Paws Along the Trail with World Flags
How many countries have been represented by mushers in the Iditarod? It’s a question your geography or math students can discover! This lesson can be used as a research activity, statistical activity, world geography review, or just an extra credit project for those early finishers in your class.
Standing proudly a little off the highway in Wasilla, Alaska, is the sign welcoming visitors to Iditarod Headquarters. It weathers the snow, ice, and wind during the winter. In the summer, many visitors come past the sign to tour headquarters with its museum-like room full of the major Iditarod trophies added to yearly like the Red Lantern Award.
The sign also commemorates mushers coming from far away lands to compete in the “Last Great Race,” nickname of the Iditarod. A musher from Norway once told me with a twinkle in his eye, “It costs more than your teacher salary to bring my dogs over here to run the Iditarod.” Not that we earn huge wages as teachers, but…wow!
Why do it? Why come so far, going to all the trouble of transporting dogs and equipment across oceans to run a 1049 mile race in frigid conditions? According to Norwegian musher Lars Monsen’s bio on iditarod.com:
“…he has been a full time adventurer since 1991 and has spent more than 4,500 nights in a sleeping bag, more than half in extreme winter conditions.”
Perhaps it’s about the adventure and the thrill of making it across Alaska with a team of loyal friends, your dogs.
I have included world geography/math lesson plans using the Iditarod Headquarters sign. The two plans cover older and younger students. It’s just another route to bring engagement and motivation to student learning!
Other Iditarod Teacher News
Each year at the Mushers’ Banquet, centerpieces grace the tables made by school children around the world. Does your class have an idea to submit? Read over the Musher Banquet Table Top Contest and send in your idea! It must be received by November 15.