We learned from our Skype with Denali National Park (Denali Skype) that one of the adaptations that sled dogs have that allow them to survive in the arctic is their fur. Sled dogs actually have two coats of fur. The under layer is thick and dense and helps to keep the dogs warm. The outer layer, or guard hairs, are longer and coarser and help to repel water.
But sometimes, even sled dogs like to curl up with a nice cozy blanket!
For the past two years, school kids across the country have participated in a project to craft blankets to be used by dogs that are dropped at various checkpoints along the trail. The project is a pretty easy one. Basically, the kids just need to cut fleece into 3×3 foot squares and write a note or message on each one. The blankets get shipped to Iditarod Headquarters and then are sent out along the trail to be used during the race.
Last year I used the project as a Math Journal assignment. The boys had to calculate how many feet of material we would need if we were going to make a certain number of blankets and then calculate how much money it would cost to purchase the fleece. In the process, we learned that fabric is sold in yards, not feet, and how to covert inches to feet to yards.
This year, we decided to get our pre-first students involved with the project. They were so excited to get to help the dogs in a way that they could relate to. Who doesn’t love to curl up with a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold, snowy night?
The third graders and I went down to the spacious pre-first room. We showed the boys some pictures of dogs curled up with students’ blankets from last year and presented them with the challenge…. the Iditarod Trail Committee asked for blankets measuring three feet by three feet. We told the little guys we weren’t sure what that meant, so we used our stuffed dog Denali, measured his feet and cut a blanket that was three Denali feet by three Denali feet. When we put the blanket on Denali, the pre-firsters were insistent it wasn’t big enough. So then we tried a third graders foot and made a blanket third grader foot by third grader foot… still not big enough. So we tried a Mrs. Reiter’s foot by Mrs. Reiter’s foot. With all of this trial and error, I decided to turn things over to the kids. Third graders led their little buddies in discussion to realize the need for standardized measurement.
After that, they were off and running… or should I say off measuring and cutting! Because we had patterned fleece to work with, the boys made labels to be affixed to each blanket which they decorated and signed.
If you are interested in participating in this project, they are still looking for more donations. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Here are some sled dog with blanket pictures you can share with your students: