The children from our kennels came home yesterday from school and as usual, tossed their backpacks on the ground by the back door. The tops were opened so some of the contents spilled out onto the floor. Now that was right next to my spot for resting and relaxing when in the house, so obviously my eyes wandered to see what was on the ground. I noticed a book with a dogsled team!!!! Whoa… did my eyes and ears perk up. I started howling, barking, jumping up and down and really making a scene. The children scurried over to see what was the matter and finally realized what was causing all my excitement. The book on the ground which was titled North to Iron Country by Janie Lynn Panagopoulos.
The children proceeded to share with me their new reading assignment for school. This book was written by an author, Janie Lynn Panagopoulos, who researches and writes historical fiction. She has written many books containing historical information from throughout North America including the Midwest, of which is my home place!! This further intrigued me as the children continued to read me the story.
The book was about a young boy named Robert Pacquette who had to interview an old iron miner as a school assignment. In the process of completing the assignment he was brought back in time to the life of Robert Friggins, a son of a doctor from New York, who had come to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the late 1850’s. The story told of Robert’s encounters meeting interesting people in his new surroundings including an iron miner who eventually took Robert by dogsled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to obtain the mail in the winter. The journey to and from Green Bay was filled with an injury, a thief, and a mysterious person. This novel included facts from the Upper Michigan area as well as great adventure and suspense.
As the children were reading, they continually talked about how the author incorporated symbols throughout the book, each representing a significant part of the story. These symbols were also found on the front and back covers. While listening to the story, an idea for teachers “skated” through my mind on how to connect this book with the Iditarod.
Have your students read North to Iron Country and list each symbol and its significance. Then, ask them what 5 symbols would they use to represent the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, and what would be the significance of each? Your students may use the attached, “Symbols of the Iditarod”, to list their responses for both the book and Iditarod.
Once completed, have your students gather their 5 symbols, if possible, into a paper bag. The outside of the bag could also be decorated. Students can work in small groups to display their symbols from the bag, one at a time, asking classmates to predict what each symbol would represent about the Iditarod before disclosing their own ideas.
Teachers, there are many other books that could be used for this same activity. Students can identify their own symbols for the characters, plot, setting, theme, etc. Check out the possible listings for Iditarod themed books at the following links on the Iditarod Website’s Education Portal.
Enjoy watching your students become creative on what they choose for Iditarod symbols. As for me, I am headed to the pantry closet to drag a paper bag back to my dog house. I know exactly what I want in my bag….harness, dog treats, booties, dog jacket, and straw. Those are important symbols to me of the Iditarod, but perhaps my vision is too narrow!!
~Sled Dog Ed