New Initiatives Grant Final Report

“On the Iditarod Trail: From New York to Nome”

Please provide a brief narrative explaining your project and its outcomes.

The Onondaga Free Library partnered with Westhill High School in the Westhill Central School District and created an enhanced learning opportunity for students and families around the theme of the Iditarod. Although our original program plan which consisted of month-long access to GPS monitoring of the 2020 race inside Onondaga Free Library, opportunities to use virtual and augmented reality with in-person programming, and a presentation by Iditarod racer, Karen Land and one of her sled dogs, Noggin in partnership with Westhill Central School District was not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic closing both the schools and libraries in March of 2020, we were able to shift our programming plans to reach students and families in an engaging and meaningful way nonetheless in 2021. Onondaga Free Library presented an innovative learning opportunity around the theme of the Iditarod by passing out activity kits to families in the following age groups: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth grade and up which allowed us to tailor each kit’s contents. The kit also coincided with three virtual events via Zoom that explored the Iditarod with participants through music, books, trivia, special guests and more.

Westhill High School sponsored two virtual Iditarod presentations by Karen Land and her sled dog Noggin. Students from Environmental Science classes attended hour-long virtual presentations via Google Meet. Prior to the presentations, students completed a unit on genetics and breeding sled dogs as well as read and viewed excerpts about the history of the Iditarod. Students developed questions based on their background knowledge that Karen addressed during the presentations. Through the grant, the library was able to provide multiple copies of Iditarod-related books, video, and a board game to promote the presentations, build curiosity and support curriculum content.

All of the events were successful and we received thoughtful feedback from participants showing their appreciation for the opportunities as well as gained knowledge, understanding and interest.

What is the most remarkable accomplishment or finding of your project?

Out of 50 survey results, 100% of students and families responded that they learned something new. 73% of students formed new opinions about the Iditarod after Karen Land’s presentations with Westhill High School which we feel indicates a high level of new knowledge acquisition. (see survey results below). We would definitely recommend Karen Land as a presenter and hope we can have her visit in person in the future. Many students commented that they really enjoyed seeing Noggin and were surprised at how small he was – they expected a large husky!

This was also a great new partnership opportunity for a public and school library – sharing funds, resources and expertise on creating quality programming for students in our shared community. Onondaga Free Library’s partnership with the Westhill Central School District has improved thanks to this program and we have many new ideas for future partnership opportunities that extend beyond the traditional Summer Reading initiatives.

Please provide a brief summary of your evaluation activities and/or results, if available.

52 activity kits were distributed to families at Onondaga Free Library, each with a book for the child/teen to keep, fun items like paw print notepads and mechanical pencils, as well as fun activities worksheets to help them explore the Iditarod through STEAM activities, math challenges, word games, trivia, and more. Over 41 library patrons, including some who were not able to receive a kit, attended the three virtual events held. We were able to partner with a local therapy dog, Moose, and her owner, Laura Hand, who helped present at two of the events to speak about different breeds of dog, different types of working dogs, mushing in New York state and more.
We asked all participants that received a kit to complete an online survey. In addition, all the students in the Environment Science class presentation completed an online survey. Highlights of feedback from surveys included the following:
“One good thing was…seeing someone in person. Being able to ask and answer questions in real time.” Favorite part of the presentation was when Karen Land told “Her story about getting passed by a person with only 6 dogs when she had 12.”
One thing that surprised me was that Karen Land “goes through thousands of [dog] booties a year”
One thing that surprised me was “The kind of dog she had with her. Movies always show huskies as the sled dogs but she had a different kind. More skinny and smaller than a husky.”
The part of the activity kit I enjoyed the most was “all of it because all of it was fun and inviting.”
“The kit sparked my child’s interest in learning about new experiences, cultures and history and the zoom meetings are great and amazing to incorporate to homeschool”
They learned a lot about the Iditarod sled dog race, the presenter was very engaging.
They got a much better understanding of how the race and checkpoints work.
[Liked] the way she explained how the races work and how much work goes into it
Learned more about sled dogs racing
[Found] it was really informative about sled dogs and racing.
[Liked] meeting Karen’s sled dog Noggin, and Karen showing us the sled used in the Iditarod Race.
“As a homeschool mother and child care provider it is always a bit of juggle trying to teach different ages, but having other “teachers” like librarians and Ms. Laura teaching about her service dog Moose; is a wonderful addition to add to curriculum. My daughter, Victoria is very outspoken and loved the dialogue with others and I thank you so very much for actively listening ( even when she went off on different topic…).”

Maggie Gall-Maynard – Youth Services Librarian, Onondaga Free Library

Alyssa Newton – Assistant Director, Onondaga Free Library

Karen Fenner – Library Media Specialist, West High School & Westhill Central School District

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