Paws Along the Trail with Puppies
Musher Meredith Mapes completed her rookie Iditarod race in March. As did many mushers, Meredith parked her sled under the burled arch finish line and walked up the line of her dogs, petting and thanking them. Recently, she had another event to celebrate. One of her dogs had six puppies! In the tradition of mushers, Meredith is currently naming the puppies in a theme. A Harry Potter theme is her choice, with Draco and Nimbus the male puppies’ names. Female names have been batted around: Nymphadora, Luna, Quaffle, or Bellatrix.
Because sled dog kennels have multiple puppy litters, this tradition of naming litters in a theme is a fun talking point for students. Many puppy naming ideas for vocabulary review can be employed with students.
The following activity involves naming puppies in a litter, but also weighing them. I have found that students have a difficult time understanding gram weights. During our unit on measurement, it helps to weave in the Iditarod and sled dog puppy litters.
Students are split into groups and new puppy litters are assigned. A group can have three to five puppies. They must work out the weights of the new puppies, with the litter totaling 150 grams of weight. One puppy must be a runt, thus much smaller than the rest. From there, they may name the litter mates with a theme of their choice. Once the pups’ weight and names are determined, students come to the table to create their puppies out of toddler socks and rice.
This isn’t the end. The puppies “grow” for a few weeks. Some mornings for morning work, my students will come into class and see that they must add 10 grams to their puppies. We graph their growth over time with line graphs. These little pups often double as stress balls! Eventually, ears, eyes, and noses are added. Stories or poems can be written about the puppies. By the time the puppies can be taken home, they are definitely loved, but not…clean.
Click to see the litter planning page for each group. All the teacher needs to do is assign groups with varied numbers of puppies for an engaging, cross-curricular activity.
Gram Puppies Lesson Plan