If there was ever a rival for the energy of a pack of huskies, it might be a hitch of fourth-graders.
The baseball diamond outside Parkview Elementary School was inundated Friday afternoon with students running, screaming and barking in anticipation of the first annual “Ikidarod.”
Why barking? Most of the 42 students were “dogs” for the Ikidarod race—a play on Iditarod, the annual 1,000-mile-long sled dog race that spans Alaska.
Fourth-grade teacher Nikki Lutzke led Parkview’s first Ikidarod, which includes a two-week lesson on the Iditarod, Alaskan geography, science and geometry, she said.
The students used STEM skills to build their own sleds from recycled materials with help from family, friends and high school tech-ed students, Lutzke said.
Students drew designs for the sleds then met with mentors, who helped refine the designs and build the sleds out of materials such as PVC pipe, wood, rope, plastics and pool noodles, Lutzke said.
The Ikidarod curriculum ties together social studies, science, math and physical education, Lutzke said.
Six teams of seven kids lined up their homemade sleds across the outfield Friday. The teams pushed off one by one every couple minutes, similarly to how the professionals begin the race in Alaska.
Six kids in each team pulled one student on the sled to each station along the diamond. At the first station, students picked cards that included obstacles that might be seen in the Iditarod, such as a moose standing in front of the path.
The second station was a mandatory stop, like the ones mushers have to take in the big Alaska race.
Some kicked off the race strong while other stumbled, literally, into the mud.
Traditionally, sled races are held on snow, but the Ikidarod happened after almost all the snow had melted. The kids didn’t seem to care.
The cold, however, had not gone away, and most of the students had beet-red cheeks from wind by the end of the race.
Lutzke started teaching Ikidarod when she was a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Accelerated Learning Academy in Monroe. Students in Monroe now use kits to build sleds, which the Parkview students were “disgusted” at, Lutzke said.
The students enjoyed making the sleds in the school’s makerspace as much as they loved running around outside, Lutzke said.
The students whooped and hollered through the race Friday. The loudest yells came from the students riding in the sleds. It appeared to be much easier to be a motivator when you’re not hitched for pulling.