Iditarod and Mushing are Amazing Tools for your Classroom

I’d like to thank Debbie Curry for filling in for me.  Influenza A wasn’t on this week’s to do list… I am so sorry I am not here in McCall.   Before Debbie continues, I just want to thank her for stepping in on such short notice.  Debbie is an alumni of our Alaska events, having attended summer camp.  Big thanks, Debbie.  I am truly grateful to you for stepping onto the runners of this sled and helping out in this way!  You are amazing!

A big thank you to the McCall team for all of their hard work and dedication.  I’m so proud to be working with them and we hope this becomes a yearly event.  We know it will grow.  Thanks for joining us!

*AND very importantly, I have some swag for you….  so I’ll get the verification of your addresses and send that to you by postal mail next week.

** Please note, I will be asking Debbie to do a drawing for 2 FREE Insider Subscriptions.  Each worth $67.95.  I will be giving Debbie one, too, for helping out today.  I was only going to give out one prize, but hey, I’m not there, so I’ve decided to add this on!



Today’s agenda: January 11, 2020, McCall, Idaho

*Times are a rough estimate and may be tweaked

8:30 – 9:00:  Meet Jerry and the Idaho team, plus Debbie.  Jerry’s going to share out about their upcoming race and what goes on behind the scenes.  Jerry is also a volunteer for the Iditarod.  He’s a member of the Iditarod Air Force.  I hope he takes time to share about that ‘adventure’ as well. I’m sure he’s got a story or two to share with you.

We have a lesson on our website at this link. The lesson is called inferring with the Iditarod Air Force.


Debbie’s Story:  Meet Debbie Curry, a alumni from our Iditarod events.  She’s going to share with you what she does in the classroom, her experiences with the race and students, and her time with us at our summer camp event.  She’s got a lot to share and I know this will be a great ‘on ramp’ for getting you excited about using the race with your students.

Your Turn: For the attendees: Getting on the Sled with US! 

Introduce yourself, share your story.  Why do you use the Iditarod or mushing in your classroom, what’s something that really works or has engaged learning, and what is your goal for this event and the future using mushing with students.  Share lessons you’ve done or ideas you plan on using in your classroom. 

*If you don’t get done before Laurie arrives, this can be finished up later in the day, perhaps after the musher presentation, during the lunch break, or when ever it makes the most sense to finish.


10:30:  Musher Presentation.

Meet Laurie Warren, a local musher, and her dogs.  (Not sure if she’s bringing just one or more.)  She’s going to share with you about dog care, raising, training, race, equipment, the sled, and basically, mushing 101.  Someone please take photos and send them to me!  This is going to be so awesome.

11:30:  My first presentation, thanks to Debbie!  (Part 1)

12:00:  Lunch and collaborations time.  I know an hour for lunch?  Teachers never get an hour for lunch, do they?  Use this time to collaborate with each other and discuss ideas, plan, make connections, and spend a few minutes relaxing.

1:00:  Part 2 Presentation

2:00:  Break

2:15 – 3:00 Part 3:  Practical application

  • How can you apply what you’ve learned from our musher, Laurie to your classroom and your lessons?
  • Did you learn something new about mushing or dog care?
  • How can students transition the dog care and skills that it takes to be a musher into their own lives?


3:00  Wrap up: 

Check in with your goals, did you meet your goals today?  Did you set new goals?

Contact Diane for any assistance you need, for example finding lesson ideas, making connections with other teachers, getting involved in projects, or attending our conference events. 

We also hope to make this event a yearly event.  Will you join us again or know someone who might want to join us?

*Draw for the 2 FREE Iditarod Insider Subscriptions

Presentations 1 – 4

Part 1

There is no doubt about it, dogs, mushing, and the Iditarod (or other races) absolutely captivate the mind of a child.  Iditarod works as a teaching tool for preschool – high school and beyond.  Iditarod’s Education Department helps teachers connect this theme to their classroom.  Iditarod is found as a teaching tool in all 50 states and many foreign countries.


What is the Iditarod?  The Iditarod is a sled dog race that runs from Anchorage to Nome each year.  It follows the Historic National Trail system. 

Why did the Iditarod Race begin?  What’s the origin.

*UNLIKE the great myths out there, Iditarod does not commemorate the Serum Run.  The Serum Run is a very important event in Alaska’s history, but doesn’t have anything to do with Iditarod.  The founders of the race did not even think about the Serum Run in their reasoning for starting the race.


YourTube video by Katie Mangelsdorf:

Katie authored a book about the Father of the Iditarod, Joe Redington, SR.

Resources from the Iditarod Website: 

EDU Article

Iditarod Website:

  • Redington had two reasons for organizing the long-distance Iditarod Race:  to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies, which were being phased out of existence due to the introduction of snowmobiles in Alaska; and to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome. 

About ITC EDU:

Take note of the information below the Video Clip.  Mission Statement, Steps We Take, Results we strive for, etc.

View the video.

*This video was created for the ITC EDU by Exxon Mobil.

Imagine the Possibilities….  What do you think?  Discuss.

OK, what are the possibilities when using the race with your students?  What can you do that you haven’t done?  If you have used the race with your students, what results have you seen?  Like I said in the video, do you find students read, write, and problem solve more using the race related content?  Are students engaged in the lessons maybe more so than book learning?


Trent Hebst:  I haven’t been in touch with Trent recently, but he’s an amazing teacher.  I have email out to him and hope to provide an update on the website, too.

Diane Johnson – by Jeff Schultz/ (C) 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Me:   I look nothing like I did in that video.  That video, although a few years old now, is a great glimpse about the Iditarod as a teaching tool.

This is me today..  (Alright, not today, but during the 2019 race.  You can find me on Facebook for more of ‘me’.  Please friend me.  This will be a great way to stay in touch and you’ll have the added bonus of not just viewing information about Iditarod while I’m in Alaska, but hey, you’ll see lots of photos of my grandkids! (The loves of my life.)

My email address:  Please send me an email.

Hobbies besides my work with Iditarod:  I like to do bead work, ‘play with paint’ – pour painting with acrylics, travel and have adventures.

(Yesterday, January 10 was my birthday.  It wasn’t my favorite birthday ever.)



Part 2

Get to know Iditarod’s website:  How to use the site and find what you need.

Our EDU site strives to provide you with the lessons and information you need so you don’t have to create new lessons.  Many of these lessons with adaptations can be used in a variety of grade levels and be used for not just Iditarod, but used with other races by making a few tweaks.  We put our lessons on a lesson plan template for documentation that we are stressing standards based teaching and learning.


Notice the categories on the Landing Page of the website. 

*On the left –

  • Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Kelly Villar is our teacher this year.  We’ll look at her project in depth a bit later.
  • Edu Videos –  In this section, we have identified video clips that teachers can use with students.  Many of the clips do require a subscription to Iditarod Insider.  Some are free.
  • Race Information.  General and basic race information

*Below the image: 

  • Teach and Learn:  Main content section which contains lessons for teachers to use with the students.
  • Students:  Things students can do on their own
  • Conferences:  Information about our events for teachers
  • Zuma’s Paw Prints:  K9 Reporters write for students


Teach and Learn Section:  This section provides teachers with lessons in the areas listed on the page.

On the Library page, there is a suggested book list.  Tips and Tools has general information for teachers, special projects, etc.  New to the Race is very valuable because it give tips on how to get started if you’ve never used Iditarod as a tool before or if you want to have basic information for your students.


Teach and Learn page in the education tab of


To find specific content lessons, click on the content area such as math, Social Studies, Language Arts, and Science….

Let’s take a look at a couple important areas:

When you click on the Math icon, the first ‘lesson’ you will find is a 165 page document of lesson ideas for classroom use.  This is an amazing tool.  You may have to tweak a lesson to fit your classroom or standards, but there is absolutely something for any teacher that provides lessons in math.

Another great lesson piece for math which has to do with the veterinarian ‘checks’ for dogs prior to the race.


Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

Each year, Iditarod EDU selects an educator to represent teachers in sharing out the ability to use the race with students. During the school year, the teacher puts lessons on the website and maintains a journal.  During the race, the teacher flies by small plane from checkpoint to checkpoint and reports from the trail.

This year’s teacher is Kelly Villar from CT.

Kelly’s bio:

Kelly’s video: This was her application Video.


Kelly’s lessons and journal are found at this link:

A main feature Kelly’s hosting is a “Dog of the Month” series.  Her latest episode is found here:  Scabs:

You can meet up with Kelly on Skype in the classroom, Flipgrid, or via email.  Information for those ways to communicate with Kelly are on her website.

We will be selecting 3 finalists for the 2021 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ this next week.  The 3 individuals will join us for the Winter Conference this March, and participate in an interview and selection activities.  We had 6 applicants for this position which were turned in by December 1.

Time to explore.  If you have your own devices, ( I don’t think your cell phone will work because of your location) such as a laptop today, explore for lessons applicable for you and your students by clicking on the various areas.  You can also use a search bar on the page to help you find something specific, like writing to mushers, or maps, etc.

Part 3

Projects:  Highlighting a few projects we are working on this year.

Iditarod Traveling Quilt:  Summer camp teachers design quilts that travel to schools around the nation as a teaching tool.  You can sign up and get a quilt in 2021.  This article tells you about this year’s project.  Sign up! 

Husky Pod Cast: Student run podcast, features interviews with mushers, race officials, and Iditarod Icons and Champions.  Here’s the latest podcast.  Have a listen!


We invite educators to share their lessons on our website. You are invited to submit lessons on our template. Here’s a lesson by Guest teacher, Kelly Shusko.  Click here to view the lesson.

View our project with Takotna School and have your students compare what goes on in their own community.   This is a part of our Student Journalst series.

  •  (for more on Student Journalist projects)


Flipgrid:  Do you use Flipgrid?  Watch for a project to be launched in the next week or two!


Part 4 Wrap Up

Feedback, questions, chat.  Did you meet your goals?  What do you need from Diane?  AND please, a big shout out of thanks to Debbie for helping me out today.

Drawing for 2 FREE iditarod Insider Subscriptions.


Additional Options for the day:

View Annie’s ABC book here.  Having your students create an ABC project is a great way to integrate art and other content areas. 

Hold an IKidARod at your school.  IKidaRods are student simulated races and take place in many different forms.  Take a look at this resource  and then, hold your own IkidaRod and let us know how it went!  We’d love to share out your project.

Ready to Go PowerPoint Presentations can be found at this link.  Includes virtual fieldtrips to Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla.