How Does Your Puppy Grow?


Meet our pups; future Iditarod champions!

Puppies are the future for an Iditarod kennel.  As the 2016 Iditarod draws near, we have been spending a great deal of time talking about husky dogs and learning all about them.  We fell in love with veteran musher Matt Failor’s puppies this year after his Insider interview when Iditarod veteran “Cool Cat” gave birth to her litter of adorable, squealing newborns.  We wanted to know more about Iditarod husky puppies and how they are raised to prepare to one day be Iditarod champions.  I reached out to Matt and he shared some personal video with us so we could learn more:

Matt gave us some interesting information about newborn puppies.  “They are born with their eyes shut (fused shut).  The eyes usually do not open until around 10-12 days.  This is one of the reason a dogs nose is sooooo much stronger than ours (humans), because they rely on it from day one, since they are blind.  The whining from the puppy will release a chemical in the mom’s brain, to begin the flow of milk.  The pups instinctually go for the belly to find food.  The RACE is on!  They will fight for position and latch on to her.  Truly fun to watch and educational.”

Of course, my students wanted puppies of their own, but since that was impossible, we made our own rice and sock version to learn some husky puppy math and start a dog diary about them.  Our source of inspiration was a wonderful lesson from 2007 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Kim Slade.  I loved this activity, and since we wanted to learn more about husky puppies, I brought it back out of the Iditarod archives and updated it this year for my class.

Husky puppies are born weighing 12-16 ounces.  Since we are learning about measurement in math class, I decided to test my students and see how close they could make their husky rice puppies weigh 16 oz (1 pound) on a scale with estimation.  First, we measured out 1 ounce on a scale to see what it looked like, and feel it in our hands.  From there the challenge was to see if we could first estimate, then fill our sock with exactly 16 ounces with rice.  We chose a men’s sock we liked out of white, black, or gray, then used funnels to fill our sock.  Students went back and forth to the scale to measure them until they reached exactly 16 ounces.

Now for the fun part! We used little rubber bands to tie off the head, paws and tail.  Some students added a muzzle with an extra rubber band.  Then we added a black pom pom for the nose, felt ears, google eyes, and a little pink felt tongue.  Students could add extra felt for special markings for a personal touch.


Time for a husky puppy name!

We fell in love with our puppies, and when we were all finished it was time to name our litter.  Mushers have a special tradition when naming a litter of puppies in their kennels.  We read a great Iditarod post about how this is done, and we talked about what our theme should be.  Can you guess?  From that theme, each student gave their puppy a unique name.  Read our husky puppy names below, and see if you can guess what it is:

Our theme is “Texas” of course!  Our puppy names were inspired by the Lone Star State: wildflowers, food, spices, places, and even NASA.  What would your theme be?  Kim’s original lesson plan had a puppy birth certificate, so we created our own.

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Puppy Birth Certificate Word

Puppy Birth Certificate PDF

How Does Your Puppy Grow? Lesson Plan

Matt’s puppies have grown up quickly in the last few months.  Matt shared with us how he starts to train and prepare his puppies for the Iditarod in the future.   In the video below he walks around his kennel with the 14 puppies from Cool Cat who are now 3 months old and weigh 15 to 20 pounds.  He explains how he starts walking with the puppies and mom when they are young, but then he walks them alone so they can bond with him.  The jingle of a bag of dog kibble keeps them running to him and not wandering off.  It is amazing to see them all stay close together and trust him. 



What is more fun to watch than Matt Failor’s puppies?  Matt Failor’s puppies in slow motion:



We wish we could have had the real thing – but we learned a lot with our sock version!

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Click the link below:

The Iditarod Classroom Club



Want to know more about Matt Failor and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school 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


Tales from the Trail: More Monica!

“Did you hear from Monica?”

“Did you tell Monica about our plan yet?”

“Did she see our video yet?”

“Does Monica have snow yet?”

It seems like a day doesn’t go by without someone in my class asking about Monica.  (The Brady Bunch episode where the other two sisters complain about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” goes through my head at least once a day.  “Monica, Monica, Monica.”  Only no one in my room gets it but me!)

My students have taken their task to introduce the world to Monica Zappa and keep everyone up to date on her progress very seriously!

Our first task was to come up with a list of interview questions to prepare for her.  The boys brainstormed in teams things they would like to know and then we whittled the list down to sixteen questions. The boys each wrote out a question on a card, and we create a movie trailer to send her.  You can see the trailer here:

Monica did an amazing job responding to the kids!  Her response is here:  Monica Q & A

I hope you and your students enjoy getting to know Monica a bit better!

As for her training, she reports there is no snow yet….  but with reports of a foot of snow in Denali,  it can’t be too far away.

We will check in with her again in a few weeks to see how things are going!

The Iditarod Games

What a sendoff!  The teachers, administrators, support staff, and students kicked it into high gear as they sent me on my way to Alaska.  To begin the day, I saw all staff in T-Shirts with my picture on it.  It was overwhelming.

At the end of the school day there was a Pep Rally, aka, The Iditarod Games.  To start the games, they all surprised me by singing Hobo Jim’s “The Iditarod Trail Song”.  600 voices singing the trail song . . . awesome.  Next came the games.  Each grade level developed a game and chose students to participate.  They were simple, quick, and a lot of fun.  View the video to see what we did and how it was done.  Try this at your school to ignite your student’s enthusiasm for the 2013 race.

The school year up to this point has been preparing me – and my students – for the day I would leave for Alaska as the 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.  With the help of a wonderful class and fantastic staff, I’m ready.  Signing off from Wisconsin – next stop, Anchorage!