Great Outdoors: Dogsledding With a Twist at North Star Academy

School hosts unconventional dog sled race.

DULUTH, Minn.- Northland winters are full of great activities like skiing, snowboarding, and of course dog sledding.

You’ve likely heard of the Beargrease, and the Iditarod.

But North Star Academy’s dog sled race puts a spin on the traditional.

“Teamwork makes the dream work. You have to trust your musher, and the musher has to trust his dogs,” a team leader enthusiastically chants after crossing the finish line.

Then, cheers ring as the sound of a dog sled gets closer.


But as they come into view, where are the dogs?

“The students are pulling the sleds,” said Melissa Goldsworthy, 5th Grade General Education Teacher at North Star. “And they have a musher in the sled and the mushers are communicating using commands like ‘Gee,’ ‘Haa,’ ‘straight ahead.'”

The Dogless Sled Race was part of North Star’s “I Love to Read Month.”

Students spent time before the race reading about dog sledding, famous dog sledders, and how they completed their races.

They then took the vocabulary they learned, and applied it out on the snow, where they learned even more skills.

“One is teamwork, compromising, working together, listening to each other, problem solving as they go,” she said. “They lose a team member or get stuck in the snow–what to do.”

“And of course, to have fun.”

The students find that real sled dogs make it look easy.

“Because if one person is walking differently than the person in front of that person and the person behind that person then you mess up, you kind of just fall over,” said the kids on Dogless Sled Team BUFF-et.

Navigating almost a mile-long snowy track doesn’t come without challenges for the “dogs” or the mushers.

“Falling off the sled is not fun,” said the musher for Team BUFF-et, TJ.

His teammates gladly answered how many times he fell.

“Like 15! He would fall off the sled and he’d be lying there.”

But they pushed through.

Some teams having a little more trouble than others.

“Finish Strong!” yells the teacher at the finish line, encouraging a team who’s members fall down all the way through the last part of the track.

In the end, everyone made it.

Tired, snowy, but accomplished.

“It got better towards the end, since we did like steps all together like ‘one-two, one-two.'”

Teachers here recommend the activity to other schools in the wintry great outdoors.

“It’s a good way to get outside and enjoy our winter weather, and it gets the kids out of class as well,” Goldsworthy said.

And, it leaves these sledders, like Juliet, with a new appreciation for real dog sledders.

“If you ever have the chance to do a dogsled race, do it,” she said.

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