Meanwhile Back at School: This week we have been exploring mean, median, mode, and range. This skill have been removed from the elementary curriculum by the Common Core, but for me, it’s still a great way to review the basic operations and it’s pretty essential to understand some of the data that comes out of the Iditarod.
So, this week we have been analyzing data galore. We have calculated the mean, median, mode, and range of the overall winnings of some of the top mushers, ages of the mushers, and numbers of Iditarods they have run.
Attached you will find our culminating activity for this section of the unit. The students will determine what an “average” leg on the Iditarod is. Half of the class will find the average leg of the Northern Route, half will find the average leg on the Southern Route, and then they will compare their findings. They will then use this information to determine which route they would rather run on. My students are usually spit on this decision, but their reasoning is always fascinating to hear!
We have been working really hard in math these days, so it’s time for a little fun challenge!
Here are some Paw Print Sudoku puzzles for you to share with your kids! Depending on their level, you may want to draw the mini-grid lines in or have them draw them in prior to trying to solve the problems. Enjoy!
This year, two mushers will be carrying special packages on their sleds to make a special delivery in Nome.
In order to promote vaccine awareness, Martin Buser and Aliy Zirkle will carry vaccine from Anchorage to Nome. Vaccines are given to children to help prevent various diseases. This event is being organized by Lisa Schobert, Vaccine Coordinator and Dawn Sawyer, PA. The I DID IT BY TWO: Race To Vaccinate program has been working hard to encourage people to have their children immunized. The program has done several events to promote their cause including providing dog jackets for the Iditarod race dogs on start day, giving families mushing themed charts to track their immunizations, and many more. The I DID IT BY TWO slogan is to remind families:
I – Iditarod
DID – Did you know that children need 80% of their childhood vaccines by age 2?
IT – It can seem a little complicated keeping up with recommended immunizations, but the payoff is big!
BY – by immunizing your children on-time by age…
Lisa tells me that she chose Martin Buser to help with the project because he has worked with the I DID It By Two group before and is a great spokesman for the campaign. He will be carrying the DTAP. This vaccine is given to children between the ages of two months and six years. The DTAP is a vaccine given to children to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). The organizers think that with Martin’s playful personality, he may actually pass the vaccines off to other mushers to carry down the trail! That would be in keeping with the spirit of the original serum run which was actually a relay.
Aliy Zirkle was asked to participate because Lisa wanted a front line contender, and with second place finishes in the last two races, Aliy certainly meets that criteria. Knowing how competitive she is, Aliy will most likely put the vaccine in her sled and run her race! She will be carrying Tdap vaccine which is used for adolescents and adults. Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and is used for people aged seven and older.
Each musher will get a box of ten vials to transport and they can package them however they would like to. Each box weighs 2.3 ounces. This made me think of the classic, “Can you package an egg and drop it off the roof?” science experiment. So here’s a little Iditarod themed twist on that activity: Protect that Vaccine
Here are some photos to share with your kids to show what the vials will look like:
The temperatures that the vaccines are stored at are very, very important. If the vaccines are not kept between 35-46 degrees F they cannot be given to patients. Lisa explained to me that if the refrigerator door is left open or someone goes in and out of the refrigerator a lot, the inside temperature can be affected. They use a Data Logger to continually monitor the temperatures of the vaccines as they travel from one location to another. The logger, which is similar to a thumb drive, can record temperatures for fifty-six days. Then when the vaccines and logger arrive at their final location, the data can be loaded onto the computer and the temperature information can be displayed in a graph form. My class has been given a data logger to experiment with, but you can replicate this with a basic thermometer and a refrigerator at home or school: Keeping the Vaccines Cold
Obviously, to many people, the Iditarod has come to serve as a reminder of the 1925 Serum Run. That was not Joe Redington, Sr.’s main objective though. His main goals in establishing the race were to project the sled dogs and their role in the culture of Alaska and to save the historic Iditarod Trail. The Serum Run definitely has a huge role in the history of Alaska and the history of the Iditarod Trail, so it’s kind of neat to see this event as a way to bring the message of the importance of immunizations to villages on the trail. Here is more on the history of the race and the reasons it started from Katie Mangelsdorf: Bustingmyth
The go-to picture book for kids to learn about the Serum Run is the Great Serum Race by Debbie Miller. You can also join the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for a Distance Learning Program about Balto. I wrote about that here: LINK
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a great PDF file you could print to give some kids the story behind the Serum Run. It even has a picture of the original vials to compare to the ones Zirkle and Buser will be carrying this year: LINK
Here’s a Venn Diagram you could use to compare the Serum Run with the modern trip the vaccines will be taking with Aliy and Martin this year. VennDiagram
For a writing piece, students could write and record radio spots, like public service announcements for the I DID IT BY TWO Campaign.
I didn’t even really get to say goodbye to my students or my co-teachers…
The last day I was meant to be at my school there ended up being snow day!
That day was also supposed to be the day of our big “Musher Banquet” so, now that the kids are back in school after their five day extra-long weekend, they finally got to have their banquet!
The banquet was the time that they finally rounded out their Fantasy Iditarod Team by choosing the musher for their team. When we first began our Iditarod Math Unit, they did some research and chose the sixteen dogs for their team. You can see that lesson here: LINK
Previously, we had also completed a series of probability lessons where we predicted the characteristics of the winning musher (male, veteran, from Alaska, etc). In that lesson we created “musher stacks”. There is one stack per musher and shows their gender, race status, and location. You can see that lesson here: LINK
When the day of the banquet finally arrived, the kids signed in to school on a board in the order of their arrival. This was to simulate the mushes “signing up” for the race, which in part determines their order for drawing their numbers.
At the banquet, kids were seated at long “banquet” tables decorated with puppy print tablecloths and some extra copies of the centerpieces we had sent up to Alaska for the “real” musher banquet (more on that here – LINK).
The boys began the festivities by belting out Hobo Jim’s “The Iditarod Trail Song” and munched on Klondike Bars and cookies shaped like dogs and sleds.
When it was their turn to choose their musher, they went to the front in the order they signed up in the morning, reached their hand into the mukluk and drew out one the musher stacks from the probability experiment. (In real life, the mushers to go the stage, reach into the mukluk and draw out a chip with a number on it. That number becomes their starting number for the race). The students then had to choose a musher from the board that matched the characteristics on the stack they had drawn.
Once they chose their musher, they moved through the autograph chute and autographed some posters (not quite as many as the mushers do at the banquet!) and then proceeded to pick up their race packets. (The mushers will find their dog tags and the identification tags for their handliers in their envelopes, now that they finally know their start order.) The students found biographies of their mushers, an Iditarod pencil, and a blank biography card in their packets. While the others were choosing their mushers, they got started on completing the biography card of their musher that will be displayed with their tracking map.
Everything of course was photographed and filmed by the “paparazzi” from the Gilman/Anchorage Daily News and the Gilman/Nome Nugget!
I was sorry I missed the banquet. By all accounts it was a huge success! The countdown is on!
As you probably know, we were thrilled to be able to announce to all of our followers that our favorite musher Monica Zappa had gotten a new sponsor: Petchup. LINK
So my kids were really intrigued by the whole idea of ketchup and mustard for dogs. We knew that Monica was experimenting to find out the best way to feed it to her dogs, so we decided to do our own experiment.
Monica told us that she was experimenting to find the best way to use the product with the dogs both in the kennel and on the trail. At the kennel, she could just mix some with the dogs’ food and they slurped it right up! On the trail, things may get a bit more complicated. She is playing with adding it to water in warm races, putting it on the dogs’ kibble, squirting it directly into their mouths, and even making Petchup ice cube pops as a treat. Monica feels like the product is having a positive impact on her dogs’ energy and overall health. We were anxious to see if we could add anything to her discoveries.
So first, we needed a subject for our experiment. Enter Atti, our service dog in training. Our math and science teacher, Ellen Rizzuto, is training a service dog with the help of our Lower School. Atti gets used to being around a lot of people and activity and our boys learn how to handle a dog that is working and isn’t to be treated like a pet.
We wanted to see if Atti would prefer Petchup or Muttstard and if she would prefer it alone or on her kibble.
We let the boys smell the two products – the Muttstard is turkey flavored and the Petchup is beef flavored. They made their predictions about which one they thought Atti would prefer. We put a little of each product in a bowl, showed Atti where they both were, let her smell them both and then let her go…. She chose the Muttstard first and totally devoured it! She also then devoured the Petchup, so she liked them both, but we think she preferred the Muttstard. For the second experiment we put a bowl of plain kibble, a bowl of kibble with Muttstard, and a bowl of plain Muttstard out for her to select. We think the first time she just went to the bowl that was the closest, so we reset it up so the bowls were closer together. This time she chose the kibble with Muttstard first. She did eat them all again, but we think her preference was kibble with Muttstard. So, our recommendation to Monica is to carry Muttstard and squirt some on the dog’s food and they should love it, just like Atti did!
It actually turned out to lead to a very interesting discussion about the fairness of the experiment and how certain we could be of our results. Plus – it’s fun anytime Atti visits us!
The formal name of the race we all know as the Iditarod is the Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race. And it truly is an international pool of mushers this year. A quick look at the musher list shows seven different countries (US, Norway, Jamaica, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden) and seven different states (Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, California, Montana, and Washington) represented!
There is quite a Norwegian influence in this year’s race. There are five Norwegian mushers competing in the race led by two time Iditarod champion, Robert Sorlie. Robert Sorlie first entered the Iditarod in 2002 when he finished in ninth place. He returned to complete in 2003 and 2005 when he won. His most recent entry was 2007 when he finished in twelfth position. To compete this year, Robert Sorlie will be travelling about 3,967 miles from his home in Hurdal, Norway to Anchorage, Alaska. According to his blog, Robert and his dogs will leave home on February 17th, land in Seattle in February 19th, and then travel to Alaska by air from there.
I’ve been trying for a while to find some information about the history of mushing in Norway, and the best I can discover is that it spread to Norway around the start of World War 1 as a way to deliver supplies to soldiers in the field as well as for nature tours.
Now, if Curt Perano was to travel from his kennel in Roxburgh, New Zealand to Anchorage, he’d have to travel a whopping 7,715 miles! Lucky for him, he is staging his race season out of Willow, Alaska.
I once joked with a coworker that I could turn anything into an Iditarod related lesson, and today I found another example!
I had a chance to visit the Anchorage Museum, which is one of my favorite museums. They have an amazing exhibit on the history of Alaska, a fantastic kids area, and the beautiful Smithsonian Arctic Studies gallery of Native Alaskan culture and artifacts. They also have an area where they host changing exhibits.
This year, the changing exhibit is called Gyre: The Plastic Ocean. A gyre is a swirling vortex in the ocean. There are gyres in each ocean. The gyres are massive, slow moving, whirlpools that sweep garbage into them. Discarded items can be pulled into gyres where they slowly are pulled in the whirlpool and are pushed towards the center where they form floating garbage piles in the ocean. You can learn more about gyres here: http://5gyres.org/
This is, of course, a problem for marine life who often misinterpret the waste as food or are caught up in the plastics especially.
The Gyre expedition and exhibition is the result of a team of scientists and artists who explored the coastlines of Alaska and collected plastics most likely deposited from the North Pacific Gyre. The exhibit was a sobering reminder of what we are doing to our planet.
The artists who were included in the exhibit took different approaches to the project. Some displayed found objects as they were, which was sobering. Some made juxtapositions between the ugly trash and the beauty of the environment in which they were found. And still others used the found materials to make something new. Like this dog sled and team!
Wouldn’t this make a neat art project? Could you and your class create a life sized dog team from recycled materials? And there’s a perfect tie in between plastics in our oceans and the Iditarod!
My school and I wanted to send greetings to the schools along the trail as a way to kind of let our schools meet each other and to show a connection between schools that are so far apart, and yet have so many commonalities.
My boys and I have been talking all year about the similarities and differences between Alaska and Maryland. While there are obviously many, many differences, we did find several similarities. Alaskans race sled dogs. There are different styles of racing dogs – sprint, marathon, etc. There are many sled dog races throughout the state, the biggest one obviously being the Iditarod. Here in Maryland, we race horses. There are different styles of racing horses – speed, agility, steeplechase, sulky, etc. There are many tracks and many races in Maryland, the biggest being the Preakness which is a part of the Triple Crown. We have also learned the names and stories of many of the dog heroes of the Iditarod Trail.
Here at Gilman, we all know the story of one particular horse hero above all others. We all know the story of Goliath, one of the brave horses who helped saved the city during the Great Baltimore Fire. We all know the story, because one of our very own teachers, Claudia Friddell, researched and wrote a picture book telling Goliath’s story.
So, naturally, Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire became the perfect good will wish to send down the Iditarod Trail. This week, each of my third graders paired with one of Mrs. Friddell’s first graders to write a letter to accompany a book down the trail to a new school.
Mrs. Friddell Autographs Her Books
We hope the students will enjoy learning about one of our heroes as much as we have enjoyed learning about theirs!
Because the Iditarod awesomely takes place in Alaska and starts in Anchorage!
One of my favorite books to share with my students is A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatigan. My third grade boys always roll their eyes when I tell them I am going to share an alphabet book with them – they are WAY too cool for that you know.
But, by the second page they are hooked!
This book is a funny way to show the kids how to play with language, use humor in writing, and teach them a lot about musk oxen!
We used the book as mentor text for our own version of the book A is for Iditarod. The boys worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and then we combined their ideas together into one book. We created illustrations, bound them, and then presented them to our kindergarten little buddies as a gift! It’s a great way for my boys to get some practice reading orally and for the little buddies to learn a little more about our Iditarod obsession!
I have had a jam packed three weeks doing pre-trail Skypes with schools all over the country. It’s been a lot of fun to talk Iditarod with kids of all ages and all levels of experience with the race via Skype in the Classroom. One of main goals while I’m out on the trail is to try to connect with these schools live from the trail! I’m hoping to be able to share the energy and excitement of what I’m experiencing at the checkpoints with all my Skype schools and my own students. I’ll also be blogging and reporting here, so be sure to check back frequently!
Here’s to all the classes who are going to be joining me on this adventure…. Hope to see you from the trail!
Stories from the Trail: Eight Gold Stars on a Field of Blue
Eight stars of gold on a field of blue - Alaska’s flag. May it mean to you The blue of the sea, the evening sky, The mountain lakes, and the flow’rs nearby; The gold of the early sourdough’s dreams, The precious gold of the hills and streams; The brilliant stars in the northern sky, The “Bear” – the “Dipper” – and, shining high, The great North Star with its steady light, Over land and sea a beacon bright. Alaska’s flag – to Alaskans dear, The simple flag of a last frontier.
Alaska State Song
Very few state flags have the story behind them that Alaska’s flag does. In 1927, The Alaska Department of the American Legion decided to sponsor a contest for students to design a flag to represent Alaska. Each town set up a panel of judges to judge the designs at a local level and then choose the best ten to be sent to Juneau for the final judging. Some of the designs sent to Juneau featured polar bears, some featured fishing and mining, and many featured the territorial seal. But the winning design that became the flag we know today was designed by a thirteen year old Aleut student named Benny Benson who was living in an orphanage in Seward at the time. In addition to having his design made into the official flag, he won a gold watch and a $1,000 towards a trip to Washington, DC.
In this lesson, the students will discover the story off Benny, his flag, and the meaning behind it and then will create their own flag to represent their classroom.
One thing that each Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is required to do is to create a patch for inclusion on the official Teacher on the Trail sleeping bag. You can learn more about this tradition and the sleeping bag here: LINK
I decided a long time ago, that this was going to be a wonderful way to get my school involved in my adventure, and I approached my student council to see if they would be willing to help me out with this project. They readily agreed and decided that the best thing they could do would be to have a school wide contest to design the patch. I explained that the patch needed to reflect my theme for the year, “Tales (and Tails) from the Trail” and that it should represent our school and show that we are located in Maryland.
The contest was announced and the boys ended up with over fifty designs to judge and choose from.
They finally settled on a design which was created by three students in my homeroom:
Next came the fun part. We submitted the design to the company who would make the patch and they forwarded it to their graphic designers. The graphic designers in turn provided us with the first version of the patch:
The artists were not impressed. They quickly sent back a list of corrections and received this version:
Again, the artists had more edits. They finally got back this version which seemed to satisfy them. And just recently, we got the completed patches in the mail:
I think it represents my adventure perfectly! The open book is for the tales I will collect from the trail. The left hand page shows the map and flag of my home state, Maryland. The right hand page shows the map and flag of Alaska. The crest in the middle is my school’s crest, and the two tails coming from its sides are the “tails” part of the motto.
I stitched it onto the sleeping bag today, and it will now and forever be a part of Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ history!
It’s getting to be crunch time and I am finalizing plans for my sub for the time that I am away on my amazing adventure!
Here are some things that I am leaving for her to do that you may be able to use also!
Math: The class will be rolling along with our Iditarod Math Unit, most of which I have shared with you in one form or another. And more will be coming! Once the race actually begins, they will be tracking their mushers, updating their charts, and moving their pin along the map during their warm – up time. In the meantime, here are some of the quick activities that they will be using as math warm-ups:
Week 2: Create a Number Challenges: Students will create number sentences to form Iditarod important numbers. Create a Number Challenges
Reading: My boys will be reading Mystery on the Iditarod Trail by Carole Marsh. I’m surprised to say that I’ve never actually taught this unit to my class! I’ve been in Alaska for the Iditarod during this book for the last three years! In any event, that’s why it’s pretty much a stand along unit! It’s a third-fifth grade reading level, but others would enjoy it as well. There is a national park tie in with Kenai Fjords National Park as the characters visit the park in the novel. Challenge you kids to earn their Junior Ranger Badge from there as they read the book!!
WritingWorkshop: The boys will be working on writing fables, specifically pourquoi stories, or stories that explain something. Their mentor text will be Aurora, A Tale of the Northern Lights by Mindy Dwyer. This book explains that the Northern Lights were formed when a girl named Aurora follows a caribou into the Land of Darkness, finding her courage, and creating the Northern Lights in the process. They will also look at Northern Lights A to Z also by Mindy Dwyer to see some explanations for the Northern Lights from other cultures.
Of course, I anticipate they will spend the majority of their time sitting by the Skype phone waiting for me to call!
The weather continues to be the big story as we prepare for this year’s Iditarod. It seems like the world has turned upside down… at least it looks that way on our weather graph! The line tracking the temperatures in Baltimore keeps dropping down below the lines tracking the Alaska weather!
My students have been learning about Heat Energy with Mrs. Olgeirson, the science teacher, and they invited me in one day as they explored how heat energy affects our bodies. More specifically, they were looking at how cold affects the rest of your body. The boys were easily able to make the tie in to the Iditarod and the frigid temperatures the mushers will face (well, we HOPE they will face).
The first experiment they did was about how cold affects extremities. When your toes or fingers get cold, they send a message to your brain to pump more blood to that area. To test this, the kids wrote their name on a sheet of paper. They then plunged their hand into a bowl of icy water (about 31 degrees Fahrenheit) for sixty seconds and then tried to rewrite their name. Their hypothesis that their signatures would be different proved to be very true! The boys were really surprised about just how hard it was to hold the pencil and write their name when their hand was so cold. Imagine the mushers who have to care for their dogs’ feet and all their other chores that can’t quite work with gloves on!
The boys wondered how the mushers warm their hands up, and Mrs. Olgeirson pointed out that when your hands and fingers are cold, you should move your fingers and not rub them together. The friction caused by rubbing your hands together could actually create heat energy that could burn your skin tissue!
How else to keep warm in on the Iditarod Trail? Well, animals have blubber or fat to help them stay warm, and people wear clothing. The boys were interested to hear that the clothing doesn’t actually make you warm; it insulates you from the cold.
The students then got a chance to try out the idea of “insulating” their hands from the icy water. Mrs. Olgeirson created a “blubber mitten” by coating one plastic bag with Crisco and putting it inside a second bag. The student could then insert their hand into the baggie and plunge it into the ice bath. The temperature of the ice bath was 28⁰F, but the temperature inside the “blubber mitten” was 60⁰F!
The boys really got the idea about how cold weather can affect our bodies through these easy, but effective experiments! A special thanks to Mrs. Olgeirson for hitting the trail with science and for sharing her assignment sheet with you! BLUBBER EXPERIMENT WORKSHEET
The students of 3A have a seat at the table at the Mushers’ Banquet!
Actually they have a seat ON the table….
Okay, actually, their artwork has a seat on the tables!
We have shipped our centerpieces to Alaska!
Every year, the Iditarod Education Department hosts a contest for school kids to design centerpieces for the Mushers’ Banquet. The banquet is held in Anchorage on the Thursday night before the race start. The main event of the banquet is the drawing that determines the starting order for the race. The banquet is held in the convention center and upon entering, seems like a sea of round banquet tables!
Each table features several unique, original, and completely kid made centerpieces! It’s such a treat to watch the mushers , fans, and guests carefully examine each creation and ooh and ahh over each!
For our project this year, we spent some time looking at both the science and artistry behind the Northern Lights. Here are some great videos I found to share with your kids: Northern Lights Videos
To create our Northern Lights backgrounds, the boys used a very wet watercolor application to a 4×6 watercolor postcard. Before the paint dried, they quickly sprinkled Kosher salt over the paint and then let the watercolors dry. Once everything was super dry, we brushed the salt off and were left with some really neat textures. Then we used permanent Staz-On ink pads in black to stamp the sled dogs and in silver to stamp snowflakes on. We mounted the artwork on a slightly larger piece of scrapbooking paper and added an easel to the back.
I’m super excited to see all of this year’s designs! This a great project to keep in mind for next year! Designs are usually due in mid-November, winners are announced in December, and then the winning schools need to ship their centerpieces to Alaska around the end of January or beginning of February. You can find the details on the Teacher Portal: http://iditarod.com/teacher/musher-banquet-table-top-contest/
Rule 11 — Purse: A purse of $650,000 will be shared among those placing in the top thirty
(30). Every effort will be made to supplement this baseline purse. In addition, beginning with 31st
place, $1,049.00 will be paid to each remaining finisher.
But of course the race purse isn’t the only money involved. Before the racers can even hope to get to the finish line to collect a part of the purse they will have spent thousands of dollars in preparation which provides students with lots of opportunities to practice their money skills.
Our big project with this skill is shopping for supplies for the race. This project takes us at least four days to complete. It’s based off an assignment entitled Musher Mall Math that was originally published in Iditarod Activities for the Classroom. I have edited, chunked, and streamlined the project for my third graders: Supplied for Success and Survival
This week we are all about angles in math class! This is a new skill for us… it appears in the new version of our math book, and is something we haven’t taught before.
So, I started by thinking of where on earth I have seen angles…. And it finally came to me – dog sleds and sled dog harnesses!
So here is two days’ worth of lessons for you about angles. On day one, the students will classify angles as acute, obtuse, and right and then practice measuring angles they find on a dog sled using a protractor. On day two, the students will review, and then create an original design for a sled dog harness that includes a set of required angles. Along the way, they will gain insight into how both sleds and harnesses are designed and constructed. There is even a homework assignment included!
This week we are focused on calculating area and perimeter… and what better tool to do that with then dog yards!
This week the students are presented with a scenario where they have been sponsored by a local fencing company who offers them fencing for their dog yard. Instead of traditional sled dog yards, the students will use the fencing material to advertise for their sponsors and create individual dog pens for their dogs. In this three day unit, they will experiment with area and perimeter and discover how you can have many different yard shapes and still maintain the same area. They will ultimately design their dream dog yard with spaces for all of their team dogs and possibly puppies and ill dogs as well. The homework assignment seeks the students’ assistance in setting up the White Mountain checkpoint while testing their understanding of area and perimeter.
This week we began our huge Iditarod Math Unit! From now until Spring Break in mid-March we will be focusing on the Iditarod as a way to get some much needed math skills taught in a fun and interesting way! For obvious reasons, it’s my favorite math unit of the year! My favorite student comment of all time:
Me: So, next week we are having our math test.
Student: What? Math Test? We haven’t even studied math for like three months now!
Me: Yes, yes you have….
Student: No, no we haven’t! We’ve only studied the Iditarod lately!
Attached are the first lessons in the unit. The lesson one is an introduction to the unit that has the kids draft a Fantasy Iditarod Team. They review the adaptations that sled dogs have and the positions on the team and then use that information to choose sixteen dogs for their team by visiting Iditarod kennels’ websites.
The lesson two is where the students choose their musher to track during the race. This is also their musher for scoring in their Fantasy Team. The original idea for this lesson came from a lesson I found on-line years ago, but it has been tweaked for use in my math class. You could teach this lesson immediately following the drafting lesson, or hold off on it until much closer to the race. In this lesson, the students will explore probability and a bit of graphing. They will predict the characteristics of next Iditarod champion. Will it be a male, veteran, from Alaska or maybe a female, rookie, from a different country? We are going to teach the probability lessons this week and then have the banquet and final musher draw right before I leave for Alaska.
Well – at one point yesterday it was colder in Oakland, Maryland than the South Pole! At one point it was – 15⁰ in Western Maryland and -7⁰ at the South Pole!
In Baltimore, we didn’t get quite as cold as the South Pole, but we did beat Alaska! For the first time, on our weather graph, the Baltimore line dropped below the lines for Anchorage, Galena, and Nome!
Baltimore: 18⁰ F / 10⁰ F
Anchorage: 27⁰ F/ 18⁰F
Galena: 25⁰ F / 18⁰ F
Nome: 34⁰ F/ 27⁰ F
So, with this historic Polar Vortex hovering overhead, we put our regularly planned lessons on hold and did some “Just How Cold IS Baltimore?” activities and then related them to travel on the Iditarod Trail.
We started off by putting thermometers outside our back door, so we could see just what kind of temperatures we were dealing with. The thermometer we put on the playground in the shade showed -8⁰ F and the thermometer in the sun showed about 6⁰ F. The boys were surprised that being in the sun would make that much difference! We put cups full of water in the same two locations and then checked on them periodically during the day. The boys originally predicted that the water in the cups would freeze in less than fifteen minutes. They were surprised when it took the cup in the shade about an hour and a half to freeze solid! The cup in the sun looked like it was finally frozen at the end of the day, but when we popped the ice out, it turned out that it was only frozen around the edges! The whole center was still liquid! We talked about how one thing the Iditarod mushers have to be careful of is making sure they have enough water to drink on the trail. It’s one of those things you don’t really think about, because usually you think about needing to drink water when you are hot… not when you are cold. Mushers have to get creative in finding a solution to keeping unfrozen water accessible for their journey.
We also set up an experiment about wind chill. We set up a tray of water and measured the temperature of the water to be 50⁰ F. We set up a fan to blow across the top of the water and watched to see what would happen. We were shocked when the temperature dropped 10 degrees in just 2 minutes! It kept dropping and dropping, until it got down to 32⁰ F about fifteen minutes into the experiment. The most surprising part? We let the fan run for the entire rest of the day and the water temperature never got lower than 32⁰ F! It was a great chance to talk about other factors that came into play and why the water wasn’t freezing even though the temperature said it should be! We were able to relate this to the Iditarod by talking about the gear the mushers wear and they need to dress for not only warmth, but to be wind proof as well!
But, but far, the biggest hit of the day was the soaking wet sweatshirt! We took a sweatshirt and got it soaking wet and then hung it on a hangar in a tree outside our window. The immediate result was that steam rose off the shirt like crazy! Then the icicles started to form on the bottom of hem. We brought it in every five minutes at first to see how hard it was getting and after we decided it was officially “stiff as a board” we just let it sit outside until the end of the day. The boys were dying to drop it onto the floor. Half of them thought it was going to shatter and ruin the shirt, the other half thought nothing would happen at all. So, just before dismissal, we brought it in and climbed up on the table to drop it to the floor. I wish I had gotten a video! We dropped it and it landed on the floor standing up on the bottom hem perfectly upright! It didn’t fall over, it didn’t shatter, it just stood there like a frozen soldier! It was so funny and their expressions were priceless! Now they are anxious to see if it the sweatshirt will return to its’ natural soft and cozy state by tomorrow morning. We tied this into the idea that mushers do NOT want to wear cotton! They were able to see quite obviously the trouble a musher would get into if they were to run into overflow or water while wearing cotton clothing!
We just did a simple scientific method form for the experiments. They recorded the question, hypothesis, observations, and then made a conclusion. It was just a spur of the moment type of day, but it was a whole lot of fun!
Last year, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™, Linda Fenton issued a challenge to see how many students she could get to read Stone Fox (http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2012/12/28/stone-fox/). The timing was perfect for me. The fourth grade had recently dropped the novel from their repertoire, so I was able to pick it up and tie it into my curriculum! I had never read the book before, and was soon just as hooked as Linda is! It’s a great novel which is a great choice to teach students about point of view. It also lends itself to discussion on an authors’ craft as you can discuss why the author made the story telling choices he did.
To begin our novel unit, we did a prediction activity by looking at the various illustrations that have graced covers of various editions of the book. The boys quickly decided that I chose the book because of the obvious dog sledding connection to the Iditarod! We discussed what it takes to be a responsible pet owner, as the boys predicted that the boy on the cover must own a dog. (Here are some ideas if your students need some help: http://www.loveyourdog.com/whatdogsneed.html). We also talked about whether or not those responsibilities would be different if we lived in a cold environment and/or if that dog was a working dog instead of a household pet.
As we had recently finished our unit on the fifty states, we spent a day looking at the setting of the novel. The students each had a map of Wyoming and we created symbols and a key to identify key locations from the novel: Jackson (the setting) and the Two Wind Indian Reservation (to represent Stone Fox’s tribe).
The students had predicted that there was a dog sled race involved from looking at the covers of the novels. I introduced the kids to the International Pedigree Stage Stop Race (http://www.wyomingstagestop.org/) which is a modern day race held in Wyoming each winter. This year’s race begins January 31st. The race is quite different from the Iditarod in that the mushers stop in towns after each leg. We added the race route to our Wyoming Map and realized that this contemporary race is held in the same area of the state that the novel is based. So by looking at photos of the race, we had some aids to help in our visualization of race scenes in the novel.
One of the covers we previewed also had a picture of a person whom my students identified as Native American. So I introduced them to the fact that this character is Shoshone, and that the Shoshone National Forest in also in the same area as the rest of the novel setting, so we added that to the map also! We also located and identified Yellowstone National Park, because it is also a key location in the northwest corner of Wyoming. If Yellowstone is new to your students, the Yellowstone Park Rangers do a distance learning program for students through Skype in the Classroom: https://education.skype.com/projects/2237-yellowstone-national-park-rangers-can-skype-with-classrooms
Since we had already participated in that program, I needed a new Junior Ranger program for my students to complete related to this novel, and I found a great one through Shoshone National Forest. The Forest Service offers a Junior Forest Ranger Badge program here: http://na.fs.fed.us/ceredirect/jfr/. The students complete the packet and send in the back page with an adult’s signature to demonstrate that they have completed the program. They are awarded a patch and pin and get a membership card that allows them access to a special kid’s only online clubhouse. The Forest Service also offers a Junior Snow Ranger Program that I am going to use with my guys to talk about winter safety in January: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/smokey-woodsy/junior-rangers
Once we were finally ready to start reading the novel, we Skyped with Linda Fenton’s class. I have never tried to simultaneously read and discuss a novel with another class, let alone another class in another state in another time zone… but it was really an amazing experience. We did a mini-mystery activity by coming up with a list of ten questions to ask the other class, and then using the answers to determine what state we were virtually visiting. Timing wise, it worked for us to Skype at the start of our Reading class which was at the end of Linda’s Reading class. So during our first Skype, after determining their location, her students introduce the novel to us and helped pique our interest in reading. In other Skype sessions throughout the next couple of weeks we discussed character traits for the main characters, shared our surprise at was happening, our feelings on the book vs. movie debate, and then finally shared our end of unit projects. It was so cool to discuss the book with Linda and her class. They had a different perspective on the novel and it was also neat for my kids to hear how different some things are between Wisconsin and Maryland!
Our Skype-Shared Brainstorming Chart
Our final project, to tie together the race in the book, the Iditarod, the Wyoming Stage Stop Race, etc. was that each class designed a sled dog race for their state. Linda had her kids begin their race in their hometown of Waupaca and then decide where to go to make a one hundred mile race. They worked in partners to create a race course. My kids worked as a whole class to create a race across the state of Maryland. (We actually decided on a Northern Route and a Southern Route so we could visit Baltimore City and Washington, DC on alternating years!) We decided to start on the Eastern Shore and end in the mountains of Western Maryland. As a group we chose a series of towns to get us across the state and then they worked in partners to plan the checkpoints. The partners used online travel sources to determine a great location for their checkpoint, decided what assistance they would be able to provide the teams, and explained all of their thinking. We put the whole thing together in a Narrated Google Earth Tour, where we were able to fly over our race route and zoom into each checkpoint location and see the details that the boys had planned for each stop. We quickly discovered there are A LOT of golf courses in Maryland and determined they would make great checkpoints because of the amenities available and the amount of open space for parking teams.
Terrie Hanke, 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™, shared this tale with me:
I have a nice picture of Mitch Seavey changing into fresh Smart Wools at Elim in 2006. There I was inside the fire house with Jasper Bond, Mark Nordman, Danny Davidson and Jeff Schultz. Mitch came in with a fresh, still in the wrapper pair of those heavy duty red/gray ones. After he ate the ham sandwich offered by Jasper, Mitch changed socks – you could see the pleasure on his face.
Keeping your feet warm on the trail is an absolutely necessity and is one of the things that most concerns our adopted rookie musher, Monica Zappa. We decided this was something we could help her out with!
We learned from Monica that the best types of socks to keep your feet warm on the Iditarod Trail are wool socks. Here is a little information for your kids about choosing the best socks: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/socks.html . We did some research, did some math, and decided that we needed about $340 to be able to buy her a pair of socks for each checkpoint along the trail. So our next task was to decide how we were going to earn the money. They boys brainstormed several ideas, and ultimately settled on creating Rainbow Loom bracelets and necklaces to sell. After a pair of class representatives went to the Headmaster to gain approval, we spent about a month making product to sell and then one day before school in early November we had our sale.
We were a little hesitant about how the sale was going to turn out… lots of kids in school were making the bracelets for themselves. We had done the math and pretty much decided we needed to sell every item we had to make our goal. We just weren’t sure what to expect.
Well… we were blown away! We sold every single item we had! And then, we had younger students in the hallway crying because they didn’t get to buy one! So the boys created an order sheet and started taking orders! We ended up spending the entire rest of the day making and delivering the “to order” bracelets. When all was said and done, we almost doubled our goal! They kids were so excited!
We wrote to Monica with the amazing news and she picked out the socks she wanted – some Merino wool, some alpaca, some hand knit… and left the rest up to us!
Just before we left school on Winter Break, we packed up mini- drop bags for her for each checkpoint. We filled a ziplock bag for each checkpoint with a pair of socks, some hand and feet warmers, and a little note of encouragement! We even sent her a check and she was able to purchase 250 booties for the four legged members of Team Zappa with the extra money!
We are so excited that a small part of us will be travelling down the trail with Monica this year! Go Team Zappa!
“Always striving to find ways to get the trail recognized, another idea was hatched at one of the many meetings. The Iditarod Trail was a mail trail, so why not have each musher carry mail? An arrangement was made with the U.S. Postal Service to carry cachets, packets of letters, over the Iditarod to Nome. Joe [Redington, Sr.] asked his artist friend, Bill Divine, if he would design an Iditarod Trail Logo for the envelopes. These would be postmarked in Anchorage and Nome and used as a fund-raising project.
At a prerace meeting this idea was presented to the mushers. Surprisingly, it was met with some resistance. There was already enough to do. Carrying mail was too much to ask. Joe did not react, he responded in a good way, and came up with a solution – ‘I’ll carry yours,’ was all he said.
‘He was one of a kind,’ said Norman. ‘Joe had such a unique, easy way of looking at things.’
His positive attitude turned the whole negative thought around. To have the U.S. Postal Service support the Iditarod Race added credibility, recognition, and needed funds. And Devine’s logo became the official Iditarod logo.”
From: Champion of Alaskan Huskies by: Katie Mangelsdorf
This summer I had the opportunity to be a member of the Teach it Forward Program with the Smithsonian American History Museum. During the program, we learned strategies for teaching with objects as a way to get kids to relate to history. Our challenge was to choose an object in the museum’s collection and develop a lesson around it. I was really excited to join this program – and I had visions of getting to see and work with the Libby Riddles sled, and DeeDee Jonrowe’s humanitarian award and coat. I know that these objects are a part of the Smithsonian’s collection, as I had a chance to meet Jane Rogers, the curator of sports, last winter when she came to the Iditarod Conference for Educators to learn about the race and gather objects for an upcoming display. You can read more about Jane and the upcoming exhibit here: http://finalistsforteacheronthetrail.wordpress.com/jennifers-journal/monday-evening/
But, it turns out the Iditarod objects are still in storage and not ready for display yet. I was disappointed, but in a way, it turned out to be a really cool disappointment because it forced me to get more creative and I discovered something really cool!
It turns out that the Smithsonian has a second sled it its collection, an Alaskan mail sled, which is housed in the National Postal Museum.
My next challenge was to tie that sled in to the Iditarod, which I was able to do. The Iditarod Trail was originally a mail trail and the modern mushers honor that history by carrying mail cachets down the trail every year.
So I was able to use several objects in the Smithsonian’s collection: a sled, some photographs, and stamps and pair them with some Iditarod Trail Race mail cachets as the basis for an inquiry based lesson. The lesson allows students to discover the connection between the Iditarod Race and the Iditarod Trail as a historic trail. They also discover the reason why mail cachets are one of the mandatory items carried down the trail by the racers. It was a fascinating process. I learned a lot! Special thanks to authors Katie Mangelsdorf and Helen Hegener who graciously allowed me to use portions of their books with this lesson.
Here are all the materials needed for the lesson… Enjoy!
We learned from our Skype with Denali National Park (Denali Skype) that one of the adaptations that sled dogs have that allow them to survive in the arctic is their fur. Sled dogs actually have two coats of fur. The under layer is thick and dense and helps to keep the dogs warm. The outer layer, or guard hairs, are longer and coarser and help to repel water.
But sometimes, even sled dogs like to curl up with a nice cozy blanket!
For the past two years, school kids across the country have participated in a project to craft blankets to be used by dogs that are dropped at various checkpoints along the trail. The project is a pretty easy one. Basically, the kids just need to cut fleece into 3×3 foot squares and write a note or message on each one. The blankets get shipped to Iditarod Headquarters and then are sent out along the trail to be used during the race.
Last year I used the project as a Math Journal assignment. The boys had to calculate how many feet of material we would need if we were going to make a certain number of blankets and then calculate how much money it would cost to purchase the fleece. In the process, we learned that fabric is sold in yards, not feet, and how to covert inches to feet to yards.
This year, we decided to get our pre-first students involved with the project. They were so excited to get to help the dogs in a way that they could relate to. Who doesn’t love to curl up with a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold, snowy night?
Denali Size Feet = too small!
The third graders and I went down to the spacious pre-first room. We showed the boys some pictures of dogs curled up with students’ blankets from last year and presented them with the challenge…. the Iditarod Trail Committee asked for blankets measuring three feet by three feet. We told the little guys we weren’t sure what that meant, so we used our stuffed dog Denali, measured his feet and cut a blanket that was three Denali feet by three Denali feet. When we put the blanket on Denali, the pre-firsters were insistent it wasn’t big enough. So then we tried a third graders foot and made a blanket third grader foot by third grader foot… still not big enough. So we tried a Mrs. Reiter’s foot by Mrs. Reiter’s foot. With all of this trial and error, I decided to turn things over to the kids. Third graders led their little buddies in discussion to realize the need for standardized measurement.
After that, they were off and running… or should I say off measuring and cutting! Because we had patterned fleece to work with, the boys made labels to be affixed to each blanket which they decorated and signed.
If you are interested in participating in this project, they are still looking for more donations. You can email email@example.com for more information.
Here are some sled dog with blanket pictures you can share with your students:
One of the big parts of our Social Studies curriculum in third grade is the study of our National Parks as a subtopic of our study of Fifty States. Alaska is the home to 15 national parks, preserves, monuments and historic parks. The Park Service in Alaska also oversees 49 National Historic Landmarks and 16 National Natural Landmarks. The Park Service is rich in resources that you can use in your classroom to help you and your students as you explore the vast, amazing state of Alaska.
In the past couple of weeks we have been lucky enough to Skype with park rangers from two national parks, Yellowstone and Denali. The Yellowstone Skype is a fantastic way to introduce the concept of National Parks and their importance in our world. Skypes with a Yellowstone Ranger can be arranged through Skype in the Classroom: Yellowstone Ranger
One tie into the Iditarod Race is Denali National Park which is home to the nation’s only team of sled dogs who actively patrol a national park. Sled dogs have been crucial to Denali’s operations since its founding in 1917 to assist rangers in patrolling the backcountry of the park. After World War II, airplanes began to replace the dogs and due to budget cuts, the dogs completed their service in 1949. But, by the 1970’s they were again being used. Today they are crucial to the park as much of the park has been declared wilderness and therefore cannot be patrolled by motorized vehicle.
Today the dogs are a cultural resource that helps to preserve the historic and natural resources in Denali. The teams average 3,000 miles a year on patrol and greet and interact with about 50,000 visitors to their kennels each summer.
Denali offers an amazing Distance Learning program via Skype called The Science of Sled Dogs. The rangers will teach the students about five adaptations sled dogs have that allow them to survive in the subarctic: tongue, fur, foot pads, circulation, and tails. The kids quickly discover that these characteristics are ones that mushers also look for in their sled dogs. The rangers lead the kids through two mini science experiments so that the kids can get a strong grasp of the concepts. They also teach them about the positions in the dog team and the qualities each team member needs to have to help the team succeed. The program materials include lessons to use with the kids before and after the Skype session.
A great way to get your students involved in the National Parks is by challenging them to collect Junior Ranger Badges from various parks as they tie into your curriculum. The Junior Ranger program is a program offered by the National Parks that awards students special badges or patches for learning about and protecting National Parks. Many of the parks require students to be on site to complete the program, but some will allow students to complete the program through the mail or over the internet and will send badges to the school for the students. During the course of a year, my class usually collects ten to twelve badges as class projects that tie directly into our curriculum, another nine or so as extra credit monthly at home challenges, and two in person on field trips! We keep track of our accomplishments on a bulletin board and the boys are always anxious when a new badge arrives!
Here is a lesson plan that includes lots more information about Alaska’s National Parks and the programs they offer (including Junior Ranger Badges): Alaska’s National Parks
“How cold is it going to be in Alaska when you are there?” is the question I seem to be asked most often these days. I decided to get my students started on the task of tracking the weather in Alaska and comparing it to what is going on here in Baltimore. We are creating a line graph of the daily temperatures at the start, around the middle, and at the end of the trail and here in Baltimore. Each morning two students use a weather app to check the daily high in Anchorage, Galena, Nome, and Baltimore and then add the data to our ongoing graph. We also decided to add a snowflake stamp to the graph to show the days it snowed! Unfortunately, we have no snowflakes on the Baltimore data line yet!
It’s a great way to introduce or review line graphs and has led to some super discussions about what the freezing point is, what it means to freeze, and what conditions have to be in play for it to snow.
Another of my favorite things to do with graphing is to have students create a story to go with a graph. It’s a great twist to present students with a graph that shows data, but no labels or explanations and then to challenge them to tell a story to explain the data. Here is a lesson plan you can use to have students create Iditarod themed stories to explain a line graph or a pictograph: The Story Behind the Graph
As always, I’d love to include some student stories in the Student Tales section of the site! So be sure to send me your awesome Iditarod graph stories!
In September of 1898, the “Three Lucky Swedes” discovered gold on Anvil Creek, founded the Nome Mining District, and started a new rush to the North. By 1898, Nome had a population of 10,000, many of whom had arrived for the Klondike Gold Rush. When gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, the rush was on and thousands more people poured into Nome. By 1900 a tent city on the beaches reached for thirty miles from Cape Rodney to Cape Nome.
The Nome Gold Rush was different from other rushes due to the ease with which the gold could be obtained. It was literally lying on the beaches! Initially, the gold was gathered by panning. Later in 1899 human powered slucies and rockers were employed. By 1900 small machines with hoses and pumps were in place, and around 1902 big companies took over. The mining season was short, claims could only be worked from June to October.
Nome City obviously still exists, and among other things, marks the end of the Iditarod Trail and the end of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The estimated total amount of gold recovered from the area is thought to be around 112 metric tons.
Panning for Gold
We have been having our own gold rush in 3A. We have been learning about the Alaskan Gold Rush and even did our own gold panning simulation! I picked a chilly day and filled our buckets with freezing cold water just to make it a little more authentic! It was great dirty fun! In fact, one of the parents shared with me that his son has decided to move to Alaska and search for enough gold to start a kennel to train for the Iditarod!
The story goes that a group of five to seven kids started the Junior Iditarod because they were less then eighteen years old and therefore couldn’t compete in the main race. The first race was held in 1978 and there were actually two divisions that year; a junior division for ages 11-14 and a senior division for ages 15-18. Ever since that first race, there has been only one division for ages 14-17. The first year the juniors ran a total of 36 miles while the seniors ran forty miles. My students were especially interested to hear that the person with the most wins – three consecutive – is Tim Osmar! They refer to him as Monica’s Tim (we have been following her training all year). And that the red lantern that first year was won by a young woman named Barbara Ryan, whose married name is now Barbara Redington (daughter in law of the founder of the Iditarod Joe Redington, Sr.)! Their jaws just about dropped.
We wanted to get a little background information about the Junior Iditarod, so we used the Junior Iditarod official rules [2013 Rules] to compare the race to what we already know about the Iditarod. In partners, they read the Junior Iditarod rules carefully and hightlighted everything they thought made the Junior race different than the main race. We discussed their findings and summarized them on a chart. They knew most of the answers to the questions about the Iditarod, but it was a good chance to clear up a few questions they still had. I also had to fill in some of the missing blanks from other sources.
There were a few things that were still unclear about after reading the rules, so we consulted with two people in the know, Barbara Redington, who ran the first race, and Lacey Hart, who has completed the race and will be serving as Race Marshall this year.
From Redington and Hart we discovered that there really are two checkpoints in the race. The kids will leave the starting line and in about fifty-five miles will reach Eagle Song Lodge. This is a checkpoint where you can stop and drop dogs or speak to a veterinarian or race judge, if needed. Most of the mushers won’t stop there for an extended period of time. From there it’s about 20 miles to Yentna Station Roadhouse and the extended, mandatory rest stop. They will also pass through Eagle Song again on the return trip.
Nicole at the Start of Her First Race!
We got the chance to interview Nicole Forto, the very first musher to sign up for the Junior Iditarod this year! I tried to encourage the boys to find a new way to interview her… but our standard movie interview won out! She sent us a great reply you can read below the video.
You can learn more about Nicole and her family at Team Ineka here: Team Ineka
We will be bringing you lots more news from the Junior Iditarod! We have an interview set up with Lacey Hart to learn all about the job of a Race Marshall, and we’ll be checking in with Nicole monthly to see how things are going with her training! Stay tuned!
When the weather turns colder and my kids start complaining about having to go outside for morning recess (yes, we need to have a talk about recess in Alaska in the winter), I know it’s time to start our MMM Challenges! We are starting ours a bit early this year so they are completed by the time I leave for Alaska. I figured this was above and beyond the call of duty for my sub!
MMM stands for Mathematical Morning Meal. Each Monday the students are presented with a challenging math problem for them to work on for extra credit. They take them home and have a week to try to come up with a solution. On Friday morning during morning recess before school they are invited in to share their thinking and a doughnut while we go over the problem.
The problems are intentionally tough… I love to hear the kids talk about how their whole family discussed the problems at dinner or how a father thought one thing but the student had his own ideas.
My rule is that if they have given the problem an honest try, they can come to the breakfast.
This year the problems have an Iditarod twist! I know… shocking right?
Even if you don’t want the students to do the problems at home, maybe they would make good problems of the day or week to hang in your room and discuss.
We had our first MMM this morning and half of my class joined in the discussion. They all came up with essentially the same result with a few minor twists!
It’s a distance of 4, 152 miles away from us and would take us 2 days and 23 hours to drive there.
But with Skype, we could connect in a matter of minutes!
Using Skype in the Classroom is an amazing way to bring the world to your doorstep and to take your class on field trips that would otherwise be impossible.
Last week we were lucky to Skype with Paige Drobny and Cody Strathe from Squid Acres Kennel. Cody will be running the Yukon Quest this year and Paige will be running her second Iditarod. It was 0⁰ at their kennel outside of Fairbanks, they were expecting a storm and hoping to get some snow, while we were sitting in our short sleeved shorts and watching the orange leaves blanket the playground. It’s hard to believe how two places in the same country can be so very different!
Paige and Cody introduced to us to lead dog Scout, who very patiently allowed himself to be dressed in a harness, booties, and coat while my boys watched. We looked carefully at his coat and paws to see how he has special adaptations that allow him to thrive in the Arctic environment. We also got to see Paige get all dressed up in her gear. We were so surprised how much bigger she looked once she was dressed to go mush! We could barely recognize her! She needs a lot of gear to stay warm on the trail. Cody showed us what was in his sled and some of the supplies he carries on the trail during his races. We even got to see our buddy Scout join his team and lead them off out of the dog yard and out on a run!
It was a fantastic experience! The boys were excited to see many of the things we talked about happen live and in person.
Squid Acres offers Skype lessons on several topics including Sled Dog Diets, Sled building, Adaptations, and the Yukon Quest and Iditarod. They are booked for this year, but be sure to check back with them next fall. You can see their Skype in Classroom lessons here: Squid Acre Skypes
Check out their AMAZING website here: Squid Acres Kennel. They have some great dog biographies and videos that you can share with your students.
We will be cheering them both on in their races this year! We’ll especially be looking to see if Scout is in lead!
Each individual state contributes a quality that is great….”
This song has been stuck in my head for nearly a month now as we have been working on our Fifty States unit. If you don’t know it, here’s a link to a Youtube video. LINK The third graders at our school have to memorize the fifty states and be able to locate them on the map and most of my students also challenged themselves to learn the state capitals!
The final culminating activity was that after doing a research project on a state, each student created a float for their state for our Second Annual Parade of States on Friday. We have 48 students in our third grade, so we missed two states, but the parade was still pretty impressive and we challenged the observers to identify the two missing states! The floats had several requirements, they had to: fit on the student’s desk top, roll down the hall pulled by a string, and be carried up the stairs. On the float the students had a list of information that had to be displayed: flag, capital, national parks, geographic features, and more.
No one in my class was allowed to choose Alaska, much to their chagrin, but since we spend so much time learning about Alaska, it wouldn’t really be fair. The Alaska challenge instead was left to Brenner who did an AMAZING job with his float. So amazing, that I absolutely promised him I’d share it with you all…
So with no further ado….here’s Brenner’s Alaskan Husky shaped state float!
Did you know that Balto currently resides in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?
After the famous Serum Run, Balto quickly achieved hero status and traveled all over North America. Eventually Balto and his teammates were sold to a vaudeville show owner in California where they were mistreated. George Kimble, a businessman from Cleveland discovered the dogs living in squalor and organized his hometown to save the dogs. They were moved to the Cleveland Zoo where they were well loved for the rest of their days. Today, Balto’s preserved body is on permanent display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History… and in fact… a new display is being planned around Balto as we speak!
While there isn’t an Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race tie to Balto directly, there is definitely an Iditarod Historic Trail tie in… and it’s a wonderful story to boot! Contrary to popular belief, the Iditarod race was never meant to commemorate the Serum Run of 1925 where the lifesaving diphtheria serum was carried to Nome by dog sled. Joe Redington, Sr. founded the race to both commemorate the Iditarod Historic Trail and to save the sled dogs who were being systematically replaced by snowmachines.
Still, the Serum Run is a part of Iditarod Trail History and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a wonderful distance learning program developed around Balto! I introduced the story of the Serum Run to my boys with the book The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller. This book has amazingly beautiful pictures by Official Iditarod artist, Jon Van Zyle. We also talked about the idea that many people believe the Iditarod race is based on this historic event, but we reviewed Joe Redington, Sr.’s real motivation for starting the race – preserving the huskies and the historic trail.
On our assigned day and time, we connected with the museum where our guest teacher Lee Gambol led us through the program. We learned so much more than just the story of the Serum Run and how Balto ended up in Cleveland. We learned about the difficulties the mushers faced, we learned about the art of taxidermy (Did you realize they take the animal’s skin off and put it over a sculpture of the animal? I’m not sure what I thought happened, but that wasn’t it!), we learned about Balto’s life after the event, and some history of the time period. It was fascinating for the students AND the teachers!
When you make arrangements for your “trip” to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History they send you a big blue kit full of hands on materials to share with the kids. The kit includes modern day attire (snowsuit, boots, gloves, hat) so that they can compare them to historic photos of the Serum Run mushers, a husky skull so that the students can look at the teeth to learn what kind of eaters the dogs are, booties and harnesses. One of the harnesses is even people sized so that the kids can try it on and see what it feels like to pull! It was great for showing the boys where the dogs feel the pull of the weight of the sled in their bodies.
We followed up the program just with a class discussion about Balto, but you could easily follow it up with a more in depth study or a writing assignment. My kids are still convinced that Togo got the raw end of the fame deal! Togo by Roger J. Blake is a great book to share for Togo’s story. We also had a fascinating discussion of the Disney movie Balto and why so much was changed for the movie. Just look at the pictures The Real Balto (picture link) and the Disney Balto (picture link). The biggest change as far as the boys were concerned was that Balto actually never had any offspring. He was “fixed” early on because he wasn’t viewed to be a great enough dog to breed!
“… make sure you leave something (such as food) for the Old Woman when you leave. You don’t want her ghost chasing you to Nome and throwing bad luck your way.” From Don Bower’s Trail Notes http://iditarod.com/about/the-iditarod-trail/
So much of the Iditarod Trail is the history. With that history come the stories of the people of the trail and of the people who have perhaps never left the trail. Mushers tell stories of seeing other mushers and teams dressed in old clothing and hearing cheers along the trail. In addition to the actual ghost towns the trail passes through like Ophir and Iditarod, are the stories of the ghost of the Old Woman on the trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet.
There are versions of the Old Woman legend according to an article published in the Alaska Dispatch (http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/ghosts-alaskas-iditarod-trail). One version tells of a woman who died in an avalanche as a result of a curse for doing men’s work on a mountain used by men as a hunting lookout. Another version says that the woman and her husband were trappers who lived in the area long ago and were caught in an avalanche. The woman was buried and her husband, refusing to leave her, eventually died on the mountain as well.
One of my favorite things to do at this time of year when I taught fifth grade was to challenge the boys to write ghost stories that were set along the trail. They could set them in one of the Gold Rush turned Ghost Towns found on the trail or along a lonely section of the trail like where the Old Woman cabin is found between Kaltag and Unalakleet.
I would love to share some of your students’ stories in the Student Tales section of the website!
Today my son and I introduced a whole new generation of Baltimore kids to mushing and the Iditarod at a toddler play date that our school was involved in. The kids had great fun standing on the runners of the sled, trying on the headlamp, playing with all the stuffed dogs, and yelling command to Denali – the one and only dog on the team!
They did a bit of math as well. Kids of all ages had a lot of fun stamping patterns with colored paw print stampers. Alternating color patterns were by far the favorite (as was skipping the whole pattern idea all together in favor of just having fun stamping!) but a few kids did more complicated patterns. One little girl even patterned the directions the paw prints were facing which was really clever.
The older kids did a great job with ordering numbers of dogs in front of a model sled. It was super easy to set up, I just cut out sixteen sled dogs from the Jan Brett site and wrote the numbers from one to sixteen on them so that the kids could lay out a whole team. It has been a long time since I’ve worked with little, little kids – so it was fascinating to watch.
My son, who is now in second grade, did it by counting backwards from sixteen so that he could put the last ones right in the wheel dog position. The younger kids started with one and counted forward, so they had to keep moving the sled backwards. It struck me that you could even use the same activity to count odd and even numbers forwards or backwards so that you’d end up with one line of odd numbered dogs and one in of even number dogs. It was neat to see the kids process the numbers. Some could put them right in order and some had to go back and count from one every time to determine what number came next. They were both really great activities to get an idea of where the kids are with their number sense.
It was a fun day… and maybe those of you who teach younger kids can use some of the ideas in your classes!
It seems like a day doesn’t go by without someone in my class asking about Monica. (The Brady Bunch episode where the other two sisters complain about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” goes through my head at least once a day. “Monica, Monica, Monica.” Only no one in my room gets it but me!)
My students have taken their task to introduce the world to Monica Zappa and keep everyone up to date on her progress very seriously!
Our first task was to come up with a list of interview questions to prepare for her. The boys brainstormed in teams things they would like to know and then we whittled the list down to sixteen questions. The boys each wrote out a question on a card, and we create a movie trailer to send her. You can see the trailer here:
Monica did an amazing job responding to the kids! Her response is here: Monica Q & A
I hope you and your students enjoy getting to know Monica a bit better!
As for her training, she reports there is no snow yet…. but with reports of a foot of snow in Denali, it can’t be too far away.
We will check in with her again in a few weeks to see how things are going!
We have been fortunate enough to host one of the Iditarod Traveling Quilts for the first month of school. The Traveling Quilt program began when the first quilt was created in 2005 and since then has grown to 11 quilts that zig zag the world bringing the race and its ideals to more than one thousand students a year.
We were really excited to get to be the first class to host Quilt 11, especially since the top right hand square was created in our classroom last year!
The timing of the quilt’s arrival in our classroom was perfect as we were able to use the travels of the quilt as we learned and practiced using latitude, longitude, and map scale. We located each of the quilt’s stops on a US map. I’m not sure if you’ve ever used National Geographic’s Interactive Map Maker, but it was perfect for this project. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/outline-map/?map=USA&ar_a=1
I pulled up a one page US map that I could personalize on the Smartboard. We were able to drop pins on the quilt’s stop and then use the scale to calculate the estimated distance traveled. When we did all of our calculations, we were surprised to see that our quilt will actually travel about five times as far as the Iditarod itself! I’ve attached the geography sheet that goes with Quilt 11 and a blank one if you are hosting one of the other quilts.
In order to share the quilt with other classes in my school, I asked for volunteers to serve as Quilt Tour Guides. Interested boys filled out an application, and once selected, they worked together to plan their presentation and then took their show on the road to kindergarten, third, and fourth grade classes in the building. They were really proud to become experts and share their knowledge with others!
If you are interested in finding out more about the quilt program, check out the Traveling Quilt Blog here: http://travelingquilt.com/
My students, maybe because they are boys, seem to gravitate towards non-fiction texts. They love to pour over the pictures and stats that fill their favorite non-fiction books. But, I have noticed that they don’t always use all of the features in the book like captions and sidebars to their advantage as readers, and they certainly don’t carry those elements over into their own non-fiction writing.
The non-fiction book, Mush! Sled Dogs of the Iditarod, published by Scholastic is a great book to use to introduce features of non-fiction texts to your students (and sneak a little Iditarod knowledge in too)! I introduced this book to my boys after we had finished our first fiction novel and had analyzed the elements of a story. I began by having the boys search through Mush with sticky notes in hand, marking everything they found that isn’t typically found in fiction novels. After we discussed them, the boys made posters that explained the various features and why authors may choose to use these devices in their books. The posters will serve as our anchor charts for this unit.
Marking New Features
As we read the book, we focused on using those non-fiction text elements to pull out important details. We made bio cubes highlighting Dallas Seavey’s accomplishments, debated if mushers are as athletic as their dogs, identified characteristics of huskies, and compared and contrasted changes in race equipment over time.
Attached is the unit plan with five days of lessons (although, truth be told, the bio cubes took two days – one to plan and to create). I’ve also posted one of my student’s responses to whether or not mushers are as athletic as their dogs here: LINK Don’t forget to send me your student’s writings! I’d love to post as many as I can!
News Flash: Three dogs destined for the Inaugural Parade were stolen from the Maryland Farm where they were staying. Joe Redington Sr.’s lead dog Feets and his faithful Candy who made it to Nome 7 times and carried Redington to the top of Mt. MKinley are two of the missing. Norman Vaughan’s leader was also stolen. The theft occurred around midnight on January 18.
As reported in the Iditarod Runner, January, 1981
This past weekend I had the chance to see some Iditarod dogs in DC…. Not your everyday occurrence! I went to the Capitol Hills Arts Workshop to see Wes Schaefer’s exhibit of photographs he took while following Lance Mackey’s 2013 Iditarod preparations and race. Wes lived and worked at Mackey’s Comeback Kennel off and on from October to April to document every aspect of his life. The photographs are an extraordinary look at the relationship between dog and musher and what it takes to take part in the race. If you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. The exhibit will continue through October 12th.
Being in DC and thinking about sled dogs, made me think of the story quoted above from Ronald Regan’s 1981 Inaugural Parade. I first stumbled across the story this summer during the Summer Camp for Teachers when we had the chance to explore a handful of materials that are going to be included on an online Iditarod Museum.
Attached is a creative writing lesson where the students will tell the story that only the missing dogs could ever tell! If you do the lesson with you kids… please be sure to share their stories with me! I’d love to publish some on the Tales from the Trail Student section!
We have officially begun our school year in 3A! Here are some pictures of my final classroom set up… I hope you enjoy them!
This week we will be taking a look at timelines. I have a timeline hanging in the classroom that takes up three walls of the room. I introduce the idea of timelines to the kids by giving each team a set of cards with some “major” historical events on them (the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the founding of our school, the peak of immigration through Ellis Island which they studied in second grade, the sailing of the Mayflower, the first Iditarod race, etc.) and asking the students to put the events in chronological order. The conversations that the boys have while trying to do the task are always a trip, as are their rationales for the order they settle upon. Once they have them in order, I challenge the teams to put a date on the top of each card. Once we discuss the accurate responses, we add them to our classroom timeline where they serve as anchor points. Throughout the year, as we read about significant events or learn about them in Social Studies, we add them to the timeline. The timeline provides a picture of how our studies time out in history. It helps the students make connections between time and place that they wouldn’t always see otherwise. I am often surprised at how close or how far apart events took place as well as by comparing what was happening in different parts of the world at the same time in history!
Here is a quick assignment sheet that could serve as an introduction or review of setting up, reading, and interpreting timelines based on the events leading to the establishment of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. I took my information from the Iditarod Historic Trail Visitor Guide that is published by Alaska Geographic which can be downloaded here: http://www.alaskageographic.org/static/281/visitor-guide-download-page
Since my school year has officially begun, (I have been at inservice training the past two days), I wanted to take a minute to tell you about my plans for the year and the blog, and let you know some ways that you can join me on this amazing journey by dogsled!
One of the things that has always intrigued me about the Iditarod are the stories. Everyone has a story to tell about their involvement in the race, and I could sit and listen to those stories for hours and hours and hours.
As an educator, I know the things that draw my kids in the most are stories. Any time that I can begin a lesson with, “Hey! Do you want to hear a story?” or “I have a story that goes with that,” I immediately have their attention.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a week long seminar with Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Her work in getting students interested in writing by encouraging them to record and value their own stories had a huge impact on my teaching of writing.
And so… my theme for my year as ExxonMobil Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is going to be “Tales (and Tails) from the Trail.” My goal is two-fold. First, I hope to present to you lessons that are prefaced with a story to help get your kids intrigued. So, when I give you a lesson about the Iditarod Trail as a mail route, the lesson will begin with a story about Joe Redington and why the mushers carry trail mail. When I present a lesson about the Alaska Gold Rush and how it ties to the trail, the lesson will begin with a story about miners picking gold off the beaches of Nome.
Secondly, I’m trying to gather as many Trail stories as I can to share with you. There is a link at the top of the page where I am collecting stories from mushers, volunteers, and others. My plan is to use some of these stories in my Writing Workshop mini-lessons, and I hope you can find a use for them also!
You may notice that there is also a link for Student Stories! This is where you come in! I hope that as your students do some writing about the Iditarod, they will share it with me to be published here! They could write stories, poems, plays… anything. I’d love to read it all and publish as much of it as I can. There is a link at the left to email them to me. Another great way to keep in touch with me is via Skype. I’d love to talk with you and your class either before and/or during the race as much as I possibly can. You can email me for details about that also.
Along the way, we are going to be meeting, hearing stories from, and following a rookie musher as she begins her training and also a former handler for a high-profile racer. I will be sharing lots of math lessons (the Iditarod IS my math curriculum from January to April) and showing lots of other ways the race is embedded in my classroom. Once February and March roll around, I will be bringing your the race directly from Alaska (how cool is that!?!?)!
I’m looking forward to jumping on the sled with you…. please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with your journey down the trail.
I’ve had some questions about my use of Golovin on the Homework Iditaopoly Gameboard.
No, it’s not technically a checkpoint.
Yes, I decided to include it on the gameboard. The simple reason why is because it appears on every single trail map that my kids use during our studies!
I did some more research, talked to some people, and here’s what I discovered.
Golovin isn’t a checkpoint anymore, although it used to be one. It has a population of 148 people, one store, and the checkpoint was located in the checker’s home! It is only about 18 miles from Elim and 28 miles from White Mountain. With the required eight hour rest in White Mountain, mushers pretty much just checked in and out of Golovin and kept on moving. There was no need to pick up supplies in Golovin as they were headed to a long break in White Mountain. At some point they lost their official checker and mushers no long have to check into Golovin.
So, it probably would be best to not have the Golovin square be checkpoint square to land on, but more a square to be passed through!
Here’s an updated version of the game board that reflects that change (if the students land on Golovin, they are directed to move right to White Mountain): Iditaopoly Gameboard 2
One more idea for room set up as the summer starts to wind down….
I am calling my classroom the 3A Dog Yard these days…. for reasons that I am sure you can understand! To get my students in the Iditarod Spirit from day one and as a way to get to know each other, we create these puppy glyphs on the first day of school.
Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection. You might be reminded of “hieroglyphic” and think about picture writing. My kids are always interested in “real life” examples of glyphs – like dentists who record cavities on a a picture of teeth or a chiropractor who records aches on a skeletal picture. The glyphs allow doctors to record and analyze data more quickly.
My hallway bulletin board greets my students looking like this:
The students create the puppy glyphs by answering questions about their interests and study habits and then cutting and pasting the pieces according to their answers. When they are finished, they get added to the bulletin board.
Following a discussion about how mushers and kennel owners sometimes name their litters in themes, we choose a litter theme, name the puppies and then create an information sheet about the puppies that gets bound together in a classroom book. You can see our book about the Breakfast Cereal Litter from last year here: http://www.youblisher.com/p/482033-Meet-the-Puppies/
3. My friend, middle school science teacher Laurie Starkey, did the same project with her kids digitally using Kerpoof Studio: http://www.kerpoof.com/
4. Older kids might enjoy making a digital musher avatar instead of a puppy. Illustrator Maker has a lot of good choices. They could use types of headgear, items held, and even accessories as the responses to the questions: http://illustmaker.abi-station.com/index_en.shtml
5, You could also use these activities to show answers to a set of problems instead. In that case, the design of the picture would be determined by the correct answers to the problems. It could be a fun way to review a topic!
I don’t know about you, but I have seventeen days until I have to return to school to start my in-service training. In some ways I’m really excited – it’s going to be an AMAZING year. In some ways, I wish I could hold on to summer just a little longer!
To continue my summer of “ways to turn your classroom into an Iditarod themed masterpiece,” I wanted to share my new classroom job board!
I had a version of this board last year with jobs that were Dog Yard Chores, but this year, I am tweaking it to make it more specific to the Iditarod Race and I’ve turned it into Trail Chores. I have chosen 8 classroom jobs for this year. With 16 kids, that means each student will have a job every other week. When they don’t have a job, they will be “Out on the Trail.” Here are the jobs that I chose to use, the Iditarod job description, and my classroom job description.
Lead Dog – the dog that runs in the front of the team – line leader
Wheel Dog – the dog that runs closest to the sled in the team – line ender
Swing Dog – the dog that runs right behind the lead dogs in the team - substitute (covers jobs as needed)
Go Fetch – okay, not technically an Iditarod job, but it’s really fun to call out “GO FETCH!” and have a kid jump up and do your bidding! - this is my messenger/ errand runner
Handler – the handler helps the musher with training and race prep – in the classroom this is my right hand man – passes out materials, collects materials, etc. (I think it’s going to be fun to just call out “Handle it!”)
Race Judge – the race judges are responsible for the enforcement of race rules and procedures – in the classroom this person is going to run the Homework Iditaopoly Game for me
Stats – the stats volunteers are responsible for updating the race data to the web – in the classroom they are responsible for updating the classroom for the next day (changing the calendar, erasing the board, updating the schedule)
Air Force – the Iditarod Air Force is responsible for (among other things) delivering supplies to to the various checkpoints – in the classroom this person will deliver the library books back to the library
Here are some other jobs I thought of if you need more ideas: Comms – they get the information from the trail to the race headquarters – could do classroom newsletter or other communications jobs; Vet – could take students to the nurse when needed; Teacher on the Trail – could take classroom attendance; Sweeper – could do a room sweep at the end of the day to check for cleanliness.
I wanted the name tags for the job board to mimic the armbands that some race volunteers wear. Here is a pdf that you can add your own students’ name to -
I have been yearning for an Iditarod Monopoly game for several years now.
Then I started seeing all of the Homeworkopoly games on Pinterest… and I really wanted to combine that with the Iditarod Monopoly game.
I searched Ebay every couple of weeks or so… but they were always going for close to $100.
Then I saw one going for about $40. In the description, the seller mentioned that the game pieces and cards were all sealed but that there was some writing on the board.
Well, that was okay, I really only wanted to see what was on the board and cards… a little writing wouldn’t be too bad.
When the game arrived, I was in for a surprise. The “writing” on the board is signatures from Doug Swingley, Jeff King, and Dee Dee Jonrowe! Amazing right?
The idea behind Homeworkopoly is to encourage kids to complete and turn in their homework! I just tweaked that idea so that it is Iditarod themed! By playing the game the students will become familiar with the checkpoints on the race course.
Every Friday afternoon, students who have completed and turned in their assignments for the week will be able to take a turn. When it is their turn they will roll the die, move the appropriate number of spaces, and deal with the space they land on. The game could be played for the entire year or just a semester.
Here are the details:
To make the gameboard, just print the PDF, cut out the pieces, and assemble the board. It could be mounted to a bulletin board or mounted to cardboard to use on a table. The title can be printed, assembled, and mounted in the middle of the board.
Print the Community Sled Dog Cards and cut them out.
Make game tokens. I plan to take pictures of my students with winter or kennel hats to make my pieces.
You can decide what to do with the special spaces. My ideas are below, but feel free to make it your own!
Players start in Anchorage (GO) and move clockwise around the board.
When the kids land on any checkpoint space, their turn is finished for the week.
Community Sled Bag: Draw a Community Sled Bag card and follow the directions on the card (cards direct movement on the board –move forward, backwards, or to a specific space)
Equipment Spaces (Snow Shoes, Dog Booties, Sled, Dog Kennel): These spaces are a good place to award privileges. For example, land on the Dog Kennel and get to keep a stuffed dog on your desk for the week.
Race Trivia Stop: Challenge the player to answer a trivia question about the race to win a small prize
McGrath – Spirit of Alaska Award: land here and win an Alaska sticker (the first musher to McGrath wins a Spirit Mask)
Trail Route Splits: This is where the trail splits between the Northern and Southern Route. The halfway prizes are awarded in the split. Land here and earn a chocolate coin (the halfway prize for mushers is gold nuggets)
Nome to GO! : Each time the students pass GO they could earn a prize such as a homework pass or some other privilege.
In order to enter the Iditarod, a rookie musher must meet a set of qualifications that includes having completed a number qualifying races. New this year, the mushers must also have a Musher Assessment Form completed for each of those qualifiers. More details can be found here: http://iditarod.com/resources/mushers/
Well… in my mind… a Musher Assessment Form = a Musher Report Card right?
In my classroom, at the end of each week (or more realistically every two weeks), my kids take home their Friday Folder of completed and graded assignments. My grade level team also likes to include a mini evaluation form with the folder just to touch base with the parents about how things are going in class.
Given that a lot of the character traits that the Iditarod Race Judges are looking for in their mushers are the same traits that I am looking for in my third- graders, I thought it might be fun to adapt the Musher Assessment Form into weekly self-assessment form for my students!
I think using this form with the students will give us a great opportunity to talk about the idea of preparedness. Why does the Iditarod require qualifying races be completed prior to attempting the Iditarod? Why would the judges be looking for specific character traits in the mushers? Are those traits only useful for mushers or do they apply to “real-world” situations as well?
If you are anything like me, even though you are on summer vacation, your mind is always going and going and going and you are always thinking of things to do to make your classroom more welcoming and more inviting for your students.
It’s safe to say that in the last two years my classroom has officially gone to the dogs! I have always used the Iditarod as a part of my teaching curriculum and toolbag, but two years ago I really let it take over my classroom and become my yearlong classroom theme. I say two years ago, because that is the year that my life took a turn on the trail towards this amazing adventure I am embarking on.
Two years ago, my good friend and teaching partner Ellen Rizzuto, burst into my room one morning declaring, “I just heard the coolest thing and you are the only person crazy enough to do it with me!”
The crazy thing she had heard about was Wintergreen Lodge in Ely, Minnesota, where you could go for a long weekend and learn to dogsled. Not just go for a ride, but really get your own team and learn how to mush! I immediately countered that if we were going to do that, we should tie it into something educational and apply for a grant from our school. That winter we spent Martin Luther King weekend at Wintergreen, and then attended the Iditarod Winter Conference for Educators and the start and restart of the 40th Iditarod. It was a life changing experience, and has directly led me to where I am today.
As you can imagine, with all the excitement of that first trip, my trip to the race last year as a finalist, and then of course all that will be happening this year, my classroom revolves around the Iditarod. I’ve found it to be an amazing classroom theme for my third grade boys… the race is full of action, adventure, dogs, wilderness, and competition… all things boys adore! In using it as my classroom theme, it surrounds us all year long, not just at race time. I can sneak in little tidbits of information when time allows and not have to let it dominate one portion of my curriculum. (Although the race IS my math curriculum from January-April… but that is a post for another time).
So during the summer, I thought I would share with you some of the ways I use the Iditarod as my classroom theme. I hope that you will be able to find something that you can use – or “borrow and tweak” as 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Linda Fenton would say! Let me know if you do….I’d love to hear about it!
At the start of the year before adding student samples
To that end, I thought the first idea I would share with you is the Advice from the Trail activity we do in my classroom. When Ellen and I attended that first conference, I found myself writing down tidbits of advice and quotations that mushers, vets, volunteers, and presenters said. I realized that many of the quotations, while obviously focused on the Iditarod, had applications in the “real-world” too. Advice that I hoped my students would take to heart!
Every month I choose a quotation and post it on the Advice from the Trail bulletin board. Throughout the month, we discuss the advice and what lessons we could take from it. We try to apply it to what we are experiencing in the classroom. We talk about how it applies to characters in books we are reading and our lives outside of school. At the end of the month, the students write a reflection about the quote in their journals and then we start the whole process over with a new quote.
This activity, while obviously a good writing assignment, also allows me to sneak in some character development lessons. An added bonus, which I didn’t originally anticipate, is that it allowed me to introduce several key and memorable mushers to the students.
Included in the lesson plan is a list of quotations that could be used for this project. I keep adding to the list! Lesson Plan Here: Advice From the Trail July
Alaska is having super hot temperatures this summer. Everyone keeps commenting about how hot it is and there is a big concern about possible wildfires. As you can imagine, sled dogs would much rather have it be cold than hot…. so how do sled dogs cool off when it’s hot? Well, in addition to their natural adaptions, some have swimming pools!
The teachers and I were blessed to be able to visit Jon and Jona Van Zyle’s kennel, home, and art studio last evening. In addition to being an Iditarod finisher, Jon is the official Iditarod Artist, a painter, and book illustrator. Jona is an artist as well, specializing in amazing textile and beaded items. We were fortunate enough to see some of the projects Jon has in progress including a new painting and a series of illustrations for a new picture book.
This is the third picture book he has done this year! I asked him to explain that process a bit. He says that a publisher will send him a manuscript. He reads it over and if, while he is reading, he sees pictures in his mind, he will agree to do the project. He prints out the manuscript and starts thinking about where the pages should be divided based on the pictures he is visualizing. He divides the pages and then, perhaps, makes a note or two at that point. The next step is to create a mock up of the way the book will look. He makes rough sketches of the pictures and decides if the paintings will take up one page or two and where the text will be. These sketches are really rough, with very little detail. Jon explained that he does it this way because he really only wants to do each of his paintings one time, as he needs the ideas to be fresh as he paints. The final paintings are then shipped off to the publisher. I also tried to get a sneak peek or insight into what this year’s Iditarod poster and print will be… but I was not successful!
The Van Zyle’s home is essentially a work of art itself… Jon built it himself, and every nook and cranny is filled with keepsakes and treasures, each of which comes with its own story as you can imagine!
The kennel is essentially heaven on earth for the ten huskies living in the kennel. They have a multilevel play area, beach umbrellas for shade, swimming pools to frolic in, and a large exercise wheel for when they feel like doing some training! Not a bad place to try to beat the heat!
The 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Here 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.
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 tells 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!