Flying home over Washington, D.C., from Iditarod Summer Teacher Camp, I spotted familiar landmarks: the Washington Monument obelisk rising high into the sky, the five sided Pentagon, the Jefferson Monument, and more. This busy city with huge buildings seems a far cry from the wilds of Alaska. However, there are times the two worlds have met.
Joe Redington, Sr, Herbie Nayokpuk, Dick Mackey, and Colonel Norman Vaughan, all Iditarod competitors, were invited to the capital city back in January 1981 to represent Alaska for President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Mackey flew with the dog team and met the others there. Attaining somewhat of a celebrity status because of President Reagan’s invitation, crowds flocked to greet and see the mushers of the north dressed in their fur hats and mukluk boots giving rides behind their dog team. While at a farm near DC, their three lead dogs were stolen and a massive dog hunt began. The dogs were recovered in Pennsylvania the next day and returned to the Redingtons in time to be harnessed up for their spot in the presidential parade.
In January, musher Scott Janssen, his wife Debbie, and their dog Thunder traveled to the nation’s capital for the 2017 inauguration celebration. They talked with me about their trip during musher sign-up at Iditarod Headquarters. Janssen said Thunder got the most attention. Everyone wanted a photo taken with the sled dog. While enjoying people doting on him, Thunder gave them a memento to take back…some of his thick dog hair left on their nice clothing. Janssen said lots of tuxedos and gowns probably went to the dry cleaner that week because of Thunder.
People in the “lower 48” are enamored with sled dogs and enjoy a personal meet and greet. That got me thinking of a lesson that could be done with these stories.
What is the difference between air miles and earth mileage? Can the students calculate the distance from Anchorage, Alaska, to their city in both measures?
A creative writing activity could be to let the students create the mysterious story of how Redington’s dogs were stolen, where they were taken, and how they were recovered before revealing the real ending of that tale.
Read about and research the presidents and their years of service from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. Create a timeline. Insert other historic events that have occurred in the USA during those years.
See one lesson plan below. Happy 4th of July!