Skip to comments.Thompson Elementary teacher to brave Iditarod race
Posted on 01/29/2007 5:26:49 PM PST by Fawn
Thompson Elementary teacher to brave Iditarod race Photo SAM WOLFE firstname.lastname@example.org
By COLLEEN WIXON
January 26, 2007
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY Thompson Elementary teacher Kim Slade unloaded the tools she will need for her temporary teaching assignment next month snow boots, a large coat with a fleece liner and heavy gloves.
"I've got a lot of gear coming in," she said from the school's science lab.
Slade heads to Alaska in mid-February as the 2007 Wells Fargo Teacher on the Trail for the Iditarod, a 1,150-mile course race with mushers and teams of sled dogs from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
The Teacher on the Trail is a volunteer position she applied for about a year ago.
"It's the most exciting thing I have ever done," she said. "The people I've met have been amazing."
The "teacher on the trail" program selects one teacher worldwide to participate as an Iditarod volunteer, assisting handlers and dog teams. Slade was selected last spring and since August has been posting a newsletter and lesson plans about the Iditarod.
Before the race begins, Slade will be visiting schools in Alaska, attending the Junior Iditarod and participating in the annual winter teacher conference discussing the Iditarod.
During the race, she will help racers begin and then fly from checkpoint to checkpoint, posting a journal on her observations along the way.
On Thursday, Slade used her Alaskan husky Kenai as a visual teaching tool to teach kindergarten and first-grade students at Thompson about estimation. Slade has made similar visits throughout Florida with Kenai, which she got about a year ago from an Alaskan sled dog breeder. Alaskan huskies such as Kenai are used as sled dogs in the Iditarod.
Slade walked Kenai around each classroom letting students pet the animal, especially her tail, so students could get an idea of the tail's length.
"Her tail is big," whispered Mark Stout, 6, to a classmate.
Kenai then was taken out of the room. Students tore off a strip of paper based on the length they estimated or guessed of Kenai's tail. Slade then measured the correct length of the tail and let students see how close they got.
Nicole Harrison, 7, said her estimation was close to the correct size.
"It was all fuzzy," Nicole said about Kenai's tail.
"It feels like my soft pillow I have at home," said Lauren Minor, 5.
Students said the activity was a little challenging.
"We couldn't see what size (the tail was)," said Matthew Manning, 5. "We had to guess by estimating."
Slade said other teachers throughout the country have contacted her about her lesson plans and with questions, especially about how teachers in Florida cover the Iditarod, since most of their students have never seen snow.
The experience has not been cheap. Slade had to buy warm clothes for the trip, something last year's Teacher on the Trail already had since she came from a northern state. She has already shipped a few things to Alaska so she wouldn't have to take it with her on the plane. Slade's travel expenses were provided by the Iditarod organizers.
The School District is considering her time in Alaska as a temporary duty, so she doesn't have to take unpaid leave.
"The district has been very supportive," she said.
As a math resource teacher at Thompson, Slade doesn't have her own classroom during the day so she doesn't have to worry about a substitute teacher. She said she didn't think she could devote as much time to Teacher on the Trail as she had if there were 18 to 20 children depending on her for class instruction each day.
The experience will be valuable, she said, especially considering Thompson's change to an Expeditionary Learning magnet school in the fall. With Expeditionary Learning, children focus on hands-on lessons and learning expeditions.
2007 WELLS FARGO TEACHER ON THE TRAIL DUTIES
Post lesson plans about the Iditarod for educators.
Before the race begins, Thompson Elementary teacher Kim Slade will be visiting schools in Alaska, attending the Junior Iditarod and participating in a teacher conference discussing the Iditarod and the 2008 Wells Fargo Teacher on the Trail.
During the race, she will help racers begin and then fly from checkpoint to checkpoint, posting a journal on her observations along the way. Slade said she wants to make sure she is at the finish line when the first racers cross.
After the race, Slade will visit more schools in Alaska before coming back to Vero Beach.
WHAT IS THE IDITAROD?
During the March race, mushers drive a team of 16 dogs over a 1,150-mile course from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. More than 100 mushers have registered to race this year.
The Iditarod trail follows the same mail and supply trails of long ago to small Alaskan villages. Some of the checkpoints are a small tent, said Thompson Elementary teacher Kim Slade. Some are small villages.
In 1925, mushers and their sled dogs used part of the trail to deliver life-saving serum from Anchorage to Nome during a diphtheria epidemic.
More information about the race can be found on www.iditarod.com.
Maybe next she'll volunteer at a real dog race -- The Yukon Quest from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.