The Iditarod, a Solid Teaching Tool

It’s teacher work week or close to it, and we teachers are scrambling to ready ourselves for a new school year.  It’s sometimes overwhelming just to teach our required standards. More and more is piled onto our proverbial plates each year.  However, here are the benefits I see when incorporating the Iditarod into the curriculum:

  • Student engagement
  • Student motivation
  • Parent/family engagement
  • Expanding the world of your students beyond their local borders

The big picture for success will be student motivation. No matter how much work we put into planning lessons, the students’ attitudes will make or break the instruction. It’s all about motivating our students to become engaged in what they are learning. Incorporating the Iditarod race starting at school’s beginning or during the long, it’s-been-a-long-time-without-a-break-month-of-March brings students a new “spark” or interest in all subjects.

Dogs + action + young people = high interest and learning engagement. We all want that, right?

New to using the Iditarod in class?  Start small. Choose one or two lessons to introduce your students to the race.

Reading:  Read aloud a book about sled dogs.

Math:  Overlap the Iditarod with weekly math problem solving.  Tie in whatever concept you are teaching to something with a real life application.  Here are some examples I wrote:

   Intermediate Math     Primary Math Problems

Motivation:  Make the checkpoints a contest of sorts. This can be for learning math facts, independent reading, or more! Reading to Nome

Alaskan map of Iditarod routes

Check out, Education tab, for more wonderful ideas!

Testimonials from past students:

Annie:  I loved learning about the dogs and mushers.  Learning about the work that went into the training made me appreciate the Iditarod even more.

Robert:  Learning about the Iditarod helped me see that hard work and dedication can help you succeed in difficult tasks.

It even spreads excitement to the families of my students:

Cathy: I loved that Gia would come home from school so excited about following her dog and musher.

Susanne:  We first heard of following the Iditarod at one of the back to school nights. Mrs. Sloan had all of the parents excited about following the mushers. What spoke to me most was the fact that the students were going to be learning not only math but geography, research and writing. What an amazing way to make learning current and interesting while covering all of the necessary topics.  By filling the parents in on the basic game plan up front we were able to engage our son at dinner in conversation regarding what he was learning. These conversations were something he happily started with updates on his musher and whose musher dropped out or was winning. 

More Teacher News!

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.