Around the World: Iditarod: Kindergarten in Germany

Charlee Stevens, Educational Journalist, Germany

Things you need to know:

  • I teach Kindergarten on a military base in Germany.
  • I have 25 children in class.  They range from non-readers to about level 6 in DRA.
  • My class is run as a company where each child has a job and gets a daily wage.  They get paid every Friday for the jobs they do and can earn bonuses for doing all their assignments (centers).  The amount they receive depends on whether or not they choose to “clock in/out” of activities by checking them off in their daily log book.  They could earn as little as $5.00 or as much as $12.00 a day in Stevens’ Company money.

About the Iditarod Unit:

We started learning about the Iditarod in January when I was preparing to go to see my first dogsled races.  I brought in the musher clothing I have collected over the years as well as patches, stuffed animals from the Arctic, and lots of books.  When I returned from the weekend races, I shared photos that I took of the various dog teams and mushers.  I also shared pictures that friends sent of races and dog sledding in Iceland and various places in the states.  Then the classroom kennel arrived.

A very generous friend of mine (Bonz Lundburg) sent me stuffed huskies for the classroom kennel…enough for each child in my class to adopt a puppy!  This week they got to meet the puppies in the kennel.  It was an exciting day with everyone picking 3 different dogs that they thought would suit them (just in case the one they really wanted had already been adopted before they got a turn).   Friday after lunch, my kinders went to the kennel again.  This time there was a “vet” (a volunteer mom) and lots of puppy sound effects (thanks to mom’s ipod).   At the kennel, they chose their new pet, named it, decided if it was a boy or girl, and gave it a birth date.  The “vet” recorded all the information and gave the owners an appointment for a check-up next week.  For the next month the children will learn about caring for their puppy while it lives in the school kennel. They will have to feed, water, exercise, and teach it as part of their daily routine.  When they go for their check-up, the vet will give them shots, check the puppy for injuries, if needed perform surgery and present the owner with a bill for the week.  Kenneling, food, and vet bills will be paid out of their weekly earnings.

Language Arts:

  1. The children will write in their journals about how they chose and named their puppy.  They will also be asked to write about their puppy training and adventures.  All writing will be done using inventive spelling.
  1. I have prepared several games using notebook software for use on individual computers as well as on the SmartBoard.  The games help the children learn facts and vocabulary.

Social Skills:

  1. During relaxation time they will learn to interact appropriately with their pets.  Any puppy abuse (throwing, swinging around by the tail or leg, etc.) will mean the puppy goes back to the kennel and is cared for by the vet for that day.  If this happens, the daily kennel fee is doubled.
  1. We will build 4 teams with 1 musher and 6 “dogs”.  They will work together in work centers and playground training for the month.  At the end of the month they will participate in a stage race around the playground as a dogsled team.  The “dogs” will be wearing toddler harnesses and will pull their musher in a wagon.  Teams will have both boys and girls.  The teams will decide who will be the musher, lead dogs, wheel dogs, and swing dogs.


  1. Each day the children will roll dice to see how many ounces of dog food their puppy will eat.  That will help them figure out the cost of the food for that day.  Each ounce of regular food will cost $1.00 and the super food will cost $2.00 per ounce.  Kenneling fees are $1.00 per day.  They will record kenneling and food fees in their math journal which they will take to the Vet Clinic on Friday.
  2. On Friday, they will help figure out their kenneling costs, food bills, and vet fees for the week.  Their totals will count towards the adoption fees for their dogs.  On March 12, 2010, they will be awarded an adoption certificate and take their puppies home.
  3. We have a list of the checkpoints for 2010 and the distance between them.  We will use linker cubes to build segments of the trail and then transfer the information to graph paper.  1 cube=1 mile=1 square of graph paper.
  4. Each child will have a musher to follow during the race.  They will work with the teacher to record where their musher is and how many dogs they have on their team.  Usually several children will choose the same musher so small groups work on this task together.  If a musher scratches, the children simply choose another one.  Many of the children will follow the musher at home with their parents as well as at school.

Reading Readiness:

We will read many of my books about Arctic animals and the Iditarod.  The different reading groups will then be tasked with picking a story and rewriting it in their own words.  The high level readers will write a story on their own, middle level will write a story in small groups, and non-readers will dictate the story to me.


Using tasks from eIditarod by Walter MacKenzie, we will explore the Arctic and discover how animals stay warm and how difficult it is to build a round structure.  We will build and test a blubber mitt, try to build a sled with popsicle sticks, and attempt to build a marshmallow igloo.

Physical Fitness

As part of our daily recess, we walk around the playground.  We count the minutes the children walk X the number of children in class to get our total miles for the day.  To walk to Anchorage for the start, we need to walk 4695 miles.  To get to Nome for the finishers banquet, we need to walk 5744 miles…and then we have to get home!  It is a fun way to exercise!