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Iditarod Race

Compiled By: Mrs. G

The Iditarod Race can be a fun unit to do with your students. Here is a collection of ideas, activities and books to go along with this unit.

Iditarod Race
Posted by: Kellie

I live in Alaska, and the Iditarod dog sled race starts on March 5th from Anchorage to Nome. We make a hallway bulletin board display of the miles on a strip, marking towns along the route with little orange flags. Each class makes a sled with a photo of the kids done in a unique way. I think I'll take a photocopy of a Dr. Suess vehicle and add my kids heads as the dog team or passengers...anyway, we place our teams on the board and for the total pages a class reads they can move their sled that many miles. Something like that. It takes a bit of time to total the pages, but it's fun to watch the sleds move each day. Our goal is for each class to finish. We don't reward the fastest team, because class sizes vary. We're planning on having the older kids take reading pledges to raise money for new library books, and end the race/reading pledge with a Dr. Suess B-day party, a day of activities and a dance in the gym.

Posted by: natalie

We do a whole unit on the iditarod. I don't know where you live but we have a man that races sled dogs come to our school (upstate new york). The kids get a ride in the sled and a presentation on how they train and keep the dogs. The iditarod also has a teachers packet full of great activities. You need to write to them. There is also a catalog where you can buy real dog booties.
Hope this helps.

Posted by: CLykowski

I am in Michigan and I teach Fifth Grade.The Iditarod is one of my favorite units to teach! I do a simulation with this unit. The kids are actually put into teams and start by writing persuasive letters to a company requesting money for support. Based on their letter, teams are given 'money' to purchase supplies for the race. When the race actually begins, the teams draw a fate card everyday that tells them how far on the trail they go. They are all trying to beat their actual musher that they follow to Nome! My lower kids read Balto/Stone Fox. We also do Woodsong, Bright STar, Bright Dawn. There are so many things to do with this unit. We also have a storyteller come in as Susan Butcher. She's fabulous! The kids really believe she's Butcher! We also have a musher with the sled and dogs come. At the end of the unit we have an I-Kid-A-Rod where our kids race from checkpoint to checkpoint.

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4th Grade Teacher
Posted by: TeachinginSC

There is a great story called Akiak. We read it every year. Our school really gets into the Iditarod. Every class chooses a musher to follow. The results - the lead team and the "Red Lantern" team (last place) - are announced at the end of everyday. The winning classes (winner and red lantern) get an ice cream (or Eskimo Pie) party at the end. The kids get really into this - getting to know their musher and his or her dogs.

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Posted by: Margaret

You probably already do this, but if not, be sure to have your children read "Stone Fox" either before or as a part of your study. And then be sure to show them the movie "Iron Will" if your school allows. These two sources are wonderful. Even though they do not directly involve the Iditarod, they are about sled racing, and also make a great Venn diagram opportunity.

iditarod unit
Posted by: Rita

I did this in my class last year and the kids loved it, we built sleds out of popsicle sticks, read the Novel: Silver as a class, we also drew our mushers out of a hat and tracked them on the internet. the Iditarod website offers a kit that you can purchase which has great ideas and there are tons of sites. If you can't locate them, let me know and I will copy my site url's and email to you, happy mushing!

Iditarod book
Posted by: Mrs. G

I teach 5th grade as well. We have a story in our basal that is an excerpt from the book Iditarod Dream by Ted Wood. We read the entire book to our class it is only 48 pages with lots of pictures. It tells the story of a boy who competed in the Jr. Iditarod. ;)

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Posted by: rita

I teach 4th grade and have done a unit on the Iditarod for a couple of years now, the kids love it. you can look up the iditarod on the internet and they have an official website. you can also order their "education packet" which is great. I have the students pick their musher's name from a big snow boot, and we track where they are on a big Alaska map that has the trail, the kids check the internet daily to find out where their musher is in the race. they also built their own mini sleds, we did an "I Did A Read" to go along with the race, and many other fun activities. We read about Alaska as well as doing mini reports on wildlife, parks, etc. I have all my info at school and would be glad to email you more ideas once I'm back

Robert J. Blake
Posted by: ConnieWI

Robert J. Blake has written several picture books about dogs. They include:
Akiak: A Tale from the Iditarod

I don't know when the Iditarod begins, but it would be nice to include this in your dog theme unit. There are some really good websites and many activities on line that could help you include this in your study.

Great picture books on this topic are:
The Great Serum Race (Miller)
Storm Run (Riddles)
Kiana's Iditarod (Gill)
Danger: The Dog Yard Cat (Riddles)
Dogteam (Paulsen)
Balto and the Great Race (Kimmel)
Elim: The Determined Athlete (Jackson)
Mush (Siebert)
Storm Run (Riddles)
Where's The Boss? (Harter)

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Idita-Read with my 1st graders
Posted by: SunGirl

The students read at home out loud to an adult and write down how many minutes they read each night in their special Idita-Read folders. Each minute read equals 4 miles along the trail! I have the checkpoints out in the hall by our room and each day they move their dogsled markers along, checkpoint by checkpoint, on their way to Nome. They are to beat the Red Lantern Musher into Nome from the real race. It is 268 minutes of reading from Anchorage to Nome. They are so excited about it! They are planning how many minutes they will read each night with their friends instead of what tv program they want to watch. :) Several are past the half-way point (we started last week), so they might just get to Nome and turn around and try to make it back to Anchorage!

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with 2nd
Posted by: garnet

I've done this. I'll read them Balto then explain a bit about the race. I put up a map of Alaska with the route highlighted. We usually track a musher who is from our state then record daily how far he has traveled. This ties in geography skills and using their double/triple digit addition skills. We've even emailed our musher encouraging him on. At the end I show the movie Balto.

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Iditarod Race Map
Posted by: Mrs. G

Have students sharpen their map skills with this activity. Give them an outline map of Alaska with the main cities marked that the race travels through or near. Have the students work in pairs to research the path or the race and then mark the path on their maps. Remind them to include a map title and key.

This would best be suited for 5th grade or higher.

Posted by: JudyW

Racing the Iditarod Trail by Ruth Crisman--Use to study stored energy (muscles of dogs) and mechanical energy (moving sleds). Students should think about the amount of work accomplished.

Posted by: Marcie

From the Iditarod website, I pick as many mushers as I have students. I choose the ones that will most likely be in the top finishers, as well as any other interesting mushers. (Some girls just insist on having the women mushers). We put all the mushers names in a hat, and then each student draws a musher. Then they are responsible for checking their mushers progress on the internet each day.

We get a large map of Alaska and trace the route. Then each day we update it with the leader or any other information. At certain points in the race, prizes are given. Whoever has the musher that wins the prize, gets a small treat. (There is even the Red Lantern Award for the last musher to cross the line in Nome). It is quite exciting and the whole school gets into it. Each year, a video is made about the previous year's race. They are really good.