|Me and 4-time Iditarod champ|
A few years ago, I was chatting with two of my podmates and they suggested that we teach our first graders about the Iditarod. In typical Komos fashion, I jumped on board... and then asked what it was. :) I will tell you that, in general, I've moved away from "themes" in my classroom and focus more on strategies using a variety of topics. I teach "nonfiction studies" which help children learn to use nonfiction books and occasionally, a "theme" or topic will emerge through that study.
For those who don't know, the Iditarod is a 1,000 mile sled dog race through the wilderness in Alaska. It is based on the original "race" in 1925 to bring medicine to children in Nome who were dying from diphtheria. Because of the blizzard conditions at the time, the only way to get the medicine across Alaska was by dog team. The Iditarod race celebrates the history of that original Serum Run.
Because of that conversation with Baughman and McCoy, I have become
Prior to the race, we take a week or two to in our first grade classroom to learn about Alaska. Understanding life in Alaska helps children understand the extreme conditions of the race! One of my first graders' favorite books every year is always Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Lou Aillaud. We also read nonfiction books that talk about the land, animals, and weather in Alaska. This is also a fantastic way to focus on map skills!
During the race, each child picks a musher to follow. Because I tend to read a lot and follow the mushing events, I first pick 25 or so mushers who I think can be contenders in the race. I might also choose mushers who have a "special story." For example, Rachel Scdoris is a blind musher who we followed one year. Pat Moon was a musher from Chicago, close to our hometown. I also make sure my kids always follow my friends who are racing (Lance Mackey, Ryan Redington, Hugh Neff, DeeDee Jonrowe.) Children then draw musher names out of a hat to decide who they'll track. We track each of their musher's progress throughout the race until they finish the race in Nome. I have also subscribed to the Iditarod Insider so that we can watch videos from the race and follow the GPS trackers. Every year, I have parents complimenting me on how much the whole family has enjoyed this experience!
The Iditarod doesn't take place until early March, but I am writing this in hopes of sharing some resources so that you might consider teaching your students about this "Last Great Race on Earth!" I will post more information as the race draws near but wanted to give you time to gather materials.
Here are some "must haves!"
*Access to official Iditarod website; subscription to Insider is a plus!
*Giant wall map where kids can track their musher's progress (maybe on IWB?)
Books to share with kids!
*There are quite a few books about sled dogs and mushing, but these are a few of my favorites.*
Dogteam by Gary Paulsen
Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Lou Aillaud
Miki's Challenge: One Sled Dog's Story by Jackie Winkowski
Sled Dogs Run by Jonathan London
Wiggle-Waggle Woof! Counting Sled Dogs in Alaska by Cherie B. Stihler
The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy
Books for your information and entertainment!
Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
The Lance Mackey Story by Lance Mackey
The Cruelest Miles by Gay Salisbury
If you have questions, ideas, or want to know more, I'd love to hear it! I'll be posting more thoughts and ideas as the race draws near. Happy Trails!