Finney’s Lessons and Messages

Follow this link to learn how the Teacher on the Trail™ program came to be!

Finney’s messages from the Iditarod Trail will be added at a later date.

Finney’s curriculum information as it appeared on the website in 1998:

1999 Iditarod® “TEACHER ON THE TRAIL”


I. Make an Iditarod® Life Skill Journal

A. Life Skills can be written on the cover

II. I will send a daily entry to “Finney’s Journal” on the 1999 Official Iditarod® Website. A. Students read or have entry read to them.

III. Entry dated in journal

A. Student determines which life skills were demonstrated by musher or dogs or both in the described scenario and then enter them into their journal.

B. Students read or hear initial words that enlist the use of Knowledge (recall information), Comprehension (explain information), Application (transfer information), Analysis (separate information and see relationships), Synthesis (combine information) and Evaluation (make judgements). These were created by Benjamin Bloom, the cognitive Taxonomy.

  • 1. Relate the life skills to your own life and the circumstances you are dealing with.
  • 2. Design a picture to illustrate the life skill.
  • 3. Create a poem or story about the life skill illustrated.
  • 4. Select a book that illustrates the same life skill.
  • 5. Describe the weather or geographical conditions that affected the life skill.
  • 6. Predict which life skills will be used most often. Design a graph.
  • 7. Describe how the life skills affect an interrelating relationship between musher and dogs.
  • 8. List the life skills the musher uses in establishing his/her relationship with the team.
  • 9. Construct the life skills that the dogs use in order to run as a team.
  • 10. Explain the life skills the veterinarians use when determining when a dog needs to be dropped.
  • 11. Outline the training by the mushers and dogs that influenced the life skills that occurred.

1999 Iditarod® “TEACHER ON THE TRAIL”


Curriculum Rationale

My personal preparations for this Iditarod® Educational Journey have been quite an undertaking. My class and school are having a “real life” experience seeing a goal attained and the effort involved. As a pre-Iditarod® project it would be a learning experience for the students to develop this as a class project and to really see and feel the life skills that are necessary. This would be appropriate for upper elementary through high school students to develop. They would apply for the selection of the Year 2000 Teacher on the Trail.

Class Project: Iditarod® Preparations

  • 1. Write a convincing letter to the Iditarod® Educational Director so she will select you because of your educational goals that you have chosen to use on the trail.
  • 2. Create a portfolio with a biography and supportive letters from your school, community and state.
  • 3. Research and select the gear you will need on the trail. It can be warm in the 40’s – 60’s. Be prepared for all weather extremes.
  • 4. Design a budget: transportation costs, accommodations (pre & post race), technology (computer, digital camera, video camera, tape recorder, camera, batteries, processing fees, gear (outer and inner wear), food and miscellaneous.
  • 5. Role play your interview with the Iditarod® Educational Director, Executive Director and committee members. Be prepared to support your educational reasons for being selected.
  • 6. Research addresses for letters to send out to companies for donations of gear, technology and airfare. Always include your biography and letters of support from your school system, community and state.
  • 7. Prepare and practice speeches to give to organizations that may support you locally: Rotary, Kiwanis, women’s organizations.
  • 8. Learn how to write a grant, for you may get the bulk of your money from one.
  • 9. Establish a committee to help you become organized to complete all the necessary tasks.
  • 10. Get yourself in shape so that you are not wimpy while out on the trail Maybe the local YMCA will donate a membership and a personal trainer. Spend time each day working out.

Program Overview

Rogers Elementary School in Bloomington, Indiana is a C.L.A.S.S. School. C.L.A.S.S. is a special program in the state of Indiana otherwise known as: Connecting Learning Assures Successful Students. C.L.A.S.S. is focused on a connected curriculum, real-life application and the skills that propel us through life. The life skills are: Integrity, Initiative, Flexibility, Perseverance, Organization, Sense of Humor, Effort, Common Sense, Problem Solving, Responsibility, Patience, Friendship, Curiosity, Cooperation and Caring. The foundation of our approach is the establishing of the “Lifelong Guidelines” as our standard for behavior. A positive focus is created through the expectations of Trust, Truth, Active Listening, No Put Downs and Personal Best. We also stress the importance of “real life” experiences to enhance learning. I overwhelmingly have found an incredible learning experience to be shared through the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race®

Every Monday morning our students gather in the gymnasium and a life skill is introduced to the entire school. This life skill is discussed over a two week period and parents are encouraged to “catch” their child using the life skill at home. They have received specific life skill forms and are to illustrate the skill by writing on the form how it was shown by their child. It is then returned to school and shared with the class or entire school.

In my preparation for the Iditarod® Educational Journey, I speak to the students every other Monday morning. I explain to them how I am using that particular life skill to prepare for my journey. I will continue this until the Monday before I leave. In planning the life skills through my departure, I appropriately saved courage for the end since this is such an unbelievable journey for most of the students to fathom.

My classroom and school’s learning strategies are focused on the use of the life skills and I envision the Iditarod® Sled Dog Race as a grand illustration of these skills. This is my passion for wanting to go out on the trail and to send back to the Iditarod® website experiences that will allow students to actually see the life skills happening. In today’s world, students and adults sometimes forget to use the life skills in their daily life; in school, work place or home. I am passionate about these being an integral part of everyone’s life and the unquestionable fact that they are a crucial part of the Iditarod® Trail Sled Dog Race makes this educational journey a personal quest.

Images from Finney’s Classroom