Classroom Culture: Team Colors

As of today’s posting, the Iditarod starts in only 42 days–and there are now 43 mushers signed up!  It’s exciting to think that these teams will soon be getting out on the Iditarod Trail. How will you get your classroom excited and “geared up” for the race?  

Students always want to know who the mushers are.  They love learning about their personalities, race records, and their dogs.  I am starting to get my kids excited for the race by using unstructured morning time for them to log into the musher profiles page and check out this year’s competitors. The group includes a mix of rookies, veterans, and seasoned mushers who will test their various experience, and their dog teams, on a long and varied trail. 

To distinguish the mushers and create a sense of healthy competition, point out to students that each musher has a signature look—kind of like team colors.  DeeDee Jonrowe is always easy to spot in her pink parka and kuspuk. You can easily notice 2022 champion Brent Sass with his yellow hoodie, a color that is also prominent in his kennel’s branding. The Mackey family is consistent with emblematic red jumpsuits, while Martin Buser’s buffalo plaid hat is beloved among race fans. At the start of the 2023 race, I couldn’t help but notice Ryan Redington’s bright green that was on everything from his parka to his dog booties. Kristy and Anna Berington sport twin dog-paw-printed headbands.  Sixteen-year-old Emily Robinson (this year’s Knik 200 Joe Redington, Sr. Memorial Sled Dog Race winner!) wears a beautiful fur hat, and Dallas Seavey wears an incredible dog-paw sweater.  What other trends do you notice?

Signature colors help us identify other Iditarod volunteers.  You can spot certain workers by their iconic wear, such as a red arm badge for veterinarians or orange vests for trail workers. A memory comes to mind of my college days in Wisconsin, going to class in negative-40-degree weather and only being able to identify fellow students by their jacket, hats, and scarves.  In Alaska, they take winter gear up a notch—fur is big, as is Alaska Native items liked beaded gloves and decorated mukluks.  In that spirit, I just finished knitting myself a “signature” hat to wear while I’m in Alaska.  Team colors remind us that this competition is healthy, and most importantly, fun!

Students LOVE dress-up days.  To bring up the excitement and count down to the race, let students wear team colors or gear to support their favorite musher, both in the lead-up to the race and of course, during the race!  Give students time to look over the 2024 musher bios and determine their favorites. Encourage students to follow links to musher’s kennel pages and examine the branding, colors, and logos.  Students can search for photos past and present to help them recognize the musher they want to follow.  What colors stand out? What items of gear can you easily see, such as hats, parkas, etc.? Encourage students to determine the character traits and qualities they admire in their musher, and then share with the class or in a reflective piece of writing.  Tie these characteristics to your school’s core values.  

Hold a Pre-Race Meeting, Iditarod Team Day, or other day when you can take some time to enjoy healthy competition so students can wear the signature colors of their chosen musher.  Include activities like learning the names of their team of dogs, locating on a map where the mushers call home, researching past race history, and other stories.  I’ll make sure to do this on pizza day, since those real pre-race meetings will include a lot of pizza!  If you are one of the teachers signed up to write letters to mushers, this is a great activity to do during your Pre-Race Meeting.  Students can also call in Musher-Grams while the race is going on, and make their own signs to cheer on the mushers! 

A fan holds up a sign at the Willow Restart of the 2023 Iditarod, cheering on Mille Porsild and her team. Photo: K. Newmyer

Signature colors help your students bond and will help you create excitement as the 2024 Iditarod approaches!  Getting back to that knitted hat, one of my students picked out the yarn color.  Any guesses? Email me at