International Sled Dog Race

The formal name of the race we all know as the Iditarod is the Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race.  And it truly is an international pool of mushers this year.  A quick look at the musher list shows seven different countries (US, Norway, Jamaica, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden) and seven different states (Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, California, Montana, and Washington) represented!

There is quite a Norwegian influence in this year’s race.  There are five Norwegian mushers competing in the race led by two time Iditarod champion, Robert Sorlie.  Robert Sorlie first entered the Iditarod in 2002 when he finished in ninth place.  He returned to complete in 2003 and 2005 when he won.  His most recent entry was 2007 when he finished in twelfth position.  To compete this year, Robert Sorlie will be travelling about 3,967 miles from his home in Hurdal, Norway to Anchorage, Alaska.  According to his blog, Robert and his dogs will leave home on February 17th, land in Seattle in February 19th, and then travel to Alaska by air from there.

I’ve been trying for a while to find some information about the history of mushing in Norway, and the best I can discover is that it spread to Norway around the start of World War 1 as a way to deliver supplies to soldiers in the field as well as for nature tours.

Now, if Curt Perano was to travel from his kennel in Roxburgh, New Zealand to Anchorage, he’d have to travel a whopping 7,715 miles!  Lucky for him, he is staging his race season out of Willow, Alaska.

An easy way to give your kids a visual of where in the world the mushers are coming from, have them checkout the musher list and have them color in all of the represented locations on a map. Here’s a cool one I found that features both the states and the rest of the world:  http://www.travelsworlds.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/printable-world-map-with-countries-and-statesblack-white-world-map-with-countries-us-states-and-canadian-cej7ukat.jpg

Tales from the Trail: Eight Gold Stars on a Field of Blue

Stories from the Trail:  Eight Gold Stars on a Field of Blue

alaska_02_256Eight stars of gold on a field of blue –
Alaska’s flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes, and the flow’rs nearby;
The gold of the early sourdough’s dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The “Bear” – the “Dipper” – and, shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska’s flag – to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.


Alaska State Song

Very few state flags have the story behind them that Alaska’s flag does.  In 1927, The Alaska Department of the American Legion decided to sponsor a contest for students to design a flag to represent Alaska.  Each town set up a panel of judges to judge the designs at a local level and then choose the best ten to be sent to Juneau for the final judging.  Some of the designs sent to Juneau featured polar bears, some featured fishing and mining, and many featured the territorial seal.  But the winning design that became the flag we know today was designed by a thirteen year old Aleut student named Benny Benson who was living in an orphanage in Seward at the time.  In addition to having his design made into the official flag, he won a gold watch and a $1,000 towards a trip to Washington, DC.

In this lesson, the students will discover the story off Benny, his flag, and the meaning behind it and then will create their own flag to represent their classroom.

Alaska Flag Lesson

Tales from the Trail: Neither Rain, Sleet, Nor Snow The Mail Must Go

“Always striving to find ways to get the trail recognized, another idea was hatched at one of the many meetings.  The Iditarod Trail was a mail trail, so why not have each musher carry mail?  An arrangement was made with the U.S. Postal Service to carry cachets, packets of letters, over the Iditarod to Nome.  Joe [Redington, Sr.] asked his artist friend, Bill Divine, if he would design an Iditarod Trail Logo for the envelopes.  These would be postmarked in Anchorage and Nome and used as a fund-raising project.

At a prerace meeting this idea was presented to the mushers.  Surprisingly, it was met with some resistance.  There was already enough to do.  Carrying mail was too much to ask.  Joe did not react, he responded in a good way, and came up with a solution – ‘I’ll carry yours,’ was all he said.

‘He was one of a kind,’ said Norman.  ‘Joe had such a unique, easy way of looking at things.’

His positive attitude turned the whole negative thought around.  To have the U.S. Postal Service support the Iditarod Race added credibility, recognition, and needed funds.  And Devine’s logo became the official Iditarod logo.”

From:  Champion of Alaskan Huskies by: Katie Mangelsdorf

 

This summer I had the opportunity to be a member of the Teach it Forward Program with the Smithsonian American History Museum.  During the program, we learned strategies for teaching with objects as a way to get kids to relate to history.  Our challenge was to choose an object in the museum’s collection and develop a lesson around it.  I was really excited to join this program – and I had visions of getting to see and work with the Libby Riddles sled, and DeeDee Jonrowe’s humanitarian award and coat. I know that these objects are a part of the Smithsonian’s collection, as I had a chance to meet Jane Rogers, the curator of sports, last winter when she came to the Iditarod Conference for Educators to learn about the race and gather objects for an upcoming display.   You can read more about Jane and the upcoming exhibit here:    http://finalistsforteacheronthetrail.wordpress.com/jennifers-journal/monday-evening/

This second link includes an activity that challenges the students to decide what objects they would place in the Smithsonian’s exhibit.  http://finalistsforteacheronthetrail.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/libbys-sled/

But, it turns out the Iditarod objects are still in storage and not ready for display yet. I was disappointed, but in a way, it turned out to be a really cool disappointment because it forced me to get more creative and I discovered something really cool!

It turns out that the Smithsonian has a second sled it its collection, an Alaskan mail sled, which is housed in the National Postal Museum.

My next challenge was to tie that sled in to the Iditarod, which I was able to do.  The Iditarod Trail was originally a mail trail and the modern mushers honor that history by carrying mail cachets down the trail every year.

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So I was able to use several objects in the Smithsonian’s collection: a sled, some photographs, and stamps and pair them with some Iditarod Trail Race mail cachets as the basis for an inquiry based lesson.  The lesson allows students to discover the connection between the Iditarod Race and the Iditarod Trail as a historic trail.  They also discover the reason why mail cachets are one of the mandatory items carried down the trail by the racers. It was a fascinating process. I learned a lot!  Special thanks to authors Katie Mangelsdorf and Helen Hegener who graciously allowed me to use portions of their books with this lesson.

Here are all the materials needed for the lesson… Enjoy!

Smithsonian Sled Lesson

Mail Sled Lesson Materials

Sled Dogs of Denali

One of the big parts of our Social Studies curriculum in third grade is the study of our National Parks as a subtopic of our study of Fifty States.   Alaska is the home to 15 national parks, preserves, monuments and historic parks.  The Park Service in Alaska also oversees 49 National Historic Landmarks and 16 National Natural Landmarks.  The Park Service is rich in resources that you can use in your classroom to help you and your students as you explore the vast, amazing state of Alaska.

In the past couple of weeks we have been lucky enough to Skype with park rangers from two national parks, Yellowstone and Denali. The Yellowstone Skype is a fantastic way to introduce the concept of National Parks and their importance in our world.  Skypes with a Yellowstone Ranger can be arranged through Skype in the Classroom:  Yellowstone Ranger

One tie into the Iditarod Race is Denali National Park which is home to the nation’s only team of sled dogs who actively patrol a national park.  Sled dogs have been crucial to Denali’s operations since its founding in 1917 to assist rangers in patrolling the backcountry of the park. After World War II, airplanes began to replace the dogs and due to budget cuts, the dogs completed their service in 1949.  But, by the 1970’s they were again being used.  Today they are crucial to the park as much of the park has been declared wilderness and therefore cannot be patrolled by motorized vehicle.

Today the dogs are a cultural resource that helps to preserve the historic and natural resources in Denali.  The teams average 3,000 miles a year on patrol and greet and interact with about 50,000 visitors to their kennels each summer.

denali sign

Denali offers an amazing Distance Learning program via Skype called The Science of Sled Dogs.  The rangers will teach the students about five adaptations sled dogs have that allow them to survive in the subarctic:  tongue, fur, foot pads, circulation, and tails.  The kids quickly discover that these characteristics are ones that mushers also look for in their sled dogs.  The rangers lead the kids through two mini science experiments so that the kids can get a strong grasp of the concepts.  They also teach them about the positions in the dog team and the qualities each team member needs to have to help the team succeed.  The program materials include lessons to use with the kids before and after the Skype session.

You can find more information about Denali’s Distance Learning Program here:  Denali Distance Learning

A great way to get your students involved in the National Parks is by challenging them to collect Junior Ranger Badges from various parks as they tie into your curriculum.  The Junior Ranger program is a program offered by the National Parks that awards students special badges or patches for learning about and protecting National Parks.  Many of the parks require students to be on site to complete the program, but some will allow students to complete the program through the mail or over the internet and will send badges to the school for the students.  During the course of a year, my class usually collects ten to twelve badges as class projects that tie directly into our curriculum, another nine or so as extra credit monthly at home challenges, and two in person on field trips!  We keep track of our accomplishments on a bulletin board and the boys are always anxious when a new badge arrives!

Here is a lesson plan that includes lots more information about Alaska’s National Parks and the programs they offer (including Junior Ranger Badges):  Alaska’s National Parks

Going North – The Rush Is On!

In September of 1898, the “Three Lucky Swedes” discovered gold on Anvil Creek, founded the Nome Mining District, and started a new rush to the North.  By 1898, Nome had a population of 10,000, many of whom had arrived for the Klondike Gold Rush.  When gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, the rush was on and thousands more people poured into Nome.  By 1900 a tent city on the beaches reached for thirty miles from Cape Rodney to Cape Nome.

The Nome Gold Rush was different from other rushes due to the ease with which the gold could be obtained.  It was literally lying on the beaches!  Initially, the gold was gathered by panning.  Later in 1899 human powered slucies and rockers were employed.  By 1900 small machines with hoses and pumps were in place, and around 1902 big companies took over.  The mining season was short, claims could only be worked from June to October.

Nome City obviously still exists, and among other things, marks the end of the Iditarod Trail and the end of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.  The estimated total amount of gold recovered from the area is thought to be around 112 metric tons.

We have been having our own gold rush in 3A.  We have been learning about the Alaskan Gold Rush and even did our own gold panning simulation!  I picked a chilly day and filled our buckets with freezing cold water just to make it a little more authentic!  It was great dirty fun!  In fact, one of the parents shared with me that his son has decided to move to Alaska and search for enough gold to start a kennel to train for the Iditarod!

Lesson Plan:  Going for the Gold

Balto Lives WHERE?

Did you know that Balto currently resides in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?

After the famous Serum Run, Balto quickly achieved hero status and traveled all over North America.  Eventually Balto and his teammates were sold to a vaudeville show owner in California where they were mistreated.  George Kimble, a businessman from Cleveland discovered the dogs living in squalor and organized his hometown to save the dogs.  They were moved to the Cleveland Zoo where they were well loved for the rest of their days.  Today, Balto’s preserved body is on permanent display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History… and in fact… a new display is being planned around Balto as we speak!

While there isn’t an Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race tie to Balto directly, there is definitely an Iditarod Historic Trail tie in… and it’s a wonderful story to boot!  Contrary to popular belief, the Iditarod race was never meant to commemorate the Serum Run of 1925 where the lifesaving diphtheria serum was carried to Nome by dog sled.  Joe Redington, Sr.  founded the race to both commemorate the Iditarod Historic Trail and to save the sled dogs who were being systematically replaced by snowmachines.

Still, the Serum Run is a part of Iditarod Trail History and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a wonderful distance learning program developed around Balto!  I introduced the story of the Serum Run to my boys with the book The Great Serum Race:  Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller.  This book has amazingly beautiful pictures by Official Iditarod artist, Jon Van Zyle.  We also talked about the idea that many people believe the Iditarod race is based on this historic event, but we reviewed Joe Redington, Sr.’s real motivation for starting the race – preserving the huskies and the historic trail.

On our assigned day and time, we connected with the museum where our guest teacher Lee Gambol led us through the program.  We learned so much more than just the story of the Serum Run and how Balto ended up in Cleveland.  We learned about the difficulties the mushers faced, we learned about the art of taxidermy (Did you realize they take the animal’s skin off and put it over a sculpture of the animal?  I’m not sure what I thought happened, but that wasn’t it!), we learned about Balto’s life after the event, and some history of the time period.  It was fascinating for the students AND the teachers!

2013-10-23 14.02.39

When you make arrangements for your “trip” to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History they send you a big blue kit full of hands on materials to share with the kids.  The kit includes modern day attire (snowsuit, boots, gloves, hat) so that they can compare them to historic photos of the Serum Run mushers, a husky skull so that the students can look at the teeth to learn what kind of eaters the dogs are, booties and harnesses.  One of the harnesses is even people sized so that the kids can try it on and see what it feels like to pull!  It was great for showing the boys where the dogs feel the pull of the weight of the sled in their bodies.

We followed up the program just with a class discussion about Balto, but you could easily follow it up with a more in depth study or a writing assignment.  My kids are still convinced that Togo got the raw end of the fame deal! Togo by Roger J. Blake is a great book to share for Togo’s story.   We also had a fascinating discussion of the Disney movie Balto and why so much was changed for the movie.  Just look at the pictures The Real Balto (picture link) and the Disney Balto (picture link).  The biggest change as far as the boys were concerned was that Balto actually never had any offspring. He was “fixed” early on because he wasn’t viewed to be a great enough dog to breed!

You can find more information or book your Distance Learning Trip here:  http://www.cmnh.org/site/ClassesandPrograms/SchoolPrograms/AtYourSchool/DistanceLearning/CMNH.aspx

The Adventures of the Traveling Quilt

We have been fortunate enough to host one of the Iditarod Traveling Quilts for the first month of school.  The Traveling Quilt program began when the first quilt was created in 2005 and since then has grown to 11 quilts that zig zag the world bringing the race and its ideals to more than one thousand students a year.

DSC_0429We were really excited to get to be the first class to host Quilt 11, especially since the top right hand square was created in our classroom last year!

The timing of the quilt’s arrival in our classroom was perfect as we were able to use the travels of the quilt as we learned and practiced using latitude, longitude, and map scale.  We located each of the quilt’s stops on a US map. I’m not sure if you’ve ever used National Geographic’s Interactive Map Maker, but it was perfect for this project. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/outline-map/?map=USA&ar_a=1

I pulled up a one page US map that I could personalize on the Smartboard. We were able to drop pins on the quilt’s stop and then use the scale to calculate the estimated distance traveled.  When we did all of our calculations, we were surprised to see that our quilt will actually travel about five times as far as the Iditarod itself!  I’ve attached the geography sheet that goes with Quilt 11 and a blank one if you are hosting one of the other quilts.

In order to share the quilt with other classes in my school, I asked for volunteers to serve as Quilt Tour Guides.  Interested 2013-09-23 08.41.11boys filled out an application, and once selected, they worked together to plan their presentation and then took their show on the road to kindergarten, third, and fourth grade classes in the building.  They were really proud to become experts and share their knowledge with others!

If you are interested in finding out more about the quilt program, check out the Traveling Quilt Blog here:  http://travelingquilt.com/

Resouces:

Quilt Tour Guide Application

Quilt Map Skills Sheet

Quilt Map Skills Sheet BLANK