What a great conference we had! Learning how to incorporate the Iditarod into STEM, primary source research, literacy, writing, math, and art was the emphasis for this incredible professional development weekend.
Jen Reiter, 2014 Teacher on the Trail™, led the educators in activities involving the history of the Iditarod Trail and working with primary sources, giving everyone strong academic resources to weave into lessons.
Diane Johnson, 2000 Teacher on the Trail™ and Iditarod Education Director, gave a tour of iditarod.com and the many lesson plans and resources available for educators. She also treated us to a phone call from an experienced trail veterinarian, Dr. Erika! Teachers asked questions about dog care on the trail and enjoyed her response to this question:
What differences do you see between dogs in your practice and sled dogs?
It was eye opening to hear that sled dogs are extremely confident and easy-going because of all the socialization given to them. Pet dogs, when examined by veterinarians, are often nervous and fearful. One of the biggest differences she notices between pet dogs and the canine athletes is that the sled dogs’ conditioning. She quipped, “It would be like standing a marathon runner next to the rest of us.”
Also on the docket was a Skype call with musher Monica Zappa. Monica, coffee cup in hand, told stories and answered our questions for an hour! Stories ranged from how she handles her long hair on the trail to moose encounters and dog training. When talking with this dedicated musher, we heard and saw how much she loves and cares for her dogs. Her lead dog, Dweezil, was lounging near her in the house, not ready to start his day that early.
I also led the teachers in some STEM and art hands on lessons. The conference wrapped up with an idea sharing time. Collaboration within the group was strong!
Most importantly, we each left the Virginia Iditarod Conference with our plates full of wonderful lessons to engage and motivate our students!