What’s Your Angle?

What do you call an angle that is adorable?

Acute angle!

This week we are all about angles in math class! This is a new skill for us… it appears in the new version of our math book, and is something we haven’t taught before.

DSC_0357So, I started by thinking of where on earth I have seen angles…. And it finally came to me – dog sleds and sled dog harnesses!

So here is two days’ worth of lessons for you about angles.  On day one, the students will classify angles as acute, obtuse, and right and then practice measuring angles they find on a dog sled using a protractor.  On day two, the students will review, and then create an original design for a sled dog harness that includes a set of required angles.  Along the way, they will gain insight into how both sleds and harnesses are designed and constructed.  There is even a homework assignment included!

What’s Your Angle Lesson PlanDSC_0356

What’s Your Angle Classwork

Harness Maker Classwork

Harness Maker Outline

sled dog angles – homework

Dog Yard Dilemma

This week we are focused on calculating area and perimeter… and what better tool to do that with then dog yards!

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This week the students are presented with a scenario where they have been sponsored by a local fencing company who offers them fencing for their dog yard.  Instead of traditional sled dog yards, the students will use the fencing material to advertise for their sponsors and create individual dog pens for their dogs.  In this three day unit, they will experiment with area and perimeter and discover how you can have many different yard shapes and still maintain the same area.  They will ultimately design their dream dog yard with spaces for all of their team dogs and possibly puppies and ill dogs as well.  The homework assignment seeks the students’ assistance in setting up the White Mountain checkpoint while testing their understanding of area and perimeter.

Dog Yard Dilemma Lesson Plan

How Big is That Yard Classwork

Dog Yard Dilemma Classwork

White Mountain Checkpoint Design Homework

Socks for Monica!

Terrie Hanke, 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™, shared this tale with me:

I have a nice picture of Mitch Seavey changing into fresh Smart Wools at Elim in 2006.  There I was inside the fire house with Jasper Bond, Mark Nordman, Danny Davidson and Jeff Schultz.  Mitch came in with a fresh, still in the wrapper pair of those heavy duty red/gray ones.  After he ate the ham sandwich offered by Jasper, Mitch changed socks – you could see the pleasure on his face.


Keeping your feet warm on the trail is an absolutely necessity and is one of the things that most concerns our adopted rookie musher, Monica Zappa.  We decided this was something we could help her out with!

We learned from Monica that the best types of socks to keep your feet warm on the Iditarod Trail are wool socks.  Here is a2013-11-12 08.39.58 little information for your kids about choosing the best socks:  http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/socks.html .  We did some research, did some math, and decided that we needed about $340 to be able to buy her a pair of socks for each checkpoint along the trail.  So our next task was to decide how we were going to earn the money. They boys brainstormed several ideas, and ultimately settled on creating Rainbow Loom bracelets and necklaces to sell.  After a pair of class representatives went to the Headmaster to gain approval, we spent about a month making product to sell and then one day before school in early November we had our sale.

We were a little hesitant about how the sale was going to turn out… lots of kids in school were making the bracelets for themselves.  We had done the math and pretty much decided we needed to sell every item we had to make our goal.  We just weren’t sure what to expect.

2013-11-12 08.45.02Well… we were blown away!  We sold every single item we had!  And then, we had younger students in the hallway crying because they didn’t get to buy one!  So the boys created an order sheet and started taking orders!  We ended up spending the entire rest of the day making and delivering the “to order” bracelets.  When all was said and done, we almost doubled our goal!  They kids were so excited!

We wrote to Monica with the amazing news and she picked out the socks she wanted – some Merino wool, some alpaca, some hand knit… and left the rest up to us!

Just before we left school on Winter Break, we packed up mini- drop bags for her for each checkpoint.  We filled a ziplock bagDSC_0472 for each checkpoint with a pair of socks, some hand and feet warmers, and a little note of encouragement!  We even sent her a check and she was able to purchase 250 booties for the four legged members of Team Zappa with the extra money!

We are so excited that a small part of us will be travelling down the trail with Monica this year!  Go Team Zappa!

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Warming Up the Pups!

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!

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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?

Denali Size Feet = too small!

Denali Size Feet = too small!

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.2013-12-18 16.12.30

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 iditaroddogblankets@gmail.com  for more information.

Here are some sled dog with blanket pictures you can share with your students:

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MMM Starting Up!

When the weather turns colder and my kids start complaining about having to go outside for morning recess (yes, we need to have a talk about recess in Alaska in the winter), I know it’s time to start our MMM Challenges!  We are starting ours a bit early this year so they are completed by the time I leave for Alaska.  I figured this was above and beyond the call of duty for my sub!

MMM stands for Mathematical Morning Meal.  Each Monday the students are presented with a challenging math problem for them to work on for extra credit.  They take them home and have a week to try to come up with a solution.  On Friday morning during morning recess before school they are invited in to share their thinking and a doughnut while we go over the problem.

The problems are intentionally tough… I love to hear the kids talk about how their whole family discussed the problems at dinner or how a father thought one thing but the student had his own ideas.

My rule is that if they have given the problem an honest try, they can come to the breakfast.

This year the problems have an Iditarod twist!  I know… shocking right?

Even if you don’t want the students to do the problems at home, maybe they would make good problems of the day or week to hang in your room and discuss.

We had our first MMM this morning and half of my class joined in the discussion.  They all came up with essentially the same result with a few minor twists!


MMM Iditarod Challenges

Filling the Dog Yard!

One more idea for room set up as the summer starts to wind down….

I am calling my classroom the 3A Dog Yard these days…. for reasons that I am sure you can understand!  To get my students in the Iditarod Spirit from day one and as a way to get to know each other, we create these puppy glyphs on the first day of school.

Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection.  You might be reminded of “hieroglyphic” and think about picture writing.  My kids are always interested in “real life” examples of glyphs – like dentists who record cavities on a a picture of teeth or a chiropractor who records aches on a skeletal picture.  The glyphs allow doctors to record and analyze data more quickly.

My hallway bulletin board greets my students looking like this:


The students create the puppy glyphs by answering questions about their interests and study habits and then cutting and pasting the pieces according to their answers. When they are finished, they get added to the bulletin board.

Following a discussion about how mushers and kennel owners sometimes name their litters in themes, we choose a litter theme, name the puppies and then create an information sheet about the puppies that gets bound together in a classroom book.  You can see our book about the Breakfast Cereal Litter from last year here:  http://www.youblisher.com/p/482033-Meet-the-Puppies/ 

Here are hints you might want to know:

1. I didn’t create the image for my bulletin board!  I borrowed it from the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. coloring book you can find here:  http://leppro.com/portfolio/pdfs/source/MusherBook.pdf

2.  The online version of our book was made with Youblisher:  http://www.youblisher.com/

kerpoof pic3. My friend, middle school science teacher Laurie Starkey, did the same project with her kids digitally using Kerpoof Studio:  http://www.kerpoof.com/

illustmaker pic4.  Older kids might enjoy making a digital musher avatar instead of a puppy.  Illustrator Maker has a lot of good choices. They could use types of headgear, items held, and even accessories as the responses to the questions:  http://illustmaker.abi-station.com/index_en.shtml

5,  You could also use these activities to show answers to a set of problems instead.  In that case, the design of the picture would be determined by the correct answers to the problems.  It could be a fun way to review a topic!

6.  Click here for the full lesson plan:  Filling the Puppy Yard 2.  Click here for the glyph pattern:  Puppy Glyph Patterns.

Hope your room setup is going well!  I am headed in on Wednesday to get mine started!