Postcard-Geography Album: Alaska, "The Last Frontier"

With the Iditarod going on this week, we decided to make a page in our Geography Album for Alaska.
Grizzly Bear in Denali National Park

We received a postcard from our friends at LaPaz Home Learning!
She writes, 
"Greetings from Alaska. Alaska is the largest state and a wonderful place to live. I hope you can visit this exciting place some day."

We sampled some food from Alaska...King Crab legs...
and salmon.
We have also worked on our pocket for the Inuits in History Pockets: Native Americans,

 and copy work from Draw Write Now: The Arctic.
We also colored in where these Indians live.

We have done a lot of study about Alaska in the past as we follow the Iditarod every year.
Let's Go -Start running

Hike- Run faster


Haw- Turn left 

Gee- Turn right

I completed a unit on the Iditarod back when my oldest was in first grade with a group of her friends, and she remembered the simulation we did of the race as one of her fondest school memories. She insisted that we had to do one for the boys. The natural setting for this was the gym where we met on Thursdays.
First I gave the group a mini-lesson on the lingo of mushers (see above). We then divided the students into small groups, having one musher seated on a scooter-"sled" and two "dogs" to pull the "sled." The mushers practiced their new lingo while guiding their "dogs" through an obstacle course.
Then we gathered again for a lesson on dog team positions. They formed into larger teams with 8 "dogs" -a pair for each position (lead, wheel, team and swing). These large teams had to work cooperatively to make it around the gym. They then regrouped into the smaller teams for a timed race. They all enjoyed the simulation so much that they spent the rest of their free time there in teams of their own and you could hear child voices calling out "Hike" throughout the gym.

We have studied the animals of Alaska. We learned how polar bears keep warm with a layer of fat called blubber. We put about a pound of shortening in a plastic bag and then inserted another plastic bag into it to make a "shortening glove" for one hand, and dipped it into a bowl of ice and saw how much more insulated that hand was than the bare one. See Sam's reaction to trying out his bare hand in the ice water!
Student, age 10
March 2008

The boys made books with scenes of the different habitats of Alaska. We added the animals appropiate to each habitat as we studed them.

March 2008
Student page of a Tiagia.

Students as young as three can learn the parts of the dog sled.
and make models of dog sleds from paper and thread.
You can also make a really cute one out of Popsicle sticks. Instructions can be found here.

 Since the Iditarod is in Alaska, we have been studying about the native Eskimos of Alaska. We learned about how real igloos are made.

March 2008
We decided to try our hand at building some of our own. My oldest whipped up a batch of icing...and we placed our blocks of together using the snow to hold them in place. We couldn't get them to go at an angle like they really are made, but we had a lot of fun making them. 
Student, age 5
February 2010

My youngest even tried to build an Igloo of his own out of squares of packed snow.
We looked at the unique and beautiful works of art of the Inuit. After looking at them, we created some of our own carvings out of Ivory...soap that is.
March 2008

We have also made large maps of Alaska and drew in the Iditarod route for that year.
The end of the unit included tracking the mushers they are shadowing until they come to the finish line, which will be in about 10-14 days after the start of the Iditarod.
"One of our country's most unique national treasures is our great state of Alaska. The 49th state of the union is a land of many wondrous vistas, home to distinctive wildlife, and a locality with interesting historical facts woven into its culture." 

This is one of our favorite books and has lovely pictures in an Arctic setting.
You can also build your own Inuksuk.
Or, play the Inuit blanket toss. 

We have almost completed our 50-states postcard project, but we still need postcards for these states: Mississippi, New Jersey, Vermont and Wyoming.
If you live in any of these states and would like to help us with this project, please leave a comment on how I can get in touch with you. Thank you!

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