Iditarod Activities & Games

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

The Iditarod is a unique theme that can open the door to other academic topics like disease, mapping and the arctic environment. This series of activities and games provides students with several entertaining, hands-on ways for exploring these topics.

Learning About the Iditarod

The Iditarod (pronounced eye-dit-er-ad) sled dog race is an unusual teaching tool that can be used to help students learn about about maps, epidemics, tundra and teamwork. This series of activities and games provides students with the background information they need to understand the Iditarod and may enhance their knowledge in other academic areas as well.

Map the Original Route

This activity allows students to explore the original 1925 serum run route to Nome, Alaska, and compare it to the route seen today. It can help students to identify some of the challenges mushers or dogsled drivers faced in 1925 and today.

Historic Iditarod Trail


  • Map of Alaska for each student, or access to a computer program like Google Earth
  • List of villages/cities found on the 1925 serum run route to Nome
  • Markers or colored pencils (if Google Earth is unavailable)
  • Copier paper and pencils


  • Begin by explaining why the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska, took place.
  • Have students use Google Earth, an atlas or other resources to locate the cities and villages found along the Iditarod trail.
  • Ask students to outline the original serum run and the current Iditarod routes on a blank map of Alaska (or on Google Earth).
  • Also ask students to identify and label mountain ranges, rivers and other geological features.
  • After students have outlined and labeled their routes, ask them to compile a list of challenges mushers could potentially face.
  • Have students compare the route used today to the original serum run route.
  • Optional: have groups of students create mini posters about each village on the route, including for example, their population, history, demographics, climate and geology. Then, have each group present their posters.

Serum Run Relay

This game allows students to learn the history of the Iditarod.


  • An object to represent 'serum' for each relay team
  • An open area for students to form two lines and run
  • Map of Alaska


  • Give students the background story: In 1925 there was a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska, and the serum needed to treat it didn't make it on the ship before the ice froze. Children were falling ill and dying, so a plan to get the serum to Nome was devised. The serum was able to get as far as Nenana, Alaska, by railroad, after which it was decided the fastest way to get it to Nome was through a sled dog relay.
  • Divide the class into two teams.
  • When you say ''go'', the first student from each team (serum in hand) runs to tag the next person in the line and hands him or her the serum. Repeat until the last student in each line is holding the serum.
  • Optional: have students read some accounts of the 1925 serum run. For example, some of the mushers had severe frostbite, some dogs died and the dog Balto became a hero.

Dog Mushing Basics

This activity allows students to learn the terminology associated with dog mushing and requires them to work together as a team.


  • Sticky notes with the names of different positions in a dog team (leaders, swing dogs, team dogs and wheel dogs)
  • Pieces of rope
  • Prizes

Key Terms

  • Dog sled
  • Harness
  • Lead dog
  • Neckline
  • Swing dog
  • Team dog
  • Towline
  • Tug line
  • Wheel dog

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