Reading Corner “Drop Bags”


These drop bags belong to Cindy Abbott. When the start changed to the northern route in 2017, the bags had to be relabeled with the northern checkpoint villages/towns.

Mushers are allowed to ship supplies ahead so they can replenish their “people” food, dog food,  and gear such as  boots, gloves, dog booties, and more. They may send three 50-pound “drop bags” per checkpoint. The bags are labeled with their names and A, B, or C. The bags are flown into the checkpoints and organized in a line so mushers can quickly grab and go if needed.

For my classroom’s reading corner, I created pillows modeled after drop bags the mushers send to checkpoints. When we start school, my students will decide which musher name to write onto each bag. It’s an easy, relatively inexpensive project to add to your Iditarod theme during race time or now!



White pillow cases

Acrylic paint

Brushes or sponges

Letter stencils (I used 3 inch)

Old pillows or stuffing

1.5 yards piping or rope to tie three bags shut


  1. Iron pillow case; insert newspaper or cardboard to keep paint from leaking through layers
  2. Create a template with a 5-inch wide opening for the colored band on the drop bag
  3. Attach template with clothespins or straight pins
  4. I used sponge brushes to create a woven look 
  5. Hold down stencils, one at a time, to paint the checkpoint name. 
  6. Allow to dry
  7. Write A, B, or C at top right of bag
  8. Insert pillow or stuffing
  9. Tie shut with piping or rope

Activities with these drop bag pillows?  Some ideas:

  • Have students read about drop bags and discuss the logistics needed to plan for the packing of supplies
  •  Create a flowchart or sequence of what must happen to pack all the bags.
  • Later, remove pillow and actually practice filling with items to reach 50 pounds for students  to understand the weight.  They cannot weigh more than 50 pounds.
  • Find the equivalent weight in grams or kilograms
  • Discuss volume and how many of these could fit into a small aircraft to be flown into a checkpoint


Need a boost to begin using the Iditarod or to get fresh ideas?  There will be an Iditarod teachers’ conference in Virginia offered October 14, 15, 2017.  Hear speakers give standards based teaching ideas for incorporating the Iditarod, participate in Skype sessions with mushers, and network with other teachers who love the race and see the motivation it brings to the classroom!  Contact the ITC EDU Director, Diane Johnson, at for additional details.