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

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.     

Something to Do While You Follow Me!

When I arrive in Alaska around February 22, I’ll post often to keep you in the loop about what I am doing and what is going on with the race. And, when the race starts March 6, I’ll post daily about the race and teachable moments.

The NUMBER ONE question I’m asked is: “Don’t you get cold in Alaska?”   To help others Outside of Alaska understand the cold, I’ll post the temperature and wind speed daily on my site while I’m in Alaska. By the way, Outside refers to anywhere not in Alaska, and usually to  the other states of the U.S. Use this information for the following activities to figure out if I’m getting cold! (Don’t worry. I’ve got all the right gear to keep from getting cold!)

  • Elementary–Color a paper thermometer which shows your area’s temperature and another one showing the temperature I posted. Write the temperatures correctly.
  • Elementary–Make a chart or graph showing the temperatures I post.
  • Middle School—Use the lesson plan I posted in Coordinates for Your Sled-The Math Trail to make a 2 or 3 line graph plotting and comparing the temperatures I post and your area’s temperatures.
  • Middle School—Relate positive and negative numbers to the temperatures I post and the temperatures in your area.
  • Secondary—Convert the Fahrenheit temperatures I post to Celsius, and then back again. It’s a great workout for your brain! (Don’t use the converter program, use brain power.) http://www.albireo.ch/temperatureconverter/formula.htm Accessed 12.27.201    

 Fahrenheit to Celsius  

    Celsius to Fahrenheit  

     

  • Secondary—Calculate windchill and use those algebra skills. I’ll post the temperature and the windspeed daily during the race. You calculate the wind chill for a REAL brain workout. http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/basics/windchill/wind-chill-formulas.htm Accessed 12.26.2010
  • Any age level—Research and learn about Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures. Write a paragraph or paper or create a power point show about the history of how these different ways of measuring temperatures came to exist, why scientists use Celsius more than Fahrenheit, which countries use Fahrenheit more than Celsius, what Celsius used to be called, etc.
  • Read Sanka’s postings on Zuma’s Paw Prints. This K-9 reporter includes weather and climate information in his postings.  http://iditarodblogs.com/zuma/

Mushing on,

Martha

Iditarod is Coming! Fill Your Sled Now!

(Keep on reading to find some ideas of activities for your students to do.)

Mushers carry the following mandatory items in their sleds during the race. I bet you can make this list relevant to what students need to be prepared for their job of school.

  •  Proper cold weather sleeping bag weighing a minimum of 5 lbs.
  • Ax, to weigh a minimum of 1-3/4 lbs., handle to be at least 22” long.
  • One operational pair of snowshoes with bindings, each snowshoe to be at least 252 square inches in size.
  • Any promotional material provided by the ITC.
  • Eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use.
  • One operational cooker and pot capable of boiling at least three (3) gallons of water at one time.
  • Veterinarian notebook, to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint.
  • An adequate amount of fuel to bring three (3) gallons of water to a boil.
  • Cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing dog team.
  • When leaving a checkpoint adequate emergency dog food must be on the sled. (This will be carried in addition to what you carry for routine feeding and snacking.)
  • http://iditarod.com/pdfs/2011/rules.pdf

Right now, mushers are preparing for the race by freezing and bagging their dogs’ food for the race, planning and preparing their people food and supply bags, running their teams on daily training runs and in races like the Copper Basin, the Sheep Mountain 150, or the Gin Gin 200. I am always curious about names, so I researched how the Gin Gin 200 got its name.

Who was Gin Gin?
The Gin Gin 200 is named after a remarkable dog who dominated a dog kennel for over 10 years. She was an inspiration both on the trail and in the dog yard. She was a dog with unswerving loyalty and stubbornness. She did not know” quit”. Her ability, drive and attitude should serve as an example to dog drivers everywhere.  http://www.gingin200.com/ accessed 1.1.11

Fill your classroom sled with some of these ideas to get your class prepared for the Iditarod.  Choose one way or several ways, or think of your own way to connect your students, your curriculum and the race.

  • Start now visiting www.iditarod.com and  http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/ , the For Teachers section of that site for ideas to use. There is an exciting lesson plan idea using the Blabberize website on the For Teachers section. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/
  • Read Zuma’s Paw Prints at the For Teachers page. Zuma and other K-9 reporters give you information about the race. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/
  • Adopt a musher(s) and use this form to chart his/her race progress. http://iditarod.com/pdfs/teacher/MusherDataSheets.pdf Scroll down to find the southern route chart. The southern route is run in odd-numbered years. The race data is free and is found on www.iditarod.com.
  • Create a race route map along your classroom’s walls or down your hallway and move your adopted musher(s) along the map. This link takes you to the race map and access to a list of the mileage between each checkpoint for the southern and northern race routes. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/2009/11/21/maps-of-the-iditarod-trail/
  •  Teach a novel or read books about the race or related topics. Find books to choose from on these lists.  http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/iditarod-books/
  • Math problems for elementary and middle school are in December’s posting on this site.
  • Teach students to convert the 24 hour clock time, used to report race times, to 12 hour clock times. Great mental exercise!
  • Temperature charting, wind chill calculation, converting temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius and back again. (See my posting on this site titled Something to Do While You Follow Me! for details)
  • Watch the free Iditarod Insider videos or sign up for this special video view of the race. You and your class can see what’s happening in the race via these clips. http://insider.iditarod.com/

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.