Day One in Alaska!

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 10:11 pm

How many things can one pack into a day?!IMG_0954

Day one, we (Gary Paulsen, Sheryl Cater and I) chatted with students from at least 7 different classes at Eden Lake between 6:30-8:00 Alaskan time. We were at the Millennum Hotel, the official headquarters of the Iditarod. We were on the first and second floor lobby and, through Skype, were showing students the wonderful displays, as well as talking to mushers, ITC board members and the Iditarod education director.

Then we rushed into the musher meeting to hear role call and some of rules and regulations for mushers. We were able to see all 96 mushers! Really, we were in the same room with all of them!!! It was great being able to talk to some of them.

Next, over to another hotel. Terry Hanke, the 2006 Wells Fargo Teacher on the Trail, told her inspirational tales from her experiences.

After that, two authors told their stories about the writing experience and their adventures of dog sledding. One was Berverly Steven who wrote This Dog Team Lives in the House. It is a great read-a-loud. Running with Champions was written by Lisa Frederic and will give you a good picture about what it takes to be an Iditarod musher.

Lunchtime, then it was back to the Millennum for lunch with Matt Calore, John Clay’s Iditaride musher. You can learn more about him on the website. He is an outstanding person. iditaride

Then we were back over to the other hotel to listen and discuss all that goes into being a volunteer at a checkpoint (Koyuk). It is totally overwhelming!! Almost the last thing, we had some time as educators to discuss and demonstrate how we can incorporate these experiences into teaching, learning and daily life goals.

Finally, the musher banquet at the convention center was an awesome sight. It was a 2,000 seat dinner with all the mushers, their families and friends, sponsors, iditariders, and many others. All the mushers thanked all their people and drew their position. Matt Calore picked 30th.

What a day!!!
Mr. Clay

Post banquet Pre start

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 12:26 am


The excitement is building hour by hour. Hearts are beating louder and louder!

Filled dump trucks bring snow to line the streets of downtown Anchorage for the start.

Dog truck after dog truck enters the city limits.

Mushers with hay hanging from their clothing appear as though they spent the night sleeping in the straw with their dogs. The mushers are not sleeping in hotel rooms, they are sleeping in their dog trucks!

Dogs are taken out of their boxes every 4 hours to “shake and bake.” They’re watered, fed, stroked, loved then placed back in the safety of the box they call home, awaiting the big day, Iditarod 2008!

Now we have John Clay with smile after smile as he meets mushers he has only read about and attends the musher banquet which had the largest sold out audience in the history of the race!

I’m not sure who is more excited about the ceremonial start tomorrow: the dogs, the mushers or John anticipating his dream riding in the sled with Matt Calore, number 30.

Watch for them, clap for them, cheer for them!

Mrs. Cater


Iditalearn 2008

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 3:01 pm

IMG_0858Hello Everyone,
It is warmer in Alaska today than here in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

The adventure to learning continues with a trip to the start of the Iditarod. Third grade teacher Mr.Clay and I will be at the beginning of the race to send you all the latest information on dogs,mushers and students in Alaska.

Thursday February 28th Mr. Paulsen and I will be live using skype and webcam to answer any questions you may have about dogs,racing, writing etc. Feel free to ask your questions on this blog. We will do our best to answer them here on this site.

Watch for Mr. Clay at the ceremonial start on Saturday March 1st riding in Matt Calores sled.

Check Iditalearn for the link to the ceremonial start webcam.

Mr. Gary Paulsen will be our guide and continue to supply us with his wonderful sense of humor,stories and first hand knowledge of mushing,dogs, and living in Alaska.

Follow your dreams.


Mrs. Cater


End of the Race

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 5:58 pm

It’s over.


Lance has won, Gebhardt has come in second, parties have been given, hugs handed around, sleep has been had, meal after meal has been eaten and not a little celebration has been taken and there has been joy and some tears and arguments and discussions and talk of dogs and sleds and who did what and how to who and when and rumor has been layered on rumor until there is enough talk of Iditarod to gag even the most interested observer.

Banquets have been had, more talk has been hashed over and over and kennels have been filled with dogs and the real athletes have been flown back to Anchorage and some are home in their kennels and the streets of Nome are empty, the trucked snow is blown away, the arch stands still there, but alone, quiet, and here and there a person slows in his ambling, shuffling walk to move around the litter.

It’s over.

But wait. Please wait.

They are still out there. The long runners. Alone they are, fighting the same wind and the same cold and the same rough trail with the same brave dogs, wonderful dogs, grand dogs, who want only the same thing, only the one thing.

The buckle.

They are there still and they are coming. Alone and in small groups , each other, fighting it, all of it, their joy the same joy as Lance’s, their dream the same dream, The Dream.

The back runners.

They are coming.

And they too are Iditarod.

Clap for them.

Gary Paulsen


The Finish

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 6:46 pm

img_0449I’d like to take this opportunity to thank some very important people who make up the Iditalearn team:

Jeanne Ulmer (web/instructional design and editor)

Teachers Mark Brown and John Clay (whose creativity and enthusiasm are inspiring.)

Mr. Gary Paulsen who states “The Iditarod is about the journey not the destination”

Choose the journey that makes you happy!

See you soon,



March 13 Bib # 13

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 7:36 pm

Morning, dawn of the last day of the race, a conversation between Lance Mackey and Gary Paulsen….mackey

We sat in the dark with the blue glow of his cooker burning alcohol the only light to mix with his dim led headlamp and he talked softly about his dogs. He spoke of them as people, as friends, and had a yearling dog to drop before it got tired. He took it out of harness and walked it slowly to the dropped dog area and then came back and made a hot meal with meat and kibble to take back to him, all the time speaking of his friends, his dogs, and how lucky he was to have them, to be with them, how priviliged he felt to be allowed to ride the sled.

Watching him is like an education in dog care. Many are good, and perhaps some are better, but I have never seen anyone so dedicated and focussed on being with them. As he left the checkpoint (at nine-thirty eight AM on 13 March) at White Mountain there were crowds of people and media folks around him, blocking him, and some children who wanted his autograph. He pleasantly signed for the children and chatted with people until the camera man lying on the ground in front of his lead dog, Larry, moved out of the way and then he started off.

But a hundred and fifty feet away, past people, past the crowd, on the trail he stopped and hooked down and went to the team, petting each dog, talking to all nine of them in soft tones, gentle tones and then back to the sled, alone with them, moving solidly down the trail at a steady pace.

Seventy seven miles.

To Nome.


White Mountain

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 6:09 pm

I believe I have found the most beautiful place on earth!Cover_1

White Mountain elementary school sits on top of hill overlooking the Bering Sea with a view of the mountains on three sides. I arrived to school on a snow machine today driven by Gary Paulsen. What a treat!

There are about 180 people in the village. The school has 49 students grades k-12. Inupiag is the culture of the natives who live here. Some of the villagers caught fresh king crab for our dinner this evening.

White Mountain is the checkpoint where the mushers and dogs are required to rest for 8 hours. I will be ready with my camera to bring you the latest news.

Right now, musher Mitch Seavey is feeling quite tired and frustrated with the strong winds and lack of snow on the trail.

We will head to Nome tomorrow to see the finish.

Bye for now.


Mrs. Cater


Lance Mackey and Dogs' Feet

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 8:31 pm

A note on Lance Mackey and love for dogs from Gary Paulsen:IMG_0481

I was privileged to watch Lance care for his dogs at the Nikolai checkpoint as he arrived and slept a short time and then left and I realized as he worked on them that he was the essential dog driver. He rubbed ointment into their feet and put booties on and gave them shoulder rubs and it became evident that he was in some kind of beautiful zone where nothing, absolutely nothing–including his own welfare–mattered to him except the bond he had with his dogs and their welfare. I was not four feet away watching him and I might as well have been on another planet. He saw only his dogs, only his dogs feet, only his dogs toes, and when it was apparent that he could not rub the ointment in their feet with his gloves on he took them off, though the windchill was perhaps thirty below, and worked on them barehanded. The circulation in his hands was damaged by his earlier surgery and he could only do about eight feet, booties and ointment, before his hands stiffened and he had to warm them, then back to work, every foot, every toe, every ankle flexed and worked to be supple and ready for the next run and there was nothing else in the world, not the snow or the race or the checkpoint or the broken runner on his sled, which he had been running for over a hundred miles, none of that mattered, none of that was even there.

Just Lance.

And his dogs.


McGrath Kids and Dogs

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 8:15 am

McGrath school is closed this week due to vacation. The students and community showed up anyway. We had a nice welcome from teacher, Monica, and four of her eight students, two radio stations, the assistant superintendent and fans of Gary Paulsen.100_1726thumbnail

Students presented their own PowerPoints where they answered questions posed by Eden Lake students. In turn, a PowerPoint made by Mr. Browns fourth graders was shared with the Alaska class.

There are about 40-50 students grades 1-12 at the school. They have a beautiful gym and large bright classrooms.

McGrath is the holding area for dogs being moved and checked by the vets before being sent to Anchorage.

The scrapbook features pictures and video clips of the Iditarod airforce loading dogs whose owner may have dropped out of the raceimg_0203thumbnail. The dogs are moved from a small airplane to a larger one and then transported to Anchorage where they are cared for until the owner comes to get them.

The rest of the pictures are of the checkpoint where you will find # 57 Tom Lesatz (a rookie) making dinner for his team along with five time Iditarod champion Rick Swensen.

Off to the villages of Iditarod and Shageluk on Friday.

Do you know why the race is called The Iditarod and what the word means ?

Bye for now!




March 7 Takotna

Filed under: Iditarod! — iditalearn2010 @ 8:57 am

IMG_0197Hi my name is Bob and I am the teacher at Takotna. The students call me Mr. B. Takotna is at the foot of a small mountain on the Takotna River and is 17 miles from McGrath. I have spent most of my life in Alaska and Takotna is one of the best places I have lived and worked. There are around 50 people here and 13 of them attend school. The winter is the favorite time for everyone because of the excellent snow for traveling by snowmachine, as snow mobiles are called. The adults and students travel the 20 miles of Iditarod Trail to McGrath on a regular basis. Many also trap in the winter.

Mrs. Cater here, I had a wonderful time at Takotna school Wed. Most of the students were working at the checkpoint helping out by hauling straw bales to the dogs, serving food to mushers, cleaning dog poop, etc. Everyone in the community pitches in to help. What kinds of things do you do to work as a team at home?

Please see the scrapbook for video and pictures from Wed!

A special thank you to Ms. Ulmer for getting all the classes in the KEY room to visit today and to my pilot Rick for telling us about the airplane.

More from McGrath school tomorrow.

Reach for the Stars!


Mrs. Cater

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