The Jr. Iditarod Finish Line: Perspectives

At the finish of the Jr. Iditarod today on beautiful, sunny Knik Lake, I observed smiles, hugs, tears, laughter, a finish line nap, snacking, rolling in the snow, proud expressions, eager snacking, photographs being taken, and spectators cheering. Twenty one mushers and their dog teams took off yesterday at 10 am in two-minute intervals. They mushed their way through Eagle Quest on to Yentna, where they cared for dogs and each other on a ten-hour layover. Then they returned to Knik Lake by the same trail. 

The Jr. Iditarod finish line reminds me that all of us are invested in this wonderful event, but we may have different perspectives on it. The key word in this post is perspectives. I talked to many different people today, and each was looking at the race from their own point of view. I will describe some of these vantage points, then share some thoughts on how this concept applies in the classroom. 

As the first, second, and third place finishers entered the chute, I noticed that each Jr. musher exhibited different feelings. Emily Robinson, this year’s winner (and the last two years as well) arrived at the finish line with the air of a champion, head held high. She hugged her family, beaming, and then made her way up the dog line, congratulating each four-legged athlete. Morgan Martens arrived in second place, kicking and poling all the way from Yentna. Shortly after, he shed tears and buried his face in his lead dog’s fur. Third place musher Isaac Redington smiled and laughed, grinning for the camera. Each musher showed to the world a variation of the feelings one might experience after a long, challenging event.

Emily Robinson with lead dogs, champion of the 2024 Jr. Iditarod. Photo: K. Newmyer

As the dogs waited to be snacked, handlers, usually family members, dads mostly, came in to straighten the lines, take booties off, and help get the team and sled to the truck. Dogs could be seen covering their heads and faces in the snow, grabbing bites of white flakes, or gazing out at the crowd curiously. While the mushers knew they had accomplished something big, it was clear that many dogs didn’t care about the finish line but wanted to keep going instead. Their perspective on traveling 150 miles was totally different from the mushers’. 

Dogs frolic in the snow in the finisher’s chute. Photo: K. Newmyer

One perspective that particularly resonated with me was that of the moms. I spoke with many moms both before and after the race. Several expressed worry, while most shared immense pride, and one, a sense of awed and proud bewilderment. Their teens were on a long, cold wilderness trail, with huge responsibilities. They wouldn’t breathe a relaxed breath until their child had reappeared in the finishing chute. 

Another perspective that I came to appreciate immensely was that of race photographer Whitney McLaren. I saw firsthand how she lay in the snow at the starting line, capturing views of the dogs as they ran past. Her vantage point was through a camera lens, capturing images that show the story of the mushers and their dogs. 

I’m sure you can think of many other perspectives, including those of checkers, vets, the race doctor, and many others. We can clearly see how each of these participants looked at the Jr. Iditarod with a differing nuance. 

Spectators, race officials, handlers, and family members gather at the finish line of the Jr. Iditarod. Photo: K. Newmyer

When we take this concept to the classroom, we learn that examining different perspectives enhances and deepens our connection with the content. In history, layering perspectives helps us evaluate events and their causes more deeply. I love to get students thinking about different stakeholders in events leading to a major conflict. In art, various points of view allow us to analyze works of sculpture and architecture more effectively. Literature is filled with opportunities to examine the different perspectives of the characters. Math and science too offer students ways to solve problems using multiple perspectives. If one way doesn’t lead to the correct answer or logical outcome, encourage students to look at the problem in another way. Ask, “what would happen if I did this instead?” 

When we challenge students to examine a question or phenomenon from many angles, deeper learning occurs. You might want to create a space in your classroom that highlights this learning strategy, such a place where students can attach sticky notes with their thinking. Another idea is to share with students multiple reasons or motivations, and have them determine the character or historical figure it belongs to. Use the Jr. Iditarod to teach this valuable skill, then let students apply it to other subjects. 

This weekend’s Jr. Iditarod teaches us the importance of teaching with multiple perspectives and also of teaching students how to find different approaches to a question or problem. How will you use the Jr. Iditarod to show different perspectives? Email me at