Reading the actual 2016 Iditarod rules is a fascinating learning experience for any classroom teacher, and it is a very important process to understand how the Last Great Race on Earth® is successful all the way from Anchorage to Nome.
There are many interesting questions from students about the requirements for an Iditarod musher, especially the section about mandatory gear for the race. We are far from the life of a musher here in Austin, so my students wanted to know more about making it to the starting line.
For help, I turned to 2016 Iditarod rookie musher Kristin Knight Pace from Hey Moose! Kennel in Healy, Alaska. Kristin, a fellow Texan like me, was born and raised in Ft. Worth and moved to Alaska in 2009. She fell in love with the beautiful, wild landscape of the north and is now a wilderness planner for Denali National Park. She feels, “There’s no better way to see and experience the country than on the back of a dog sled.”
I was curious to see what the mandatory gear for the Iditarod looks like and what kind of expenses mushers have in order to meet their requirements. This looked like a great math lesson to me! Kristin shared pictures with my class of some of her gear for the Iditarod, along with the costs of the individual pieces of equipment below:
According to the Iditarod rules, a musher is required to have a harness for every dog on the team, and from the harnesses they are all connected together to the sled. A system of cables, or lines, give the dogs freedom to run and move, but in sync, as a team. All of the dogs with their lines work in tandem to keep them moving along the trail safely. See the diagram below to understand how it all looks from above:
Kristin was kind enough to take some video of her Hey Moose! Kennel team preparing for the 2016 Iditarod. She said, “This was taken about 4 miles from our training camp. We are on the Denali Highway heading east toward the Maclaren River.” In the video, you can see the tow line, necklines, tuglines, and harnesses helping her stay in control and keep the team together, but with flexibility and comfort for the dogs.
Let’s go shopping! With all of this great information and video, students can pretend to be mushers preparing for the 2016 Iditarod by going shopping for mandatory sled gear. Using the Iditarod official rules, review the section about what is required on a sled and discuss why they are important. The health and safety of the dogs is always the top priority for race officials and the mushers. Using the lesson plan and spreadsheet, students should estimate costs of the mandatory gear required and find a total amount due for a sled with 16 dogs. The inspiration for this lesson came from 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Jen Reiter. Her math lessons can be accessed on the Iditarod site in an extensive PDF booklet called, “Mathing Down the Trail”.
The 2016 official Iditarod rules state that a musher must have 12-16 dogs at the starting line. For this lesson, we will pretend to start with the maximum number, 16. Mushers will carry extra tow lines, necklines, and tuglines on their sleds, but we used the required amount for our math. Have a conversation with your class about having extra supplies on your sled. What would be the benefit? Hint: the safety of the dogs is the most important factor in the Iditarod, and dogs can sometimes chew their lines!
Kristin, and her husband Andy, also took a few moments on the trail to stop and introduce their dog team to us!
The life of a musher is a fascinating one. Do you want to know more about Kristin Pace and her life as a musher? My students created questions to get to know her a little bit better. Read her Q & A to find out more about Kristin and her rookie Iditarod musher journey:
Training changes throughout the seasons for a musher and sometimes requires moving to a more remote location in the north for the best snow and weather conditions for the dogs. Kristin said this is, “a picture of our winter training camp at Alpine Creek Lodge in the middle of the Denali Highway. The highway is not maintained in the winter, so we are 65 miles down the trail from our trucks and about a 7-hour trip to town one-way.”
Kristin and Andy have a wonderful site and blog about their kennel. Their writing is deeply personal and emotional. Check it out below: (you are leaving a secure site)
Join in a live Twitter chat with sled dogs! Mushers will pretend to be their sled dogs as students send in questions through Twitter. The sled dogs will answer in first person…live.
Want to know more about Kristin Pace and the other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams? The name says it all. The ULTIMATE INSIDER gets access to everything! All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER! Access to all of the commercial-free video. Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.
- GPS Tracker
- Commercial-Free access to all video content
- Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts
The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod. Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.