What to Wear in Alaska

THE box arrived a week ago. THE box I’ve been waiting for contains an anorak, arctic boot and a mukluk to try on for size. Target® provides my anorak and arctic boots, and now is the time to get the right sizes ordered. Terrie Hanke, the 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, sent me her gear to try on. My gear will be similar to hers. I’m also having fun finding plunge mitts with a leash to keep these North Carolina hands warm. (Explore the Internet and search for plunge mitts to see what those are.)

 People ask, “Don’t you get cold?”, but dressing in layers of the right gear helps prevent getting cold. Layers of long johns, fleece, insulated snow pants, a down coat under the anorak plus mitts with liners and a hat all work to keep me comfortable. The technology applied to fabrics and materials to meet the challenge of cold temperatures while making it possible to move easily in the gear is amazing.

 Students at my school watched this video on the TV announcements, and my sixth graders were amazed at the size and lightness of the boot. So was I! Quite a few of my students hunt, or their family members hunt, so they are familiar with dressing for the cold, and enjoyed their hands on experience with this gear.

Sled Dog Genetics

Taz poses in retirement, 2007, Dream a Dream Dog Farm, Willow, AK

Breeding dogs to achieve the desired characteristics is a science for mushers. They breed dogs with these characteristics, looking at the dogs’ backgrounds of their “ancestors”. One line, descended from Togo and Leonhard Seppala’s Siberian huskys who ran the Serum Run of 1925, is called the Seppala Siberian.  Visit this site http://www.seppalas.com/index.htm to find out more about the Seppala Siberian, which is considered a natural dog. Be sure to visit the page about the Seppala Standard, because this shows the characteristics formed by nature and function that define a Seppala Siberian. The page called What is a Seppala traces the breeding history of this working dog.

Another type of dog that mushers breed is the Alaskan husky, the result of breeding to develop a faster dog with northern dog characteristics and the physical attributes of the working sled dog. Most mushers have the Alaskan husky. When I first saw an Alaskan husky, I was struck by how they looked like a mutt—you can see the Siberian and northern dog characteristics in them, but also the characteristics of a hound. (A mutt is a mixed breed dog, and I use the term with all respect to this husky.) The Alaskan husky is smaller than the Siberian or malamute, making it a faster dog. Although not recognized as a pedigreed dog, mushers carefully plan breeding of this dog to produce the desired results.

Some mushers prefer to run only Siberians, so watch Blake Freking’s team or Karen Ramstead’s team to see Siberians in the Iditarod. Jim Lanier runs only white dogs on his team. Wonder what kind of genetic planning that entails to get so many white dogs?

This lesson for middle school focuses on physical characteristics of sled dogs. A genetics worksheet is included, and a website address for video and information about sled dogs. These pictures can be used with the lesson which addresses eye color, straight or floppy ears, and bushy tails in dogs. Many thanks to Susan Harrington and my husband for explaining genetics to me and helping me develop this lesson.

Mushing on,


Brochures, Research, Cite Your Sources!

This lesson plan addresses several different skills for students. It’s written for sixth graders, but can easily move up in grade levels. Most eighth graders write a term paper, and this lesson introduces younger students to doing research both on the Internet and using print media in preparation for the term paper. Skills covered are evaluating websites for accuracy and reliability, technological skills to search for information, taking notes, ethics in using information found on the Internet and in print media, and the proper format to cite sources. This is a great time to introduce plagiarism.

Before starting their research, discuss with students the qualities of a reliable, accurate source, whether it’s a print media or Internet. Also discuss what copyrighted material is, how they can identify it, and why they cannot copy and paste it without permission from the author. The same applies to photographs, artwork, and clipart. When we did this project, we got permission from the website or the photographer to use certain photos.

These brochures were “made by hand” for several reasons. Scheduling enough time in the computer lab to do them on the computer was not possible; for some students, trying to format a newsletter on the computer would be too challenging; entering text takes them a long time as most have not learned correct keyboarding skills; and I wanted them to enjoy the creativity of design, colored pencils/crayons, and decorating.

The brochures pictured unfold in the center and students had the entire inside to fill with information and photographs or artwork. On the back of the brochure, they cited their sources. We used MLA format because that is what they would use in eighth grade and in high school.

Mushing on,