Teaching Geography with the IditarodHeather Woodie
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Each year roughly at the start of March, the last great race on earth begins. Known as the Iditarod and raced through Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, mushers use dog teams to carry them across the snowy Alaskan terrain on a dog sled. It’s fun to travel along with the racers to learn geography and history.
The History of the Iditarod
The Iditarod is a race begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome, Alaska. The Iditarod Trail, which is now a National Historic Trail, was once a mail and supply route from the coastal towns to the interior mining camps. Mail and supplies went in and gold came out.
The race commemorates the efforts of sled dogs in delivering medication to an epidemic stricken Nome, Alaska during a diphtheria outbreak in 1925. Over the years, snow mobiles have replaced the sleds and dog teams of Alaska and the race is a way to keep this sledding team culture alive.
The trail is 1000 miles long and travels through the roughest terrain including mountain ranges, dense forests, frozen rivers, empty tundra, and windy coastlines on the Bering Straight.
- The Route — Print a map of Alaska by using the poster printing option with WonderMaps edition of Alaska. Before you print, choose to enlarge by 200% so it will print on six different sheets of paper. Then do the same for the trail map. Now you can mark where the mushers on the trail each day.
- The Landscape — Map the landscape of the route. What is it like? What dangers do the mushers face?
- The Weather — The weather plays a big role in race time and trail conditions. If you choose to follow along with the race, then you can get weather updates from the weather channel which has partnered with the Iditarod.
The official Iditarod website has a wealth of information on the race and just about anything you can think of that goes along with it. Check out these wonderful resources.
- Iditarod: The Last Great Race on Earth — The official website of the race. Here you’ll find information about the race, the route, and you can get updates on the race here.
- Education Portal —This is the main page for all things education related regarding the Iditarod.
- Student Portal — There is also a student section of the Iditarod site which includes things like newsletters, puzzles, quizzes, and scavenger hunts for starters.
- Books about the Iditarod & Alaska — This page has an updated list of reading material all about Alaska and the race.
The race begins on March 7, 2015. Will you be ready to follow along for some history and geography of Alaska?
If you enjoyed this short geography lesson with ideas on exploration for your students, then you might like Geography Quests. Following the Iditarod can be a long or short term project and it’s one of the many topics for geography through Geography Quests.