The 2nd grade is totally immersed in the Iditarod. They study it for four weeks in all subjects in a fully integrated unit that includes lots of math, science, history and writing. They have even subscribed to a GPS tracker to follow the race in real time.
"It's a wonderful project. The kids are really excited," said Susie Cobbs, Director of Lower School Curriculum and Student Life."
Some of the writing they are doing is correspondence with the 11th grade, who are reading books on a yearlong theme of Sports in Society and Literature. The older students learned about the Iditarod reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild. Throughout the year, people from the sports they have read about—a boxer, a fly fisherman and now a musher— have been guests of their English class.
"The involvement with the Upper Schoolers builds another bridge of shared learning between our oldest and youngest students," said Mrs. Cobbs.
"Dear Laura," wrote one 2nd grader, "My teacher said that you're learning about the Iditarod. We'll see about that. Do you know who finished the Iditarod in nine days? It was Mark Buser, the musher my class is hoping will win. Did you know the dogs have to wear booties?"
Emergency physician James Bardoner, who lives in Tennessee and competed in the 2011 Iditarod, came to speak with Lower and Upper school students. He described the origin of the race and the extreme conditions on the trail. As he talked, one of his sled dogs, Sandy, trotted through the Rhett Center and students felt plush fur that could withstand temperatures of -60ºF.
Dr. Bardoner said his dream was to complete the Iditarod. He urged the students to establish their own dreams, to write them down, break them down, plan for failures and never give up.
Later, back in the 1st/2nd grade hallway, two students traced their fingers along the Iditarod trail map on the wall. While the weather is starting to warm in Huntsville, our students are living in a snowy landscape, imagining hoarfrost on cabin walls and tracking and calculating the progress of the race. If you are packing their lunches, don't forget the trail mix.