Friday, January 27, 2012

Seventh grade science class in Elizabethtown, KY learns about dog sledding from Diamond Dogs

I am an educator first, before I've been anything else. I have taught grade-schoolers all the way up to middle-aged college freshmen returning to school. I spent seven years doing health education beside the beds of critically ill cardiac, Cystic Fibrosis, cancer and burn patients. I was raised to believe - and believe whole-heartedly - that education is the key to what makes or breaks us in life. It can change beliefs, prejudices, habits and lives.

Embracing my inner geek

I have been pleasantly surprised at how relevant and far reaching education can span within dog sledding. It involves tons of science: biology, genetics, ecology, geography. And one of my favorites: history!

Most know I do lots of educational presentations about dog sledding, but today was the first day I Skyped with an entire classroom of students about dog sledding! Technology offers such cool ways to learn about dog sledding - and science - from afar. I was impressed with the questions Ms. Kim Swickard's 7th grade science class at T.K. Stone Middle School asked me during our dog sledding Skype session today. They asked thoughtful questions, like how do you train the dogs, and how often do people get hurt in dog sledding. They also asked things like what kind of sports I played as a kid, and what I do in my spare time.

Finally, one student asked a question that has been popping around backstage in my mind, the question probably all mushers are asked and entertain at some point: do you ever want to run a long distance race like Iditarod

Almost six years ago, I said I had a short-term goal to run the U.P. 200. I keep running longer races, and no matter how long, no matter how many hours I am out there on the sled, I never want it to end.

I have always said I have no desire to run any kind of super distance marathon like Iditarod - the lack of sleep alone would just about kill me, not to mention it is super expensive: just the entry fee for Iditarod costs about as much as a fairly decent used car.

But something has shifted in me this season. I just keep doing longer races, and at the end of every one of them, I don't want it to end. And, as I said to my friend and mentor, Jodi Bailey, I started thinking,  if my dogs can do a 42 mile race at a 9.1 mile an hour pace, that's kinda like running from one checkpoint to the next in the Iditarod. It always seemed overwhelming to think about until now: 1,150 miles. Holy shit. Who does that? But now, I think, it's just a series of 42 mile, 18 mile, 50 mile, 90 mile runs.

And I guess that's how it starts. When you can look at that 1,150 miles and not see that number, but as each piece as a stepping stone to the big picture. Right?

And I can see that now. My mind has shifted.

And, as Jodi replied, "The mind shift is the first step, something goes from impossible to plausible to possible, and then you're doomed *hehehe*"

You can learn more about one of my favorite people, Jodi Bailey and her husband Dan and their adventures here

So, to answer the question, yea, I can see someday possibly attempting a race like Iditarod. I have lots of races that loom in the distance as long-term goals: The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, Montana's Race to the Sky, Minnesota's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, and, closer to home and more immediately attainable, The U.P. 200 and The Copper Dog 150....

That's it. I am, indeed, doomed :)

For more information about how you can use mushing in your classroom, please visit any of the race sites linked above, or click on the following:

Polar Husky

Will Steger Foundation

The Iditarod: for Teachers

Outward Bound Wilderness Expeditions

1 comment:

  1. VERY COOL!! My 5th graders have been working with Jodi Bailey for a few months know as I teach many lessons that involve the Iditarod. The students sent her some questions that Jodi answered on her web page blog edition! I asked her about Skyping but it isnt going to work. Do you charge for such a presentation? If not, would you be interested in doing something with my class?
    Kurt Lindstrom
    Cardinal Elementary
    Muskegon, MI


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