John Gregg Elementary School went to the dogs as second-graders learned all about the Iditarod.
Students in Tiffani Roush and Sarah Mullings’ classes followed the famed trail sled dog race in Alaska for two weeks and incorporated the trek into their curriculum. Roush was inspired by fellow educator Vickie Shaffer, who read the story “Balto” to her class, and decided to carry on the concept with her own pupils. Now in its sixth year, the project has become a favorite among the children.
“We have a story in the second-grade reading book about dogsledding. I read ‘Balto’ to the class and we decided to follow the Iditarod race,” Roush added. “They not only learned the history of the race but we also learned about the race today.”
She and Mullings had the students read and learn spelling and vocabulary words, plus they followed the race online at Iditarod.com. This year’s winner was musher Ryan Redington, whose grandfather was famously known as “The Father of Iditarod.” Students also selected a musher for the class to follow or chose one individually, plus they created biographical reports to know more about them.
The Iditarod spans nearly 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome, and during even years mushers follow a northern route with odd years spent on a southern route. There are 43 checkpoints to have the dogs reviewed by a veterinarian with a one 24-hour rest stop and an eight-hour rest also required. There were 34 mushers in this year’s event and the final competitor collects the red lantern at the end of the race. This year’s recipient was Jason Mackey, who finished on St. Patrick’s Day.
Roush said the race has delighted the students.
“It’s amazing to see them light up,” she said.
Her pupils agreed and even shared what they have learned.
“The last poster gets the lantern,” said Henry Bernhart.
“Ryan Redington [won],” added Isabel Wood. “It was his first win, and his grandfather was the ‘Father of the Iditarod.’”
“Anna Berington got 22nd place and she raced with her twin sister, Kristy,” added Aria Long.
“It’s fun to see and you have dogs with a musher and they have to lead them to Nome,” said Liam Bennett.
“You have to have at least five dogs to win,” added Annabelle Clutter.
“When you start, you have to start with 12-16 dogs,” commented Tucker Berardinelli.