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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Resources for Learning About the Iditarod and Dogs

These guys are not running the Iditarod.
This weekend the Iditarod sled dog race begins. If you're looking for some materials to use to teach about the Iditarod or dogs in general, take a look at some of the resources below.

Mushing Explained is a series of videos produced by Alaska Public Media. In the series you can learn about what mushers wear, what the dogs eat and wear, how dog sleds are designed, what makes a sled dog different than your average pet, and what exactly is the Iditarod.


The best place to start your search for Iditarod-related lesson plans in on the Iditarod Education Portal. There you will find lesson plans arranged by subject area. The Iditarod Education Portal includes lessons for math, science, social studies, and language arts. Take a look at this lesson (link opens a PDF) about friction to get a sense of the kind of lesson plans that you will find through the Iditarod Education Portal.

Scholastic offers a nice collection of materials about the Iditarod. Included in those materials is an interview with author Gary Paulsen in which he answers questions based on his experience in the race. The Scholastic Iditarod resources also include some history of the race and history of Alaska in general.

The Discovery Channel offers 37 video clips related to the Iditarod race. The clips cover information about the dogs, the mushers, the sleds, and the history of the race.

For your students who are interested in learning about the dogs used to pull the sleds over the 1100 mile Iditarod course, the American Kennel Club is a good place to find information about Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. I should note that most of the dogs that run in the race aren't pure-bred dogs. I've met many mushers and one of my former colleagues is a musher (not in the Iditarod) whose teams that aren't what you might expect to see when you think of sled dogs. To learn about genetics and breeding of dogs I recommend National Geographic's article How to Build a Dog.

A special note about this post.
I write a post about the Iditarod every year and every year I receive critical comments about my decision to do so. As mentioned above I have worked with a musher and met many others over the last few years. I've seen how well those dogs are cared for and how much money those mushers spend on the care of their teams. I am very comfortable in saying that sled dog racing is not cruel to the animals. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't post about the race. I also volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter and have rescued dogs myself, I wouldn't promote something that I thought endangered dogs