Learning lessons from man’s best friend

Published 9:25 pm Friday, March 6, 2020

Students finish Iditarod lesson with sled dogs

When second-grade teacher Lisa Haney went on vacation to Alaska last year, she was inspired to create a learning unit for her students at Lakeview Elementary School.

Fast forward to this year, and the second-grade students at Lakeview have incorporated Alaska and the famous Iditarod sled dog race into different lessons about math, reading and social studies. Students also got to choose mushers to follow in the race. With the race starting today and taking place over Albert Lea Area Schools’ spring break, students were given information on how to follow the race at home and will get to discuss the results when they go back to school, Haney said.

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On Friday, Haney’s students, as well as the students in the other second-grade classes, got to cap off their week of lessons with a visit from real live sled dogs.

Sam Louters runs cross country for Haney’s husband, and his family has been raising and racing Alaskan huskies for about 10 years. Sam Louters, along with his brother, Mike, and sister, Annika, brought in three of the family’s dogs — Clamp, Velcro and Solo — into Haney’s classroom on Friday.

Sam Louters and his father, Rob Louters, have both raced sled dogs, typically racing with teams of eight dogs. The family usually competes in two or three races a year. This year, Sam Louters competed in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth and the Klondike Dog Derby near the Twin Cities.

Alaskan huskies are a mixed breed that tends to be faster than Siberian huskies with higher endurance, according to Sam Louters. Siberian huskies, on the other hand, tend to be stronger and can usually pull more weight. Alaskan huskies are bred to run smoothly, as opposed to bouncing around when running like a Labrador might, he said.

The Louters start training their dogs for racing in the fall with four-wheelers, and then move on to sleds once there’s enough snow. During the summer the dogs don’t run as much, as it can make them overheat. Instead, the family works on commands with the dogs during warmer months and sticks to walking for exercise.

The dogs need to eat more calories to keep up with how much energy they use running, and are fed high-quality dog food as well as ground beef, Sam Louters said.

During Friday’s visit, students got to meet and pet the dogs and see the sleds they pull, equipment used in racing and learn different things about the dogs and how to take care of them.


About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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