Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iditarod - The Last Great Race on Earth

One of the things I love about homeschooling, is the ability to jump off where we are and run down rabbit trails if we want to...  I always try to keep a read-aloud going in our house.  Sometimes I choose the book, but usually I let Kayley choose the book.  This time she picked the Jr. Classic "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London.  I thought that seemed like an interesting choice...very un-girly, but there's nothing wrong with that, and read-aloud time is a family favorite.

As we were reading through the story of Buck and his adventures as a sled-dog we started to have a lot of questions.  What kind of dog is Buck?  He pulls a sled???  In the Snow!?  Wow!  Why is it so cold in Alaska?

Being the typical homeschooling Mom that I am I thought this was a great time to follow the rabbit down the hole....  Jump in with us!  We have made an entire unit unit around The Call of The Wild.  It has been a blast!

Have you ever heard of the Iditarod?  This is the "Last Great Race on Earth", the one where the dog mushers in Alaska race from Anchorage to Nome in record time.  The race commemorates the Great Serum Run from 1925.   In those days, a doctor in Nome discovered that a few small children had a deadly virus, dyptheria, that without the proper medicine, would sweep through the village and leave devastation in its path.  It was so cold and snow packed that getting a plane into Nome with the needed serum from Anchorage was impossible.  In an amazing feat several sled-dog teams relayed the needed medicine to Nome in blizzard conditions.  They traveled over a 1000 miles, many of the dogs succumbing to the cold - sacrificing themselves to save the families of Nome.  A heroic story!

You've probably heard of Balto, he was the last sled dog on the relay and the one who led the team as they made the final run into Nome...but did you know that there was a dog named Togo who should not be forgotten?

Togo led his team over 350 miles (3xs as far as any of the other mushers on the relay) on his part of the serum run.  He gave so much of himself that he was never able to race again.  Balto, the dog who became famous, ran 53 miles.  Of course, all the dogs who ran the serum were heroes but it is important to remember that the hero is not necessarily the person who crosses the finish line first...in this case Togo is the dog who made the final lap possible. 

Most sled dogs are Malamutes, Samoyeds or Huskies. Aren't they beautiful dogs?  Their fur is nice and thick to keep them warm, their paws are HUGE (built-in snowshoes) and these dogs are so strong and have a ton of energy.  They LOVE pulling the sleds.

Did  you know there is a statue of Balto in Central Park in New York?  His statue, a big favorite in the Park, is located west of East Drive and 67th Street and north of the Zoo.
The plaque reads "Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence."
And they are.  The dogs are so smart and loyal.

To commemorate the great serum race, the Iditarod is run annually and is, of course, a HUGE event in Alaska.  As we started looking into more information about sled dogs we discovered, conveniently, that the Iditarod starts in only 3 days!  March 3rd, 2012.

We will be following the race this year, if you want to follow along check out the Official Iditarod Homepage!  http://iditarod.com/

Oh, and don't miss the resources page for students.  There are printables and a FUN interactive game that lets you drive your own sled team!

Register as a free user at Iditarod.com and you will have access to this years musher profiles where you can pick your favorite musher and they wills send you daily updates as he/she races the Iditarod!   You can follow along with your AK map or on Google Earth!

Interested in learning more about sled dogs, Iditarod, The Great Serum Run, or Alaksa?  Check out the books and DVDs below from your library!

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