In Kendra Clark’s first- grade class at Liberty Elementary School thin Bismarck, North Dakota, the students have been studying geography, math, and landforms at the Hughes Education center. The class had a special visitor and it was a good fit for a couple of reasons.
Their guest, Iditarod musher Kelly Maixner, knows a little about those subjects. Maixner, a Golva native who lives in Big Lake, Alaska, traveled across the landforms the students studied.
Of course, they were mostly frozen at the time.
Clark and Maixner also happen to be cousins and students spent part of their day during the recent Iditarod tracking Maixner’s progress.
Clark said she used the race as an opportunity to teach her students how skills like math can apply to everyday life.
It’s a basic story problem; Maixner goes 100 miles in 12 hours — how fast did he and his team travel?
“We spent a lot of time on top of rivers,” Maixner said; “about 600 miles of frozen rivers.”
And, there were questions like how far did he race?
“The Iditarod is 1,000 miles,” Maixner told the class. “That’s like going from Bismarck to Fargo about five times.”
Maixner, who is a pediatric dentist, recently visited Haiti where he volunteered his skills.
“It’s a very poor country,” he told the students. “Most of the people don’t live in houses like you or I do … some are just mud and sticks.”
Maixner said he spent about 400 hours running his team preparing for the race and logged more than 3,500 miles, almost half again what he had done in his first three attempts.
Clark said she also wanted her cousin to talk to her class about goals and about what it takes to reach those goals.