Iditarod 2017 The ceremonial start to the 45th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was hosted at Anchorage, Alaska, March 4, 2017. For 11 miles, more than 1,150 dogs pulled 72 mushers for the day’s run to Campbell Airstrip. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Peña). Original public domain image from Flickr

Learn All About Alaska & the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race!

On the 51st anniversary of the modern-day Iditarod, we’re celebrating all things Alaska!

This month is a great time to learn about the history, environment, and indigenous cultures of Alaska—the largest state in the nation. Every March Alaskans and sports enthusiasts around the world celebrate sled dog racing, the “official sport” of Alaska, with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The Iditarod travels nearly 1,000 miles across the rugged terrain of Alaska, from Anchorage to Nome. Run in various forms since the early 1900s, this “Last Great Race” was begun in 1973 through the efforts of Joe Redington, Sr. and Dorothy Page to help revitalize dog sledding. Despite being a key part of life for thousands of years by Alaska Natives—used for transportation and communication—dog sledding was threatened by the introduction of new technologies and travel methods of the time.

Since the 1970s, the Iditarod has grown into a hugely popular event with competitors and spectators sprinting into Alaska from across the globe. On March 4, 2023, the 51st running of the race will begin. With teams averaging 14 dogs, this means over 1,000 dogs will head out on the trail! And the Iditarod isn’t over until the last team and musher, or dog sled driver, has reached the finish line in Nome safely.

This March, celebrate the start of the Iditarod and learn all about Alaska with the videos, activities, and games for all ages below.

Learn About Alaska’s Climate, Sport & Native Cultures

Tooey’s Hero | Molly of Denali

Grades K-2
Explore Alaska Native culture and the importance of dog sledding in the 11-minute animated story “Tooey’s Hero” from the PBS KIDS series Molly of Denali. Tooey, an aspiring dog musher, is excited to meet his hero, champion racer and philanthropist Eugene Pike, who is dogsledding to Qyah. Molly and Tooey track his progress using a map and Pike’s video blog—two types of informational text—and realize they must act quickly to warn Pike about warming ice conditions. Can they find him in time so that he can finish recreating the historic Great Mail Race?

Celebrating Cultures with Molly of Denali

Grades K-2
With Molly of Denali, families can be inspired to talk about where they came from, and gain an appreciation for similarities and differences in the world.

Wild Alaska Collection

Grades K-12
Explore Alaska’s incredibly diverse ecosystems, unique geology, local cultures, and the recent effects of global climate change with these K-12 videos and resources. Alaska is the largest state in the United States, and its ecology is rife for scientific exploration. Learn how local animals and plants have adapted to survive the coldest Alaskan winters, and consider the roles observation and inquiry play in revealing how these distinctly Alaskan phenomena happen, and why.

The Sled Dogs of the Arctic Circle | Nature

Grades 3-12
In this Nature video, we learn how the Inuits of the Arctic Circle rely on their dogs. Existing on a diet of snow and seal blubber (fat), these dogs pull the sleds of the Inuits and protect them from wild animals. Multiple dogs pull together to maintain the stability of the sled. Sled dogs sometimes run the equivalent of five marathons (5 x 26.2 miles = 131 miles) per day. They will be the first to fall through the ice if there is a crack, but they recover from the cold plunge quickly. The dogs have evolved to master the harsh environment.

Explore Tlingit and Unangax Culture in Art | Craft in America: Storytellers

Grades 6-12
Meet Tlingit and Unangax̂ multidisciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin whose works include totems, masks, jewelry, music and dance which deal with cultural perspectives and identity. Students will follow Galanin’s artistic process as he discusses his role as a storyteller, his inspiration, artistic process, cultural references and symbolism of his artworks. They will also see his use of a variety of media and hear him explain why he is so committed to making what he makes.

Activities & Games

Compete in the Seal Hop

Grades PreK-3
Native Youth Olympics (NYO) consist of different traditional game-like exercises created by Alaska Native people. They teach survival skills, strength, and teamwork. In one of the events, participants compete to see who can make it the farthest distance while hopping like a seal. This is called the Seal Hop or Knuckle Hop.

Make a Dog Sled Adventure Playset

Grades K-2
Follow the steps to make a paper dog sled, complete with dog team and passengers – Molly, Tooey, and Trini from the PBS KIDS series Molly of Denali!  Where will your imagination take them?

Alaskan Adventure Game | Molly of Denali

Grades K-2
Explore the Alaskan wilderness with Molly, her mom, and Nina. Take photos of amazing animals and record what you find in your notebook.

Wild Kratts Bingo: Alaska Edition

Grades K-3
Challenge your child to a frigid game of Wild Kratts Bingo!

Northern Lights Window Art

Grades K-5
Explore the Northern Lights just like Molly and her friends by researching interesting facts, exploring a map and making your own Northern Lights window art with melted crayons.