Testimonials: Academic Purpose and Success

Iditarod WORKS as a teaching tool for many reasons.

What is it about the race that that when used with students, engages students to read more, write more, solve more math problems, think scientifically, show up for school, and be academically successful?  We’ve got some answers and so do teachers who use the race each year!

 It’s the Dogs!

An obvious reason–  the dogs.  Research shows that dogs (and pets in general) play a positive role in healthy living.  Dogs capture the attention of the students.  Dogs are like a magnet, pulling the students to the topic, making it something students really want to learn about because it involves dogs.

But it goes beyond the dogs.  The Iditarod is engaging to learners of all ages because the lessons from the race itself, the stories, the goals and dreams of those involved, the volunteerism, the survival, Alaska, and the wilderness, are topics that pull the learner into the topic and capture their imagination.  All of those topics are  just plain interesting to learn about and the learner transitions what can be learned to one’s own community and personal life.  What is learned is applicable to the learner’s real life.

While involved in Iditarod based projects, students see a value in using math, science, reading, writing, and other content skills.  Students use technology as a tool to gain more knowledge and as a method to demonstrate what the students are learning.

Research tells us that when students are interested in what they are learning, when they develop connections and see patterns, and when they can relate what they learn to their own personal life, the knowledge gained is meaningful, useful, and life long.

Iditarod works as a teaching theme and results in academic success.

Here’s what teachers tell us:

As a teacher, I am so thankful for the wonderful learning opportunities this race and its participants make possible for us. My students have a contagious enthusiasm that spreads excitement to the other elementary students. I even had a student from last year come back and tell me that he was doing his own mini-unit at home on The Iditarod since he does not have it in class this year. Thank you so much for all your hard work in letting classrooms across the nation get just a taste of what it means to participate in The Iditarod.  God bless!

Nancy Kamerman, Shoreline Christian School, WA
My students thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Last Great Race and all it has to offer.  They were so engulfed in learning about it that several students continued their education at home.  Many of my students would return to school throughout the few weeks that we studied the Iditarod with stories they had written on the computer at home, pictures they had drawn and models of dogs pulling sleds they had built.  Often times the kids knew some race results before I even had a chance to look!  It was a true joy to watch my students become engaged and excited about their learning through the Iditarod.
Jackie Drake, Pioneer Elementary, CO

“I have been using Iditarod as a tool in classroom instruction since 1995 – even before we had Internet to actually follow the mushers!

I am known as the “Mother of the Iditarod” at my school because I brought the unit to the school.  When I retire I plan to be in Anchorage for the ceremonial start of the race. Two years ago I had the privilege of visiting Jeff King’s kennel.

Learning about the Iditarod is perfect for us because the race takes place during our standardized testing.  The race actually keeps the students excited about coming to school.  They can’t wait to get there and see where their musher is. I feel it gives them a more positive attitude and gives them motivation to their best on the test.”  Joan Schriner, IL, Grade 6 Educator

Iditarod, a great teaching tool! It’s always a new adventure with every year. Students love it because it is real life stuff and they are part of the last great race by being engaged in lessons based on the race. I love the Iditarod too!  Judi, Nebraska, Elementary School teacher

The Iditarod is a 365 day a year, as someone important once told me, ADVENTURE. It is a way of life. Setting goals, working, planning and seeing things through to success is the adventure of life and the Iditarod is the most inspiring example of this I know. My students constantly ask me when will we start and when will we get ready? Adventure and challenge are the essence of life and success. They ask to hear the stories and I always seem to find one that fits the day. Blynne, California, High School Teacher

There’s no way I’d have enough time to cover the race if I waited “closer to time.” There’s so much amazing history behind the race. Although this is my first year using the Iditarod as a teaching tool in the classroom, I have seen just how much there is! I’ve been covering the Iditarod bit by bit since the 2nd week of school, I think! My kids, though challenging this year, have LOVED learning the history behind the race…especially after learning that Joe Redington, Sr., the “father of the Iditarod” was from Oklahoma!   Karen, Oklahoma, Elementary School Teacher

There is so much to know about the Iditarod and all of the people involved. To wait until closer to race time doesn’t do it justice. Teachers internationally use this topic for their curriculum enrichment. We all teach to our state standards by using the race and the people as the medium. Even before the first snowflake falls, the Iditarod is in the air. In Indiana we don’t just hear about basketball (Hoosier Hysteria) during the winter. The Iditarod is an ongoing sport with training year round. Joy, Indiana, High School

It is not just the about the race. These mushers and dogs train year(s) round. Preparations for an event like Iditarod take a lifetime of effort. I use Iditarod to show my students what dedication can acheive (or not). Lance may well be the best…but he didn’t do it on his 1st attempt, or 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th…I can only hope that me students will try that hard, that many times. It’s not just about the race in March.  LeeAnn, Texas, Elementary School

You really have ramped up the Iditarod Education.  I love the website as it is so full of great items (the kids love Zuma), the traveling quilt (which we are excited to be a part of this year) and now the Skyping. What wonderful experiences and resources you are providing to us.  Keep up the good work.  Thank you.  Nancy, Massachusetts, Elementary School Teacher

The Iditarod is embedded in my classroom from the first day of school. In fact, our entire classroom management system is our version of a sled dog team. Students have to earn their positions and each position has its own set of privileges. There hasn’t been a single day of school that the Iditarod hasn’t been discussed one way or another. Not just the Iditarod but the entire state of Alaska! My students are constantly making comparisons and connections involving Alaska and the Iditarod.

On a worksheet about a passage about the Oregon Trail that we read in September, one of comments by a student at the bottom of the page makes a connection to Lance Mackey. They explained frost bite to some older students the other day (thanks for modeling that for us Hugh) and they are always using mushers as examples of the 7 Habits of Highly Successful people.

I looped with my students from 3rd to 4th grade, so they have already had one year of the Iditarod experience and I can honestly say we have all benefited!  Kim, North Carolina, Elementary

I am the speech therapist for middle & high schoolers with severe disabilities.  (Grades 6 – 12) My teaching area is Speech Language Pathology.

Our goal is to promote communication to gain information that is motivating to our students. Most of our students are non-verbal so in order to use their communication devices they need to be motivated. The Iditarod has helped with this greatly.

I wrote the education department for the mushers’ addresses because now I would like them to use their skills to communicate with the mushers.

We made 2 quilts this year. One for the family of Susan Butcher and the other to a greyhound rescue organization (local) as a fund raiser through being inspired by Zuma’s contribution to the website.

From Laurie in Kentucky


Most of my students are Mild Cognitive Impaired and/ or Autistic.  Writing is very difficult for them but they always look forward to this assignment in hopes of hearing back from their musher. I love to teach about the Iditarod and students that I had thirteen years ago can still tell me the name of the musher that they followed and some even tell me that they follow the race every year.  It is very exciting for me and for my students, past and present.

Tamara in Michigan



Teaching Iditarod ‘helped’ this teacher secure employment!

Funny factoid… When I applied for this job, there were 635 applicants. Finding a teaching job right now in CA is pretty difficult. But for this job – goodness…. I had to be paper screened from the 635 applicants. Then they asked me to write an 8 week unit on “community” (since that is the focus of our charter). I had to bring it in and present it at the panel interview. After the unit, I had to model a lesson to a multiage class (3-4-5th grade class) – and then – they called every reference I had listed! The interesting part was that my unit was written on the Iditarod. They shared my unit with the staff and said that my “amazing unit” was what made me stand out from the rest of the 635 applicants.   Gina Whitcomb, California

From Kinkaid School… “Students in Computer 8 have spent four weeks this year learning about the Iditarod as they have also learned more computer skills. Research on the Internet, using spreadsheets, and exploring new programs and Web 2.0 tools (blogs, avatars, and web site building) have been the focus as they learned about Alaska, its geography and weather, the history of “The Last Great Race,” the National Historic Trail, and the preparations the mushers and dogs must make to participate in the race.”

View the school project that demonstrates 21st Century Learning

Thanks goes out to Brenda Meyer for sharing this with us! 

A Parent sends a word of thanks…

Date:April 3, 2009 7:53 am

Dear Diane,

I just wanted to thank all of you in the education department for a really great Iditarod program that you off students from all over.  I am a parent of a 3rd grader at St. Cecelia School in Florida and assisted my daughter’s teacher in setting up her first Iditarod Unit.  As I dove into the project, it became evident to me that what you offer has NUMEROUS educational opportunities for students.  And it is so much fun for the students, they don’t even realize that they are learning!

Our class researched and chose a musher who they thought would win the race.  We made a classroom map of the Iditarod Trail and tracked the classroom mushers throughout the race.  Each day the students entered information in a journal that they will ultimately send to their musher.  Even the parents were in the act.  The first thing I did every day was to wake up, grab my coffee, boot up the computer and print out the current standings for the class.  The moment I arrived at school, all of the 3rd graders ran over to me to see how their musher faired the night before.  It was a fun project for students and parents alike.

Thank you again for offering such a great opportunity for all of us in the “lower 48″.    I look forward to learning even more next year!

Have a terrific weekend!




The Success Stories Continue!

 Mrs. Roach, Nebraska, shares information on how Bruce Linton inspires success to students.

Mrs. Dobson shares how Iditarod helps build a sense of community.



Bruce Linton Inspires Nebraska Students!


Eighteen fourth graders from Central Elementary in Sidney, Nebraska jumped on the sled with Bruce Linton to encourage all students to follow his motto, “Live Healthy, Be Positive, & Dream Big!”  Bruce has completed two consecutive Iditarods in 2007 and 2008.  Being an insulin dependent diabetic has not hindered his dream of running sled dogs and competing in the Last Great Race.  These 18 students and their teacher, Mrs. Roach developed a service learning project that promotes positive nutrition and exercise choices.   With the help of the School Booster Club, parents, and local businesses, they sponsored healthy snack fundraisers at Central & West Elementary in Sidney.

During the months of November, December, and January the students sold healthy snacks consisting of apples, oranges, Gogurt, Shredded Wheat Cereal, low-fat pumpkin muffins, and bottled water.  Each student received a healthy living card which contained Bruce’s motto and tips for healthy living.   Over 400 students, in grades 4-6, were served and $500 was raised to help Bruce as he strives to set a healthy example for all people to follow.

You might be asking yourself, how did this healthy living adventure begin?  Mrs. Roach loves teaching Iditarod themed lessons and tries to develop learning opportunities that involve real people and real situations.  This past summer, she embarked on a technology learning adventure by taking a class titled, Developing a Moodle, through Educational Service Unit 13.  A Moodle is a frame work for an online class that a teacher creates.  Mrs. Roach’s Moodle is titled, Iditarod Habits of Mind. For the past three years, Mrs. Roach has taught The 16 Habits of Mind and has incorporated Iditarod Insider Clips that feature mushers and dogs of the Last Great Race in her lesson plans.  Mrs. Roach was working the lesson for the habit, “Taking Responsible Risks” when the Discovery Channel’s program, Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth was being aired.  Bruce Linton was one of the featured mushers on the program.   Mrs. Roach was intrigued by his tenacity and thought, “Wow! Bruce Linton is really taking a risk by running the Iditarod.  What an incredible accomplishment for him.”  Because Mrs. Roach’s husband is an insulin dependent diabetic, she knew exactly how dangerous running the Iditarod could be for Bruce.  Mrs. Roach emailed Bruce and he was more than happy to explain how he made the risk safe and successful for Team Linton.  Bruce had a plan and his plan was successful!  As a follow up, Bruce also helped out on the “Persistence” lesson.  I bet you didn’t know that as an eighth grader Bruce rode over 90 miles in one day.  Now that is being persistent!  You can read about these personal experiences by clicking on the document below.

Bruce’s willingness to help out with the Moodle class led to lessons on diabetes. Earlier in the school year, Mrs. Roach team taught a unit on nutrition and fitness with Mr. Dillehay, the physical education teacher at Central Elementary.  During science class the students learned about body systems and used that information to help them understand what systems are affected by diabetes.  The students also read information from the National Institutes of Health and watched a video on diabetes.  Mrs. Roach’s husband Gary, a Type 1 diabetic, uses an insulin pump similar to Bruce’s.  He demonstrated how to check blood sugar and how he changes his insulin pump.  The students created posters that hang in the school to encourage others to eat healthy and be active as a way of preventing Type 2 diabetes.   What started out as a lesson on Taking Responsible Risks and Persistence turned into a multifaceted learning adventure and another great musher/student connection thanks to Bruce Linton.

Through this service learning project, the students have not only gained a better understanding of healthy living and diabetes, they have learned that you need to set goals, be persistent, and dream big. As Bruce says “You are only limited by your dreams, and your dreams should be unlimited!”

Be Healthy, Be Positive, Dream Big!!!!

Bruce Linton Answers Mrs. Roach’s Questions on

Taking Responsible Risks

Question #1
Bruce, what an accomplishment for you to finish the race for two consecutive years.  How do you keep your insulin from freezing?  Does your pump go haywire in the cold? I know how batteries in a digital camera did not last very long in the Alaskan cold, and am wondering how you managed all of that.

Answer #1
I keep my insulin next to my body all the time.  The pump is next to my skin as well.  My body temp keeps it warm enough – even when I experienced temps of 35 below zero.  Batteries are fine as long as the pump is relatively warm.



Question #2
I would love to use you as an example for my students to understand how you made this risk safe for yourself.  Could you explain your preparations and steps that you took to ensure that you would make it through the race? The kids understand that taking risks is part of life. In order to grow as people, we all take risks. There are ways that we make risks doable with good thinking and planning.

Answer #2
There is a fair amount of planning involved.  As I mentioned above, my meter is next to my body which provides enough warmth.  I cover the plastic tube which is what the insulin travels through to enter my body with a felt covering to protect it from the cold.  The tube is obviously underneath my clothing as well.  I have five sets of everything (insulin, pump supplies, meters, etc.) stockpiled on the trail at five different checkpoint locations in case I ever need any supplies.  The Iditarod Air Force flew some insulin to me in 2007 when I needed some from one of those stored locations and it worked really well.

Bruce Linton on Being Persistent

When is the first time you remembering using persistence?

I was always a very hard worker and therefore persistent as a child.  I don’t really remember a particular first time as a child, but I was persistent in just about everything that I did.  I remember one time when I was in about 8th grade I did a bike ride for charity.  It was an all day ride and you rode as many miles as you wanted too around an 11 mile loop and you raised a certain amount of money per mile depending on how much people sponsored you per mile beforehand.  Anyway, I remember winning a new bike for raising more money then everyone else on the bike ride.  There were hundreds of participants and most were adults.  The reason I raised the most money was
because I was very persistent and ended up riding all day long.  I never stopped until the last minute (I think it was 5 pm) and I ended up biking an astonishing 91 miles that day.  Adults could not believe that I could bike that far as a kid and that I was that persistent.

Can you tell us about a time as a musher that you really had to be persistent?

That is an easy question to answer.  In my first Iditarod, I got stuck in a blizzard at Rainy Pass.  It was 22 degrees below zero and winds blew up to 80 mph on the top of the pass.  I ended up staying at that checkpoint for 32 hours and finally made it over the pass in 50 mph winds.  14 mushers dropped out of the race at that checkpoint, but I did not. I continued to Nome and finished the race because I never gave up and I was persistent!


Taking Iditarod to the Community


By Martha Dobson, Education Journalist and 2011 Teacher on the Trail™.

Our small North Carolina town has a strong sense of community—folks and their families have lived here for generations, and the town considers its schools, although part of a county school system, “their schools”. At the holiday season, our local museum decorates for Christmas and invites the schools to provide decorations for its many trees and to tour the museum, learning about the history of Mt. Pleasant, NC.

For the second year, my sixth grade team decorated trees in the Iditarod theme. Students created miniature dog booties with race checkpoint tags, snowflake shaped paper stars, and musher ornaments with pictures and information about the 2010 racers.

We trekked the mile or so to the museum, our local law enforcement stopping traffic for us across the highway and at intersections. While it wasn’t Alaska cold, it was cold for our area of North Carolina, and we moved briskly along Main Street. Students toured the museum while a colleague and I decorated two trees.

Our community learned about Iditarod during the museum open house events held over the weekend. Students researched and created decorative information about the booties to hang on the tree. We used “Christmas gifts” from last year’s decorations to place under the tree, each package bearing a “gift tag” with Iditarod information.

Students glowed upon seeing “their trees”, and I know parents and family members heard about Iditarod over the evening meal.

By Educational Journalist, Martha Dobson, North Carolina

Fun day had by all!


Student Success in Arkansas

Hello, my name is Paula Medlin from Strong, AR.

I attended the Boot Camp for Teachers in 2008.  One of the best things I have ever experienced!  So good that I am returning this year in hopes of learning more and being able to be a volunteer for the 2010 Iditarod.

One of the projects we (my school) were able to take part in was the Rookie Musher Project. We adopted Kurt Reich to follow and do whatever we could to help him before, during, and after the race.  Kurt was running the race to raise money for charity, his goal was to raise 500,000.  He is from Colorado and we live in AR.  I wanted our school to help him reach his goal, but I felt the money needed to stay in our own state.  Together we were able to work this out.

Arkansas has the one of the best Children’s Hospital’s in the U.S.  They turn away no one!  We also have the only burn unit for adults and children in the whole state.  Between ACH and Kurt we were able to raise $3000.00 for ACH.  Had I not gotten involved with the Iditarod Boot Camp none of this would have taken place.  See what can happen with one tiny interest begins to blossom, bloom, and grow like wild fire!  I have always taught about the Iditarod in my math classes, but never like I did this year!  I think everyone in our whole state knows about it now!!

Once you get involved there is no end to what you can cause to happen, ways you can help, values you can instill in your students, there are so many lessons involved with real life and the Iditarod.  All knowledge and education does not have to come from age old textbooks.  Just ask our school kids………

I encourage anyone who has the slightest interest in the Iditarod, becoming a better teacher, or just wants to gain a new respect for life and what actually goes on,  to get involved in the Iditarod.  I had all kinds of doubt about going to the Boot Camp, can I do this, am I too old, I don’t know???  Diane Johnson is awesome, I never looked back after talking with her and making my plans.  Thanks, Diane!!  Don’t wait, if you are an educator you need to attend and bring your classroom back to the real world of what it takes to overcome obstacles and be a success in life.   Strong, AR population 678ish………poverty stricken, 100% free lunch, plants shutting down everyday………..raised 3000.00 to benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital and our Rookie Musher, Kurt Reich!   Way to Go!!!!!!!!!

Paula Medlin 3/4 Math Gardner Strong Elementary Strong, AR