Led by the third grade, students in the Lower School participated in a specially themed version of bingo the week before winter break. Instead of traditional bingo with B-I-N-G-O across the top and numbers in all the squares, these bingo boards were filled with dog sled terms like collar, headlight, gloves, and musher boots.
The curriculum to inspire this game was spearheaded by third grade teacher Jen Reiter. She brought her passion for the Iditarod — a thousand-mile sled dog race across the state of Alaska held every March — to Gilman about a decade ago when she had the opportunity to be the “Teacher on the Trail,” a program that allowed her to travel to Alaska for a year and be involved in the race as a member of Iditarod’s educational team.
As a result of her experience, the Iditarod became the entire third grade math curriculum from January to March. Reiter explains: “We took all of those random, isolated math skills like telling time, counting money, area and perimeter, measuring angles, probability, and housed them in the Iditarod. Instead of learning the math skill rote and in isolation, the boys became Iditarod mushers. They mapped out dog yards based on area and perimeter. They shopped for supplies and maintained a budget. They designed sleds and harnesses using angle measurements. They made a race plan after analyzing run rest times and checkpoint times from official Iditarod data. And then they seemed surprised at what they had learned.”
To kick off this unit, the boys in Reiter’s 3A class decided to raise money for Ryan Redington, a musher (driver of a dog sled) in the Iditarod via Bingo for Booties. The $1,247 collected will help Redington purchase one third of the dog booties his team will need for this year’s race. (In total, the 16 dogs will go through 3,000 booties!)
There were lessons woven in even during the bingo game. Second grade teacher Caroline Way called out Dallas Seavey, the name of another Iditarod musher, as one of the squares to mark. “This one is a proper noun, which means it gets…” she paused so the boys could answer. “A capital letter,” they responded in unison.
Third graders also put together care packages that will be mailed to Redington. They included classroom-made jello-and-chocolate granola and blankets with words of encouragement from the boys.
Reiter’s class video chatted with Redington, who is currently training in Wisconsin, to share the good news about the fundraiser on Thursday, December 16. The boys inquired about the team dogs by name, and they were delighted to see Applesauce and Wildfire barking and running around on camera. Redington was wearing a Gilman shirt when the class told him about all the booties he can get with the money they raised from bingo. “Wow, awesome!” he said. “That is a huge help and thank you very much!”