4 Resources to Learn More About Sled Dogs

By Lauren Salisbury
September 18, 2018


We know your students will be completely fascinated as they read “The Race Against Death,” the narrative nonfiction feature in the October 2018 issue of Scope. The article tells the incredible true story of an Alaskan town called Nome whose residents were suffering from a deadly epidemic in 1925 and the sled dogs that delivered desperately needed medicine across a frozen wilderness. After reading the article with your class, explore the resources we’ve put together below to keep the learning going.

Guiding Questions

  • What is mushing?
  • How has mushing contributed to Alaska's rich history?
  • What is the legacy of Alaskan sled dogs?
4 fantastic resources to keep the learning going:

Documentary: “The Making of Balto

Watch this documentary (26:46) about the making of Steven Spielberg’s animated film Balto. You'll learn about the history of Nome, Alaska, meet people who were alive during the 1925 outbreak, view video footage of Gunnar Kaasen delivering antitoxin to Dr. Welch, see photos and newspapers from the time, and learn what happened to Balto after the serum run.

The Making of Balto

Article: “How Mushers Work”

Read this article to learn more about mushing past and present.

Video:  “Raising Sled Dogs at Denali National Park”

Watch this video (4:46) from CBS Sunday Morning about Alaska's Denali National Park and how sled dogs are a significant part of the park's 100-year-old legacy. Plus: puppies!

CBS Sunday Morning

Book: "Iditaord: The Great Race to Nome"

“Iditarod: The Great Race to Nome” by Bill Sherwonit and photography by Jeff Schultz is a fantastic nonfiction book filled with beautiful photographs. The book tells the story of mushing’s roots, sled dogs, the famous 1925 serum run, the annual Iditarod sled dog race, and the future of mushing.

Engaging and differentiated performance task ideas:

  • For Museum Lovers: Imagine you work for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where Balto is now mounted. Create a brochure for museum visitors that tells the story of the 1925 serum run and the ways that the tradition of mushing lives on today. Draw on information from “The Race Against Death” and the resources above.


  • For Social Media Gurus: Tweet about the events of 1925 as though they were happening today. Create a series of live tweets with accounts from various people—the mushers, Dr. Welch, families in Nome, journalists, and anyone else you’d like to include. Draw on information from “The Race Against Death” and the resources above.
  • For Poets: Retell the story of “The Race Against Death” as a poem written from the point of view of any person or dog in the article—Dr. Welch, Balto, Seppala, Kaasen, etc.
  • For Struggling Readers: In one paragraph, summarize how Nome was saved from a deadly diphtheria outbreak using "The Race Against Death" and one other resrouces listed above.
  • For Advanced Readers: Research another crisis that brought many people together (for example, the cave rescue of the soccer team in Thailand last summer). Create a news program in which “characters” from that crisis as well as from “The Race Against Death” are interviewed about what happened and how they helped.
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