Mushing forward

BC Middle School teachers travels to Alaska for Iditarod educators event

For Bethlehem Central Middle School teacher Aosta Edelman, her journey to the frozen north started with what she tells her students to do every day: reading.

This past week, Edelman returned from Alaska, where she attended the 2011 Winter Teacher Conference in Anchorage and saw the start of the famous Iditarod sled dog race.

Though there are many sledding contests in North America, the Iditarod is probably the most iconic. The trail itself stretches more than 1,150 miles, and while the race was only started in the 1970s, the trail was used in the 19th century during the Alaskan gold rush. Most mushers (the men and women who drive the sleds) cover what is often billed as The Last Great Race in anywhere from nine days to two weeks.

Edelman's interest in the race was first piqued in the pages of adventure novels, enough so that she financed her own way to the conference.

"It started with Jack London. I read some Gary Paulsen and then I kept going," she said.

The race is preceded by a full week of other activities, including the Junior Iditarod, for mushers 14 to 17, and the educators' conference.

There, Edelman heard from past mushers who took part in the epic race as Target-sponsored Teachers on the Trail, and also shared and learned with other educators. She's bringing not only that knowledge into the classroom, but the spirit of the Iditarod as well.

Edelman's reading students are following their mushers through the course of the race, reading about the Iditarod and its rich history and using the Internet to hone their researching skills. The topic has been a real hit.

"It's reading, writing, vocabulary... Working with students on this level, it just really pulls them in," she said.

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