Every spring my group of excited 2nd graders and their enthusiastic parents prepare for the Iditarod, a 1,100 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. There’s so much I want to share with you about the Iditarod and what we study and learn that I’m planning to write several posts about the race.
For ten years I've studied the Iditarod with my class as a way to teach standards for media literacy, language arts, and character education. Students learn how to navigate a complex Web site independently and follow links under my supervision. Students write musher profiles and sled dog poetry. Everyone picks a musher to root for and follow for the duration of the race. They graph Alaska’s daily temperature and wind speed and compare Alaska's weather to our own. As students follow mushers’ progress, they learn about perseverance, practice, courage, and hard work. They sing, dance, and shout about the Iditarod. Students even pull one another around the gym on carpet-square "sleds"!
Read on to find out more. . . .
This year’s Iditarod will begin with a ceremonial opening and parade on Saturday, March 5. The real race begins Sunday, March 6. In odd numbered years Iditarod mushers, or sled dog racers, follow the southern trail from Anchorage to Nome, a distance of about 1,131 miles. The winning musher usually crosses the finish line around the ninth day of the race.
Get Ready for the Race!
Be Sure to Check Out:
Target Teacher on the Trail — Each year there’s a new Target Teacher on the Trail, an educator who takes part in the race and creates lesson plans, blogging along the way. This year’s Target Teacher on the Trail is Martha Dobson, a 6th grade teacher from Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. In particular, check out her math lesson about tracking the temperature, which includes modifications for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Musher profiles — The musher profiles will become a main source of information for students and a way to link to individual musher's Web sites and blogs.
Route & checkpoints — Get to know Alaska geography and terrain. Learn the names of checkpoints along the southern route.
Iditarod rules — Depending on the grade you teach, you may want to make copies of the rules for your students or learn the rules so you can interpret them for your students.
Iditarod photos — There are countless photos on the site and more will be added daily. You can use photos to illustrate stories and reports and to create bulletin boards.
Iditarod Insider — Iditarod Insider is a subscription part of the Web site that entitles you to see constantly updated video clips of the Iditarod. It’s a valuable resource and well worth the investment. You can view free samples from the Web site's home page.
Collect Lots of Books
There are many super books about the Iditarod. Here are a few your students might enjoy:
Check the store on the official Web site for additional videos for sale.
Look for maps of Alaska. I like Maps for the Classroom. You can purchase large, desktop-size maps for $1.00. When labeled, colored, and laminated, they're beautiful and a great reference for students. You'll need to draw the Iditarod Trail and checkpoints. If students partner up for this activity, it will go twice as fast and you'll need fewer maps. There are plenty of smaller outline maps you can download free.
Set Up for an IditaRead
In our school’s hallway we create an IditaRead Trail, posting official IditaRead start (by the office) and finish lines (at the farthest point in school), as well as checkpoints. This read-a-thon lasts for the month of March. The object is for all students to increase and record their reading so, collectively, we race from Anchorage to Nome. Combining our efforts makes this activity cooperative rather than competitive. For more details about IditaRead, go to the IditaRead page.