Taintor’s tykes take to the trail
By: Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
A trip to Ward and Colleen Wallin’s kennel for a fun and educational day for Mary Jo Taintor’s first graders. On April 5, the students from William Kelley Elementary in Silver Bay donned their winter gear to learn all about the care and feeding of sled dogs, how they’re trained and how they learn to work together as a team.
The Wallins, fresh off the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon trail, are well known mushers in the area. Ward Wallin was on hand that Friday to meet with the sport’s next generation.
“Ward Wallin taught the children about the housing, feeding, and training that their dogs need to build endurance and follow commands to run the races. Then, according to the abilities of the individual dogs, he placed the dogs into their proper places on the gang line,” Taintor said.
“To make it a perfect day, each of the first graders got to go for a dog sled ride through the woods on trails lined with scented pines and pristine birches (while) chickadees chirped overhead.”
The students learned some of the commands mushers use to direct their canine athletes –hike, gee and haw – new vocabulary for some of the students, but useful as the children develop reading and writing skills said Taintor.
The students later returned to the classroom and drew pictures of their adventure to decorate thank you notes for the Wallins, said Taintor, who also used the experience to re-enforce concepts the students were learning in their math unit on identifying geometric shapes.
“(T)he first graders worked in small groups to build kennels, dog sleds, and sled dog teams out of pattern blocks and geoblocks, “ she said. By all accounts the students were impressed by their adventures in the northwoods.
“After such a great experience provided by Ward and Colleen Wallin, It was no surprise when several first grade students said that they wanted to be mushers when they grew up,” said Taintor. “Ward gave my students a royal tour of the dog sledding set up. It was one of the best field trips that we have taken!”