by Martha Dobson, Iditarod Educational Consultant
Every year, the race begins the first Saturday of March with the ceremonial race start in Anchorage, and now is the time to start your preparations for your students. Perhaps you have some tried and true activities and lessons which incorporate the race and the skills the students are learning. Or, you are new to the race and its use as an educational tool. Either way, follow these steps to prepare for the race and visit the Education Portal and the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ site for ideas.
Step One: Check with your school’s technology facilitator now to assure that your school’s Internet accesses all areas of the Iditarod website for you and/or your students.
Step Two: The Education Portal’s extensive menu introduces you to a wide variety of lessons in all subject areas. The Common Core Standards are conveniently available in this menu to assist you in aligning your plans with the standards. Nonfiction and fiction book lists are on the site as well as access to Zuma and the other K9 reporters. Regardless of your subject area, you’ll find something to use or something that sparks your creative juices.
Beginning in June of the upcoming school year, the current Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ posts on the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ site. These teachers post lessons each month of the school year, and when he or she arrives in Alaska later in February, the posts appear daily, supplying you with current information to take to your students. You can follow the posts as the teacher travels the race trail. Access lessons and information by previous Iditarod Teachers on the Trail™in the Messages on the sidebar of this site.
Step Three: Popular class, grade level, or schoolwide activities:
Idita-Reads, with students reading pages or books to total the length of the race, about 975 miles; Idita-Math activities similar to Idita-Reads, with students completing homework or other math problems to equal the race length; tracking mushers by choosing a musher and team to follow during the race, using the race record template here to daily update their race progress with the official race standings at www.iditarod.com; creating the Iditarod Trail route on a map, or around the classroom, or down a hall; using math problems and English proofreading sentences as daily warm-ups or at the bell activities.
Classes are often interested in writing letters to mushers, and this link is a MUST READ article for teachers considering a letter writing activity.
Step Four: Investigate subscribing to Iditarod Insider so your students can follow mushers via the GPS trackers attached to the sleds and view race footage throughout the race. There are individual and classroom subscriptions available, and this is a phenomenal way to see what’s happening and get the real flavor of the race. For adults, follow the Iditarod Trail Committee’s Facebook page. It’s active year-round with great photos and news, and during the race, the Facebook page is really hopping with posts and comments.
Step Five: Bring the race and the dogs home to your students by planning a service project to benefit your area’s local advocates for animals—animal shelters or animal rescue organizations. And when your project is complete, let us know what you did and send photos so your work can appear on this site.
Step Six: Look at the Iditarod Winter and Summer Conference Educators Conference information and plan to attend one of them. Each is a different, equally great opportunity to gain firsthand race knowledge and background, gain experience and exposure to mushers, volunteers and the dogs, and collaborate with educators about using the Iditarod as a teaching and learning tool in the classroom.
Right now, the mushers are preparing their drop bags of supplies for the Iditarod, to be used at each checkpoint—follow their example and get your sled and supplies ready for your class!
Like the mushers call to their teams, “Hike!”, and you are off, on the Iditarod Learning Trail.