Symbolism and Representative Democracy

It certainly feels good to be back in the classroom after a long and restful summer! I always enjoy spending the first several days of school getting to know my students and establishing classroom routines! This year, it has been particularly exciting because my new students are curious and intrigued about my role as the 2019 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. For most of my students, an understanding about the Iditarod is very limited or nonexistent (which is awesome because I get to teach them about this awesome race). 

Over the course of the past several classes, I’ve had students conduct research on the Iditarod, complete the Iditarod Scavenger Hunt. and I’ve shared my stories and experiences related with The Last Great Race®. As students began to develop an understanding and build up background knowledge, many students were fascinated by the fact that dog mushing is Alaska’s official state sport. Naturally, this prompted an investigation into Massachusetts’ state sport (our home state). Having students learn about symbols, conduct research, learn about the historical relevance of something, and compare and contrast multiple things is valuable. Consider using this activity on state symbols and icons with your students! They’ll enjoy learning more about their own state and the state of Alaska! 

If you did not know, the official state dog of Alaska is the Alaskan Malamute! Many people assume and think that it is the Husky. In fact, the Alaskan Malamute became the official state dog as a result of tremendous research conducted by elementary school students at  the Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage. As it came to be known, House Bill 14- Alaskan Malamute as State Dog was sponsored by Representative Berta Gardner. Rep. Gardner was persuaded to propose this bill due to the students’ extensive research. She also wanted to show them that “in a democracy, citizens can do more than simply vote.” 

In order to teach students about persuasion and the rhetorical appeals- ethos, pathos, and logos- closely read and analyze the committee minutes based on HB 14.

Ethos is an appeal in which the speaker/ author establishes credibility, trustworthiness, good moral-standing, and tremendous character. Pathos is an appeal to the listeners’/ readers’ emotions and values. The speaker/ author will create an emotional response and will make the audience feel a particular way. Logos is an appeal to logic and reasoning. The speaker/ author will typically use facts, statistics, and reasoning.

While you analyze the transcript, have students highlight examples of ethos in green, examples of pathos in blue, and examples of logos in yellow. Discuss which appeal the students used the most. Additionally, have students evaluate whether or not they thought the students from Polaris K-12 were persuasive. Perhaps this activity and story will inspire your students to propose change at a local, state, national, or global level!