Fall Training Wisconsin Style

When I went to Michigan a few weeks ago, I met a young girl from central Wisconsin who was a member of the Wisconsin Trail Blazers – a sled dog club. Now I’m from Wisconsin, and I have been teaching about the Iditarod for 11 years, but I had no idea there was a club focused on the sport of dogsled racing about an hour away from where I live. Today they sponsored a race in Pearson, Wisconsin called the Dirty Dog Dryland Derby. I was able to go and talk to many athletes from the Midwest who train their dogs by racing them with modified bikes – crazy.  Northern Wisconsin delivered a sunny, crisp day for this event.  Perfect weather for the dogs in a beautiful setting. For those of you using the Iditarod as a teaching tool, check around for a local club.  You never know what you’ll find in your own back yard!

Way north, in Alaska, my friend Angie Taggart continues to train her dogs while waiting for snow.  She reports that,  “We are working our way up to 20 miles runs. The ground is rough due to a lot of cold weather 4* to 34* so mush more mileage than 15 and my dogs will need to be booted. This coming week we should get some snow!!”

There is no doubt about it, whether on dry land or snow, the dogs love to run!

Character Education

At my school there is a behavior code that all students know.  It is:  I am respectful.  I am responsible.  I am safe.  I am prepared.  Our Guidance Counselors and support staff come into our classes to teach mini lessons on how to follow this code.

As a teacher of the Iditarod, I put my own spin on a few of these lessons.  Students will  learn how respect between mushers and dogs will make for a more efficient team enhancing teamwork.  They will also reflect on if they could personally be responsible for a team of dogs.

As always, take these lessons and modify for your own grade level and/or school code.



Dog Ride

Last summer at the Iditarod Summer Camp for Teachers, we had the opportunity to stay at Vern Halter’s Dream A Dream Kennel.  As part of the experience, we all got a ride on the 4-wheeler being pulled by a team of dogs.  It was a wild ride with dogs raring to go.  Teachers worked together to hitch up a team – a skill we learned while at the camp.  As you watch the video, you can hear the dogs whining and barking with their tails wagging as they get ready to hit the trail.  As soon as they start running, all is silent.  We all had fun on our ride and came away with respect for dogs and handlers who want to share their sport.

Angie Taggart Update

Angie Taggart has been busy with her dogs.  She has also been training with her 4-wheeler and is waiting for the 40 to 50 degree wet weather to become snowy colder weather.  She states, “The dogs are in in good spirits and we are having fun getting to know the new dogs who just joined our team last week. I have 5 dogs that are new to the team this year.”

Angie was also recently featured on Mushing Radio.  She talked about the links between teaching and training a dog team.  Listen to her at this link:  http://dogworksradio.com/2012/10/04/mushing-radio-presents-angie-taggart/

Midwest Dogsled Symposium

Last weekend (September 29 & 30) I attended the Midwest Sled Dog Symposium & Iditarod Teachers’ Conference in Curtis, Michigan.  It was a great weekend attended by teachers and mushers with a common interest of inspiring students using the Iditarod as a teaching tool.  Teachers came to this beautiful setting from across the US including New Jersey, Ohio and, of course, Wisconsin.

Saturday was spent sharing ideas and learning about new ways to use the Iditarod in the classroom.  Keynote speaker was to be Lance Mackey, but he had to cancel so Paul Schurke from Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, MN filled in.  Paul has been on many adventures, including trips to the North Pole.  He had amazing stories to share and a captive audience held on to every word.

On Sunday, Ed and Tasha Stielstra opened their kennel, Nature’s Kennel in McMillan, MI for us to meet their team.  I was given the unique opportunity to ride in a 4-wheeler being pulled by a 16 dog team through the colorful forest.  The puppies, the dogs, the beautiful fall colors, and the new friends made this a wonderful weekend.  Thanks, Ed and Tasha!