A Knight Embarks on a Yukon Quest

Each February, dog sled teams descend on a town called Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada to embark on the Yukon Quest – a 1,000-mile race that some call the most difficult in the world. This year, one of the hardy souls making the journey is our own sixth grade Global Studies teacher Mr. Jared Knight.

Mr. Knight has traveled around the globe in the last three years bringing back new insights to his students. As a teacher, he has taken to heart Dr. Gary Krahn’s mantra, “In order to be a leader in the world, you must first understand the world.” But it wasn’t his skills as an educator that opened up this latest opportunity – it was his talent for filmmaking. The Hey Moose! Kennel in Healy, Alaska needed someone to document its dog-racing journey, and Mr. Knight answered the call.

Here at school, we were all excited to support him in this incredible opportunity, but Mr. Knight had something up his sleeve: he wanted to bring his students with him on this adventure. And, with the help of technology, that’s exactly what he is doing.

Mr. Knight has been updating his blog almost daily with stories, pictures, and video. In his first entry, he shared more about what drew him to this experience and how he hopes it will influence his students:

“Why am I doing this?” I have a feeling that, while I’m standing in the middle of the Arctic tundra in more layers of clothing than I can count, I might be asking myself this question more than once.  When the idea of documenting the Yukon Quest was first proposed to me, there was a part of me that was scared of going into such an extreme location and not knowing what to expect.

There was, however, a larger part of me that leapt at the opportunity to dive into the unknown; to achieve an unforeseen goal, both for me and my students. Here are some of my thoughts:

As an educator, my goal is to show the students something that is not yet a part of their lived experience.  One of the ways that I am able to do that is by spending time abroad to refresh my perspective and, in turn, benefit the students’ learning. My main objective during this time is to facilitate communication between our students and Inuit and First Nation peoples, provide first-hand accounts of the trail taken by miners during the original Yukon Gold Rush, document the geography and people of the Yukon Quest 1000-mile dogsled race, and, finally, to share the importance of the goal-setting and determination that goes into the art of dog mushing.

On Friday, his students Skyped with seventh graders in Whitehorse, swapping cultural details. Over the next few days, sixth graders will watch his video blogs, hear interviews with indigenous First Nations peoples, enjoy a Q&A with dog mushers and handlers, learn about extreme weather survival, and use GPS waypoints (via Twitter) to track his progress. Mr. Knight has also lined up guest teachers to augment his virtual instruction with enriching lessons on topics such as First Nation poetry.

Experiences like these break down the classroom walls. This is why we have our students Skype and blog with classes in other countries. It’s why we bring in students from Japan, China, and Mexico each year. It’s why we are committed to Trojan Experiential Education as an integral part of our program. It’s why TVS has a Global Initiatives program. In order to be a leader in the world, our students must first understand the world – and that understanding cannot come from a textbook. When students connect – personally and intellectually – with a diversity of peoples and experiences, it will change them and expand their sense of what’s possible. A 1000-mile dog-sled race in the harsh winter of the Yukon? Yes, that’s possible.

You, too, can join us in learning more about this incredible race and cheering on Mr. Knight. Here’s how:

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