Iditarod Traveling Quilts

Quilt squares-remnants of fabric that by themselves are of little use, but sewn together, they become protection against cold, works of art, and expressions of individuals and the times they live in, achieving something that no one square could achieve.

Team members- individuals who, on their own, may be of little help in achieving a goal, but joined together for the common good achieve a goal greater than any one part could.

Quilt squares : Team members :: Join together : Achieve a Goal

An analogy for the race and for life 

There are seven traveling Iditarod Quilts visiting schools around the country this year. The squares are made by teachers who attended the Summer Iditarod Teacher Conferences or by people at schools who hosted quilts. My school has had two quilts to visit, one a couple of years ago, and the second one earlier this fall.

Quilt, as each quilt is called, hung in our school display case along with my sled, and we spent a couple of days observing Quilt and the sled, writing about each and designing our own quilt squares. Recently, after some lessons in word processing, students entered and formatted their sled paragraphs. This is a good way to practice formatting skills and following directions to format correctly. The next part of our activity will be to revise the quilt square designs and create a paper quilt on bulletin board paper. The students’ quilt square designs were inspired by the squares on Quilt in the display case, so designs include encouraging quotes, sleds, mountains, and dogs.

Keep checking on the For Teachers link for more Quilt postings.

Mushing on,


Word Processing and Iditarod

As a sixth grade English/language arts teacher, one of my responsibilities is to teach students word processing. By sixth grade, most students are familiar with the mouse, the delete button on the keyboard, and have a general idea of where the letters are on the keyboard. Formatting a document, though, is something they usually aren’t familiar with, and to prepare them for 21st century learning, they need to know how to do this.

This lesson and its skills were written for sixth grade. Each document is about a different aspect of the race—mushers, awards, and the Junior Iditarod race. Included are pdfs of the document to format, how the document should look after formatting, and directions for formatting each document. Skills used are justifying and centering text, capitalization, indenting, single spacing, cutting and pasting, highlighting, deleting, spell check and grammar check, and entering text.

The first day we’re in the computer lab, we work through the musher document together as I assess where the students are with their skill level. Each student has a copy of the directions for formatting that lesson in front of them, and teaching this is aided by projecting the image from one monitor via LCD projector. During the second lesson about race awards, students work slightly more independently, and by the time they get to their third lesson about the Junior Iditarod, they can usually work independently.

A couple of tips—I teach from the back of the computer lab where I can easily see everyone’s monitor and know at a glance how their work is going. At my school, the technology facilitator put these documents on the school’s shared folder for students to access, and we discovered that sometimes Microsoft Word wants so badly to capitalize words that it wouldn’t “hold” what should be wrong so the students can correct it. After a few tries, it held. Other subject areas could teach Excel or Database using Iditarod information, too.

Mushing on,


Take Iditarod to Your Community

Morgan checking out a rare snowfall in our area of North Carolina.

Whenever the Iditarod is mentioned, folks are curious to learn more about the race and the athletes, both canine and human. Of course, I am excited to tell them about my trips to the race starts in Alaska, what I know about it, and my upcoming trip for the 2011 race. The most frequently asked questions for me are: “Are you running a team in the race?” (No, I’m flying along the route during the race in bush planes.); “How long is the race?” (Officially, it’s 1,049 miles, and the first mushers arrive in Nome around day 9 or 10.); “Do you have a sled dog?” (Yes, I adopted a Siberian from our local shelter.); and “Does she pull a sled?” (No, she pulls me on our very fast walks.) In the upcoming months, I’m visiting schools around North Carolina, public libraries, and 4-H to talk about the race and its use as an education tool. In the past year, I’ve spoken to Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs and retirement homes, too. You can bring Iditarod home to your community, too, through service leadership projects.

Decorated with miniature booties and tags with checkpoint details, musher ornaments and information, and snowflakes.

My students have a yearly opportunity to decorate Christmas trees in our local museum, and each year they decorate trees with an Iditarod theme. Sled dogs and sleds, musher ornaments,  miniature sled dog booties, gifts with informative Iditarod gift tags under the tree serve to tell our community about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Have your students practice research skills on the Internet to find information to put on their ornaments. Look at an earlier posting on this site to find pictures of a sled and dog you can use for an ornament pattern.

One year my classes participated in the Books to the Trail project, bringing loose change to pay for Scholastic books we ordered. Students planned the purchase from a couple of book orders, determined to get the most books for the money. Visit and the For Teachers link to learn more about this project.

Zuma, the K-9 reporter for the Iditarod issues a service leadership challenge each year. Visit Zuma at and on Facebook at!/profile.php?id=1708954606. Serve animals in need in your area by collecting loose change to donate, or old clean towels, newspaper, or pet food. Your local animal shelters and rescue organizations may have other needs—check with them to see if office supply donations or other items are helpful to them.

When you’ve finished your project, write it up and send it to Diane can get it posted on the Iditarod website for folks everywhere to read and be inspired by your work. Enjoy taking Iditarod to your community.

Sled dog bootie information for the Christmas tree

Mushing on,               


Taking Care of the Iditarod Dogs, Writing, and Sequencing

Buddies at the 2010 vet check

The dogs of the Iditarod are athletes and get the kind of training and health care human professional athletes get. Volunteer vets man the race’s checkpoints to examine teams as they arrive throughout the race. These dogs have been cleared physically by a pre-race exam which includes bloodwork, EKG, and a physical exam. This article, Caring for Dogs of the Iditarod, details the care they receive before and during the race.

Three days before the race start, there is a final vet check opportunity at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, AK. All the dogs here have already cleared their labwork and EKG and receive the final physical exam on that day. Fans enjoy watching the vets and dogs, meeting mushers in person, taking photos, and interacting with the dogs.

This lesson about sequencing is written for first grade. It includes pictures from the 2010 final vet check for students to use in sequencing and writing a book. The article above gives teachers background information to familiarize them with healthcare for the dogs.

Not a primary grade teacher? Here are some more ideas for upper grades, including high school, for you.

1) Make an Iditarod Trail game using this cube pattern. Put photos of the vet exam on cube faces. Number each photo. Use a trail map and advance a sled dog playing piece (or colored button or coin) along the trail’s checkpoints based on the roll of the cube.

2) Write a description of the vet check exam from the dog’s point of view.

3) Research physical exams for people and dogs. Compare and contrast these exams in a formal paper. Cite sources.

Mushing on,