Eye on the Trail: Winter Educator’s Conference

Jon Van Zyle shares his experiences in the first ten years of Iditarod

Educators attending the 2017 Winter Teacher’s Conference in Anchorage loaded their sled bags with valuable lesson ideas and teaching tools during Tuesday’s sessions. Cory Quarles of ExxonMobil open the morning sharing the challenge of training more students for professions involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. There are jobs that are not filled for lack of qualified candidates need qualified. Educating students in STEM subjects will prepare candidates for jobs now and in the future.

During the day Educators attended sessions including Gearing Up with Technology, Sled Bag to Book Bag and Science/Place Based Iditarod. In addition, the three finalists for the 2018 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail position each presented their best standards based teaching practices while using Iditarod as a theme for education. Kids love the aspects of sled dogs, mushers and traveling across the Last Frontier of Alaska. They are captivated, motivated and eager to learn through the real life applications that Iditarod presents.

The final session of the day was a field trip to meet Iditarod’s Official Artist, Jon Van Zyle. Jon and Jona Van Zyle hosted the teachers at their home/studio. Jon shared his experiences as an Iditarod musher in the first ten years of the race. He talked about the advances in dog care, nutrition, sleds, clothing and having straw in checkpoints. Back in the old days, they cut spruce boughs for the dogs to sleep on. The time taken to complete the race has dropped from twenty days in 1973 to eight and a half days in 2016. Van Zyle made connections for teachers to bring Iditarod and Alaska based art lessons into their classrooms. There is much to be said about solidifying learning through the use of art. Experts in learning call it STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.