Another Surprise Connection

I’ve said repeatedly that I can make an Iditarod connection to ANY topic.

I’m ready to prove it yet again.

Today we connect the Iditarod to our study of Lewis and Clark.  And not because of the obvious fact that the Lewis and Clark Trail is a historic trail just like the Iditarod Trail.

It’s because of the beads.

Yes, you read that correctly. The beads.

See, Lewis and Clark carried beads, lots and lots of beads on their travels.  According  to the documents left behind, they carried “20 pounds of assorted beads, mostly blue and 5 pounds of small, white, glass beads” as goods to trade with the Native Americans they came in contact with (

Beads Packed up and Ready to Hit the Trail!

Beads Packed up and Ready to Hit the Trail!

Iditarod mushers also carry beads on the trail, but very special beads. They carry beads that are a part of the Beads of Courage program.  Beads of Courage is an organization that gives kids with cancer or other serious conditions a way to tell their stories and commemorate milestones they have achieved during their treatment.  When they join the program they are given a strand of beads that spells out their name.  Each time they have a procedure done they are given a special bead that represents that procedure.  It’s a way for them to encourage the kids to talk about their procedures.  It’s a hands on way for the kids to show others what they have gone through.

Artists donate the beads that are then packaged and carried down the trail by mushers and others on the trail.  I was honored to be included in the program this year.  I carried a beautiful orange and blue bead and three husky head shaped beads.  The husky beads are called team beads and are given to the children in the program along with cards of encouragement that are filled out by the carrier of the beads.  The handmade beads are auctioned off to raise money for the Beads of Courage program.  It’s really an amazing program that you can learn more about here:  Beads of Courage

An activity that you could do with your students is to get them to select a few events that had a strong impact on their life.  Encourage them to think about turning points.  Provide them with clay and have them make a bead that represents each event.  They can then string their beads and use them as a tool to help them tell their stories.  It might be a great tie in to writing personal narratives in Writing Workshop.  They could use the beads as a way to rehearse their personal stories before they write them.

As for the Lewis and Clark tie in?  Maybe I could have the kids make beads that commemorate the major events in the Lewis and Clark Expedition!