Checkpoint Checkup: Rohn to Nikolai

"Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering." - Santosh Kalwar

“Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering.” – Santosh Kalwar

We took a break in Rohn in our last Checkpoint Checkup. It’s time for our mushers to get moving again.  This section of our journey is approximately 75-80 miles and will take about 10-15 hours. This part of the trail can be broken down into three sections; Rohn to the Farewell Burn, across the Burn to Sullivan Creek, and then Sullivan Creek to Nikolai. Since this is such a long run, some teams will give their dogs a long break along the way and others will take several shorter breaks.

Mushers can look forward to some beautiful scenery along the way, but some challenges will arise also. First, teams must contend with some harsh winds. As mushers are traveling along the Kuskokwim River, they will meet winds in excess of 40 mph, usually head on. This part of the trail also includes sections of glare ice. Glare ice is ice that has a very smooth, glass-like surface.

Egypt Mountain from the sky.

Egypt Mountain from the sky.

Eventually, the dogs and mushers will  run through the Buffalo Chutes. Since being moved from Canada in 1965, hundreds of bison roam this area. It is on this part of the trail mushers will see Egypt Mountain which is approximately 3000 feet high. Once past Egypt Mountain, mushers will run into a difficult section of overflow. Overflow occurs when the ice gets so thick that the water has nowhere to go and pushes up over the ice. Overflow can be very challenging to cross. Mushers will soon be at Farewell Lake. After about five miles they will head past the Old Pioneer Roadhouse. According to Don Bower’s trail notes, this is an original stop on the old Iditarod. He also notes that you can still see ruins of a couple of cabins there.

View of Denali.

View of Denali.

Mushers are now in the second major section of their journey to Nikolai, the Farewell Burn. The Farewell Burn is the location of one of the largest forest fires in Alaska history. In 1978, a forest fire  destroyed about one million and a half acres of forest. Mushers will be traveling through this land for about 40 miles. Initially, after the fire, this part of the trail was very difficult due to all the burned trees and limbs blocking the trail. The Bureau of Land Management has since cleaned this area up. With the absence of trees, mushers can see what seems like forever. During the day mushers have the hope of seeing a magnificent view of Denali.

After a very long straightaway, the trail will go in and out of the treeline until arriving at Sullivan Creek. There is a bridge here for mushers to use to cross the creek. Good thing, because usually the creek is open water and pretty deep.

Section three of this part of the trail is Sullivan Creek to Nikolai, about 21 miles. The last 12 miles of this section is marked and maintained by the Nikolai villagers. This will be a quick run, flat and fast through the woods, swamps, and lakes. The mushers have made it to Nikolai. Most of the tough part of the trail is behind them, but they better not let their guard down, because anything can happen.

Nikolai is the first Native Alaskan Village along the trail. Nikolai is an Athabascan village that was settled during the Gold Rush. Originally, it was the site of a trading post and roadhouse that connected the Ophir Mining District to the Cook Inlet. Present day Nikolai has approximately 100 people living in the village.

Traditionally Athabascan people have lived in the Interior along the Yukon, Tanana, Susitna, Copper, and Kuskokwim (Nikolai) rivers. Today they live throughout Alaska.  Children in Nikolai are taught the many Athabascan Cultural Values. Athabascans are taught respect for all living things as well as village cooperation, respect for land, sharing, and respect for Elders.

The school in Nikolai.

The school in Nikolai.

The first time I spoke with the students and teacher/principal at Nikolai it was their lunch time. Immediately I noticed cultural values being practiced. Sitting in the midst of the 12 students of the Top of the Kuskokwim school (Nikolai) were several Elders. The Elders frequently lunch with the students, a wonderful opportunity to share stories with young children at the school.

The Top of the Kuskokwim school is part of the Iditarod School District. There are about 200 students served in seven different communities. None of these schools are accessible by road. My students were amazed when they found out there were only 12 students in the entire school, kindergarten through 12th grade. Even though this is a small school, they have many opportunities. We met a student who was using his lunch time to engage in a virtual flight simulator. My students thought that was awesome. Students in grades 7-12 have the opportunity to take aviation classes. With limited access to roads, air travel is important. Studying for a future career at this young age is a perfect opportunity for students.

Timothy's (from Nikolai) writing about working during the Iditarod.

Timothy’s (from Nikolai) writing about working during the Iditarod.

This school district also integrates its culture into their curriculum. The first two weeks of school are spent at Fish Camp. Fishing is crucial to their lifestyle, and it is imperative children learn this lifestyle. Students also learn the health benefits of cross-country skiing. Another opportunity the students have is Culture Camp. Here, students learn leadership and communication skills by blending Western Science with Native knowledge. The Nikolai students also complete a large unit on the Iditarod, very fitting since they are located on the trail and for a couple of weeks each year it’s a huge and exciting part of village life. Besides studying the Iditarod, the students help during race time. According to young student, Timothy, “There are four jobs when the Iditarod happens. I’ll tell you one job. It’s taking shifts. There is a morning, afternoon, and all night shift. Morning shift is cooking brunch for the mushers. Afternoon shift is cooking lunch for the mushers. All night shift is cooking dinner for the mushers and cleaning up the school.”

Ideas for the Classroom:

1. Read through the list of Athabascan Values.  My school has a list of values that we expect all students and staff to abide by: PRIDE (Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Excellence).  Examples of these values are holding doors open for others, walking down the correct side of the hall, acting appropriately at assemblies, turning in work, respecting all students and adults, getting to classes/practices on time, etc. Is there a set of values that your school follows? Choose one Athabascan Value and one of your school’s values. Compare and contrast the two values.

2. How do you think a student in Nikolai could display your value? How do you think you could display an Athabascan Value at your school?

3. How can your value be displayed by a musher running the Iditarod?

4. How can an Athabascan value be displayed by a musher running the Iditarod?

5. Draw a picture of portraying your value and a picture portraying the Athabascan value.

To read more about the trail from Rohn to Nikolai read Sanka’s Virtual Trail Journey or Don Bower’s trail notes.

Mystery Skype

“When we embrace uncertainty, honor it, and welcome it, the mystery of our journey unfolds with grace.” - Unknown

“When we embrace uncertainty, honor it, and welcome it, the mystery of our journey unfolds with grace.” – Unknown

Skype is an incredible tool teachers have at their fingertips allowing them to communicate with other classes and speakers around the world. Skype in the Classroom provides teachers with opportunities to share lessons, join lessons, and find guest speakers for their classrooms. A very popular Skype in the Classroom lesson is Mystery Skype. My class recently held a Mystery Skype with the village of Nikolai. Nikolai is a small village along the Iditarod Trail. Tuesday (11/11/14) I will post a Checkpoint Checkup sharing information about Nikolai.

The objective in a Mystery Skype is to ask yes or no questions about location to determine where the other class is located. The questions should be centered around geography (directions, latitude/longitude, equator, bodies of water, mountain ranges, etc). The classes take turns asking each other questions while trying to locate each other.

A Mystery Skype does not necessarily have to be with another class. The reason we chose to do a Mystery Skype with Nikolai was to start a relationship with that class. My class will  communicate and work with the Nikolai class over the next couple of weeks. This is a great way to start a relationship with another class as well as analyze the geography of their location. Jen Reiter, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, held a Mystery Skype with a friend and Iditarod volunteer in New York, live from Central Park in front of the Balto statue.  Maybe you have a friend or family member living or vacationing in Alaska. Have this person work with your class on a Mystery Skype. Another idea is to contact the museum in Cleveland, Ohio, home of stuffed (preserved and mounted) Balto. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History offers a distance learning program called Balto: A History of Humans, Huskies, and Health in Alaska. This program teaches students about the disease diptheria and how instrumental Balto was in the famous Serum Run. Balto reminds us how important sled dogs were in the history of Alaska.  Preserving the use of these great athletes is why Joe Redington started this amazing race, the Iditarod. Participating in the distance learning program also provides students the opportunity to try on authentic Iditarod gear. Any Mystery Skype can turn into an unlimited amount of future assignments and projects to do with the other class.

One of my students working with Google Earth trying to locate the other class

One of my students working with Google Earth trying to locate the other class.

When my class participates in a Mystery Skype, students are assigned specific jobs to complete during the Skype session.

Jobs: These can be modified to better fit your classroom. The following jobs are used in my classroom:

Greeters: The greeter introduces the class to the other class. Make sure the greeter doesn’t tell them the location of your class. Do identify the grade and subject of your class.

Q&A: This job is to ask the questions your class has for the other class. Q&A students will also answer any questions from the other class. Remember, questions must be yes or no. The Q&A person (or group) should be receiving new questions from the New Questions group as you are working.

Recorder: The recorder  keeps track of all the questions your class asks the other class and records the answers on the board. This helps the other students work and determine their next question.

Videographer: This person takes video clips of your Skype session.

Photographer: The photographer takes pictures of your class working during the Skype session.

Google Earth: This job requires students to use Google Earth to narrow down the other class’  location. This group works with the New Questions group.

Mappers: The mappers use the class Atlas to narrow down the other class’  location. They also work with the New Questions group, as well as with the Google Earth group.

New Questions: This job requires students to work with the Google Earth and Mapper groups to create yes/no questions to ask the other class.

Runners: The runner runs (walk fast) the next question to the Q&A group.

Bloggers: The bloggers create a blog about the Mystery Skype with the other class. Our class’ blog will be posted to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Twitter: This group is in charge of creating live tweets during the session. They will use #mysteryskype in each tweet.

When on Skype- look for Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ to Skype with me and/or my class and/or contact me by email for additional information.

Mystery Skype Lesson Plan

Mystery Skype Jobs

Checkpoint Checkup – Skwentna to Finger Lake

 . 68 68 "We're on a journey here, and we don't have a road map." — Ralph Brennan


“We’re on a journey here, and we don’t have a road map.” — Ralph Brennan

 

If you are following our journey of checkpoints, you know we were just at Yentna Station.  Our journey will take us up the trail 30 miles to Skwentna.

Welcome to Skwentna Checkpoint.  Most of the trail to Skwentna is on the Yentna River.  The population in 2010, the latest census, was 37.  Skwentna is another checkpoint at which the teams are coming in very close to each other. All volunteers involved at this checkpoint have their job down to a science. This checkpoint is so organized, some volunteers compare it to a factory. There are four major jobs at the Skwentna checkpoint: veterinarians, comms (communications), the Darlings, and the Sweeties.

The Comms team is always progressing with technology. The volunteers on the Comms team do a fantastic job of getting information back to headquarters. The veterinarians must check each team that comes through Swkentna. The teams come and leave Skwentna very fast. To keep things running smoothly the vets need to be on top of their game when checking the dogs. The mushers, of course, are going to be in a hurry, but the vets need to do their jobs in checking the health of the dogs.

The Darlings run the river part of the checkpoint. This group takes care of setting up the area of the checkpoint where the teams come in, parking the teams, and they act as the checkers. Many of the Darlings have worked this checkpoint for years. Several of them worked directly along side of Joe Delia who hosted the checkpoint for many years.

The Sweeties, as they are affectionately known, are the cabin crew. Their job is all about food. The Sweeties take care of all the cooking. They cook for all the volunteers as well as the mushers. There is always food and a hot, damp cloth for mushers as soon as they enter Skwentna. In addition to cooking, the Sweeties take care of the dropped dogs. Who else would you want taking care of your dog than someone with the nickname “Sweetie?”

After a quick stop in Skwentna we continue our journey up the trail 40 more miles to Finger Lake, population 2.

This checkpoint is also operated by Carl and Kristen Dixon.  Kristen makes free meals for all the mushers passing through.  Finger Lake Checkpoint is actually on Winter Lake. Old timers call it Finger Lake because the lake is shaped like a finger.

The next part of our journey will take us through the infamous Happy River steps.  I hope you are excited. 852 miles to Nome.

Next checkpoint checkup: Rainy Pass to Rohn.

Glogster – The Iditarod, Machu Picchu, and Denali

"To travel is to take a journey into yourself."     - Danny Kaye

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”
– Danny Kaye

Many teachers always comment that they want to incorporate the Iditarod all year, but they don’t know how.  As a result, the Iditarod makes it into their classroom for a small amount of time.  It is very possible to teach the Iditarod year round while still teaching your other curriculum.

My students are currently studying the Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations.  During this unit we take a look at the history of Machu Picchu in Peru.  Many hike the 26 mile Inca Trail to the highest point, 4200 meters, Machu Picchu.  My class did some comparing and contrasting of Machu Picchu and the Iditarod.  We also added a third adventure, climbing Denali.

This lesson was done using the online tool, Glogster.  Glogster is a type of social networking site in which you create and share Glogs.  A Glog is an interactive poster that includes text, images, audio, video, etc.  Glogster can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom.  A couple different ways to use Glogs are having students create an interactive poster as a unit project or a teacher generated lesson.  For this topic, I created a lesson for the students to complete in groups.

Photo Sep 08, 8 31 38 AMAt the top of the Glog the assignment is posted clearly for the students.  The assignment is to view the Glog, making sure to click on all the links, images, and view all video clips.  When they are finished they are to individually answer two writing questions; 1. What do you feel all three adventures have in common?  Defend your answer with facts from the Glog.  2. Which adventure do you feel is the most challenging?  Defend your answer with facts from the Glog.

Check out the Glog here.

Photo Sep 08, 8 31 54 AM

With some glitches here and there with Internet connections, this lesson took three days.  We will then have a class discussion over the three adventures.  Our final task will be to get the perspective of someone who has climbed a mountain and has done the Iditarod.  Our class rookie musher, Cindy Abbott has summited Mt. Everest and has attempted the Iditarod twice.  We will ask her which was more challenging for her and why.

Glogster is a great way to incorporate technology into your lessons.  You are able to add so much more to your lessons.  My students are looking forward to creating their own Glogs.

International Sled Dog Race

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.

An easy way to give your kids a visual of where in the world the mushers are coming from, have them checkout the musher list and have them color in all of the represented locations on a map. Here’s a cool one I found that features both the states and the rest of the world:  http://www.travelsworlds.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/printable-world-map-with-countries-and-statesblack-white-world-map-with-countries-us-states-and-canadian-cej7ukat.jpg

Tales from the Trail: Eight Gold Stars on a Field of Blue

Stories from the Trail:  Eight Gold Stars on a Field of Blue

alaska_02_256Eight 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.

Alaska Flag Lesson

Skyping Stone Fox

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 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.

 

Tales from the Trail: Neither Rain, Sleet, Nor Snow The Mail Must Go

“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/

This second link includes an activity that challenges the students to decide what objects they would place in the Smithsonian’s exhibit.  http://finalistsforteacheronthetrail.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/libbys-sled/

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.

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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!

Smithsonian Sled Lesson

Mail Sled Lesson Materials

Sled Dogs of Denali

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 sign

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.

You can find more information about Denali’s Distance Learning Program here:  Denali Distance Learning

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

Going North – The Rush Is On!

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.

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!

Lesson Plan:  Going for the Gold

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The Great States Parade

“Fifty Nifty United States,

From thirteen original colonies,

Fifty nifty stars in the flag,

That billow so beautifully in the breeze,

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!

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Balto Lives WHERE?

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!

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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!

You can find more information or book your Distance Learning Trip here:  http://www.cmnh.org/site/ClassesandPrograms/SchoolPrograms/AtYourSchool/DistanceLearning/CMNH.aspx

The Adventures of the Traveling Quilt

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.

DSC_0429We 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 2013-09-23 08.41.11boys 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/

Resouces:

Quilt Tour Guide Application

Quilt Map Skills Sheet

Quilt Map Skills Sheet BLANK

Timing It All Out

We have officially begun our school year in 3A!  Here are some pictures of my final classroom set up… I hope you enjoy them!

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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

As the Trail Turns

Finding What Works in the Classroom 2.24.11

Temperature in Wasilla, late morning, 20°F, little wind

Teachers want to know what works in the classroom to facilitate student learning and to achieve growth in their learning. The research-based document,What Works in Classroom Instruction by Robert Marzano, Barbara Gaddy, and Ceri Dean (http://www.leigh.cuhsd.org/teachers/pdf/Marzano_Strategies.pdf),  is a good resource which explains the research behind classroom strategies and their effect. The effect sizes of various strategies range from .59 to 1.61. An effect size of 1.0 is roughly equivalent to one year’s growth in achievement. Please refer to the above article for a table of strategies and effect sizes.

Strategies that were found to strongly affect student achievement include homework and practice, setting goals and providing feedback, non-linguistic representation, summarizing and note-taking, identifying similarities and differences, cooperative learning, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, generating and testing hypotheses, and activating prior knowledge. The two highest effect sizes fell in the strategies of summarizing and note-taking and identifying similarities and differences. This site has helpful information about using these strategies.

http://www.tltguide.ccsd.k12.co.us/instructional_tools/Strategies/Strategies.html

Part of my job as the Target® 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is giving presentations to students in Alaska schools. I started those today.  The presentation gives students a chance to learn aboutsome  similarities and differences of Alaska and North Carolina. Letting students use a Venn diagram, Thinking Maps (double bubble or bubble maps) or write about the differences and similarities of the two states would be methods to carry out a strategy with a high effect size.

The Iditarod Race is a tool to use to create a lesson on note-taking and summarizing or on identifying similarities and differences. Perhaps your area has a sport or race which could be compared and contrasted with the Iditarod, or watch Iditarod Insider video clips to practice taking notes and then organizing those notes into categories. Maybe those categories could be more easily remembered by using non-linguistic representation, another strategy which can positively affect student learning.     

More Lessons & Ideas to Fill Your Sled!

August is upon us, and we teachers know the clock is ticking towards that first day of school. In July, I posted clip art to help you with bulletin boards, room decorations, and more. You got a great start with reading Big-Enough Anna by Pam Flowers, too. The lessons this month will show you how to apply an article in almost any subject and how to take a seemingly unrelated lesson and use it in your subject area. The first lesson, Using The Story of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, takes an article from The Learning Works, Inc. and shows you how to use it not only for reading and language arts, but for subjects such as science and history, and that it can be used with all ages, including adults. I use the article to introduce the race and its history to my classes each year, and I share it with adults and staff as a quick way to familiarize them with the race. Here are two sets of questions to use with the article, too. One focuses on reading for detail, and the other set is multiple choice informational text questions.

The second lesson is a physical education lesson plan by Terrie Hanke, the Wells Fargo 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, and shows how I adapted it for my English/language arts classes several years ago. This scavenger hunt got us running around outdoors, but it also taught cooperation and problem solving. We put the checkpoint names on the cards under the cones for student teams to find. When we finished the physical education part of the lesson, students wrote a summary of the activity’s procedures and an evaluation of the successes and challenges of the activity. The writing portion of the activity was completed over several days. One modification I made to Terrie’s lesson was to only have one team running the hunt at a time. We played our scavenger, or checkpoint, hunt outdoors on the softball field’s outfield to avoid conflict with PE classes in the gym or on other fields. This hunt is also a good way for students to become familiar with the names of the race’s checkpoints. Younger students can focus on writing directions for playing the activity. Secondary students should write clear, varied sentences with correct mechanics and show insight regarding the activity in their writings.

The photo of Togo was taken at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, Alaska. He is “stuffed”, having been preserved by a taxidermist. The statue of Balto is also at headquarters. It is identical to the one in New York’s Central Park. Read the article The Story of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to find out more about these dogs.

Fill your sled this year with your variations on my plans. Let us know what you do and how you do it!

Mushing on,

Martha

Lessons From Herb Brambley

(Under construction.  Links to be added soon.)

Lesson 1: Introduction to the Iditarod Sled Dog Race; Grades 2-8; Geography, Social Studies, and Science; This lesson introduces how climate relates to lifestyle and culture.

Lesson 2: The Alaskan Husky; Grades 4-8; Technology, Science; This lesson uses computer skills such as cutting, pasting, and saving a Word document as a vehicle to learn the unique characteristics of the Alaskan Husky. 

Lesson 3: Making Electricity from the Sun; Grades 4-12; Science, Technology, Geography, Environmental Education; In this hands on lesson students see how the angle of a solar panel in relationship to the sun’s rays directly effects voltage output.  The Internet is used to research the average hours of sunlight per day for locations across the globe.    

Lesson 4: Wilderness Survival; Grades 4-8; Social Studies, Environmental Education; Students actually build a debris shelter(or model) as they study the hierarchy of survival priorities.  Read Iditarod stories of survival from the book More Iditarod Classics.

Lesson 5:The Reason for the Seasons; Grades 2 -6;  Science, Environmental Education; Students learn about the tilt of the earth and the angle of incidents of the sun’s rays and explain the causes of seasonal change.

Lesson 6: Are We There Yet; Grades 5-12; Technology, Geography; Find out how far it is from your house to Alaska and how long it will take to get there driving, walking, or using public transportation.

Lesson 7: Why is Iditarod a Ghost Town ; Grades 4-12; Environmental Education, Social Studies; Students determine the best place to locate a village by evaluating several locations for available water resources, type of soil, signs of wildlife, and ease of travel.

Lesson 8: The Cold Hard Facts; Grades 4 and above; Technology, Science, Math;In this lesson students use an Excel spreadsheet to record temperature data from their local area and a location in Alaska.  They also use the graphing capability of Excel to create a graph that compares the 2 locations.

Meet Target® 2010 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™Herb Brambley

Herb Bramblely, Target® 2010 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

Herb, along with his wife Jamie, who is a librarian, live in a log home they built and now share with 3 huskies, 5 cats, and a mule.  Herb is a K-6 environmental education and technology teacher at Southern Fulton Elementary School in Warfordsburg, Pennsylvania.  He is also a part time grant writer for the district and has been instrumental in helping the school secure more than $115,000 for the environmental program and the nature trail.  Herb says he has the best teaching job anywhere and also the biggest classroom, since his classroom is the 140 acre school property of woods and fields, which also includes a pond, wetlands, and several streams.

Before becoming a teacher, Herb had a variety of occupations.  He was a farmer, blacksmith, farrier, sawyer, machinist and tool and die maker.  Having these experiences has enriched Herb’s classroom by giving him the necessary background from which to draw upon in order to make real life situations a part of the curriculum in his classroom.  What better way is there to give meaning to learning other than to use the lessons to solve problems students may face once they are in the real world?  Herb was also a Youth Conservation Corp Crew Leader for the United States Forest Service at the Teton Basin Ranger District in Driggs, Idaho.  That was one of the most rewarding and fun jobs he says he ever had.  Imagine getting paid to experience the Tetons and all the adventures they provide and, at the same time, teach students how to care for a fantastic resource so that it is there for future generations.  Speaking of future generations, the next generation has recently been added to Herb’s family by way of a grandson Zeke, and a granddaughter Ella.

Herb also volunteers his time to several community organizations.   He has been treasurer for the local soccer club for 20 years, and because of his extensive experience playing and coaching soccer, he also is a clinician at soccer clinics for coaches.  After receiving the necessary training, Herb became a Trail Stewardship Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Equine Council.    His skill and experience in building and maintaining trail has also led to a volunteer position with the Mid State Trail Association as a trail maintainer.

One project Herb’s school will be participating in this year is the “Books to the Trail” program.  Schools involved in this program hold a fundraiser to help schools in need receive books.

When Herb isn’t coaching soccer you can find him working with his Huskies.  He recently acquired a dog sled and spent a major portion of his spare time last winter viewing the blue ridge mountains of Central Pennsylvania from the back of a dog sled.

If you ask Herb, there’s no better way to travel than dog sled and it sure beats the noise and toxic exhaust of a four-wheeler or snowmobile.

If you ask us, there will be no better way to spend the 2009 – 2010 school year than being on the Iditarod Trail with the Target® 2010 Iditarod Teacher on the TrailTM Herb Brambley.