August 29, 2014

Science Lessons Organized by Topic

These Iditarod based Science lessons are aligned to educational standards and organized by topic.  Find and use the lessons that meet the needs of your students. 





Whatever Pulls Your Sled by Jeanine Wolf

Students will test determine if the surface of an object will effect how much force it takes to pull that object.  They will then determine the most efficient way to attach the string to the object to reduce the necessary force and finally they will adjust the take off and pull velocities to determine if they affect the force of the object. This lesson was designed and aligned to standards for 7 – 8th grade students, but can be adapted and used at any grade level.

Lesson Plan




Sled Dog Genetics by Martha Dobson & Susan Harrington

This is a lesson to use with students after they have studied or they have learned about phenotypes, genotypes, dominant and recessive genes, heterozygous and homozygous organisms, and how to construct punnett squares in previous lessons. This lesson provides review and practice in using the previously learned skills with genetic problems based on Alaskan husky characteristics.  Grade 7

Lesson Plan




Which Sock is Warmest? By Laurie Nakauchi-Hawn, Lesson Plan

This lesson asks young students, what kind of sock will keep you warmer?  Which fabric keeps you the warmest- cotton, wool or polyester? Students test different materials to see which one will melt an ice cube first. They use these results to decide which kind of socks they would choose to wear in the cold weather.  Although this lesson is geared for Kindergarten and lower elementary, this lesson can be expanded upon to use with more advanced students. 

*National Science Standard 12 –Understands the nature of scientific inquiry*Alaska Science Standard A- Science as Inquiry and Process -A student should understand and be able to apply the processes and applications of scientific inquiry.

Lesson Plan


Testing Gear to Stay Safe on the Trail by Jane Blaile

After identifying the independent and dependent variables, they hypothesized how much warmer their hands/feet would be INSIDE her trail gear as compared to the temperature of the ice water OUTSIDE the gear.  Students wrote out a materials list and steps for the testing procedure.


Mountains and/or Plate Tectonics


Plate Tectonics & Alaska’s Mountain Ranges By Amy Dahmus

Students will first hypothesize how the mountains in Alaska were formed. Students will research the mountains and categorize them by their origin, volcanic eruption or plate tectonics. Students will then create a spreadsheet using EXCEL to compare the mountains origins.  Science:  Grade 4 and Up

Lesson Plan




Eat and Drink a Marathon by Blynne Froke, 2012 Teacher on the Trail™ 

Students weigh themselves regularly before daily running activity, run 30 minutes (on top of stretching and warm-up activities) and weigh again immediately after running.  Time of day and temperature should also be recorded.  The weight loss is equivalent to the amount of water lost from the body during this exercise and time interval that needs to be replaced. Students read about the need for hydration for optimum muscle functioning and brain activity.   Students also learn about the 60-20-20 ratio for caloric intake for physical activity (carbs-fats-protein) then design and prepare high quality pre-run meals.

Information on Standards:  Physical Education high school course 1, standard 2.9 and Health expectation 1 – food choices.

Lesson Plan




Walk a Mile in My Shoes:  A Matter of Survival, By Sally Simon

Students learn the science of snowshoes and how to make snowshoes in an emergency.  Students will discover how snowshoes work and why they may be necessary.  Students will calculate surface area.  Subject: Science and Math  Grade Level:   Grades 5-8,  H.S. Physics (extension), and grades 2-4 (extensions)  Aligned to Standards.

Video Link:  The Challenge:  Walk a mile in my shoes!

Lesson Plan




Wind Chill, Fahrenheit, and Celsius

By Martha Dobson, Iditarod Educational Consultant

Common Core State Standards addressed in this article include but are not limited to:  Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations; Use functions to model relationships between quantities; Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes; Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience; Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Wind Chill

Wind chill calculations are pretty complicated. It basically works like this; we cool ourselves by sweating.  In the summer when you step in front of a fan, the wind “wicks” away the sweat, which results in our skin cooling off. The same happens in the winter, except that we don’t really need to be sweating to feel its effects. We generate heat from our “inner core”,  and it emanates outward toward our skin. The wind basically “chills” our skin, robbing it of warmth and if we remain exposed long enough, that “chilling effect” can work its way deeper into our bodies. It is important to note that this only works on living beings, like humans and animals.  Inanimate objects, like cars, homes, etc. do not lose any heat to the wind and are not affected. In the Iditarod, the dogs (and their drivers) are affected by wind chill but their supplies would not be. (Thanks to Steve  Udelson, Chief Meteorologist, WSOC-TV for the wind chill explanation and web site.)

Secondary students, calculate wind chill and use those algebra skills. Use the Weather Conditions box on for temperature and wind information. You calculate the wind chill for a REAL brain workout. Check your work using the tables at the links above.

Wind chill formula below:

Wind chill temperature = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75V (**0.16) + 0.4275TV(**0.16)

In the formula, V is in the wind speed in statute miles per hour, and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit

Fahrenheit and Celsius Temperatures

The Celsius temperature scale is used by the scientific world and by most countries around the world except for the United States, Belize and the Cayman Islands. Its freezing point is zero degrees Celsius, while the freezing point on the Fahrenheit scale is 32 degrees.

The Celsius scale is named after Anders Celsius; the Fahrenheit scale is named after Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit.

Some activities using temperature:

  • Research these two scientists and the scales they invented. Cite the sources used, using the citation format given by your teacher.
  • Create a poster or a brochure, explaining these temperature scales and how they work.
  •  Write an argumentative paper on why the United States should or should not convert to Celsius as its official temperature scale.
  •  Write a technical article explaining the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales and how they work.
  • Relate positive and negative numbers to the temperatures posted on  and the temperatures in your area. You can find the temperatures of the various checkpoints by entering the village name in the Search box in the Weather Conditions box on the web site.
  • Convert the Fahrenheit temperatures posted on in the Weather Conditions box to Celsius, and then back again. Search for other checkpoint weather information using the Search feature in this box. It’s a great workout for your brain! (Don’t use the converter program, use brain power.) Create a table which shows Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures for each checkpoint during the race. Accessed 12.27.201    

 Fahrenheit to Celsius       C = (F – 32) x 5/9

 Celsius to Fahrenheit       F = C x 9/5 + 32


Iditarod Ready! StormReady® — StormReady®

This packet of lesson ideas is designed for teachers to teache the communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property – before and during the onslaught of severe weather – while improving science skills and expanding knowledge about climates of the world. Be an Iditarod StormReady® classroom!

A World Of Weather

This gameshow-style game makes it fun to learn about weather.

Compare Weather and Daylight Hours

Making comparisons of weather and daylight hours in Alaska and local locations helps students gain a perspective and understanding of the real world.  Lesson is aligned to content and core standards and can be adapted for use in any grade level.

Comparing Weather and Daylight Hours by Pam Verfaillie, Education Partner for Ken Anderson, Windy Creek Kennel.


Weather or Not, the Race Must Go On! By Linda Kal Sander, Finalist for  2010 Teacher on the Trail™

 This article and lesson plan link provides information about the conditions that present challengers to mushers and teams on the trail. 

The three main weather factors mushers must consider when running Iditarod are temperature, wind, and snow conditions.  They think about the variety of conditions they might face well in advance of the race by determining what needs to go into a drop bag for each individual checkpoint. Extra plastic runners and a dry pair of socks might really come in handy after a trip across the Farewell Burn when they arrive in Nikolai