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Iditarod.com

By Sally Finley - Posted Mar 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Located online at http://www.iditarod.com/.

Source: Iditarod Trail Committee, P.O. Box 870800, Wasilla, AK 99687; Phone: 907/376-5155; iditarod@iditarod.com.

Access Fee: No fees required. Memberships to support the Iditarod event are available online.

Audience: All ages, particularly grades K-8, students and teachers. Especially appropriate for use with students in the upper and middle grades.

Format: Web site: text, graphics, photographs.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with Internet access and an Internet browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

Description: This Web site features information and activities related to the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race held in Alaska each March.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: The home page loaded easily and is easy to navigate. Photos and news items are continually updated. A side menu bar provides easy access to a variety of features. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: This site keeps an eye on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, first run to Nome in 1973, after two short races on parts of the Iditarod Trail in 1967 and 1969.

The Iditarod was established originally as a reminder of Alaska's colorful past. It is also a testimonial to the brave participants in possibly the most important "sled dog race" that will ever be run in Alaska. That relay ended on Feb. 2, 1925, bringing life-saving diphtheria anti-toxin to save the lives of the children of Nome during the transportation-halting Alaskan winter.

The official Iditarod Trail Committee presents this information-packed site, complete with an extensive array of teacher resources. A side menu bar provides links to a large collection of information.

The Iditarod button links to timely information related to the event and includes photos and interviews with those involved, including mushers (sled drivers), trainers, and veterinarians. The Race Updates link provides daily results during the actual event, which usually lasts for several weeks. Archived records provide an interesting history of past events.

General Information provides information on the previous year's teams and their awards, as well as the history of the race, questions and answers, rules and policies, and famous mushers and dogs. One of the most-valuable features in this section is Teacher Resources, which provides information on professional development conferences for educators offered twice a year, forums for teachers and students, a complete annotated bibliography for all ages, daily math problems, daily language arts exercises, an online scavenger hunt, musher tracking form, and a printable board game with game pieces and card questions.

Trail Notes provides maps and mileage for both North and South Trails, used alternately every 2 years. This year, Iditarod XXXIII begins on March 5, using the Southern Route. Descriptions of each checkpoint on the trail are online.

Each year, one teacher is selected to enter the race as the Teacher on the Trail. A special section is dedicated to this individual's experiences.

Zuma's Paw Prints, hosted by an Alaskan husky named Zuma, is a section of the site designed for younger children. This area is filled with science and math activities for home and school use.

A Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race for teens 14 to 17 years of age is held each year 1 week before the main race. A portion of the site focuses on the challenges and achievements of this age group.

Musher Biographies provide information on each entrant, as well as previous trials entered and awards won. A photo album contains a picture gallery featuring dogs and mushers from previous years.

Other site features include a Calendar of Events, Musher Forms, Race Rules, Veterinary Corner, Communications, Volunteers, a Members Lounge, and a general merchandise store selling memorabilia such as posters, tee-shirts, stuffed animals, books, and other items. I have used this site for several years with my students and it has become a favorite for the children and their parents. Many students choose to involve their entire family during the course of the race and, over the years, I have received rave reviews from everyone.

I introduce the race in February by having my class read a chapter from a book like Silver or Stone Fox. I also use picture books like Kiana's Iditarod and To See the Moon as read-alouds to stimulate an interest among the students. By March, everyone is checking the Internet site daily at home or at school to read the latest updates and to make the "big decision" of which musher they will follow throughout the race.

The students use the musher tracker sheet provided online to keep a daily record of their musher's location and the number of miles traveled. I always choose the Teacher on the Trail. My students love to tease me when my musher runs into difficulty--which is often the case.

Reading and writing skills play an integral part in my classroom. For this project, students record their thoughts in daily diary entries. The site also offers many opportunities to develop graphing skills through its many charts related to Alaska temperatures, time spent on the trail, and miles traveled on a daily basis.

Each year, I reprint the 80-question scavenger hunt and challenge my students to find the answers. I am continually amazed at how involved the families become in researching these questions. When we finally discuss the answers after the race has concluded, it becomes evident how much time and effort has gone into this activity.

Throughout the event, I offer many choices to the students regarding project and time allotment. I feel this greatly contributes to the success each year of this activity. I receive many compliments from parents who support the challenge of this project and, even if I wanted to discontinue it, this would never be allowed.

The site's general store offers a wealth of resources that I use to spark the interest of my students. On the day I introduce the project, I wear an Iditarod tee-shirt and give each student a special Iditarod pencil. A stuffed animal replica of an Alaskan Husky dog circulates nightly among the homes of the students.

One of the favorite technology products generated each year is our computer-generated presentation using slide show software like AppleWorks, HyperStudio, or PowerPoint. Every student in the class contributes two slides to the presentation as we document the current race with information, statistics, digital photos, clip art, and original drawings. Each child receives a CD-ROM with the final presentation to take home and share with family and friends.
Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The home page offers a screen interface that is easy to navigate, providing access to each of the site's features. Ease of Use
Rating: A

Product Support: The site is so straightforward and easy to navigate that it is doubtful any product support will be necessary. However, users can reach the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Committee by telephone at 907/376-5155 and by e-mail at iditarod@iditarod.com. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Iditarod site is definitely one of the best Internet sites related to current events. Each year, the site is improved and more activities are added to assist today's busy teacher in presenting a challenging tool to promote reading, writing, and math skills.

Students of all ages will enjoy following the progress of the mushers and their dogs in this annual event. A gallery of photos offers a unique glimpse into a land that most students will never see in person and offers them a better understanding of how the environment of a place affects the lifestyle of its people.

The biographies of each musher provide hours of reading materials. The children love reading about each one before deciding who they will support and follow throughout the course of the race.

The site provides a wealth of resources for teachers. There is no need to spend time or effort looking elsewhere for background information or lesson plans--this site offers everything needed to motivate young learners and develop research skills. The teacher forum is a great way to share items for classroom use and is well represented by educators throughout the nation.

This is one site that all intermediate grade teachers should consider using in their classroom. I have used it with my gifted students in grades K-8 for years with great success. I highly recommend that you try this wonderful resource! Outstanding!

Reviewer: Sally Finley, Gifted/Technology, Country Hills Elementary School, 10550 Westview Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33076; Phone: 754/322-5950; sallyfinley1@yahoo.com.


 
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