Primary Source of the Month: May

The idea of awarding a red lantern to the final finisher in a dog race apparently got its start during the Fur Rendezvous races in 1953 as a joke. When the the Iditarod came into existence, the tradition continued. The award has come to represent the preservation and grit needed to finish the race. The winners of the Red Lantern have chosen to finish what they started, overcoming obstacles, self-doubt, and challenges along the way. Many of the Red Lantern winners have talked about wanting to prove to themselves that they can do difficult things. The attitudes displayed by these mushers are wonderful ones for students to emulate. Not giving up when things get tough is one of Iditarod’s greatest lessons.

Close-up of Red Lantern Award Iditarod. Photo by Jeff Schultz/ (C) 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Using the Source With Students

  • Display the photo for the students and have them share what they See, Think, and Wonder about the artifact.
  • Share this article from canine reporter Gypsy to explain the two lanterns that play a part in the race.
  • Discuss with the students what the Red Lantern award has come to represent. How do they think mushers feel when they receive this award?
  • Have the students think about their school year and all of the ways they persevered when things were tough.
  • Create a brainstorm list and record the students’ examples on chart paper for them to refer back to.
  • Have the students secretly choose one of the events reported by another classmate on the brainstorm list. They should design a new award to represent the perseverance needed by their classmate to overcome that challenge.
  • Have the students share their new awards with the student that inspired its creation.


Associated Resources:

  • Jim Deprez, the current Teacher on the Trail, shared how he uses the Red Lantern as a classroom motivator in this post.
  • A list of the Red Lantern winners and their times can be found on the Special Awards Archive page. This data is great for graphing in math class!