Iditarod Brainstorming - Things You Can Do

Here is a "brainstorming" page. It is a list of activities and topics that you can relate to the main theme of the Iditarod. After you begin to learn about the Iditarod and all the amazing resources that are out there, you can begin to build your own projects. Feel free to add to this list (join the wiki first). I have also included the titles of two curriculum guide books that you might find helpful. I did not see them available to order on the Iditarod site (the Iditarod site offers curriculum guide CDs), but you can probably find them by search on Amazon or a similar site. Don't forget, however, that there are lots of suggestions available online. Start on the Iditarod site. Click on the Teacher tab. You will see a link to teacher resources which will give you suggestions for books, even if you can't order them on this site. Also check out the IDITAROD RESOURCES link on this MOTIVATE WITH MUSHERS site.

Curriculum Books
Iditarod Curriculum: The Last Great Race to Nome - The Official Iditarod Curriculum Teaching Guide by Shelley Gill (1993)
Iditarod Activities for the Classrom Book 1 published by the Iditarod Trail Committee (2002)

  • Make card stock cut-outs of "musher dogs" and laminate them. (I got them online but I don't think they are there any more). Give one dog to each child to take care of for a day. Provide small incentive stickers as "food." The dogs must be fed a few times a day. The children must carry the dogs with them at all times and return them in good condition at the end of the day with proof (the stickers) that they have been fed. Think of it like as similar to giving the children an egg to care for like a child. In seven years, there has only been one lost dog in my second grade classes (it was actually devastating for the student!!) Young children love this. They have named the dogs, played with them, constructed houses for them, asked other children to watch their dogs when they go to the bathroom, etc. Also, the dogs come to the banquet and are part of the Classroom Iditarod progress tracking display. I number each dog to correspond to each student.
  • The Northern Lights. Learn about the northern lights and the science behind it. We like to paint the northern lights and use them to decorate for the banquet.
  • Seasons. This is a great time to teach about the seasons, the Earth's orbit around the sun, night/day.
  • Alaska. Teach about anything Alaska - the animals, the nature, the history, the native culture. There's so much!
  • Volunteerism. There are so many lessons about volunteerism. How can you link this to your community?
  • Invite a vet to come to your classroom and present - most grades have career standards, right??
  • Literature. Do a literature study related to Alaska or the native culture. Link to the theme of animals and why they would be important to this area. Connect to the setting in the picture books. What else? Do a Gary Paulsen author study.
  • News story writing/reading. I use this time to teach my second graders about reading and writing news stories. The topic is not scary and it holds their interest. Many of the news reports are brief, which also helps. Then the children learn to write their own reports based on the real Iditarod and our own Classroom Iditarod.
  • Iditarod poetry. I also introduce some forms of poetry during this time, including cinquains and sometimes acrostics.
  • With the Iditarod dogs who are blogging, this is a good time to introduce blogging to young learners. Or, if you have older students, you might find some of the blogs and forums a place for them to participate. Check them out but be sure to check your district's policies.
  • Have your own race - physical education. And this is one category that I haven't included yet in the Classroom Iditarod event. I would like to add an activity that is related to exercise. For example, use a pedometer to track a certain amount of steps walked. I just need to figure out how many would be fair.
  • Connect with another school who is doing a similar project.
  • Goods and Services. For second grade, I connect to goods and services - what are they, etc.
  • Marketing. Why are there sponsor for this race and events you see. How does it link to business? Make student aware of advertising.
  • Some of the dogs who are dropped (taken out of the race) are cared for by local prison inmates. Depending on your students, this might make for a great social discussion.
  • Each musher has a story. If you look through the musher information, you might find connections upon which to build.
  • Letter writing. If addresses are provided for a favorite musher, write letters. I can't guarantee you will receive responses, but I doesn't hurt to try!
  • Community. Again, this works for second grade. What makes a community? How did communities get started in Alaska and why did they "disappear." What is a ghost town?
  • Community Service: Check out this project "Books on the Trail" where you collect books to donate to schools on the Iditarod trail. I haven't participated but am thinking about it for next year:
  • Map work. How far to Alaska; following the trail. Make your own trail, etc.