Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Series: The 50 States - Alaska


Located in the most northwesterly corner of the United States, lies the largest state in the U.S. - Alaska (postal abbrevation: AK).  This vast tract of land was purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, or just two cents an acre.  The acquisition was arranged by the U.S. Secretary of State William Seward.  Despite the seemingly low price, it was known as "Seward's Folly" because many critics believed this land had absolutely nothing to offer, at least until 1896.  It was at this time when three men discovered gold in Rabbit Creek in Yukon Territory.  This discovery began the Klondike Gold Rush which lasted through 1899 and brought more than 30,000 men in search of fortune.  One of the most famous prospectors in Alaska was a man named Joe Juneau.  The capital city of Juneau was named after him.

Alaska's State Flag
The word, Alaska, comes from an Aleut Indian word meaning great land or mainland and is written as "Aleyska," "alaxsxaq," or "agunalaksh."  This land became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.  There were an estimated 731,449 people living here in 2012, making it the 48th most populous state.

Alaska has two nicknames.  One is "The Last Frontier."  The other is "Land of the Midnight Sun."  This latter name would be because, for almost three months, there is continuous daylight.  The state motto is "North to the Future."  The Willow ptarmigan is the state bird, and the moose is the state land mammal.

The state flower is the Forget-Me-Not, and the tree is the Sitka spruce.  The four-spot skimmer dragonfly is the state insect.  Several dinosaur fossils have been discovered in Alaska such as Albertosaurus, Ankylosaur, and Pachycephalosaurus. The state fossil is the Woolly Mammoth.

Of course, the state mineral is gold, since so much has been found there.  The state sport is dog mushing, which has become a huge sport with nationwide coverage.  The major race is called the Iditarod.  This race began in 1973 as a commemoration of the race against time in 1925.  Children in Nome, Alaska, were very sick and needed serum to heal them.  A string of mushers and dogs rode out to obtain the serum and rode back in time to save the children.  The first race started with 35 men, but only 22 finished.  The winner finished the race in 20 days.  Today, it takes between 9 and 17 days to run more than 1150 miles and takes place the first weekend in March.  The path extends from Anchorage to Nome.  Teams of 12-16 dogs are used, the most common dog being the Alaskan Husky.

If you are interested in learning more about the Iditarod and the dogs, as well as playing some games online, visit the Iditarod website.

Alaska can be a dangerous place to live due to the weather and the terrain.  A record low was set of -80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Much of the land is covered by ice, and the snow storms make driving extremely difficult.  There are shows like Ice Road Truckers which show what life is like for drivers of Semi Trucks in the Alaskan Wilderness.  Alaska has 17 of the 20 tallest mountains in the United States, including Mt. McKinley which is the tallest at 20,320 feet.

There are several people from Alaska, either being born here or moving here for some period of time during their lives, who have a claim to fame.  Joe Reddington, Sr., is known as the Father of the Iditarod.  It was this man who created the race and who funded it during its first year.  A famous pop singer, Jewel, moved to Homer, Alaska, with her parents when she was young, and Irene Bedard is known as the voice of Disney's Pocahontas.  One of the most famous people with a tie to Alaska is Jack London.  He was an early 20th century writer who spent time searching for gold in the Klondike region.  He wrote The Call of the Wild and White Fang after spending some time in this wilderness.

Click here for an Alaskan word search.

Finally, here are some resources that might be of interest to you as you study Alaska.  ( does not have pictures to go with some of these resources.)

751219: Stampede for Gold: The Story of the Klondike Rush Stampede for Gold: The Story of the Klondike Rush
By Pierre Berton / Sterling Publishing

When news of a gold strike in the Yukon Territory got around, it set of a frenzied rush of men seeking their fortunes. Leaving their families behind, thousands of men arrived in Canada, but only a few left with a profit. 164 pages, indexed, softcover.  $5.99.

64726: The Call of the Wild The Call of the Wild
By Jack London / Dover Publications

A classic novel of adventure, drawn from London's own experiences as a Klondike adventurer, relating the story of a heroic dog, who, caught in the brutal life of the Alaska Gold Rush, ultimately faces a choice between living in man's world and returning to nature.  Just $1.69.

494786: Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod
By Joe Funk / Scholastic Trade
48 pages, $4.49
414090: The Great Alaska Adventure! The Great Alaska Adventure!
By Jeff Corwin / Puffin Books
Pages: 96, $4.49.
39089: It Happened in Alaska It Happened in Alaska
By Globe Pequot

From the gold rush to Tinglit potlatches to the Alaska Reindeer Project, It Happened in Alaska offers a unique look at intriguing icons and episodes from the history fo the last frontier.  Pages: 192.  $10.99.

498770: Alaska My First Book, Grades K-5 Alaska My First Book, Grades K-5
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

An "early bird" intro to basic state facts. Covers state basics such as state nickname, seal, song, bird, motto, flag, regions, industries, neighbors, and weather, plus an intro to state history, people and more. Includes: drawing, mazes, matching, coloring, and more! Reproducible. Available for all 50 states. Grades K-5; ages 5-10.  Retails for $7.79.   

497901: Alaska Jeopardy, Grades 3-8 Alaska Jeopardy, Grades 3-8
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

Modeled after the popular TV game show; features "categories" like state History, Geography, Exploration, People, Statehood, State Attractions, and lots more. Each category lists educational and entertaining answers-the student gives the correct question. Includes approximately 30 categories and 150 Q & A. Kids love the Jeopardy ,style format! Reproducible. Available for all 50 states! Grades 3-8; ages 8-14.  Retails for $7.79

499351: Alaska Big Activity Book, Grades K-5 Alaska Big Activity Book, Grades K-5
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

This BIG activity book has a wide range of reproducible activities that will entice any child to learn more about their state! Activities touch on history, geography, people, places, fictional characters, animals, holidays, festivals, legends, lore and much, much more! Reproducible. Available for all 50 states! Grades K-5; ages 6-12.  Retails for $9.19.

22731DF: Alaska State History In a Nutshell - PDF Download [Download] Alaska State History In a Nutshell - PDF Download [Download]
By Cyndi Kinney & Judy Trout / Knowledge Box Central

This retails for $4.39.