Iditarod -- Race Across Alaska
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Teacher's Guide
Recommended Books
Lesson 1: Grades K–2
Lesson 2: Grades 3–8
Lesson 3: Grades 4–8
Additional Resources

Teacher's Guide

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Lesson 2: Recreate the Race

Lesson Introduction
Students use what they read, research, and learn to recreate the checkpoints along the Iditarod trail, bringing the Alaskan sled dog race to life in their classroom.

Grade Level: 3–8

7 days

Student Objectives
Students will:

  • Research and learn about the checkpoints along the Iditarod, including the geography, the people who live in this region, their cultures, and their traditions
  • Read and/or participate in interviews of mushers and other Iditarod experts to gather information
  • Recreate the checkpoints along the Iditarod race trail
  • Calculate and graph distance between checkpoints


  • art supplies and writing paper
  • chart paper
  • computer(s) with Internet access
  • construction paper
  • crayons or markers
  • Iditarod books (see Recommended Books)
  • poster board
  • U.S. map with Alaska clearly visible
  • optional: graph paper
  • optional: LCD or overhead projector to display articles

Set up an Iditarod learning center that includes:

  • art supplies
  • selected Iditarod books (see Recommended Books)
  • several computer stations, each designated for specific activities (NOTE: If computer access is limited, print articles referenced in this lesson and make them available offline in the Iditarod learning center.)
  • U.S. map with Alaska visible

Days 1-2
Step 1: Ask students what they know about the Iditarod. Get a discussion started by asking: What is the Iditarod? Where does this race happen? What is a sled dog? Record students' responses and ideas on chart paper.
Step 2: Draw students' attention to the U.S. map. Ask a volunteer to locate Alaska on the map. Point out how far north it is. Ask what they think the weather must be like that far north.
Step 3: Read aloud one of the selected books. Recommended: Iditarod Dream for grades 3–5; Woodsong for grades 6–8. (Note: Woodsong is 160 pages and may be read over the course of the project.) Alternative: assign students to read the online article The Iditarod: An Unforgettable Journey.

Days 3-5
Step 1: Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair one of the checkpoints along the Iditarod race trail. See the map at Explore the Trail.
Step 2: Explain that over the next three days, each group will make its way through various "stations" set up in the classroom to learn more about the Iditarod, including its history, the racers, the course, etc. Instruct groups to take notes as they explore each station, especially as the information relates to their checkpoint.

Station 1: Background Articles
Students get background information by reading All About Alaska and Historic Iditarod.
Station 2: Explore the Trail
Display clickable Iditarod route on one or more computers. Students explore the various checkpoints to learn the basics about each one.
Station 3: Young Mushers Students discover what the Iditarod means to the next generation of top mushers. By reading about Ellie Claus and a Junior Iditarod winner.
Station 4: Meeting the Mushers
Students learn about a variety of themes related to this unique race through interview transcripts and profiles of Top Mushers.
Station 5: Race the Course
Through a virtual sled race, each student gets to Be a Musher and see what the real race is like and the decisions mushers make.

Step 6: Have pairs review their notes from the stations and write down facts about their assigned checkpoint as well as the Iditarod in general.

Days 6-7
Step 1: Over the next two days, each group should independently research their checkpoint further, returning to the stations as needed and checking library materials, the Recommended Books, or Additional Resources.
Step 2: Using their research, pairs recreate Iditarod checkpoints that include the following:

  • banner or poster with the name of the checkpoint
  • list of stats including distances from their checkpoint to the next/previous checkpoints and what they are
  • description of what racers do at this checkpoint, including how long they generally stay
  • brief essay about the geography of the region
  • brief essay about people who live there, their culture, and their traditions
  • pictures (either drawn or photocopied) showing what the area looks like

Assessment & Evaluation
Use this Project Rubric: Recreate the Race to assess students' proficiency with this activity. Evaluate whether students' skills are improving or where they may need additional support or instruction.

Lesson Extensions

  1. Have students graph the distances between various checkpoints on this year's Iditarod route using a bar or line graph. Have them identify the longest and shortest distances between two checkpoints.
  2. At the end of this year's race, have students create graphs of the winning times. Using their graphs, students should be able to answer the following questions: Who had the fastest time? Who had the slowest time? What was the difference between the fastest and slowest times? What was the average time?
  3. Using information from the online project, have students work in groups to create their own Iditarod maps. Be sure they label mountains, rivers and other bodies of water, major cities and towns, and trail checkpoints. They should also include a legend and compass rose.
  4. Using their notes, have each pair of students create individual lists of questions they would like to ask real mushers or Iditarod experts. Match two groups to work together. One pair will interview the other, who will act as Iditarod "experts." Over a day or two, the "expert" pair can research answers to the other groups questions using information from the different stations, library materials, Recommended Books, and Additional Resources.