The 2016 Iditarod is in the books! 71 out of 85 mushers reached the burled arch, and many of the mushers and volunteers are headed back home. It has been an exciting race to watch, and I’m already looking forward to the 2017!
As the mushers neared Nome my students and I would watch them come in using the live feed from Iditarod.com. The excitement of my students was overwhelming, and I am so thankful that the Iditarod is able to share these special moments with us.
When the mushers left White Mountain and/or Safety we would try to predict what time they would arrive in Nome using the GPS tracker average speed. For example, we looked at Mary Helwig, 2016 Red Lantern winner, when she was outside of Safety.
The time is 5:44PM on March 19. According to the GPS tracker Mary was at mile 931 and traveling at an average speed of 7.7MPH. There were 975 miles in this year’s race, so Mary had 44 miles left in her race. If Mary continued at a pace of 7.7 miles, and took a 1 hour rest once she reached the checkpoint of Safety, at what time would she reach Nome.
As a class we discussed how we could solve the problem, as there were several steps. First, we multiplied 44 miles x 7.7MPH, which equals 338.8 minutes. Then we divided 60 because there are 60 minutes in each hour. We got 5 hours and 38.8 minutes. Then we added in Mary’s 1 hour rest in Safety, to get 6 hours and 38.8 minutes (which we also rounded to 39). Finally, we added 6 hours and 39 minutes to the start time of 5:44PM. According to our calculations and estimation Mary should arrive in Nome at 12:23AM (or 00:23).
This can be simplified for younger students by rounding the miles per hour to a whole number and also walking through it as a whole class. The handout includes the example used above, and you can print additional pages for students to complete their own predictions.
My students competed in their own version of the Iditarod yesterday on Chicago’s lakefront park, Northerly Island. Students worked in teams of 5 to complete challenges “along the trail”. Challenges included finding the latitude and longitude of musher hometowns, alphabetizing the checkpoints, paper airplane making, and more. The day concluded with the awards banquet and a brief slideshow of my trip to the Iditarod. It was a wonderful day, and a solid way for my students to showcase their academic and Iditarod knowledge to many of their parents.
As this Iditarod season comes to a close, I must say that it has been unforgettable. Having the chance to meet many of the mushers and volunteers and to see the start of the race, and then bring that back to the classroom is priceless. It is an experience that I will forever be grateful for. I encourage you to attend a conference (either summer or winter) because it will truly be life changing. You will form lifelong friendships, learn so much about the Iditarod and how to teach it, and you will experience Alaska in a most unique way!
“Once you have visited Alaska you never go all the way home.”