Jr. Insider Crew

“We are so often caught up in our destination that we forget to appreciate the journey, especially the goodness of the people we meet on the way. Appreciation is a wonderful feeling, don't overlook it.”  - Unknown

“We are so often caught up in our destination that we forget to appreciate the journey, especially the goodness of the people we meet on the way. Appreciation is a wonderful feeling, don’t overlook it.” – Unknown

If you do not have an Iditarod Insider subscription yet, now is the time for you to subscribe. You and your class will have the opportunity to view videos, follow mushers through GPS tracking, watch live broadcasts, and view the live finish in Nome. Having an Insider subscription is not required for this lesson, but it will allow students to access an extensive amount of information. During the race my class will be taking on the role of the Jr. Insider Crew. This lesson keeps students involved in the race while producing quality writing, videos, and social media posts.

The Jr. Insider lesson will be continuous throughout the race. There are seven jobs for our Jr. Insider Crew to complete. Each day the groups will rotate to a new job. Every day we will begin by watching the featured video clip of the day on the Iditarod website. Each group will then be assigned their Jr. Insider job for the day which include; Blogger, Twitter, Video, Leaderboard, and Temperature. The students will then explore the website for updates on the race. In their groups they will be able to view video clips, check out the live GPS trackers, analyze the leaderboard, and read the various blogs on different race topics.

The Bloggers will be posting a blog updating our audience on the race. They will focus on the previous day’s news updates. They have the option of writing a story about a musher, a checkpoint, the leaders, the red lantern musher, or any topic they feel is newsworthy. Kidblog is a safe and easy blog site for your students to use in class. An excellent feature of this blog is that the teacher must approve the blog before it can actually go live.

If you don’t have access to any blog sites, create a homemade blog wall outside your classroom. Students can handwrite their blogs and post them to your “wall.” You could keep Post-it notes nearby for other students or teachers to comment on their posts.

The Twitter group will be posting live race updates in the form of tweets. The group must share at least six tweets using #iditarod15. They are able to post updates on the leaders and any important race news. If you are unable to use Twitter in your district, create a Twitter “wall” in your classroom. Make a wall in your classroom replicate that of a Twitter wall. Students can post their handwritten tweets to the “wall.”

There will be three groups creating video clips. One group will create a short video clip on the leaders of the race. Another group will create a video clip on the current checkpoint the leaders are going through. The third group will create a video clip on the mushers near the back of the standings. My students will edit their videos using WeVideo. In their video clips they will need to provide race information to our audience. An enhancement for your video clips could be to shoot your video in front of a “green screen” and edit the video to make it appear the students are actually reporting from the Iditarod trail.

The Leaderboard group is in charge of updating the leaderboard. They will need to update the place each musher is in, the checkpoint they have most recently checked through, and the number of dogs each musher is running. You can have your students create a leaderboard using Google Drive and then share the link to Twitter. Another option is to create a large leaderboard poster to hang in the classroom.

The Temperature group will be finding temperatures for different places along the trail. One location students will find is temperatures for the nearest checkpoint to the leader. Students will also find the temperature for the nearest checkpoint to the Red Lantern musher. Finally, they will find the temperature for the nearest checkpoint to our class musher, Cindy Abbott. The students will provide both Fahrenheit and Celsius for their temperatures. An option is to also include your hometown’s temperature to discuss the difference in temperatures.

This lesson is another way to keep your students engaged in the race while still working on their reading, writing, speaking, and technology skills. Even if you don’t have access to some of the social media from this lesson, there are different options for you to still complete this activity. Again, I highly recommend subscribing to Iditarod Insider. It will enhance this lesson as well as provide you with quality race coverage.

Jr. Insider Lesson Plan

Jr. Insider Activity Worksheet

“Jamaica, We Have a Dogsled Team!”

"It all has to do with the individual journey." - Ziggy Marley

“It all has to do with the individual journey.” – Ziggy Marley

The Iditarod has an impressive historic value that it brings to the state of Alaska. Not only does it have historic value, but it also shares rich culture among all the countries that participate in the race each year. Including the United States, there are 8 countries represented in this year’s Iditarod. One country not represented this year that has been represented in the past is Jamaica. Most people probably think this is strange due to the differences in climate, but to Jamaica, they are adding to their own culture and bringing their unique culture to Alaska.

My class just finished studying the Caribbean Islands, another great opportunity to tie in the Iditarod. This common core aligned lesson gives students the opportunity to determine how culture in Jamaica and Alaska are affected by having a Jamaican dogsled team. We started the lesson by reviewing the components of culture; language, religion, music, sports, etc. The focus for our lesson on culture is sports, so we listed the sports that the students know are a part of Jamaica. Two sports were missing from our list; bobsledding and dogsledding. The kids’ response was obvious; the climate is not fit for this type of sport. After discussing this, the students read an article and watched a video clip about Jamaica’s first bobsled team. After discussing what the students read and saw on the video, they were assigned a writing assignment to defend how they feel the first bobsled team affected the culture of Jamaica.

We discussed the writings the next day and the students were put into groups for the next part of the lesson. In their groups students read about Newton Marshall, the Jamaican musher. The next task involves the students displaying the information they learned about Newton. The groups will create an interactive image using a free web tool called Thinglink. Using Thinglink students are able to choose an image to represent a specific topic, Newton Marshall. They are then able to add additional images, videos, sounds, and web links to the image in the form of an icon on the image, making the main image interactive. Remember when using images from the Internet to remind your students of copyright infringement. An easy way to make sure your students are using free images is to use Google Images. There is a tab titled Search Tools, click this, then click on Usage Rights. This will allow you to choose labeled for reuse. Now you can use images and not break any copyright infringement laws.

When the groups are finished with their Thinglink, they will share their interactive image with me and with one other group in the class.  Thinglink allows students to share their image with a variety of social media sites, but  they can also just share the link with their teacher. Each group will view another group’s Thinklink about Newton Marshall. After viewing an image, the students will complete another writing about culture. Check out the student example below.

If your class does not have access to computers to work on Thinglink, think about creating an interactive image by hand. Students can draw a picture that represents Newton Marshall. Where an icon would be on Thinglink taking the audience to an image or video, have students create a flip book. When a viewer flips up a piece of construction paper, another drawing is presented. If you have students that work faster than others, have them create an additional Thinglink on the first Jamaican bobsled team.

Since my class just finished studying the Caribbean Islands, it was a perfect fit. However, it is not necessary to study the Caribbean Islands to complete this activity with your class. The students in my class loved the connection between the Iditarod and Jamaica as well as working with a new web tool. As the Iditarod nears, consider looking into the other countries that are involved in The Last Great Race.

Jamaica Lesson Plan

Cool Runnings Reading

Jamaica Culture Writing Part 1

Newton Marshall Reading

Newton Marshall Thinglink

Jamaica Culture Writing Part 2

Making Inferences with Quotes and Photos

“Memories are but a journey we take in our minds, but relive in our hearts.” - A. Grant

“Memories are but a journey we take in our minds, but relive in our hearts.” – A. Grant

This week’s Iditarod Trivia Tuesday posed questions about Jeff Schultz, official photographer of the Iditarod. Continuing with the theme of photography, this lesson will focus on interpreting quotes and inferring their meaning while using photography. To begin this Common Core aligned lesson you will have your students brainstorm quotes they remember or often quote from movies. After compiling a list of quotes, have your students make note of the quotes that they feel have a bigger meaning.

There are many famous quotes that can be interpreted many different ways. In fact, we can interpret quotes to fit our own life experiences, or even Iditarod experiences. The next step in this lesson is for your students to discover a quote that represents an Iditarod picture. Choose a picture ahead of time from Jeff Schultz’s 2014 Iditarod photo album to display on your board. Note: Due to copyright laws you cannot reproduce these images. In small groups, students will search for a quote on Brainy Quote that represents the  image. Once students find their quote they will complete the Making Inferences with Quotes and Photos Worksheet analyzing the quote they chose. The worksheet challenges students to infer the meaning of the quote by asking a series of questions. Does the quote remind you of something? How can you apply these words to your own life? How does this quote relate to the Iditarod? After sharing the quotes with the class, your class will have a list of quotes that represent Jeff Schultz’s image.

To culminate this lesson students will have the opportunity to snap their own photos. Allow your students a couple of days to find the perfect images.  Your students will be required to snap eight pictures, each picture representing a different letter of the word IDITAROD. Finally, using the web tool, Livebooklet, your students will create a flipbook of their images including a quote for each image. Your students should be able to defend their decision of each quote they chose. The final product will be shared with the teacher via email and can also be shared through social media.

If your students don’t have access to cameras, allow them to do a drawing of their picture. Encourage your students to be creative while shooting pictures. Maybe take a selfie with the item/place of the picture they are taking. Possibly have your outstanding photographers print their images out and display them in the library. Think about hosting a Photo Exhibit with all of the pictures and quotes that represent IDITAROD.

Click here to see an example IDITAROD flipbook.

Making Inferences with Quotes and Photos Lesson Plan

Making Inferences with Quotes and Photos Worksheet

IDITAROD Photography Instructions


Teaching “Theme” with Hobo Jim

“Without music, life is a journey through a dessert.” - Pat Conroy

“Without music, life is a journey through a dessert.” – Pat Conroy

Hobo Jim

Hobo Jim

No matter what age, grade, or skill level, analyzing the theme of a story or book is a difficult task. It requires students to make an inference. This higher order thinking skill can be quite challenging. A fellow teacher of mine noticed her Literacy students were having trouble grasping theme. She turned to something almost all kids enjoy, music. She determined that using T.V. show theme songs could help them master this skill. As we talked about this, my mind turned to the Iditarod. Could this be done using an Iditarod themed song? Well, of course, and the song would be I Did the Iditarod Trail by Hobo Jim.

This Common Core aligned lesson can be used with any grade level. To grab her student’s attention she played the theme song to the T.V. show Friends. It was pretty easy for the students to pick up on the theme of this song, friendship. However, when you look at the beginning of the lyrics with no music, it appears quite depressing. Adding the music, the tone of the singer, and the chorus, we can easily determine this song is about friendship.

Before actually listening to Hobo Jim’s song, students complete a close reading using the lyrics of the song. This concept is for the students to analyze the lyrics and identify the words and/or phrases that support the theme of the song. Students will use the Song Lyrics Analysis Worksheet during the close read. While analyzing the lyrics they will discuss the mood of the song and how it makes them feel. This will help determine the theme. What do you think this song is saying about life? Is there something to be learned? Or, is the writer of the song trying to teach you something? After determining what they feel the theme is, the students must defend their choice by highlighting the evidence in the song. Any words or phrases that support their choice should be highlighted. After a class discussion it’s finally time to listen to the song.

The next part of the lesson is individual practice for the students. Have your students choose a book they are currently reading or have recently finished. Students will determine the theme of their book and choose a song they feel could be the “theme song” for this book. To defend their choice, students must highlight the evidence in the lyrics of the song.

If your students are really creative, they can actually write their own theme song (parody). Have your students choose a song  whose music they like and rewrite the lyrics of the song. Your students can then use GarageBand or Audiotool to put the lyrics to the music.

To extend this lesson, make it cross curricular. Have your physical education class do a square dance routine listening to the song. Diane Johnson, Iditarod Education Director and 2000 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, asked her P.E. teacher to devise square dance steps for I Did the Iditarod Trail and the students performed the dance. View the steps here. Involve the music class by having your students learn the song and perform it for an upcoming concert. Social studies students could map out the places Hobo Jim has performed. Math students might analyze the measurement of time in the song. Using the song, science students learn about the effects music has on the growth of plants.

Music is an excellent subject to incorporate into your lessons. Just chatting with my friend about the difficulty of understanding theme of a story, many lesson ideas incorporating music evolved. I love music, so incorporating it into my classroom is no problem. I hope you take the opportunity to bring the idea of song, especially Hobo Jim’s I Did the Iditarod Trail, into your classroom.

Teaching Theme with Music Lesson Plan

Song Lyrics Analysis Worksheet

Iditarod Square Dance Steps

Click here to learn more about Hobo Jim and purchase a CD.

Tales from the Trail: Special Delivery

This year, two mushers will be carrying special packages on their sleds to make a special delivery in Nome.

In order to promote vaccine awareness, Martin Buser and Aliy Zirkle will carry vaccine from Anchorage to Nome.  Vaccines are given to children to help prevent various diseases.  This event is being organized by Lisa Schobert, Vaccine Coordinator and Dawn Sawyer, PA.  The I DID IT BY TWO: Race To Vaccinate program has been working hard to encourage people to have their children immunized.  The program has done several events to promote their cause including providing dog jackets for the Iditarod race dogs on start day, giving families mushing themed charts to track their immunizations, and many more.  The I DID IT BY TWO slogan is to remind families:

I  – Iditarod

DID – Did you know that children need 80% of their childhood vaccines by age 2?

IT – It can seem a little complicated keeping up with recommended immunizations, but the payoff is big!

BY – by immunizing your children on-time by age…


Lisa tells me that she chose Martin Buser to help with the project because he has worked with the I DID It By Two group before and is a great spokesman for the campaign.  He will be carrying the DTAP.  This vaccine is given to children between the ages of  two months and six years.  The DTAP is a vaccine given to children to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).  The organizers think that with Martin’s playful personality, he may actually pass the vaccines off to other mushers to carry down the trail!  That would be in keeping with the spirit of the original serum run which was actually a relay.

Aliy Zirkle was asked to participate because Lisa wanted a front line contender, and with second place finishes in the last two races, Aliy certainly meets that criteria.  Knowing how competitive she is, Aliy will most likely put the vaccine in her sled and run her race!  She will be carrying Tdap vaccine which is used for adolescents and adults.  Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and is used for people aged seven and older.

Each musher will get a box of ten vials to transport and they can package them however they would like to.  Each box weighs 2.3 ounces.  This made me think of the classic, “Can you package an egg and drop it off the roof?” science experiment.  So here’s a little Iditarod themed twist on that activity:  Protect that Vaccine

Here are some photos to share with your kids to show what the vials will look like:

The temperatures that the vaccines are stored at are very, very important.  If the vaccines are not kept between 35-46 degrees F they cannot be given to patients.  Lisa explained to me that if the refrigerator door is left open or someone goes in and out of the refrigerator a lot, the inside temperature can be affected.  They use a Data Logger to continually monitor the temperatures of the vaccines as they travel from one location to another.  The logger, which is similar to a thumb drive, can record temperatures for fifty-six days. Then when the vaccines and logger arrive at their final location, the data can be loaded onto the computer and the temperature information can be displayed in a graph form.  My class has been given a data logger to experiment with, but you can replicate this with a basic thermometer and a refrigerator at home or school:  Keeping the Vaccines Cold

Obviously, to many people, the Iditarod has come to serve as a reminder of the 1925 Serum Run.  That was not Joe Redington, Sr.’s main objective though. His main goals in establishing the race were to project the sled dogs and their role in the culture of Alaska and to save the historic Iditarod Trail.  The Serum Run definitely has a huge role in the history of Alaska and the history of the Iditarod Trail, so it’s kind of neat to see this event as a way to bring the message of the importance of immunizations to villages on the trail.  Here is more on the history of the race and the reasons it started from Katie Mangelsdorf:  Bustingmyth

The go-to picture book for kids to learn about the Serum Run is the Great Serum Race by Debbie Miller.  You can also join the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for a Distance Learning Program about Balto. I wrote about that here: LINK

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a great PDF file you could print to give some kids the story behind the Serum Run.  It even has a picture of the original vials to compare to the ones Zirkle and Buser will be carrying this year:  LINK

Here’s a Venn Diagram you could use to compare the Serum Run with the modern trip the vaccines will be taking with Aliy and Martin this year.  VennDiagram

For a writing piece, students could write and record radio spots, like public service announcements for the I DID IT BY TWO Campaign.

The official Press Release is here:  January Press Release – Vaccine

You can learn more about this project here:  LINK

I will have more information soon about other mushers who are “mushing for a cause” or using their Iditarod runs to bring awareness about causes near and dear to their hearts!

Animal Heroes Everywhere

Alaska races sled dogs.

In Maryland we race horses.

Alaska has stories about heroic dogs.

We have stories about heroic horses.

My school and I wanted to send greetings to the schools along the trail as a way to kind of let our schools meet each other and to show a connection between schools that are so far apart, and yet have so many commonalities.

My boys and I have been talking all year about the similarities and differences between Alaska and Maryland.  While there are obviously many, many differences, we did find several similarities.  Alaskans race sled dogs. There are different styles of racing dogs – sprint, marathon, etc.  There are many sled dog races throughout the state, the biggest one obviously being the Iditarod.  Here in Maryland, we race horses.  There are different styles of racing horses – speed, agility, steeplechase, sulky, etc.  There are many tracks and many races in Maryland, the biggest being the Preakness which is a part of the Triple Crown.  We have also learned the names and stories of many of the dog heroes of the Iditarod Trail.

Here at Gilman, we all know the story of one particular horse hero above all others.  We all know the story of Goliath, one of the brave horses who helped saved the city during the Great Baltimore Fire.  We all know the story, because one of our very own teachers, Claudia Friddell, researched and wrote a picture book telling Goliath’s story.

So, naturally, Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire became the perfect good will wish to send down the Iditarod Trail.  This week, each of my third graders paired with one of Mrs. Friddell’s first graders to write a letter to accompany a book down the trail to a new school.

We hope the students will enjoy learning about one of our heroes as much as we have enjoyed learning about theirs!

A is For Iditarod!

A is for Iditarod!

“What?” you ask.

A is for Iditarod.

Because the Iditarod awesomely takes place in Alaska and starts in Anchorage!

One of my favorite books to share with my students is A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatigan.  My third grade boys always roll their eyes when I tell them I am going to share an alphabet book with them – they are WAY too cool for that you know.

But, by the second page they are hooked!

This book is a funny way to show the kids how to play with language, use humor in writing, and teach them a lot about musk oxen!

We used the book as mentor text for our own version of the book A is for Iditarod.  The boys worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and then we combined their ideas together into one book.  We created illustrations, bound them, and then presented them to our kindergarten little buddies as a gift!  It’s a great way for my boys to get some practice reading orally and for the little buddies to learn a little more about our Iditarod obsession!

You can see a fippable copy of our book via Youplisher here: A is For Iditarod Book

Here is a copy of the brainstorming sheet my boys used: A is for Iditarod