Classroom Culture: Visuals and “Alaska Day”

It’s December, and this Gulf Coast resident is watching with envy from afar as dog teams travel down snowy trails in Alaska and run first-of-the-winter short races. Winter in my part of Texas could be considered “shorts weather” in Alaska! 

Iditarod keepsakes and dog photos. Students love the dog bootie. Photo: K. Newmyer

I shared photos of the recent deep snowfall in Anchorage with my students—and they were amazed. I try to recreate the wintry mood of snow and coziness in my classroom.  It helps set the tone for students to anticipate the Iditarod race.  We are decorating our 5th grade bulletin board (I posted about it last month) with snowflakes, and instead of a Christmas door I like to have students make snowflakes. Every class is different but this year my group likes to make 3D snowflakes. I prefer the six-pointed ones, especially if they subtly reference a cultural image. I designed a sled dog snowflake to share with you here.  

The visuals you display in your classroom are important. These images send a signal and invite conversation. Throughout the year, I display Iditarod calendars, postcards, posters, and sled-dog themed bulletin boards. Your classroom is your haven, so make sure your students can see your passion for the Iditarod and learn about it any time. Hang your keepsakes within close reach, so you can grab them and show to the students as the need arises. 

One of the most important ways I share Iditarod visuals is with my Power Point that I call “Daily Morning.” It’s a one-slide visual on my screen that students can see right when they walk in each day.  I include the date, reminders, and a note of encouragement. I always include an Iditarod photo.  Most of the pictures I have included so far are the ones I took at the 2023 Ceremonial Start and the Restart in Willow.  I can’t wait to share more images after being on the trail in 2024!  Use the technology that works for you but be sure to include lots of great photos to get your students wondering and thinking about the Iditarod.  This takes me very little time to set up and I can do the whole week in about 10 minutes. 

This is an example of my “Daily Morning” slide where I always include an Iditarod image. Photo: K. Newmyer

I promised I would share how I do Alaska Day! Students love it and I save it for a big reward, such as after the IditaREAD.  After my family’s vacation to Alaska in 2018, I knew I had to bring Alaska to Texas.  On “Alaska Day,” students wear slippers and they can bring a dog plushie or blanket. We spend part of our morning settled in to read with the pillows and comfy chairs that are already in my classroom. I encourage them to read books about Alaska, dogs, snow, or really, anything they want! Alaska Day is special because I give them sled dog names for the day. After all of our learning since August, they already know many famous or current sled dog names and they enjoy finding out who gets to be “North” or “Razz” for the day.  Finally–make sure the students have yummy snacks—goldfish are a favorite! You can incorporate STEM, art, or any activity you would like into Alaska Day.  

Slippers for “Alaska Day!” Photo: K. Newmyer

If it’s a decoration or required bulletin board for your classroom, why not make it Iditarod-themed? You can keep the spirit of Iditarod prominent in your classroom all year.  Email me at with your ideas.