Quilts Hit the Trail

Blue Button Quilt

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Dogs in the Just Guts dog yard aren’t really concerned that school has recently started, we’re looking forward to the cooler mornings so that we can put our harnesses on and start running as a team with the 4-wheeler. Believe me though, we don’t just sit around in or on top of our houses all summer, we take advantage of the cooler parts of the day to run and play inside the BIG playpen. My best play friends are Tulip and Smoke. We play hard in the pen – lots of chasing, changing directions and TAG. Yes, TAG is our favorite game. 

Meanwhile, the boys that live inside the big house are practicing football and soccer and say school is awesome. So now that kids are back in classrooms, the infamous Iditarod Educator Traveling Quilts have been packed into priority USPS boxes and have hit the trail beginning their school year journey. These quilts are so cool and they are the basis for classroom activities based on Core Educational Standards. Currently there are thirteen quilts that are moving from classroom to classroom throughout the school year.

Most of the quilts are born at Iditarod Educator’s Summer Camp. All of the participants, and this year there were twenty-five or so, are given a brand new white handkerchief square along with every color of marker imaginable. They imagine, design and decorate their square and then submit it to be included in a quilt. Sometimes, students create a square at their school and send it to be included in a quilt. Oh, these quilts are beautiful! The creativity is astounding. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating a square. Plan, prepare and produce, that’s the formula!

One of the quilts stopped at a 5th grade class in my hometown in Wisconsin. I heard from the students about their “quilt learning activities.” The quilt was on display when the children and the parents came to meet the teacher, sign forms and put supplies in their desks. Sounds like a warm welcome to me! 

As the quilt hung in the classroom, the students identified various elements of the Last Great Race – musher vocabulary, motivational phrases and the concepts of respect, pride, camaraderie and companionship. All of this came full circle for the students as they thought about how it would apply to their journey as fifth graders. For example, they did some research and found out what mushers are required to carry in their sleds and then created a list of what they needed in their desks, hearts and minds to succeed in 5th grade. They also discussed responsibilities of the musher before during and after the race and compared that to their responsibilities as fifth graders, the oldest kids or veterans of the school. Nice application!

Then it was time for some geography. They looked at a BIG map of the United States and located each of the nine checkpoints the quilt would visit during the school year. Well, maybe checkpoints isn’t the right word but that’s how we sled dogs think. Each of the nine cities was marked. From there the students analyzed regions, speculated on travel routes and calculated distances. Through the traveling quilt, the kids reviewed geographical terms, map scale, compass use, direction and regions. I’ll bet the students didn’t even realize they were checking off core standards right and left!

Bethany, a student in Mrs. Wendt’s class had this to say about having the quilt at school, “This year our 5th grade class is learning about the Iditarod.  In September, our class got to have the official Iditarod quilt.  Our teacher, Mrs. Wendt, was so excited to tell us about the squares on the quilt.  Our class talked about each one of the squares in detail.  We got to see a bunch of cool quilt squares, but the one I thought was the coolest was the one that had tons of famous mushers’ signatures on it like DeeDee Jonrowe and John Baker.  We decided to map out the route of where the quilt would be visiting throughout the year.  We found it would travel all over from California to New Jersey!  Our class went on the Iditarod website.  We learned more about the mushers.  Our class also learned about the paperwork required by mushers and entrance fee of $4,000!  Our fifth grade class learned a lot from this quilt.  If you are a class getting it in the future, you are very lucky!  I’ve already learned so much.  I’m so excited for the race to start!”

The quilt is now on its way to Linda Fenton’s classroom in Wisconsin. She’s the 2013 Teacher on the Trail™. Her students are younger and the quilt will also give them many practical applications. Before sending the quilt off, the 5th graders decided they wanted to create a square for a future quilt. I’ll get to see their finished product when it’s sewn into a quilt next summer. If you’d like to create a square for an Iditarod Traveling Quilt, contact Iditarod’s Education Director, Diane Johnson, to get a blank square.

There you have it, the quilts have hit the trail and it’s cool enough in the mornings for us to hit the trail for some great training runs with the 4-wheeler! By the way, the cat that lives in the big house had a lot to do with designing the quilts. As the squares were laid out on the fleece, the cat would dive under the ones he thought should be moved. Once the squares were pinned down and ready to sew, the cat would pull out the pins of the squares he wanted moved and dive under. The cat helps a lot with making the quilts! I like the cat, we both have beautiful blue eyes.


Born to Run,