Big-Enough Anna

This lesson was written with fifth grade standards, but easily moves up or down grade levels. Students use foldables to analyze the book. The book can be ordered from the author’s web site below.

This book is a biography for children. It’s by Pam Flowers, with Ann Dixon, and it’s about Pam’s 1993 2,500 mile trans-Arctic journey and an unlikely little dog who saved the expedition. Pam is the first woman to travel this trip, a trip which traced the1923-34 route of explorers Knud Rasmussen, Anarulunguaq, and Miteq. Anarulunguaq was a young Inuit woman of Greenland whose job was to drive the dog teams, interpret, cook, mend, sew, and help Rasmussen collect information about the culture and history of Inuit people in Canada and Alaska. In fact, Anna the dog is named for this young woman.

When Pam talked to us at the Iditarod Summer Camp, she told us the story of her journey and of Anna’s adventure. I was enthralled by the challenges Pam and her team faced and dealt with—the trust in each other to keep going where one led, whether it was the musher or the dog, and the determination to finish what they started.

Pam writes books and travels to present at schools. Visit her web site for more information. Pam also wrote an autobiographical accounting of the trip for older readers and adults titled Alone Across the Arctic.  Still an adventurer, Pam hiked the Appalachian Trail, approximately 5 million steps, with her black lab named Ellie. Look for a new book coming out about Ellie’s adventure.

Mushing on,


Fill Your Sled!

This sled is filled with book titles students read in one quarter.

Fill Your Sled! is the theme for my year as the Target® 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™.  I plan to give you ideas, lessons, activities, photographs, and messages to fill your sled with for your classroom. The Iditarod is a teaching tool, and you can look forward to information that’s going to help you use the race to teach those skills students are learning. I teach middle school language arts, but you’ll find lessons and ideas for all ages and all subjects. You may find a lesson for one subject lends itself to a different subject like I did with a physical education lesson by Terrie Hanke, the Wells Fargo 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We did the activity, then wrote a summary and evaluation of it.

And, you’re going to find that as you use this teaching tool, your classroom and personal sleds are going to fill with unexpectedly wonderful experiences and ideas. Share them with others during the year by sending them to Diane Johnson at

Start filling your sled with the pieces of artwork below. No need to worry about getting permission to use clip art! Created by Michele Turner, art teacher at my middle school, you may use them for educational purposes. Many thanks to Michele!

 I’ve used the sled dog as a group management tool in my sixth grade middle school classes. Each group gets a laminated paper with the sled dog on it. Inside the dog I wrote ON TASK. Under that, I wrote YES and NO, spaced apart from each other. As groups work, I move around the room, marking tally marks under the YES if the group is on task or NO if the group is off task. This maintains their focus or refocuses students without the teacher having to say a word. Mark with a Vis-à-Vis marker which wipes off easily.

Enlarge the dog or sled or team for bulletin boards or decorating the wall. My sixth graders fill a giant sled pulled by the dog with book titles they’ve read each quarter. The “books” they write on are small, laminated “books” which are cleaned and used for the next quarter of school. Your students could fill the sled with character traits, goals they set for themselves, or progress they make in any subject.  If your school still has an opaque projector (this is going far back in time!), use it to enlarge the artwork to gigantic proportions.

Here’s another classroom management idea. It’s important for students to have the correct materials for class with them and at hand. Make a written list of materials for your students, but instead of posting a “Materials” list for students to read and gather, post a list on your board called “Gear List” or, as I do, “Gear on Desk”. We talk at the first of the year about the importance of the mandatory gear a musher carries in the sled bag, why the musher must have these items and what might happen if an item is missing. See the race rules, page 7, Rule 16 for the mandatory items list. Students connect this mandatory gear to the mandatory gear they need to have on their desk when class begins. Writing the items on the list reduces or eliminates time spent retrieving them from desks, lockers, within the room, or in the students’ notebooks. This list also helps students learn the value of organizing their notebooks and materials so they are quickly prepared to begin work, just as mushers organize their sled bags to eliminate wasting race time or dog care time hunting for that item that they knew they had somewhere, if they could just find it!

Mushing on,


Iditarod Connections–Amazing!

Since I started using Iditarod as a teaching tool in the classroom, I’ve been surprised and amazed by the connections the race has made for me. First, the connections the race makes for my students. The race, the mushers, and the dogs catch the students’ interest and provide real-life examples of the skills the students need to master. Students use the information to make connections to what they are learning and to their own lives, finding similarities and differences in their lives and their surroundings. And, in our school’s very first Idita-Read, the student who turned in the 1,049th book, our Red Lantern winner, adopted musher Phil Morgan to follow during the race, the 2005 Red Lantern winner in the race.

Second, the race connects me to others in unexpected circumstances. In June, I met Gail Somerville, an Anchorage teacher whose class received a quilt from my middle school team via Jane Blaile’s quilt project during Jane’s tenure as the Target® 2008 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. There’s one connection.

Believe it or not, I made two connections on a bear viewing trip in Homer, Alaska. Our bear guide, Dave, commented on my Iditarod ball cap on my daypack, so we began talking about the Iditarod and my position as the 2011 Target® Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. Turns out he handled dogs at the 2006 race start for Tollef Monson. As we talked about this, another trip client began talking about my position and telling all of us what I would be doing this year. I was amazed! Everything he told us was exactly right! He explained that as a college professor in California, he used Target® for his students to study regarding branding of a company. He knew all about the application process, the competition for the finalists, the responsibilities of the teacher, and Target’s® areas of philanthropic support, including education. Here is also a connection to higher education. Iditarod isn’t only for elementary students!

Then, when I returned to North Carolina July 5, I found an email from a teacher who met a colleague of mine in Cancun on vacation. Through this connection, this New Jersey teacher learned about the Target® Iditarod Teacher on the Trail, is now learning about the Iditarod and planning to use it as a teaching tool. She says budget cuts prevented the purchase of some math textbooks, so she is looking for real-life examples and sources for her students. Wonderful!

Make connections for your students, teachers, and the public. Learn to connect the race, learning, and education standards for your classes. Share this site’s address with others, post it on your school web page, and in your classroom. You will find, as I have, that Iditarod Works!

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Traveling Alaska with Bullseye

Bullseye is in the pack, waiting to start his train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier.

While I was in Alaska, I had the chance to sightsee, and what a place Alaska is to sightsee! Everywhere you turn, whether driving out of Anchorage to the Glenn Highway or headed to Homer on the Seward Highway, there are mountains with snow, or moose along the road, or wild irises and chocolate lilies growing. It’s a photographer’s heaven! No shortage of subjects for the camera in Alaska.

Bullseye, Target’s mascot, went with me, peeking out of my pack or clipped to it from his stuff sack. Bullseye is wearing his parka, but to cool him off in June and July, I pulled his hood back. He appreciated that! Did you know that dogs do not sweat from the skin? They cool themselves by panting. Not sweating from the skin is an advantage in cold climates because there is no sweat to cool and freeze on the skin or fur, unlike horses or ponies. In Captain Robert F. Scott’s attempt to reach the South Pole in 1911, he used Shetland ponies to haul supplies which became a problem for his expedition due to how those animals cool their bodies. The sweat froze in the hair of the ponies.

Bullseye traveled on the Alaska Railroad’s Whistle Stop tour to Spencer Glacier, took a float trip on the river, flew on a 1956 De Havilland Beaver, and saw brown bears, up close, in Katmai National Forest. Enjoy the pictures!

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