Taking a Stand on Sled Dogs
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Use interactive resources to learn about the Iditarod, and specifically the lives and treatment of sled dogs
- Read and/or participate in interviews of mushers and other Iditarod experts to understand better the treatment of sled dogs
- Formulate an opinion on the issue of the treatment of sled dogs
- Write a persuasive essay to convince readers of their opinion
- Iditarod: Race Across Alaska Activities
- computer(s) with Internet access
- Idea Web (PDF)
- Iditarod books
- U.S. map with Alaska clearly visible
- Writing paper
- optional: LCD or overhead projector to display articles
- optional: graph paper
Set Up and Prepare
- Display selected Iditarod books.
- Post the U.S. map.
- If students have limited computer access, print out copies of the Iditarod articles from the lesson to display or hand out to students.
- Review the steps of the Writing Workshop: Persuasive Writing. If computer access is limited, print copies of the persuasive-writing mini-lessons for students:
Step 1: Using the Idea Web graphic organizer, have students share what they know about the Iditarod (what it is, where it is, who participates, etc.) and record the information.
Step 2: Assign students to read the following background articles on their own:
Step 3: Draw students' attention to the U.S. map. Ask a volunteer to locate Alaska on the map. Point out how far north it is. Ask what they think the weather must be like that far north.
Step 4: Drawing on their reading and study of the map, review the Idea Web with the students. Have them confirm or reject original ideas they had about the Iditarod. They should replace ideas that were rejected with new information they've learned.
Step 5: Discuss the role of sled dogs in the Iditarod, pointing out that the 1,150-mile Iditarod trail is grueling for both the mushers and the team sled dogs they drive. What do students know about the dogs? What do they think about sled dogs participating in the race? Explain that mushers consider their dogs athletes - trained to perform and anxious to compete. Animal-rights groups argue that the race is cruel to the dogs, driving them beyond their endurance and sometimes even to death. Tell students that over the next few days they will learn more about sled dogs and will form their own opinions about their treatment. Then they will try to persuade others of their point of view.
Step 1: Assign students to read the articles below independently. Students should take notes related to the topics and questions they've created. They should also be considering the question: Are sled dogs treated humanely or not? Using the For and Against Worksheet, have them take notes as they read.
- Is the Iditarod for the Dogs?
- A Sled Dog Life
- An Appetite for Running
- From Pup to Champion Racer
- Dan Seavey Interview
- Meet the Seaveys
- Meet Hannah Moderow and Cali King
Step 2: In addition to reading the articles, students should choose one or more of the selected Iditarod books to read on their own for additional information.
Step 3: Drawing on their research, students should form an opinion about the treatment of sled dogs. Have each student voice his opinion in our Vote activity.
Step 1: Explain to students that they will now use what they've learned to write a persuasive essay supporting their position regarding the treatment of sled dogs. Provide background on persuasive writing, the goal of which is to convince readers to agree with you. Emphasize that persuasive writing relies heavily on facts - all opinions must be supported. Students can review the articles, research the topic at the library, or use additional resources.
Step 2: Have students visit Writer's Workshop: Persuasive Writing. As students progress through each step of the writing process, they should focus on developing an essay that uses researched facts to support their position.
Step 3: Working in pairs, have students review each others essays using the Peer Review Checklist.
Step 4: Help students Publish their essays on the site.
Step 1: Take a class vote to find out how many students believe sled dogs are treated cruelly and how many believe they're mistreated. Have students compare the class with the online results.
Step 2: Invite students to read aloud their persuasive essays to the rest of the class.
Step 3: After everyone has read their essays aloud, ask students if they've been convinced of the opposite opinion. Repeat the vote from step 1 and compare the results to the original poll. Encourage student who have changed their opinions to explain what convinced them of the opposing view. What facts or ideas did they find most persuasive?
Supporting All Learners
Iditarod: Race Across Alaska addresses national standards across the curriculum as follows:
National Council for Geographic Education
- use maps and other geographic representations, to acquire, process, and report information
- know and understand the physical and human characteristics of places
- know and understand that culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions
- know and understand characteristics, distributions, and complexity of the earth's cultural mosaics
- know and understand how human actions modify the physical environment
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- select and uses appropriate instruments and technology to measure in real-world situations
- develop fluency in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of rational-number computations and judge the reasonableness of the results
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information
- adjust spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
- use a variety of technological and informational resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge
- develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles
- use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information)
National Science Teachers Association:
- motions and forces
- transfer of energy
- organisms and their environments
- diversity and adaptations of organisms
Earth and Space Science
- properties of earth's materials
Science in Personal and Social Perspective
- changes in environment
- science and technology in local challenges
- populations, resources, and environments
- natural hazards
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points
- compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions
Time, Continuity, & Change
- read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; recognize examples of cause and effect relationships
- compare and contrast different stories and accounts about past events, people, places, or situations identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past
- identify and uses various sources for reconstructing the past
- demonstrate an understanding that people in different times and places view the world differently
People, Places, and Environments
- demonstrate an understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape
- interpret, use, and distinguish various representations of the earth, such as maps, globes, and photographs
- estimate distances and calculates scale
- locate and distinguish among varying landforms and geographic features
- examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment
- describe ways that historical events have been influenced by, and have influenced, physical and human geographic factors in local, regional, national and global settings
Technology Foundation Standards:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools to process data and report results
- employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world
- Host a debate on the issue of the treatment of sled dogs.
- Have students participate in the Be a Musher Race and then write a journal of the race through the eyes of a sled dog.
- Using the results of the class vote, have students calculate percentages and create a pie chart. Remind them to include students who voted "Undecided" as part of the pie. Have students compare the class pie chart to the national vote online.
- Using their persuasive writing as inspiration for a script, have students create a 60-second videotaped commercial designed to convince others of their views.
- Using a multimedia software program, students can create an interactive version of their writing complete with graphics, photos, and recordings that assist in stating their argument.
- Have students publish their persuasive essays in the editorial section of their school or local newspaper.
Use this Project Rubric: Taking a Stand on Sled Dogs to assess students' proficiency with this activity. Evaluate whether students' skills are improving or where they may need additional support or instruction.