Educational Events Held in Michigan and North Carolina

It was back to the ‘classroom’ for teachers who attended Iditarod educational conferences on September 28 in Michigan and North Carolina.


Michigan:  Summary of Events at the Midwest Mushing Symposium and Teacher’s Conference

As regular as the leaves change color and days shorten in fall, mushers and teachers gather in Curtis, Michigan for the Musher Symposium and Teacher Conference organized by Ed & Tasha Stielstra.  Brent Sass, keynote presenter from Eureka, Alaska was complimented by a host of other experts in the world of sled dogs and teachers who use Iditarod as a theme for education in their classrooms.

A wide variety of sessions offered information for symposium attendees.  A Sled Dog Sports Variety Show providing information about skijoring, bikejoring and canicross for sled dog enthusiasts.  Albert Lewis, author and photographer shared what motivated him as well as his experiences in capturing and publishing photos of renowned sled dogs in “Born to Run: Athletes of the Iditarod.”  Race volunteers offered ideas on how to get involved as a race volunteer as well as how to attract volunteers to help with an event.  In another session, Veterinarians from Royal Canin spoke to mushers regarding breed specific dogs foods.  A hands on session offered participants a chance to make necklines and tug lines as well as watch a demonstration on building a dog house with one sheet of plywood, a couple of 2×4’s, 2×2’s and lots of screws.  In still another session, veterinarians, a race official and musher Ed Stielstra shard their knowledge and experiences in preparing and training for the UP 200 event.

In the teacher portion of the conference, educators heard about character activities, real race math, differential, laws of motion, forces of flight, involving the whole school in Iditarod activities and a host of other ideas and activities that use 21st Century Skills to connect various aspects of dog mushing into the everyday curriculum while still teaching to the common core standards.  Presenters were Shannon Wyckoff, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail Finalist as well as Linda Fenton and Terrie Hanke who have served as Iditarod Teacher on the Trail in 2013 and 2006 respectively.

Keynote presenter, Brent Sass of Wild and Free Kennel out of Eureka, Alaska delighted folks with his energy and stories to open and close the conference.  Having participated in the National Geographic Channel’s Ultimate Survival Alaska show Sass shared his experiences from the reality show.  Later Brent, spoke about how he was introduced to mushing, came to reside in Eureka with 60 plus sled dogs, his April camping adventures in the Arctic and finally he talked about his Iditarod and Yukon Quest experiences and goals.  Sass lives by the motto, “Attitude is Everything.”

* Visit Brent’s website by clicking here.

* To learn about the educational presentations that are offered by Ed and Tasha Stielstra by clicking here

North Carolina: Summary of Events

Three past Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ alumni, Cathy Walters, Martha Dobson, and Diane Johnson, provided a one day conference in Asheville, North Carolina.  Teachers from Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina attended the conference to discover new ways to enhance curriculum by using standards aligned Iditarod lessons with their students.  In attendance were educators from both private and public schools.  Teachers represented classrooms from pre-K, elementary, middle school, and high school levels, which validates that Iditarod curriculum can be used in all grade levels of instruction.  

Sessions in the morning focused on the educational impact of the curriculum and how the lessons can impact academic success.  Attendees, some well versed in using the race with students and others new to this instructional tool, shared their current practices in Iditarod instruction and shared personal student success information.  Teachers agree that when using this tool in the classroom, students are more engaged in the learning process.

Sessions in the afternoon provided the attendees with knowledge of the science behind the health and welfare of sled dogs.  Dr. Bill Sampson, and Iditarod veterinarian shared his expertise on dog care and the priority of ensuring the dogs maintain good health before, during, and after the race.  Musher Jjay Levy, who has competed the Yukon Quest 300, many other races, and intends to run in qualifying races this winter so she can be an Iditarod rookie in the future, introduced attendees to several of her dogs and shared information about gear, training, and living with sled dogs.  Dr. Sampson demonstrated veterinarian care by examining one of Jjays dogs.

Educators left this event with many new ideas and concepts that will easily be built into their educational practices this school year.  Without a doubt, the students of the teachers attending this event are going to ‘gear up’ for an incredible learning adventure this school year. 

Click here to read an article from 2012 that tells about Jjay Levy.

Click here to visit Jjay’s website.

In conclusion…

Educators know that when students become involved in curriculum lessons that are Iditarod based, students read more, write more, think scientifically, and develop stronger skills in problem solving and goal setting.  Students are more engaged in classroom learning and have a better attitude towards learning.  But what about the educator?  Take it from those teachers who attended the September 28 event.  They are ‘geared up’ and enthused about taking the students on an educational journey that leads to academic success!

Moving up the trail…   Are you interested in hosting an Iditarod event in your community?  Contact the Iditarod Education Department for more information.


Sept 28 Educational Event

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All photos in this gallery are by Iditarod Trail Committee. Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the photographer.