The Coat! The Coat!

One of the most anticipated pre-departure events finally happened in my classroom…

The formal trying on of the official Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™ coat!

The boys were blown away by how big and heavy the coat, boots, and mittens are that have been provided for me to wear on the trail.  In fact, they called the mittens oven mitts!  I think it really drove home the idea of just how cold it could be on the trail.

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More on the Weather

The weather continues to be the big story as we prepare for this year’s Iditarod.  It seems like the world has turned upside down… at least it looks that way on our weather graph!  The line tracking the temperatures in Baltimore keeps dropping down below the lines tracking the Alaska weather!

My students have been learning about Heat Energy with Mrs. Olgeirson, the science teacher, and they invited me in one day as they explored how heat energy affects our bodies.  More specifically, they were looking at how cold affects the rest of your body.  The boys were easily able to make the tie in to the Iditarod and the frigid temperatures the mushers will face (well, we HOPE they will face).

????????The first experiment they did was about how cold affects extremities.  When your toes or fingers get cold, they send a message to your brain to pump more blood to that area.  To test this, the kids wrote their name on a sheet of paper.  They then plunged their hand into a bowl of icy water (about 31 degrees Fahrenheit) for sixty seconds and then tried to rewrite their name.  Their hypothesis that their signatures would be different proved to be very true!  The boys were really surprised about just how hard it was to hold the pencil and write their name when their hand was so cold.  Imagine the mushers who have to care for their dogs’ feet and all their other chores that can’t quite work with gloves on!

The boys wondered how the mushers warm their hands up, and Mrs. Olgeirson pointed out that when your hands and fingers are cold, you should move your fingers and not rub them together.  The friction caused by rubbing your hands together could actually create heat energy that could burn your skin tissue!

How else to keep warm in on the Iditarod Trail?  Well, animals have blubber or fat to help them stay warm, and people wear clothing.  The boys were interested to hear that the clothing doesn’t actually make you warm; it insulates you from the cold.

The students then got a chance to try out the idea of “insulating” their hands from the icy water.  Mrs. Olgeirson created a “blubber mitten” by coating one plastic bag with Crisco and putting it inside a second bag.  The student could then insert their hand into the baggie and plunge it into the ice bath.  The temperature of the ice bath was 28⁰F, but the temperature inside the “blubber mitten” was 60⁰F!

The boys really got the idea about how cold weather can affect our bodies through these easy, but effective experiments!  A special thanks to Mrs. Olgeirson for hitting the trail with science and for sharing her assignment sheet with you!  BLUBBER EXPERIMENT WORKSHEET

Tales from the Trail: Monica’s on the Road Again!

With all this crazy warm weather in Alaska, Monica, and many other mushers are traveling the state in search of snow.  Maybe they should think about turning their trucks south and heading in this direction!  Several races have been cancelled, including the T200 which Monica was planning to run.  It has really put a damper on the mushers’ preparations.  Not only on their training runs, but as Monica pointed out, if they are travelling hundreds of miles to find snow, they aren’t able to be at home leisurely preparing their drop bags!  Luckily for us, Monica took time out of her travels (she’s currently in Fairbanks) to give us an update of where she is with preparing the drop bags, planning her Iditarod strategy, and how she felt about her run in the Knik 200 a few weeks ago.  You can read our whole interview withe her here:  January Interview with Monica

Tracking the Weather

“How cold is it going to be in Alaska when you are there?” is the question I seem to be asked most often these days. I decidedthemometer to get my students started on the task of tracking the weather in Alaska and comparing it to what is going on here in Baltimore.  We are creating a line graph of the daily temperatures at the start, around the middle, and at the end of the trail and here in Baltimore.  Each morning two students use a weather app to check the daily high in Anchorage, Galena, Nome, and Baltimore and then add the data to our ongoing graph.  We also decided to add a snowflake stamp to the graph to show the days it snowed!  Unfortunately, we have no snowflakes on the Baltimore data line yet!

It’s a great way to introduce or review line graphs and has led to some super discussions about what the freezing point is, what it means to freeze, and what conditions have to be in play for it to snow.

Another of my favorite things to do with graphing is to have students create a story to go with a graph.  It’s a great twist to present students with a graph that shows data, but no labels or explanations and then to challenge them to tell a story to explain the data.  Here is a lesson plan you can use to have students create Iditarod themed stories to explain a line graph or a pictograph:  The Story Behind the Graph

As always, I’d love to include some student stories in the Student Tales section of the site!  So be sure to send me your awesome Iditarod graph stories!