Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans

Meet the Teachers




by Susan Finlay
University of Idaho



Students will watch a four minute video about mapping distances, which will assist them in calculating the distance their individual musher travels each day. After initial introduction and teacher assistance, the students will access the Internet and find the information available for their individual musher. This will occur each Monday through Friday until each musher has crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska.


Students will be able to accurately calculate the distance traveled each day by their individual musher as they run the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. Student calculations will be done in miles.

Students will keep track of their individual musher by mapping his/her daily advances on a provided map and on the Where is your musher? data sheet.



At least one classroom computer with Internet access and a printer, one Iditarod race route map per student, one Where is your musher? data sheet per student, and colored pencils or markers to plot the distances.



To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, they will pay close attention to how the cartoon character in this segment, Dirk Niblick, helps some friends calculate the total distance traveled in miles.


START the tape at the beginning of Dirk Niblick - Math Brigade and play to the pause point: Use Your Noodle. Ask the students what they think the correct response could be. FAST FORWARD to the continuation of Dirk Niblick - Math Brigade. RESUME the video segment until the end of Dirk Niblick - Math Brigade. Stop the video.


Social Studies - daily mapping activity using a map of Alaska, which shows the Iditarod race route.

Language Arts - Students will keep an official journal of their individual musher which will include the musher's name, biography, and race record. They will follow their musher as he/she races his/her sled dogs from Anchorage to Nome. The students will note pertinent information, such as the number of dogs that have been dropped, layovers at various checkpoints, disqualified mushers, white-out conditions, thin ice, moose and polar bear attacks, etc.

Reading - Students will read and respond to at least one of the following literature selections.

  • Antarctica's Last Huskies by Kim Westerskov
  • Balto - Interactive Reading Program by Barnell Loft, LTD 1990, p. 74-85
  • Dogsong by Gary Paulsen
  • Eskimo Boy by Russ Kendall
  • The First Dog by Jan Brett
  • Foxy's Tail by Ed White & Donna Freedman
  • Inner Strength - Interactive Reading Program by Barnell Loft, LTD 1990, p.4-15
  • Robin and the Sled Dog Race from Ginn
    Silver by Gloria Whelan
  • Woodsong by Gary Paulsen



The students are now given the Internet address for the Iditarod Trail Committee, http://www.iditarod.com, so that they can access data about their individual musher, calculate the distance traveled since the start of the race, plot the information on their Iditarod race route map, and fill in the information on the Where is your Musher data sheet. Once all the students have successfully printed out the daily stat sheets on the mushers, the teacher will utilize the overhead projector to show students how to read the stat sheets.

The stat sheets include a column that tells how many miles the musher has traveled in a twenty-four hour period of time.

The teacher will model the use of addition to show students how to keep a running total of miles traveled by each individual musher. e.g. Anchorage to Eagle River 20 miles Eagle River to Wasilla 29 miles Wasilla to Knik 14 miles Knik to Yentna + 52 miles Total distance traveled to date 115 miles.

Since the race will occur in an even numbered year (2000), the mushers will take the northern route. The Iditarod Trail Committee provides information on checkpoints and the distances traveled in the classroom information packet. This allows the teacher to easily check student addition totals.

This learning activity of compiling data on each musher in the race will continue until the last musher crosses the finish line. By using addition, the students will keep a running total of the miles traveled by their musher.

If a musher drops out of the race (scratches), the student will then utilize the Internet in a quest to discover the reason(s) why. Throughout the race, students will be encouraged to e-mail the Iditarod Trail Committee, Alaska news agencies, mushers, etc. in an effort to assist them with questions, which may arise during this thematic unit.

For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!

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