point 9 arrived at once.  All mushers made DSC_2925it to this checkpoint and all moved on to the next one.  Some went on through, some stopped briefly, and some took full advantage of the hospitality the Skwentna Sweeties provided; a quick nap and a delicious meal were enjoyed by all who decided to take advantage.

DSC_2939Once the last musher left the checkpoint, people started to pack up.  Planes started flying in early to haul out volunteers and dropped dogs.  Leftover drop bags were gone through – things will be collected and donated.


From Skwentna I was picked up by pilot Phil Morgan and brought to Anchorage.  There I boarded a plane to McGrath.  We arrived around 2:00, were picked up, and dropped off at the cafe.  Here volunteers are gathered to find out if they will stay or move up the trail.  All around me there are conversations of past races and life on the Iditarod Trail.

The first musher usually comes in to this checkpoint Tuesday night, but they are expecting an early arrival this year because of the fast pace set by Martin Buser. The 2013 Iditarod is proving to be competitively exciting.  Check out the GPS tracking  at for updates on your favorite musher.

Iditarod Restart

March 3, 2013 – THE DAY – The official  start of the 2013 Iditarod.  It was a beautiful day with Denali clearly visible in the distance.  Dog teams and mushers arrived at Willow in small trucks with or without trailers or large trucks with huge trailers. Men, women, rookies and 30 year veterans have been preparing all year for this day.  That’s what I love about this race – once the teams leave the starting chute, they are on an even playing field.


Leaving for Nome!

As I walked around the dog team staging area, I marveled at the thought that 66 mushers and 1,040 dogs were about to embark on a 1,049 mile race through the Alaska wilderness in the winter.  How do they do it?  Why do they do it?  They all have their own reasons, but the overall theme is the chance to work with an amazing group of animals.  Sled dogs.  The mushers were cordial with the well wishers, but they were also focused on the task ahead.  They have to have all their gear and mandatory items in the sled bag, the gangline gets laid out, dogs need to be fed, harnessed, and bootied; there is a lot to do and a lot to think about.

Teams left the chute beginning at 2:00, leaving at 2 minute increments.  Martin Buser was the first one out and Sonny Lindner left last.  The differential of the leave times will be tacked on to their 24 hour mandatory layover.  Volunteers and vets are ready at the early checkpoints waiting for teams to arrive.


As soon as Sonny left the chute, I was flown to Skwentna.  The famous Skwentna Sweeties had a delicious meal waiting for everyone.  There are smiles and hugs as old friends meet once again.  This is a busy checkpoint due to the fact that racers will arrive here during the night and they are still running fairly close together.  Everyone here has made me feel so welcome.  Vets are having conversations – communication people are making sure their internet works correctly – there is a meeting in the side room planning for the arrival of the dog teams.

Today is the start of the race for the dogs and mushers.  It is also the start of my adventure as Teacher on the Trail experiencing this race first hand.  It’s THE day I’ve been waiting for.  Here we go!

Ride Of My Life!

DSC_2551On Friday, March 1, 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage was bustling with cars, buses, taxis and people everywhere.  That night, truckload after truckload of snow was hauled into the over 13 city blocks and dumped in the streets.  Overnight, 4th Avenue changed from a busy car street to a busy dogsled trail.  This is it – the Ceremonial Start of the 41st Iditarod.

I showed up at the starting line at 8:00 AM with the three 2014 Teacher On TheDSC_2560 Trail finalists as well as two past Teachers On The Trail.   People were starting to filter in and within the hour dog trucks were finding their assigned spots.  Soon the street was filled with dog trucks, dogs, sleds, and fans.  I made my way to find the musher who would be giving me the ride of my life.

At 16, Noah Pereira is an awesome driver.  No, not cars (I know better than to get in a car with most 16 year olds) – dogsleds.  As winner of the Junior Iditarod he had the honor of leaving the chute at racestart9:56 AM in the number one position with his IditaRider – ME!  What a great feeling to be the first at the starting line of the 41st Iditarod.  The crowd cheered and wished us well as our team of 10 dogs pulled us down 4th Avenue in Anchorage.  With all the confidence of a champion musher, Noah made the sharp, 90° turn to the right at the bottom of the street onto Cordova without losing me or his dad who was in a tail sled.  We headed out of the city streets and onto a beautiful trail system.

People cheered for Noah and his dogs as they congratulated him on his recentcampbell field win.  Once out of the city, the fog lifted, the sky turned blue, and the mountains could be seen above the trees.  It was an amazing site. It was fun to be in the crowd of people, but indescribable to be alone in the woods watching the dogs do what they do best, run.  As we headed into the Campbell Airstrip,  Noah, his dad and I were disappointed that we had reached the end of our journey.

I am truly honored to be a part of this race.  Noah – thank you for the ride of my life.


Thursday was a busy day for Iditarod Mushers.  They gathered early for a DSC_2442mandatory pre-race meeting.  Race sponsors were introduced and applauded for helping keep the race going, mail packets were signed, a trail report was given (the snow looks good!) and they heard from the head Vet and others.  At lunch mushers enjoyed a pizza lunch with their Iditariders.  I’ll be riding with Junior Iditarod winner Noah Pereira.

DSC_2472The day ended with the annual Musher Banquet.  Hobo Jim and others entertained the crowd as we milled around seeking out our favorite mushers.  A delicious meal was served, there were more speakers, and finally mushers drew the number for their order out of the chute.  Martin Buser will be leaving first as he drew Number 2. Sonny Lindner will be the last to leave wearing bib #67.  Former second grade teacher and my friend  Angie Taggart will be the 40th musher out of the chute.  She is excited to get her dogs on the trail.

Bib Number 1 always goes to the honorary musher – this year that person is Jan Newton.  Jan was the queen of Takotna as a fixture at the checkpoint.  Mushers into the checkpoint were rewarded a steak and pie thanks to Jan.  Jan’s spirit will live on in the hearts of mushers and volunteers who travel through Taktona.

After a year of training, the mushers and dogs are ready to take the trail. DSC_2197 Iditarod fans are ready to follow their favorite mushers.  The checkpoints are ready to receive mushers and over 1,000 dogs.  2013 Iditarod – we’re ready!

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.

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 . . .

4 Forces of Flight

DSC_0768I’m looking forward to so many things with my upcoming adventure:  Talking with mushers, presenting to schools in Alaska, seeing the dogs and on and on.  Another top thing on my list is flying with the Iditarod Air Force.  In a previous blog, I shared a simple lesson on surface area.  Attached here are a few more lessons covering the 4 forces of flight – lift, weight, thrust and drag.  Students made the discovery that Dogsleds use 3 of the 4 forces while racing – see if your students can also figure it out :-).

DSC_0769Once again, you can get as complicated as you want with the lessons depending on how how deep you want to go in the classroom with your students.  Using flight in the classroom, like the Iditarod, is a great motivator.  Enjoy!

Parachutes & Drag

Wing Shape & Lift

Air Pressure & Lift

Illuminations Rescue Mission Game

Illuminations Rescue Mission Game.2

Illuminations Rescue Mission Game.3

Talking Iditarod

DSC_1177Friday, January 25, I was given the opportunity to share the Iditarod with all the classes at my school.  Students and teachers at the Waupaca Learning Center (WLC) listened as I explained about the race, dogs, gear and the Teacher on the Trail™ program (I think they now realize I’m not a musher).  They had great questions and their enthusiasm was palpable.  All DSC_1142students from Pre-K thru 4th grade demonstrated our “Rascal Way” as they quietly and politely listened to my presentation.

At the end of the presentation a student from each class drew the name of the musher their class will follow during the race.  For this year’s race we will have classrooms representing checkpoints (pictures will be coming soon) and students will move their mushers to each checkpoint as they race through the school.

DSC_1153I work in the best school with the best teachers.  Thanks for letting me share my passion.

Senses of Snow


Students from Wisconsin and the northern states that have snow, know snow.  But until we talked about the physical properties of snow, they took it for granted as simply snow.  Snow can be very different.  The snow I chose for our investigation in a recent Science lesson on matter was light, fluffy snow.  The snow on the ground right now (in this -35 degree F weather) resembles ice chunks.  It is said that Eskimos have 50 words for snow – this has been disputed as urban legend, but then came this recent article from the Washington Post titled “There Really Are 50 Eskimo Words For Snow“.  Personally, I can see how there can be 50 or more words for snow because of all the differences.

DSC_1119Senses of Snow  The lesson has to do with describing snow using the 5 senses.  Middle School and High School students could do research on the 50 words for snow.  Whether there are 50 words for snow or just one, I have three words – bring it on.

Dog Care Brochure With the Help of Sanka W. Dog

Earlier in December I wrote about having students create a brochure in PrintShop2 to educate people about the Idtiarod.  The brochures turned out great and students learned a lot about different aspects of the Iditarod.

My friend, Sanka W. Dog at just wrote an article called Healthy, Happy Dogs – Ten Tips.  It reminded me of the brochure my students created last Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 9.31.39 PMyear about dog care.  After doing some research, they created by hand a colorful, creative tri-fold informational brochure.  If you are looking for new ideas, create a Dog Care brochure using the tips from Sanka W. Dog.  If you don’t have Print Shop, try the Printing Press at ReadWriteThink,  It’s a quick, easy way to create informational documents for students of all ages.  If you don’t have access to technology, do like my class did last year and color it by hand.  No matter how you choose to publish, creating a brochure or flyer is a fun way to learn and inform.

The Parka

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My time on the Iditarod Trail is getting closer.  I have been purchasing base layer items to keep me warm and I’ve been planning my packing strategy.  What arrived yesterday at my house, however, made me realize that this is really going to happen.  The parka.  Of course I brought it to school to let everyone try it on.  My students loved it and had a blast trying on – and swimming in – a beautiful, warm Teacher on the Trail parka.  Thank you Iditarod Trail Committee for everything!

Flying With The Iditarod Air Force

When some people think of me being the Teacher on the Trail, they think of me on a dog sled racing along.  Now I have an adventurous spirit – but not that adventurous.  I will actually be flying to different checkpoints along the trail with the Iditarod Air Force, a group of pilot volunteers who help make the race happen.  According to front_page2the IAF Statistics Page on their website, “Our 31 volunteer pilots collectively bring 743 years and 420,000 hours of flying experience to the table.  Click on the picture at the left to check out their website for more stats, information and beautiful pictures.  I’m very excited about flying with this group of dedicated volunteers in remote Alaska and know I’ll be in good hands.

In my school district, part of the 3rd grade Science Curriculum is Flight.  Third Graders learn the history and science of flight in a comprehensive unit.  We are fortunate to live near Oshkosh, Wisconsin and the home of the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum and yearly fly-in.  Our unit culminates in a field trip to the museum – a highlight of our Third Grade year.  Many of the flight lessons I will be sharing originate from their Education Department.

One of our first activities is to learn about surface area.  I’ve attached a simple lesson plan that teaches the concept of gliding and dropping.  It’s time to Take Flight!  Surface Area

Aurora Borealis


I love it when on that rare occasion I start a project with my class, finish it, and actually get a bulletin board up on the same day.  That happened Friday with my DSC_1067lesson on the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.  Explaining the Aurora can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  There are several websites in the Lesson Plan with explanations of how they appear in the night sky.  Students loved the art project that went with the lesson and we have chalk handprints on dark surfaces around the classroom to prove it.  I found the art project portion of the lesson on the Iditarod website years ago.  I don’t have the name of the creator, but thank you.    Aurora Borealis

In Wisconsin we have an occasional glimpse of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky.  I’m looking forward to many things during my time on the Iditarod Trail and something on the top of my list is to experience the Northern Lights in Alaska.  Hopefully the sun and sky will cooperate.

What’s Up With the Weather?

I was looking for results for the Top Of The World 350 – Lance Mackey won by the way – and came across an article from the Alaska Dispatch about the Knik 200 being cancelled due to weather.

mushOur friend, Angie Taggart, has been training with a sled instead of a 4-wheeler so I thought the snow was fine.  Apparently it has still been unseasonably warm in some areas and they are trying to work around melting, mushy snow.


My class has been tracking the weather in Nome, but I guess it’s time to track in other places and make comparisons.

Last year my students compared the weather in Anchorage with the weather in Waupaca.  Attached is a lesson plan for comparing temperature, as well as a short video of some of the results from their comparisons last year.  Let it snow!!

What’s The Temperature

Stone Fox

Students wearing the Aurora Borealis T-Shirts

Students wearing the Aurora Borealis T-Shirts

In order to keep students engaged the last week of school before the Holiday Break, I had them read Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.  This is a great book of friendship, family and the love between a boy and his dog.  All the things to keep students wanting to turn the page and go on to the next chapter are in this book.  My students are third graders, but it would be a good read aloud for 2nd graders and I know teachers thru middle school who have used it in their classroom.  (I don’t want to spoil the ending, but keep a tissue handy.)

I’d like to keep track of how many students we can get to read this book.  If you have already read it with your students (or when you read it in the future), please send me your name, grade level, number of students who read the book and your city & state at:

Full lesson plan with activity ideas are attached.  The attached Venn Diagram is for watching the movie Stone Fox after you have read the book.  It’s a great lesson in how much is changed when making movies.

Stone Fox

Stone Fox.2

Aurora Borealis T-Shirts


With Thanksgiving being early this year, I had an extra week to prepare for Christmas.  With the overconfidence of that extra week, I was totally unprepared for this last week before Christmas and gifts for my students.  Without completely knowing what I was going to do with them, I purchased plain white t-shirts and went to You Tube for suggestions.

DSC_0995I always try to tie in gifts with what we are doing in class and this year, of course, it is all about the Iditarod.  You Tube had lots of suggestions on creating colorful shirts with fabric paint or spray paint.  I did my usual borrow and tweak, and came up with Aurora Borealis T-Shirts.

I don’t have a formal lesson plan for this so I’ll just explain what I did.  StudentsDSC_1010 cut out the templates of the dog teams and used glue sticks to glue them onto their t-shirts.  Using spray paint and a well ventilated garage I scrunched the shirts and sprayed with blue – re-scrunched and sprayed with red – I gave a final scrunch and sprayed them yellow.  The template easily lifted off the shirts.  Once dry, I put them in the washer and dryer.  I love how they turned out!

Students can also create t-shirts themselves using fabric paint.  (I chose to use spray paint because it is less expensive and when I’ve tried to spray fabric paint in the past it has clogged.)  Each student will have their own unique t-shirt to remind them of the Aurora Borealis and the Iditarod.

Light A Candle

I’m having a difficult time coming up with words for this post, but I can’t ignore yesterday’s tragedy because as teachers, we have a connection to one another.  There are already countless stories of the heroic actions of teachers as a gunman reigned terror on their once safe haven.  I can’t wrap my brain around the pain and sorrow of the parents who lost children and the children who lost parents.  Let’s work together to assure this doesn’t happen again.

Don’t let the light go out,
It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears!

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe;
Light one candle for those who are suffering
The pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!

Peter, Paul & Mary

Walk the Trail

DSC_0842Each time someone enters my classroom, they are remindedDSC_0849 of the upcoming Iditarod.  There are 2 large maps, several pictures, daily high and low temperatures in Waupaca and Nome, news articles, and much more.

One of the maps in the entry is for students to track the progress on their IditaWalk.  Each day when my students walk into the classroom, the first thing they do is put on a pedometer.  Their goal is to “Walk” the Iditarod Trail.  It started simply – converting their steps to miles (2,000 steps = 1 mile) and moving their marker along the trail.  As time went on I made things more complicated.  PAWS (Pulling Ahead With Students) is a theme I’m using this year for Character Education. Students can earn dog paws for doing DSC_0850something “good”.  4 paws = 1 dog.  With 2 dogs, students can multiply their daily miles by 2.  With 4 dogs, they can multiply by 3, and so on.  They had to think of a theme for their dog team and name their dogs.  While they haven’t formally been introduced to multiplication yet, they are multiplying to figure out their daily progress.  They are also moving more to pick up steps on their pedometers.  Win – win.DSC_0840

A few students thought this was going to be easy and within a few weeks they would have walked the entire trail.  They are now realizing it’s a lot longer than they anticipated.  They are also learning names of checkpoints and the distance between them.  The attached lesson plan and activity sheets are a little different than what I am doing this year, but it gives a basic overview.  Take the general idea and make it your own.

Classroom Iditawalk

IditaWalkTracker copy


Iditarod Brochure

DSC_0834My students worked hard the past week making brochures to inform about the Iditarod.  The attached lesson plan suggests using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, but this year we created it in Printshop.  We set it up like a card so students had 4 panels to work with (single fold instead of tri-fold).  After putting together the cover, students focused on Mandatory Items, The Dogs, and Interesting Facts.  They not only used theirDSC_0838 typing and Internet search skills, they were also able to be creative choosing colors and headings that appealed to them.  Having 4 panels instead of 6 gave them more room for pictures and text.  The final product was a professional looking brochure they can be proud to share.

While third graders focused on certain aspects of the Iditarod, this lesson can easily be modified for older and younger students.  Other brochure topic suggestions include Checkpoints, Dog Care, Dog Sleds, etc. DSC_0859