Math, Language Arts, Art, and the Junior Iditarod 2.28.11

Temperature in Anchorage, 27°F, wind speed 12 mph

Calculate wind chill using this formula.

Wind chill temperature = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75V (**0.16) + 0.4275TV(**0.16)

In the formula, V is in the wind speed in statute miles per hour, and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit

In downtown Anchorage I see the Chugach Mountains in the distance. Last night the wind increased so that snow scoured the roads in serpentine patterns, s’s in the snow. Have your students use context clues to figure out what serpentine means. Read the italicized sentence aloud to have them notice alliteration. Illustrate the snow scouring the roads under clear, starry skies, birch trees and snow edging the road from Willow to Wasilla.

Yesterday the Junior Iditarod champion realized he was in first place when he didn’t see sled tracks crossing the lake, the final approach to the finish, in front of him. What a surprise for him, and his family met him at the banner, the crowd yelling ecstatically for Jeremiah Klejka (say clay-kuh). Jeremiah won a sled, snowshoes, equipment, and a college scholarship. I had met his family the night before at Yentna, and it was fun to see them greet the second Iditarod winner in their family. His sister, Jessica, won in 2008. His brother, Jesse, competed this year also, finishing sixth.

Enjoy the photos of the Junior and “like” the Iditarod’s Facebook page for more information.

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Fill Your Sled with Transportation 2.27.11

Yentna Station Roadhouse 2.27.11, 4 degrees

Iditarod Air Force plane

 Temperature Updates Wasilla 2.26.11, 12 degrees, windchill -1 degree

The Junior Iditarod started yesterday at Knik Lake, (say ka-nick) near the homestead of Joe Redington, Sr., Father of the Iditarod. The 14 -17 year old mushers, 14 total, raced to Yentna Station Roadhouse to spend their 10 hour layover around the traditional bonfire. Race volunteers (timers, HAM radio operators, vet, race marshal, and support volunteers) traveled to the roadhouse on the frozen Yentna River by plane and snowmachine to provide race support. I flew in with an Iditarod Air Force pilot, Phil Morgan, the musher with whom I rode as an Idita-Rider in 2005. People traveling on the Yentna can get a meal or a place to sleep at the roadhouse, buy gas and oil, or get their snowmachine repaired.

The photos today are of different transportation modes that I used at Yentna yesterday. Some ideas to use these photos: order them in chronological order from oldest mode to most recent mode of transportation; use a photo for a writing prompt; write a story from the snowmachine’s point of view; describe the musher’s trip to get to Yentna Station; research gas mileage of snowmachines and calculate how much gas is needed for a 75 mile trip; research airplane history.

Junior Iditarod Race Weekend 2.25.11

The thirty-fourth running of the Junior Iditarod race start is Saturday, February 26. The field of 14 mushers, ages 14-17 years old, departs Knik Lake at 10 a.m. with mushers leaving every 2 minutes. This 150 mile race from Knik Lake to Yentna and then to Willow is a qualifying race for the Iditarod, ending Sunday, Feb. 27.

Mushers take a 10 hour rest at Yentna, and were warned to expect temperatures of  minus 25°F. I’ll be at the race start and then will fly to Yentna to view the race, spend the night, and  head back for their finishers’ banquet.

Like the Iditarod mushers, these young mushers will have GPS trackers on their sleds. You can track their race progress on by clicking on Iditarod Tracker on the right side of the home page.

Lynden is a major sponsor of the race, providing scholarships to the top five winners. Other awards recognize the Red Lantern winner, the Rookie of the Year, and the Sportsmanship trophy recipient.

Local businesses provide items for the mushers and the race as well.

Mushers and their parents met late Friday afternoon for the mandatory musher meeting. Paperwork was completed, the trail and its markers described, and the mushers drew their starting positions.

Visit to find out more about this race and to follow it this weekend. Don’t miss it!

More than a Building for Education 2.25.11

Temperature in Wasilla, high 32°F, winds 5 mph

During my school visits the past two days, I’ve noticed that the schools are more than the place young people attend to learn. These buildings serve as community centers, a place for families and students to gather and take part in activities outside of school hours.

At Willow Elementary, the roller skates in the storage room roll once a month when the Lions Club sponsors a skate night in the school gym. The ice skates get use on the hockey rink at the school, and there is a school cross country ski club which meets after school hours. Driving into Larson Elementary, the school sign announces the school’s progress in their Idita-Math Trail competition and that movie night is coming up soon.

Of course, the schools serve as institutions of learning, too. Willow Elementary students also complete an Idita-Math Trail. First graders explained that their class’s progress along the Idita-Math Trail, which goes down one side of a hall and up the other side, is based on the students doing their math homework every night. And, if someone doesn’t do the math homework, it slows the team’s progress. Sounds like a fun way to encourage students to practice their math skills!

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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 (,  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.

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.