“The kids just love learning about this, especially in the Lower 48, because it’s something so drastically different from their everyday life,” said Jim Deprez, the Iditarod’s 2022 “Teacher on the Trail”.
Deprez, who hails from Ohio, told listeners that the race and the stories from it can be a huge inspiration in classrooms where students may have never even seen snow, let alone a real-life dog team.
This spring, his job was flying from checkpoint to checkpoint to follow the mushers and teams. He interviewed the mushers to reflect about the race and create Iditarod-themed lesson activities and prompts for classrooms all over the country. Educators can print resources to teach math, social studies and language arts. For example, students can use math to figure out how much food it takes to feed a dog team based on the number of dogs at different stages of the race, or write a personal narrative about a sled dog’s journey through 1,000 miles of remote Alaska wilderness and towns.
Deprez was introduced to the Iditarod while subsituting for another teacher who had used the race to teach students before.
“I knew kind of what it was but not a whole lot, so it was kind of cool being able to kind of learn about it as I was teaching it to the kids. They had just a huge connection to it… I thought, she’s onto something with this!” Deprez said.
He said a teacher at the school where his wife works had a unique experience: a student came to her and showed her a poem she had written, about how she now wants to race in the Iditarod. “That’s just one example, but there have been so many similar stories over the years,”Deprez said.
Image at top: Teacher Jim Deprez (left) heads to Nome on a bush plane to drop off sled dogs. (Image courtesy of Iditarod, used with permission.)