How Does Your Puppy Grow?

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Meet our pups; future Iditarod champions!

Puppies are the future for an Iditarod kennel.  As the 2016 Iditarod draws near, we have been spending a great deal of time talking about husky dogs and learning all about them.  We fell in love with veteran musher Matt Failor’s puppies this year after his Insider interview when Iditarod veteran “Cool Cat” gave birth to her litter of adorable, squealing newborns.  We wanted to know more about Iditarod husky puppies, and how they are raised to prepare to one day be Iditarod champions.  I reached out to Matt and he shared some personal video with us so we could learn more:

Matt gave us some interesting information about newborn puppies.  “They are born with their eyes shut (fused shut).  The eyes usually do not open until around 10-12 days.  This is one of the reason a dogs nose is sooooo much stronger than ours (humans), because they rely on it from day one, since they are blind.  The whining from the puppy will release a chemical in the mom’s brain, to begin the flow of milk.  The pups instinctually go for the belly to find food.  The RACE is on!  They will fight for position and latch on to her.  Truly fun to watch and educational.”

Of course, my students wanted puppies of their own, but since that was impossible, we made our own rice and sock version to learn some husky puppy math and start a dog diary about them.  Our source of inspiration was a wonderful lesson from 2007 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Kim Slade.  I loved this activity, and since we wanted to learn more about husky puppies, I brought it back out of the Iditarod archives and updated it this year for my class.

Husky puppies are born weighing 12-16 ounces.  Since we are learning about measurement in math class, I decided to test my students and see how close they could make their husky rice puppies weigh 16 oz (1 pound) on a scale with estimation.  First, we measured out 1 ounce. on a scale to see what it looked like, and feel it in our hands.  From there the challenge was to see if we could first estimate then fill our sock with exactly 16 ounces with rice.  We chose a men’s sock we liked out of white, black, or gray, then we used funnels to fill our sock.  Students went back and forth to the scale to measure them until they reached exactly 16 ounces.

Now for the fun part! We used little rubber bands to tie off the head, paws and tail.  Some students added a muzzle with an extra rubber band.  Then we added a black pom pom for the nose, felt ears, google eyes, and a little pink felt tongue.  Students could add extra felt for special markings for a personal touch.

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Time for a husky puppy name!

We fell in love with our puppies, and when we were all finished it was time to name our litter.  Mushers have a special tradition when naming a litter of puppies in their kennels.  We read a great Iditarod post about how this is done, and we talked about what our theme should be.  Can you guess?  From that theme, each student gave their puppy a unique name.  Read our husky puppy names below, and see if you can guess what it is:

Our theme is “Texas” of course!  Our puppy names were inspired by the Lone Star State: wildflowers, food, spices, places, and even NASA.  What would your theme be?  Kim’s original lesson plan had a puppy birth certificate, so we created our own.

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Puppy Birth Certificate Word

Puppy Birth Certificate PDF

How Does Your Puppy Grow? Lesson Plan

Matt’s puppies have grown up quickly in the last few months.  Matt share with us how he starts to train and prepare his puppies for the Iditarod in the future.   In the video below he walks around his kennel with the 14 puppies from Cool Cat who are now 3 months old and weigh 15 to 20 pounds.  He explains how he starts walking with the puppies and mom when they are young, but then he walks them alone so they can bond with him.  The jingle of a bag of dog kibble keeps them running to him and not wandering off.  It is amazing to see them all stay close together and trust him. 

 

 

What is more fun to watch than Matt Failor’s puppies?  Matt Failor’s puppies in slow motion:

 

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We wish we could have had the real thing – but we learned a lot with our sock version!

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™  We have partnered with Skype and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Click the link below:

The Iditarod Classroom Club

Print

 

Want to know more about Matt Failor and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

 

Gee! Haw! Hike! with Musher Larry Daugherty

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2016 Iditarod rookie musher Dr. Larry Daugherty and Bumper

 

“How do sled dogs know where to go?”  This simple question has been asked often in my classroom this year as my students learn more and more about the Iditarod.  Mushers and their teams have a very special and trusting relationship, but how do they communicate on the trail with each other?  For help I turned to 2016 rookie Iditarod musher, Dr. Larry Daugherty.  

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Photo courtesy of Iditarod

Larry is living his childhood dream of leading a dog team to Nome in the Last Great Race on Earth®. His grandparents were global adventure seekers which inspired him early in his life to one day mush in the Iditarod.  He is now a respected doctor at the Alaska Cancer Treatment Center in Anchorage, bringing the same loving care to his dog team as he does to his patients.

I met Dr. Daugherty this June at the Summer Camp for Teachers, when he signed up to be a musher at the volunteer picnic.  He is an Iditarod rookie…just like me!  His enthusiasm and positive attitude are contagious!

Larry is under the tutelage of veteran Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey this year.  Larry took some time on the trails of Willow, Alaska to show us how unique verbal commands help a musher and sled dogs communicate and work together throughout the race.  As Larry explains in his video, sled dogs understand when to turn left or right, stop, and go, with special words from their musher.  

There are a few basic mushing commands that help guide sled dogs and let them know what to do.  He began the video by telling his team “Whoa!” which means to slow down and come to a halt.  His dogs understood just what to do!  When he said “Hike!”, they started trotting up the trail.  

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Larry’s team turning right after hearing “Gee!”

He helped guide his team on the Willow trails with “Gee!”, which is the command for a right turn and “Haw!”, the command for a left turn.  There are times on the trail where there may be several paths to take.  What does a sled team do?  When a dog team is well trained, they listen and follow the correct command from their musher to guide them the correct way, so they won’t make a wrong turn.  It truly is teamwork at its best.  Larry also does a wonderful job of showing how even the pacing of the dogs is watched carefully by the musher to ensure the team moves along the trail safely.

We watched Larry’s fascinating video in our PE class, and we put together our own activities using the mushing commands he shared.  Stephen Presley and Jeannette Michael are our amazing PE teachers here at Eanes Elementary School, and they love bringing the Iditarod into their classes each year for all our students.  They created a high-energy warmup activity using the basic commands in mushing.  Watch “The Iditarod Shuffle” in the video below:

In the warmup, students shuffled to the right when the teachers yelled, “Gee!”.  They shuffled to the left when they heard, “Haw!”.  When the teachers gave the command “Whoa!”, they made a deep lunge to the floor, and when they heard “Hike!”, they jumped up and ran in place.  This was a fantastic warmup, and soon the students had their hearts racing and were ready for some real sled dog racing with scooters and mats!

The Iditarod Shuffle Lesson Plan

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A Texas sled dog team!

For “The Main Event” lesson, an obstacle course was set up in the gym using numbered cones to represent checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail.  Mrs. Michael first reviewed the mushing commands they had seen in the video from Dr. Daugherty and discussed the rules for our Iditarod lesson before the fun started.  For this PE activity, students were also expected to use responsible social behavior and sportsmanship towards their teams.  

Small scooters were placed under large mats and 3 students at a time created a dog team.  A “lead dog” pulled the “sled” with ropes, the “musher” yelled the commands around the course, and a student in the back helped guide the “sled” to Nome.  This was especially helpful as many sleds took a spill on the trail! 

The Main Event Lesson Plan

Students had a fantastic time in the gym using the commands, working as a team, getting their heart rates up, and showing great sportsmanship in our own version of the Last Great Race on Earth®.  See the video below of all the fun:

Dr. Daugherty took some time on the beautiful Willow trail recently to introduce us to some of the members of his dog team.  You can tell they are ready and excited for the Iditarod!

Larry is living his dream with the support of his wonderful family including his wife, Prairie, and and his five children: Bailey, 15, Calvin, 13, Azalea, 9, Conrad, 6, and Charlie, 4.  He loves inspiring children, and he is a big supporter of the Teacher on the Trail™ program, his Boy Scout Troop 29, and the organization Radiating Hope improving cancer care around the globe.  He believes that “Success is possible through hard work, dedication and perseverance.”  I hope to see Larry and his team under the burled arch in Nome this March.  I know his family, friends, and his patients will be cheering him on the whole way there!

Get to know rookie musher Dr. Larry Daugherty a little better.  Read his Q & A from the 2016 Iditarod class below:

Q & A with Rookie Musher Larry Daugherty

See the articles and information below about mushing commands from the Iditarod site:

Mushing Terminology

Libby Littles Article

 

Our PE teachers, Stephen Presley and Jeannette Michael, were inspired by musher Larry Daugherty, and they created these lessons for the students at Eanes Elementary School.  Our students had a great time, learned a lot, and we hope you can share this activity with your school too!

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Want to know more about Larry Daugherty and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gets access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

Sled Shopping with Musher Kristin Pace

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The sled and mandatory gear for rookie Iditarod musher Kristin Pace

Reading the actual 2016 Iditarod rules is a fascinating learning experience for any classroom teacher, and it is a very important process to understand how the Last Great Race on Earth® is successful all the way from Anchorage to Nome.  

There are many interesting questions from students about the requirements for an Iditarod musher, especially the section about mandatory gear for the race.  We are far from the life of a musher here in Austin, so my students wanted to know more about making it to the starting line.

For help, I turned to 2016 Iditarod rookie musher Kristin Knight Pace from Hey Moose! Kennel in Healy, Alaska.  Kristin, a fellow Texan like me, was born and raised in Ft. Worth and moved to Alaska in 2009.  She fell in love with the beautiful, wild landscape of the north and is now a wilderness planner for Denali National Park.  She feels, “There’s no better way to see and experience the country than on the back of a dog sled.”  

I was curious to see what the mandatory gear for the Iditarod looks like and what kind of expenses mushers have in order to meet their requirements.  This looked like a great math lesson to me!  Kristin shared pictures with my class of some of her gear for the Iditarod, along with the costs of the individual pieces of equipment below: 

According to the Iditarod rules, a musher is required to have a harness for every dog on the team, and from the harnesses they are all connected together to the sled.  A system of cables, or lines, give the dogs freedom to run and move, but in sync, as a team.  All of the dogs with their lines work in tandem to keep them moving along the trail safely.  See the diagram below to understand how it all looks from above:

 

Kristin was kind enough to take some video of her Hey Moose! Kennel team preparing for the 2016 Iditarod.  She said, “This was taken about 4 miles from our training camp. We are on the Denali Highway heading east toward the Maclaren River.”  In the video, you can see the tow line, necklines, tuglines, and harnesses helping her stay in control and keep the team together, but with flexibility and comfort for the dogs.

 

Let’s go shopping!  With all of this great information and video, students can pretend to be mushers preparing for the 2016 Iditarod by going shopping for mandatory sled gear.  Using the Iditarod official rules, review the section about what is required on a sled and discuss why they are important. The health and safety of the dogs is always the top priority for race officials and the mushers.  Using the lesson plan and spreadsheet, students should estimate costs of the mandatory gear required and find a total amount due for a sled with 16 dogs.  The inspiration for this lesson came from 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Jen Reiter.  Her math lessons can be accessed on the Iditarod site in an extensive PDF booklet called, “Mathing Down the Trail”.

The 2016 official Iditarod rules state that a musher must have 12-16 dogs at the starting line.  For this lesson, we will pretend to start with the maximum number, 16.  Mushers will carry extra tow lines, necklines, and tuglines on their sleds, but we used the required amount for our math.  Have a conversation with your class about having extra supplies on your sled.  What would be the benefit?  Hint: the safety of the dogs is the most important factor in the Iditarod, and dogs can sometimes chew their lines!

Iditarod Official Rules 2016

Let’s Go Shopping Catalog

Let’s Go Shopping Spreadsheet

Sled Shopping Lesson Plan

Kristin, and her husband Andy, also took a few moments on the trail to stop and introduce their dog team to us!

 

The life of a musher is a fascinating one.  Do you want to know more about Kristin Pace and her life as a musher?  My students created questions to get to know her a little bit better.  Read her Q & A to find out more about Kristin and her rookie Iditarod musher journey:

All About Kristin Pace

 

Training changes throughout the seasons for a musher and sometimes requires moving to a more remote location in the north for the best snow and weather conditions for the dogs.  Kristin said this is, “a picture of our winter training camp at Alpine Creek Lodge in the middle of the Denali Highway. The highway is not maintained in the winter, so we are 65 miles down the trail from our trucks and about a 7-hour trip to town one-way.”

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Winter Training camp for Andy and Kristin Pace and the dogs

Kristin and Andy have a wonderful site and blog about their kennel.  Their writing is deeply personal and emotional.  Check it out below: (you are leaving a secure site)

http://www.heymoosekennel.com

Coming Attractions

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Join in a live Twitter chat with sled dogs!  Mushers will pretend to be their sled dogs as students send in questions through Twitter.  The sled dogs will answer in first person…live.

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Want to know more about Kristin Pace and the other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gets access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

 

Iditarod S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d Art

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An old calendar gains new life in the Iditarod classroom

As the year comes to a close, we have been organizing, cleaning up, and preparing our classroom for the new year.  One of these tasks involves bringing down our 2015 Iditarod calendar from the wall.  Old calendars can be recycled into a fantastic art project I like to call “stretched art” using basic art supplies and a lot of creativity.

Optical illusions hold a special fascination for my students.  I have a collection of these types of books in my classroom that are continually checked out and shared throughout the week.  I decided to combine our interest in this visual phenomenon with our calendar art project in 10 easy steps.

Step One:

Share optical illusion books from the library with the class and discuss the visual trickery involved.  Some of my favorites are:

Xtreme Illusions by National Geographic

Optical Illusions by DK Publishing

Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World by Marc Grossman

Step Two:

Tear apart your out-of-date calendars, and let your students choose their favorite month and picture for the project. Turn it over and lay it on a larger piece of standard, white construction paper; any length will do.  Lay the picture exactly in the bottom left-hand corner of the paper.

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Step Three:

Using the top of the calendar as a guide, draw a line all the way across the top of the white paper.  Cut off the excess strip and recycle it.

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Step Four:

Use the daily grid lines on the back as a guide, and have students simply cut the calendar page into long strips.  I find it best to number the strips across the top, so they can be put back in order easily when they are flipped over.  For a mathematical challenge, you can require different measurements across the page with a ruler.

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Step Five:

Turn over the strips and make sure they are in the correct visual order.  Keep the first strip on the far-left side, then stretch the last strip all the way to the end on the right.

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Step Six:

Now simply stretch the other strips equally between the ends of the paper.  When you have them evenly spaced apart, glue each strip down.

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Step Seven:

Now the fun begins!  Students should use a regular pencil to draw in the missing picture between the strips first, then add color.  Use any medium you want to fill in the blank spaces between the strips as accurately as you can.  We found colored pencils and oil pastels worked well together.

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Step Eight:

Oil pastels bring a bright pop of color to the design.  They also add a little realism to the optical illusion when students blend the color with their fingers.

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Step Nine:

It’s helpful to let students see their project from across the room as they work.  Viewed up close the picture may look a bit strange, resulting in some giggles from the class.  Held up a few feet away, the optical illusion comes together, and they can see their added design brings the strips into a cohesive image, resulting in many “oohs” and “aahhs”.

Step Ten:

The stretched art project makes a wonderful bulletin board display in the classroom.  I used a black background to make the illusions stand out for the viewer.

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For an extra challenge, have students remove more strips to leave larger empty spaces.  More creativity and problem solving will be needed to fill in the blank areas with their drawings.

This activity is also a great beginning for a writing lesson.  My students wrote similes and metaphors about their pictures since we are learning about figurative language in class.  An Iditarod themed narrative story is a great choice or a how-to procedural text about the entire art process: the possibilities are endless.  We had great fun creating our optical illusions, but the Iditarod stretched art project has the added bonus of recycling and reusing obsolete calendars destined for the trashcan.

Iditarod S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d Art Lesson Plan

View our slideshow to see our gallery of Iditarod illusions:

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Get your gear for the 2016 Last Great Race on Earth™.  Be prepared for the upcoming school semester by ordering your new Iditarod calendar from the online store now.

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Later this week we will celebrate the holidays while learning about some special features of the Iditarod race.  We will be comparing and contrasting two books with a unique take on the Christmas classic, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.

Musher’s Night Before Christmas, by Tricia Brown, tells the tale of a team of determined Iditarod huskies who must help Santa deliver gifts to Nome during a snowstorm.  Texas Night Before Christmas, by James Rice, is a Lone Star State version of the classic tale with southwest themed imagery; cowboys, cowgirls, and a sled pulled by eight longhorns.

The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

I will be joined this year by a few talented teachers from my school, Eanes Elementary, here in Austin, Texas.  We will be sharing STEM and STEAM hands-on lessons based upon the Iditarod theme with conference attendees.  We hope to see you there!

A Turkey on the Trail

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Turkeys in disguise while training for the 2016 Iditarod

In honor of Thanksgiving this year, my class disguised paper turkeys as husky dogs and mushers preparing for the 2016 Iditarod.  They wrote about their plans for escape from the farm in first person narratives. This time-honored school tradition involves a lot of creativity, humor, and great writing.  What a perfect way to save a turkey from a horrible fate.  The farmer would not suspect a thing!

We brainstormed other ideas for our turkey disguises as well.  How about a moose on the trail?  Some of my students created polar bears, and snowflake disguises for their turkeys.  All of these creative ideas have a great tie-in to the study of Alaska and the Iditarod race.

If you are a teacher with an Iditarod Insider subscription, now is a great time to watch the musher videos preparing for the race.  This is a great source of inspiration for the writing project.

A Turkey on the Trail Narrative

Turkey

Turkey in Disguise

The Turkey on the Trail Lesson Plan

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Make your turkey digital by using an app like Chatterpix for Kids to create a voice-over for an image of their finished project.  Students can record themselves reading their plans of escape in 1st person that allows the beak of the turkey to move.  This can be shared with parents or embedded on a teacher website.

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The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for teachers around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

I will be joined this year by a few talented teachers from my school, Eanes Elementary, here in Austin, Texas.  We will be sharing STEM and STEAM hands-on lessons based upon the Iditarod theme with conference attendees.  We hope to see you there!

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A Snapshot of Jeff Schultz

 

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A “snapshot” of Jeff Schultz biographies in the Iditarod classroom

We have been spending some time in class this last week learning about some of the people behind the scenes of the Iditarod that help bring The Last Great Race® to people around the world.

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Jeff Schultz on the Iditarod Trail – photo courtesy Bob Jones

When my students see the amazing photographs of the mushers and their dog teams along the trail, they ask me who captures these incredible images for all of us to enjoy.  I shared with my students this week that Jeff Schultz, celebrating 35 years as the official Iditarod photographer this year, is the reason we can share in the Iditarod experience in such a special way.

Jeff’s photographs can not only be seen on the Iditarod site, they grace the covers of magazines, calendars, and books all over the world.

To teach my students about the life of Jeff Schultz and his work, I created a simple “biography snapshot” booklet complete with a camera cover and six pages with guiding statements or questions to write and illustrate.  We used Iditarod website articles about Jeff to learn fascinating details about his life.  This lesson was created to be completed with illustrations by our kindergarten buddy class.

Lesson Plan – A Snapshot of Jeff Schultz

Primary Grades – Gypsy’s Jeff Schultz Iditarod Research

Upper Grades – Jeff Schultz Iditarod Research

(View our Q&A at the end of this post or open and print the PDF below for your class research:

Jeff Schultz Q&A with the 2016 Iditarod Class – PDF

We used our biography research from the Iditarod site to write about Jeff Schultz, and then we visited our kindergarten buddy class and shared our information with them. We asked our buddies to illustrate the pages with us.  The results are a wonderful collaboration research project that can easily be adapted for primary or upper grades.

Biography Snapshot Camera Cover

Biography Snapshot Page #2

Biography Snapshot Page #3

Biography Snapshot Page #4

Biography Snapshot Page #5

Biography Snapshot Page #6

Biography Snapshot Page #7

Jeff Schultz

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Jeff Schultz and Iditarod Memories

I am excited about my special time as Teacher on the Trail™ in March, and I am especially looking forward to seeing Jeff in action while I am there.  I was curious about some of the experiences from the trail from the teachers who have come before me, so I reached out to a few familiar faces to reflect upon a special, personal memory with Jeff Schultz with all of us.

Andrea “Finney” Aufder Heyde, 1999 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

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“Finney” 1999 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ (2nd from left) at the Jr. Iditarod – photo by Jeff Schultz

Andrea Finney Aufder Heyde, or “Finney” for short, was the very first Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ almost 18 years ago. Her courage and independent spirit started this special program, and I will be forever grateful.  She shared a special memory with me from that very first year with a picture of her taken by Jeff Schultz from the Jr. Iditarod.

“Some of the volunteers at Yentna Station! My first sighting of the Northern Lights was here when I was up with the young mushers!!”

Terrie Hanke, 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

“In 2006, as the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, I was assigned to fly with Jeff and his pilot, Danny Davidson. At any moment in time, Jeff might point at something and Danny would bank sharply to get Jeff in position for a shot. Danny’s plane was specially equipped with a flip up window for Jeff. So after banking sharply and getting into position, Jeff would flip that window up and click, click, click.  Sitting directly behind Jeff, I got the brunt of the frigid air at roughly 100 miles an hour. I learned very quickly that the only way to stay warm was to fly in full gear. Let’s face it, if Jeff was shooting something, so was I. The only difference was that I had a little Canon point and shoot while he was using a Canon with a mega zoom lens capable of showing whiskers on dogs at 800 feet.”

Photos (above) taken by Terrie Hanke. Read about Terrie’s article about Jeff Schultz on the Iditarod site.

Read Terrie’s full article about her time on the trail with Jeff Schultz here:

Jeff Schultz article

Martha Dobson, 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

“Two great memories of my 2011 year–getting to fly with Jeff for a day while he took photos for the race. Because I flew with him, I got to a number of checkpoints I wouldn’t have seen otherwise: Shageluk, Grayling, the primitive checkpoint of Eagle Island, and Kaltag. I also took one of my favorite photos during the race there in Shageluk, a four year old girl exchanging nose kisses with one of Paul’s dogs.  Another fun memory is getting to work with the Pee Team in Takotna. They invited me to help collect urine specimens, and Jeff took photos of that.

Linda Fenton, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

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Linda Fenton, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™  and Jeff Schultz – photo by Terrie Hanke

“I saw Jeff a lot on the trail.  He was tireless and focused on his work.  It was fun watching him find just the right spot for his shot.  The picture (above) was taken in Nome.  I was posting and Terrie was taking my picture.  He just sat down and joined me for the shot.”

Jen Reiter, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

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Jen Reiter, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ – photo by Jeff Schultz

“I was most struck by how much of a true team he and his people are.  It’s just another piece of the “team” mentality that gets this whole race down the trail: the volunteer team, the mushers and their dog teams, the judging team, the Insider Crew team, Jeff and his people.  There are lessons to be learned about teamwork in all facets of the race.

That and that I knew if I watched where he stood to take pictures, waited until he walked away and then stood in the same spot I could get some pretty good shots myself! 

At the Volunteer Potluck Supper after the race, he presented a slide show of close to 200 photos from the race.  They were amazing. But what was even more amazing was the story that he was able to tell about every single one.  It’s amazing how what seems to be such a simple picture can become so much more when you have the story behind it.

Jeff Schultz Q & A with the 2016 Iditarod Class:

IMG_0662Q: How many years have you been taking pictures for the Iditarod?  

A: I photographed my first Iditarod in 1981 and I’ve been the Iditarod’s official photographer since 1982

Q: In the Iditarod, do you go to every checkpoint?

A: I’ve been to every checkpoint. Each year I try to go to each one. Sometimes I miss one or three.

Q: Have you ever taken a picture under water?

A: no

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Q: How did you get inspired to take photos of the Iditarod?

A: I met the “Father of the Iditarod” Joe Redington Sr. in 1979 and he got me interested in it.

Q: Why do you like to photograph the northern lights?

A: It’s a unique phenomenon that does not happen everywhere.  So it’s fun and a challenge to make photos of them. 

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Q: Who inspired you to be a photographer?

A: I found that I had a God-given talent of composing photos and I was good at it.  My brother-in-law Reggie Miller encouraged me to follow my passion when I was 14.

IMG_0655Q: How many pets do you have?  Are dogs your favorite?

A: No pets, but dogs are my favorite 

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Q: How many books about the Iditarod have you taken pictures for?

A: My photos have been published in 8 or so books on the Iditarod.

Q: What colors have you seen in the northern lights?

A: Red, purple, green and yellow

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Q: When did you start taking professional pictures?

A: I was 14 when I got paid for my first assignment… taking photos at a 25th year wedding anniversary, but I became a full-time professional in 1982.

Q: Have you ever been in an airplane while filming the northern lights?

A: No, but that’d be cool.

IMG_0656Q: Have you ever gotten frostbite on the trail?  

A: No, by the grace of God.

Q: When you were a kid, did you follow the Iditarod?

A: No.  I had no idea what the Iditarod was until I met Joe Redington Sr. in 1979.

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Q: Do you take pictures outside of Alaska?  Where? 

A: Not really.  Only when I’m on vacation and it’s just for fun then. 

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Q: Have you ever been a musher in the Iditarod?  

A: no

IMG_0653Q: Do you live in Alaska?  How long have you lived there?

A: Yes, I live in Anchorage.  I’ve lived here since I was 18.  I moved up 3 months after graduating from High school.

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Q: Who flies you around during the Iditarod?

A: Great volunteer pilots fly me. I typically have one dedicated pilot fly me.  Over my 35 years, I’ve had 3 main pilots… Dr. Von Mitton DDS, Sam Maxwell and most recently Danny Davidson.  Sometimes I get rides from other volunteer Iditarod air force pilots

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Q: Do you open the door or window to take a picture during the race?  

A: 95% of the time I open the window to take photos. 

IMG_0643Q: How long do you seen the northern lights during the night?  And what is the longest time you have seen them in one night?  

A: I have seen them last only a few minutes sometimes, and I’ve seen them last for 6 or more hours. 

Q: Have you ever taken a photo of a shooting star?

A: Yes.  Sometimes, when making long exposures of the night sky, a shooting star will fly through the frame.  It’s only by luck that happens. 

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Join me and three exceptional Eanes Elementary School teachers at the 2016 Winter Conference for Educators

The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for teachers around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

I will be joined this year by a few talented teachers from my school, Eanes Elementary, here in Austin, Texas.  We will be sharing STEM and STEAM hands-on lessons based upon the Iditarod theme with conference attendees.  We hope to see you there!

Testing Your Iditarod I.Q. With STEM

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Checking our Iditarod quiz answers using STEM and circuits

The 2016 Iditarod class has been learning about informational text and graphic features in my language arts class.  We used the Scholastic book Mush! Sled Dogs of the Iditarod by Joe Funk and the Iditarod.com site to help us learn all about the history and fascinating trivia and facts of the Last Great Race on Earth®.

Each student put their STEM knowledge of circuitry to good use and created an “Iditaquiz” from their research to test the Iditarod knowledge of others.  Heavy duty aluminum foil, wires, a D cell battery, and a small light bulb were used to check the answers, called a “light-right.”

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Creating and sharing our Iditarod knowledge

We have learned that even store-bought foil is a conductor of energy, and it will create a simple, closed circuit.  A hole is made in the paper, with aluminum foil underneath it, which then acts as the conductor.

Regular masking tape was used to cover each piece of foil that connected the correct answer to the question, which insulated the “circuit” from other foil pieces.

My students had great fun creating what they called, “fake-out” circuits to fool the quiz taker.

I created templates for my students to use to hand write the Iditaquiz tests, and we had true/false, multiple choice, or matching as options.  My class had great fun learning new and interesting facts about the Iditarod, testing their knowledge, and then creating quizzes for others.  The science of circuitry made it more interactive and engaging.  Print the templates below and begin to create your own “light-right” quizzes.

Test Your Iditarod I.Q. With STEM

Light Right Quiz – True False – With Lines

Light Right Quiz – True False – No Lines

Light Right Quiz – Multiple Choice – Word

Light Right Quiz – Multiple Choice

Light Right – Matching – Word

Light Right – Matching

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Create and test your knowledge of the Iditarod with these templates

In our study of informational text features, like many teachers, we use sticky notes to write down interesting facts we find, or trivia information we want to use in our research.  There are many great apps that can turn your paper sticky notes into “digital” sticky notes on your computer or tablet.  Why is this helpful?  A digital sticky note saves money and paper in the classroom and can easily be shared between users in a free classroom set-up by the teacher.

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Google Chrome has an add-on app called “Sticky Notes” that allows you to add “digital” sticky notes onto your desktop computer as you research a site.  The “Post-It® Plus” app scans your notes, creates a computerized version of them on your tablet or device, and allows you to save them under different group titles.  These useful tools allow your students to research and save their information for expository writing, without having to keep up with little notes of paper.

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This week is our annual Eanes Elementary School STEM Day.  My class took research of the Iditarod Trail from Iditarod.com and is creating its own fantasy version of the trail on our playground.  We will use the rolling robot Sphero, nicknamed Snowball, to travel our course.  Students program the Sphero on any device and give it directions by directly programming it through coding skills.  This will involve ingenuity, creativity, patience, and passion.  Stay tuned!

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Current Events in the Iditarod Classroom:

People often ask me how I integrate the Iditarod theme into my regular classroom curriculum and still meet my state standards and district and school expectations.  Well, the answer is that it is really easy to do!  This week we integrated a little of the Iditarod theme into the Dia de Los Muertos holiday.

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The 2016 Iditarod class celebrates Day of the Dead with our ofrendas, or offering

Here in Texas, this special holiday came to us by way of Mexico long ago and is a popular and beloved time of reflection for many.  The Day of the Dead replaces the gore and silliness of Halloween and instead celebrates, with love, the lives of those we have lost.  Altars are created in homes, candles are lit, and treats from the Mexican bakery are set out to encourage the souls of loved ones to visit.  Decorative sugar skulls are popular with children of all ages over the three days of events, and they are a way to show that the holiday is a joyous time for celebration.

To help celebrate this special time, I sent care packages to a few of my friends who may be familiar to many Iditarod fans.  Linda Fenton, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, and Erin Montgomery, 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ and her dog, Dixon, enjoyed their Day of the Dead gifts including sugar skulls and t-shirts.

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We usually celebrate this special day by creating dancing human sugar skulls with our names in symmetrical form in math class.  This holiday, however, we changed our creations to Day of the Dead dancing husky dogs.

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Our symmetrical Day of the Dead husky dogs

I created templates for our Day of the Dead sugar skull husky dogs, and we used tissue paper and decorative art with markers to create the look of icing found on a real sugar skull from a bakery.  In math class, we created the symmetrical version of our names to make the rib cages of our dogs.  We then added the bones from my templates and glued them on black paper.  The results are fun, whimsical, and in keeping with the “spirit” of the day, with a little math thrown in for good measure.

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The Day of the Dead Dancing Husky Dog Lesson Plan

Husky Dog Head

Husky Dog Ears

Husky Dog Lower Legs

Husky Dog Upper Legs

Husky Dog Hip and Tail

My class was very fortunate to have the aunt of one of my students come share all of her memories from childhood in Mexico with my students.

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Miss Denise sharing all of her family traditions with us for Dia de Los Muertos

Do you want to enrich your classroom holiday celebration with Dia de Los Muertos next year?  There are many wonderful children’s books available for the classroom teacher to enrich the understanding and meaning of the holiday.  I found that one book in particular, Day of the Dead Activity Book by Karl Jones, not only teaches about Dia de Los Muertos, but it also comes with a pull-out altar in the back, complete with sugar skull stickers.  Just punch it out, set it up, and you are ready to celebrate!

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The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for teachers around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

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The Sphero and the Iditarod make a great STEM connection!