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

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.

 

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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.     

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.