Our 6th grade English/Language Arts classes followed the annual Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race during their Survival Unit, in which they selected and followed a musher (sled driver) while reading “Guts” and “Woodsong” by Gary Paulsen. The latter is an autobiographical account of Paulsen's 1983 Iditarod run. Throughout the unit, students worked on many group and individual reading and writing activities, comparing Paulsen's journey to their mushers' experiences. Through the wonders of the internet, the students were able to follow the 2017 race and its minute-by-minute excitement.
The culminating activity for the unit involved the students engaging in sled dog racing in gym class, and having an awards banquet on March 30. Awards were presented to the students whose mushers received awards. A few of the awards given were to musher Mitch Seavey (Wyatt Handel), the champion with a record-setting time, and musher Cindy Abbott (Bethanie VanTassel), who was the Red Lantern winner. Students enjoyed Eskimo ice cream bars while watching video of the presentations and speeches at the actual banquet held in Nome, Alaska.
Each year since 1973, the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race takes place on the first weekend in March. It is a grueling 1,049-mile race across varying and dangerous terrain under difficult weather conditions. Temperatures can be as much as 40-50 degrees below zero.
The Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was established to commemorate the 1925 serum run. Balto and many other sled dog leaders and their mushers braved blizzard conditions to bring lifesaving medicine to the children of Nome, Alaska who were suffering from diphtheria.
The race was also used to form lessons in other classes. In Science class, students learned more about weather and diphtheria, and in Math they learned about time and distance.