by Melanie Scott
I teach second grade at Rose Park Christian School in Holland, Michigan. This is the second year I’ve followed the Iditarod with my students and they love it as much as I do! This year I subscribed to the Insider and the students loved seeing the video clips during the race. We had several lessons learning about the actual dog sled and then the students made their own dog sleds from popsicle sticks. They painted their sleds and then made sled bags, dogs, and other
accessories from pipe cleaners, fabric, and other misc. supplies. They also made mushers from paper or craft sticks; some of the girls brought their Polly Pocket dolls for mushers. We displayed the sleds in the hall during our parent-teacher conferences and they were a big hit.
We also had an Idita-Read reading incentive from January through March. The children kept track of their reading (1 minute = 1 mile on the Iditarod trail); the goal was for everyone to complete the race by the end of March and to cheer each other on. One student actually completed the race 3 times and several finished it twice. Everyone in the class did finish (our Red Lantern reader finished on our final day) and we celebrated with prizes and ice cream sandwiches
at our racing “banquet” along with the movie “Balto.” (Although we had to discuss reality vs. Hollywood movies as we watched themovie. )
During the week before the race the class voted on which mushers to track and they ended up with 6 that we followed. I had traveled to Alaska last summer and met several of the mushers, so it was fun to
share photos with the kids. Each day (several times) we checked on their progress and recorded when they reached the checkpoints. It was fun to hear the children talk about the mushers on a first name basis, as if they knew them personally.
We also checked the weather in Alaska during the week before and the week of the race and compared it on a temperature graph with our weather here in Holland. There were some days it was colder here than in Alaska and we talked about how the warmer temperatures weren’t great for the dogs.
Following the Iditarod with my class has proven to be a great motivator for their learning; I’m already excited about expanding it next year. Thanks for your wonderful website; it’s very helpful for those of us who don’t live in Alaska.