Curriculum

Racing Beringia is not about getting from point A to point B!

This is an adventure learning program about exploring the region of Beringia first-hand: experiencing its stories — peoples, culture, geology, science and rich history. It’s about utilizing the excitement of sled dogs running thousands of miles across this vast Arctic region and letting that fuel learning across all disciplines! … without anyone ever asking “why am I having to learn this?”!

In this section of the site you find activities for grade levels kindergarten to 12th grade. The activities can be adjusted to fit your classroom, we believe, whatever it may be. The activities are designed to synch with our live updates. As you may choose to utilize all or some, in one order or another, features related to all lessons will continuously cycle as topic reported on live from the field — the updates are, conditions permitted (such as weather and remote Internet connection ) at minimum daily.

 

The Guiding Question

Does environment shape our success?

Our ability to prosper depends on how well we adapt to the environment we are in.

Some 10000 years ago people started walking west following the game as a new world was opened to them with the Beringia land bridge . Then a grassy steppe surrounded by towering glaciers, the environment has entirely changed since then — but the Native peoples throughout time here have adapted. Their success have depended on this.

In much the same way, the success of a musher and the team of dogs in the Iditarod sled dog race depends on how well they are adapted to the task at hand. Some is adaptation on the fly, some is inherent in the fabric of the team.

We are basically looking at three factors at any given time: the conditions (weather, trail surface, terrain etc.), evolution (i.e. dominance of long or short haired dogs in a team in as to how they will deal with temperatures of a given race), and last but not least skills and knowledge.

In this curriculum we set out to explore our guiding question in the context of these three factors — fueled by the excitement from the trail!

ACTIVITIES to EXPLORE

SUMMARY: Why race? When 20 mushers set out to run serum across Alaska in 1925, it was to safe people from the diphtheria disease—it was a race for life. From the run it became evident that some dogs and mushers, such as the Norwegian musher Sepalla and his Chukchi dog Balto were outstanding athletes in a class of their own. Today the Iditarod race commemorated this run and celebrates the athletes in the sport of long distance sled dog racing and the historic importance of sled dogs to Alaska. We have games and competitions to practice and compete in life skills important to our culture.

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SUMMARY: Getting the life-saving serum to Nome in 1925 when the diphtheria disease broke out in this area, called for a reliable form of transportation that would not break down with mechanical failure and would not depend on good conditions, weather or otherwise. Sled dogs can run and function optimally within the context of the Arctic environment. Adaptations are physical characteristics or behaviors that help an organism, or living thing, survive in its environment. What are the adaptations of a sled dog body that make their bodies so perfectly adapted to covering long distances in cold dry conditions?

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SUMMARY: The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorate the 1925 dog teams that rushed serum to Nome to save the people there from dying of the diphtheria disease. At the time the 20 mushers and their dogs ran what was the mail route then from Nenana to Nome. When the Iditarod Race founders initially decided to create a race in 1973, they wanted to race from Anchorage to Nome over a distance of more than 1,000 miles (1609 km). Villages were used as checkpoints along the way so that mushers could resupply and rest their teams on the long journey. It is not the exact route for the entire way, but both routes carve way across Alaska’s wild terrain — across three mountain ranges — by following the path of least resistance; a path that over time has been shaped by forces of gravity and water, in all its shapes, moving across earths crust shaping the land. What is the connection between geology and the Iditarod Trail today?

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SUMMARY: In 2013 Joar won the coveted Iditarod Rookie of the Year Award. A Rookie is a person racing that has never finished the race before. No Rookie have ever won the race (but in the very first iditarod 42 years ago ); and rarely do they make the top-ten or even top-twenty finisher list, which added to why it was such a big deal that Joar finished on a 7th place. It is a huge advantage for Iditarod mushers to have experienced the trail and what is ahead of them both in the actual maneuvering of their team down the trail, but maybe even more so in the strategizing on the trail; experienced mushers draw heavily on their mental maps. When it comes to knowing where we are in the world, we all create and depend on mental maps. These are the maps we think with. Mental maps are important geographic and cultural tools because they help us store and recover information and connect with places, events, environments and people. In traditional cultures, mental was and largely still is the most important tool in navigation.

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SUMMARY: Today, for competitive dog mushers in the Iditarod, five key traits are desired and selectively bred for in a husky: moderately dense coat for protection in arctic weather while also allowing the escape of excess heat, durable feet, a physiology adapted to high calorie intake of food, a pulling enthusiasm, and an ability to comfortably change gaits from a walk, trot, and lope.

Despite their mixed genetic heritage and careful performance-driven breeding, Alaskan huskies still maintain common physical traits. The best racing dogs have quick, efficient gaits and remarkable strength for their size. They range most often from 40 to 70 lbs. Their lean bodies specially adapted for enduring long runs of up to 150 miles while maintaining long-haul speeds around 9 miles per hour.

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SUMMARY: Preparing to spend two weeks on the trail with 16 frisky sled dogs on the trail to Nome is no easy task. One of the most important parts of planning the trip is figuring out what to pack in the sled. The dogs have to pull the sled, so if you pack too much, the sled will be too heavy for the dogs to pull. If you don’t pack enough, you and your team could run out of supplies. Explore how a musher must balance the power of the dogs (force) and the weight, size and shape (mass and volume) of things being packed in the sled. How is the power of a dog team connected to what is in the sled the team is pulling?

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SUMMARY: Body fuel is crucial for both mental and physical capacity. Bodies are fueled by calories. The more calories a body consumes, the more fuel is available in the body to burn. How much food mushers choose to carry in their sled impacts the weight of the sled, and each musher tries to come up with a winning formula of calories to generate max energy output and plans carefully how much food is needed throughout the race. How will a musher figure out how much to send out to each check point? What are factors for mushers to determine what food to use — what is the Champion diet!?

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SUMMARY: The sled is packed and now we need to move it down the trail. Moving something requires a FORCE, but there are actually many forces that come in to play with getting the sled to move. So how do we figure out how much the dog team needs to pull? The first thing to remember is Newton’s First Law of Motion, or the Law of Inertia. This First Law states that any object that is not moving has balanced forces (all the forces acting on that object cancel each other out). If you remember from Activity 3.1, forces have both a magnitude and a direction. For the sake of illustration, you can draw a Force Diagram using the object’s center of mass as a point to show how the forces act on it. So if you sled is sitting on flat ground, not moving: What are the physical forces that decides how fast a sled moves?

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ACTIVITIES to EXPLORE

SUMMARY: The Native peoples that live along the Iditarod have been here for a long time going back to the time of Beringia. People have populated earth throughout times by migrating from one region to the next. This can be viewed over extensive periods of time such as for examples that people some 20-14000 years ago walked from west to east across the Beringia land bridge, from what is now Asia to then populate North America; as well as where our immediate family have come from and gone to. For example the migration of grand parents from Europe to the United States in this century. Our knowledge of migration is based in scientific findings and in the knowledge of our family and culture passed on from generation to generation. Engrained in cultures are our stories of where we come from not only as individuals but as peoples.How we are informed about peoples and their migration through legends and stories!?

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SUMMARY: To manage their own bodies optimally during the Iditarod, mushers racing must have a high calorie intake (eat well), stay well-insulated and stay dry. The human body produces body-heat by burning calories (food) and the blood flow to the skin is increased and decreased to regulate our body heat. About 5.3 quarts (5 liters) of blood circulates through our vascular network, which if laid out in straight tubing, would cover a distance equivalent to nearly 60 miles (100 km). When the body experience a drop in temperature, it limits blood circulation in the extremities of the body to preserve heat for the body core (brain and heart). Eventually the body shuts down, resulting in death. This slowdown process is what we know as hypothermia. Keeping dry is as important as keeping warm. As the body burns energy during physical exertion, it creates heat. It then produces sweat, which provides a cooling effect as it evaporates. During strenuous activity an aunt can loose up to 10 liters of water through evaporation the skin. A sweaty person loose heat rapidly in frigid temperatures. Clothing optimally designed for Arctic travel result from the traditional knowledge of the Native Arctic peoples: such as the long length of the outer jackets / anoraks, the fur ruff protecting the face and the soft hide boots also known as mukluks. What is the science behind the efficiency of mukluks?

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SUMMARY: What is an observation and how is this science?Iditarod mushers work with veterinarians and scientists to study how the dogs that run the Iditarod are able to do what they do; and what signs they must look for to make sure the dogs are as healthy as they can be on the day the race starts–and all the way to the finish line. By studying this we can actually learn about health and body function not only in dogs but also in humans. In its essence “doing science on the dogs” means to be observing them in different capacities. Doing science, scientists constantly make observations about the world around them in order to meaningful investigations–They make observations, then report on their observations to help answer questions and to make predictions. Often observations lead to more questions and new investigations. Scientists use all five senses (sight, hearing,touch, taste and smell) when making observations.

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SUMMARY: People living in the North have a strong sense of community and connection to their homeland. People develop a sense of place through experience and knowledge of a particular area. Throughout the world and over the ages personal identity has been rooted in this sense of place. Coming from a certain region influences language, values, lifestyle, and ultimately culture. Geology and climate are the base that determines all aspects of life, even though in time many of the geological and geographic boundaries that make each one of us different have become less distinct. Developing a sense of place helps us identify the region and those that surround us. A strong sense of place can lead to a more sensitive stewardship of our cultural history and natural environment. Is our sense of place important?

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SUMMARY: Without snow there is no Iditarod race, there is no dogsledding. It is needed for the sleds to glide without hazard, to break the sleds, to cool down the dogs and make water along the way for them, and so on. Snow defines Alaska and Beringia from east in Chukotka, Russia to west in Yukon, Canada — the environment, the peoples and their cultures. Explore how snow is formed and why it has such value to the environment that depends on it and ultimately the people that live in these environments!?

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