This past week has been so full of fun and possibly even a few new family traditions. January 31st- February 3rd was the 32nd running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. After a month of preparing through play, activities and having had a real life mushing experiences the children from Secret Forest Playschool were looking forward to race day.
On a sunny Sunday, with temperatures well into the 40's, many of the families (parents, grandparents, siblings and friends) from Playschool gathered at the Highway 2 gravel pit, just outside Two Harbors, to see for themselves what all of the excitement was about. With the barking dogs, the giant snow mountain and the starting line in the distance the scene walking up to the starting line was electric!
Watching the dogs jump in the air with anticipation of their journey ahead and seeing their mushers come by every 2 minutes was thrilling! After more than an hour of cheering and wishing the teams well the crowd cleared and the race was on (for some their journey would be over in 38 miles, for others 119 miles and for some others not for 383 miles).
From our classroom the children at Secret Forest Playschool continued to follow the race as the teams traveled up the trail (and then back down). We watched the GPS tracking map, the timing sheet and (their favorite) iFan Sports live video stream. These features allowed us to be be a part of the race from a distance. We tracked everyone who raced (paying special attention to the marathon teams).
It was well past bed time (for 3-5yr olds) on Wednesday night when Beckie Hacker and her team arrived in to Billy's Bar. With her headlight shining and her dogs guiding the way down the cold trail she we meet with a crowd and warm welcome. And you better believe that some of Playschool's mini mushers were there to congratulate her :)
This year the Red Lantern was given to Beckie, for being the last musher to complete the race. In my eyes, this is the person that deserves the most attention as she brought with her the most important lesson... to never give up. Beckie finished her race in just over 39 hours total, after overcoming injury, challenges and likely a few disappointments. Beckie is a great role model for these mini mushers; teaching them it's not always going to go according to play, be easy, or fun but that if you go out and finish what you started in the end it will be worth it.
Congratulations to all of the mushers, their dogs and handlers! And a BIG "thank you" to the board, volunteers and supporters. We can't wait to join you again next year, for the 33rd annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Do you remember the day you took your first field trip? I don't remember the details of mine, but like most of you, I would imagine that you do remember the excitement that surrounded going someplace new, someplace different, someplace FUN! After three years of having guest speakers come to visit us at Playschool, we finally checked "going on a field trip" off the bucket list.
As preparations for the Pup Run continued the children diligently work on the race course and there mushing skills.
Over the past week the children made a trail map of the route in which the children would use to navigate their race. They used shapes and colors to help them identify common places on the map (the outdoor classroom, the Pine Tree Forest, the bridge and the campsite). Then they helped decide where we should have "checkpoints". The checkpoints were papers that were numbered and decorated and would be the designated spot to stop and change the teams responsibilities on the day of the run.
During the week along with making a map and the 7 checkpoint signs, the children practiced their mushing roles when out on hikes. Walking through the woods in a line (which is very uncommon for them) they would pick whose turn it was to be the lead dog (first in line), the swing dog (second in line), the wheel dog (the last in line) and their favorite... the musher! Whoever was the musher would call out the commands "HIKE" for the line to move forward and "WOAH" for the team. Along with the commands there was never a shortage of noise because there were "barking dogs".
On the day of the Pup Run the kids were happy to enjoy the hard work that they had put forth. They took to the trail and worked so nicely together as they patiently waited for their turn to mush, ride and pull the kick-sled. At the finish line they celebrated with hot coco and marshmallows around the fire.
Throughout this experience I couldn't tell you how many times I heard someone say to a friend "you can do it!" "keep trying" "we are almost there". This is what teamwork is all about... not only getting to the start together... but getting to the end together.
Congratulations mini mushers you make a great team :)
(A special thanks to Kraig Decker for the start and finish line banners)
This year on January 31, 2016 Duluth will be hosting the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. It is the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 states.
I still remember the feeling I had when we my family and I accidentally came across this race in 2012. We planned on going to Hawk Ridge for a hike but as we drove down Glenwood Road, just above the golf course, we instantly became interested in why there were so many people along the side of the road. As we got out of the car we watched and and listened as a volunteer standing in a bright orange vest at the edge of the ditch yelled up to the others volunteers on the road "MUSHER!". And just like that, two people stopped the oncoming traffic while all the other volunteers madly loosened the snow with their shovels that the cars had driven over and pack onto the blacktop. Then everyone stood back, holding hands, in a line saying "on by" just in time as a musher and their dogs crested the hill and in a blink carried on down the trail.
The adrenaline and excitement that I felt that day was awe-inspiring. When complete strangers asked my family and I to help shovel snow at that crossing you better believe we did, with much enthusiasm and smiles on our faces. We had so much fun that day! It was like nothing I had felt before. The racers, the four-legged athletes and the community of volunteers and spectators that worked together to make that event possible was so cool!
With the excitement building around this year's event the children at Secret Forest have been learning a lot about dog sledding and teamwork. Together we are preparing for their very own "Pup Run", a mock dog sled race.
Just like real mushers these little ones each have race bibs. They have designed their own bib and picked out "the fastest" race number.
All the children have been encouraged to decorate their bib to make it uniquely their own. With the children's names on their bibs they are practicing letter/name recognition. The bib numbers gave them the opportunity to count (to 30) while ironing them on and is also gave them the chance to put them in order (sequencing) . And finally adding the ribbon ties on the sides allowed them to measure and use their fine motor skills to cut! Learning can be so fun when you do it through play.
*Remember to check back to see the results of the Pup Run ;)
I am Meghan Morrow, the founder and lead teacher at Secret Forest Playschool in Duluth, MN. This blog is a way for me to share some of the amazing moments that I witness and the lessons that I learn from some of the wisest people I know... children.