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Hardy sled dogs pull the sled and musher (the name for the human guiding the sled) across frozen rivers, barren tundra, and steep mountains. Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies are two types of sled dogs that are often used on mushing teams (although other breeds are also on teams).
The first Iditarod race was run in 1973, on the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska by the USA from Russia. The dog sled race commemorates the "Great Race of Mercy," a real race against time that saved lives threatened by disease.
In February 1925, a diphtheria epidemic threatened the isolated city of Nome, Alaska (diphtheria is a contagious and potentially deadly disease that is now rare because of childhood vaccinations). The lives of many children in Nome were threatened by this terrible disease, especially those of the native Inuit children, who had no previous contact with diphtheria, and therefore, no immunity to it. The only way available to save the children was to transport the medicine 674 miles across land from Nenana (near Anchorage) to Nome, using dog sleds. Twenty teams of mushers and over 100 dogs delivered the medicine to Nome in about 5 1/2 days.
The lead dog of the final team of dogs was Balto (a Siberian husky), who became quite famous; the lead dog of the team that braved the toughest and longest part of the journey was called Togo. There are statues of Balto in Anchorage, Alaska, and in Central Park, NY, New York; a movie (called Balto) was made about the tortuous sled journey (but accounts of the race in the movie were not very accurate). Balto died on March 14, 1933 at the age of 14 (which is quite old for a dog), and is now mounted and on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (in Cleveland, Ohio).
The word Iditarod is comes from an Athabaskan Indian word pronounced "Hi-dit-a-rod." It means "a distant place."
Related Reference Pages, Activities and Worksheets:
Iditarod Cloze Worksheet
Do a fill-in-the-blanks activity on the Iditarod dog sled race, held annually in Alaska.
Iditarod Words Mini Book
A Printable Writing Book
A tiny, printable book about simple words related to the Iditarod-- for early readers and writers. The book has 2 pages to print and makes 8 pages for the student to cut out, color, and write in. The words are: dog, sled, snow, Alaska, parka, trail, and "Can you think of another Iditarod word?
Iditarod Word Wheel
Make an Iditarod word wheel using this 2-page print-out; it consists of a base page together with a wheel that spins around. When you spin the wheel, eight Iditarod words are formed, one at a time: dog, snowflake, sled, mittens, Alaska, lantern, parka, and boots. The student then writes down the word wheel words.
Printable Read and Answer Worksheet
A printable worksheet on the Alaskan Iditarod dog sled race, with text to read, a map to color, letters to fill in, and questions to answer. Or go to the answers.
Match Iditarod Words and Pictures
Match 10 Iditarod words to their pictures. The words are snowflake, dog, sled, snow, trail, boots, parks, Alaska, lantern, mittens. Or go to the answers.
Circle the Correctly-Spelled Iditarod Words
Circle the correct spelling of Iditarod-related words, and then color the picture of the words. The words are dog, sled, trail, snow, parka, snowflake, boots, mittens, Alaska, lantern.
Missing Letters in Iditarod Words
Find the missing letters in Iditarod words, and then color the picture of the word. The words are dog, sled, trail, snow, parka, snowflake, boots, mittens, Alaska, lantern.
Unscramble Iditarod Words
Unscramble the Iditarod words, and then color the pictures of the words. The words are dog, sled, trail, snow, parka, snowflake, boots, mitten, Alaska, lantern.
I Can Color Iditarod-Related Words
Color Iditarod-related words, including lantern, parka, sled, mittens, trail, dog, Alaska, boots, snowflake, snow.
Word Hunt Worksheet
How many words can you make using the letters from "Iditarod Race"? Sample answers: ice, radar, dart, ... Go to worksheet with 30 blanks or a worksheet with 50 blanks.
Alaska: Follow the Instructions
Color Alaska according to simple directions, such as, "Color Alaska light green." Or go to the answers.
Iditarod Dog Sled Race Spelling Word Questions
Use the list of Iditarod spelling words to answer simple questions. Words: dog, team, sled, Alaska, snow, ice, tundra, March, musher, blizzard, parka. Or go to the answers.
Alaska: Map Quiz Worksheet
Answers questions about the map of Alaska on this printable geography quiz. Or go to the answers.
Read about this huge state. Alaska was the 49th state in the USA; it became a state on January 3, 1959.
Alaska: Outline Map Printout
An outline map of Alaska to print.
The Alaskan malamute is a powerful sled dog from Alaska.
A hard-working, fast-running sled dog that was originally from Siberia.
Alaska Flag Printout/Quiz
Read about and answer questions on the flag of Alaska.
Large Coloring Printable
A large black-and-white printable of the flag of Alaska.
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