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April 18, 2001 1 min read

On the Trail

Mush! That’s what many grinning 2nd graders from the 643- student Ridge Meadows Elementary School in Wildwood, Mo., will be saying when their teacher flies to Alaska next March for the 2002 Iditarod, the world’s most famous dog-sled race.

Kimberly Ann Harrick was chosen this month by a selection committee to be the 2002 Teacher on the Trail. She will follow the race from start to finish while transmitting lesson plans, suggesting classroom activities, and sending photographs to more than 5,000 schools around the world.

A dog race may seem like an unusual teaching venue, but Ms. Harrick says it really motivates students. “You can apply information about the Iditarod to almost every subject,” she said. “For example, I might send students information about the weather in Alaska. They’ll be asked to compare it to the weather in Missouri and explore why it’s so much colder in Alaska.”

From there, she explains, teachers will expand on the subject, and students will learn related facts about Alaska, such as weather cycles, climate changes, native animal species, and human cultures.

The Iditarod was first run as an official race in 1973 when self-made historian Dorothy Page decided to remind people of the critical role sled dogs played in the shaping of Alaska.

“This has been an invigorating experience,” Ms. Harrick said. “Having the opportunity to share ideas with other educators has been wonderful and the students really get excited about the race because they can go online and see it happening.”

Read more about the Teacher on the Trail.

—Marianne Hurst

A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2001 edition of Education Week

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