Search form

Football a Big Success in Small Alaska City



Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
Educational Technology
Physical Education
--Team Sports
--Physical Science
----Earth Science
Social Studies
--Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

Football has found its way to the northernmost U.S. city, Barrow, Alaska.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, share with students a map of North America. Ask students to point out the location of the U.S. state of Alaska. If the map shows the Arctic Circle, be sure to point that out.

Next, share a map of the state of Alaska. Ask students to point out Alaska's largest cities -- Anchorage and Fairbanks -- on the map. Can they point out the city of Barrow (Alaska's northernmost city) too? Ask students to share information they know about Alaska.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students' printable page: parka, challenges, struggling, gravel, artificial, and northernmost. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • With the economy the way it is, many families are _____ to make ends meet. (struggling)
  • Cold temperatures prevent many people from living in the _____ places on Earth. (northernmost)
  • The grass on the baseball field was not real grass at all; it was _____ turf. (artificial)
  • A _____ made of manmade materials was the scientist's only protection against the freezing cold Antarctic temperatures. (parka)
  • The only sound we could hear was the sound of the _____ crunching under our feet. (gravel)
  • People who live in the desert face many _____ that people who live near a lake in the woods would never understand. (challenges)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this week's news story Football a Big Success in Small Alaska City.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • School officials in Barrow, Alaska, started a football team as a way to fight dropout, drug, and alcohol problems faced by the student population there. Before football came to Barrow, the school's dropout rate was as high as 50 percent. Football, they hoped, would keep kids out of trouble, teach discipline and teamwork, and bring the community together. And many say that's just what it has done.
  • The Whalers comprise 44 teens of Eskimo, Tongan, Samoan, Asian-American, African-American, and Caucasian background. Only four of the boys had ever played organized football before.
  • To protect players and fans from polar bears that might wander onto the field during a game, armed patrols carry explosive charges they can set off to scare away the bears. To protect players and fans from the cold, school officials parked buses around the field to create a wind barrier.
  • On October 4, 2008, the Barrow Whalers played the first state quarterfinals game ever to be played above the Arctic Circle. They beat the Houston (Alaska) Hawks 46-18.
  • A Florida woman, Cathy Parker, saw an ESPN SportsCenter story about the Barrow Whalers. Even though she lived 4,000 miles away, she decided she needed to help. She started a nonprofit organization, Project Alaska Turf, to raise a half million dollars for the team. "My family believes football can do a lot of things to encourage young people," Parker told ABC News. "[The story of these kids] was just one of those things that kept burning in my heart, and I wanted to do something."
  • "These kids need something like this, something to pour their lives into and give them hope," Parker told ESPN. "I believe this program is going to change the lives of that town for generations to come."
  • According to the Anchorage Daily News, Barrow's new artificial field was trucked from a Dalton, Georgia, facility of field manufacturer Pro Grass. The rubber mulch that goes underneath the field came from Seattle and the decals for the field were transported from Pennsylvania. The field and its components were flown to Tacoma, Washington, then on to Anchorage. They were trucked from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Two Alaska trucking companies volunteered to truck the materials from Fairbanks to Deadhorse along the Haul Road. Since there are no roads beyond Deadhorse, Northern Air Cargo volunteered to fly everything from Deadhorse to Barrow.
  • The artificial-turf field is blue with gold numbers marking the yard lines. Blue and gold are the Whalers' team colors. The city named the new football field after Cathy Parker.
  • Barrow, Alaska bills itself as the northernmost U.S. city. The city was named in 1825 by Captain Beechey of the Royal Navy as he plotted the Arctic coastline for North America. He named the town after Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty.
  • The city of Barrow, which is known among its native people as Ukpeagvik ("place where snowy owls are hunted"), was incorporated as a city in 1958, the year before Alaska became a U.S. state.
  • More than half the people who live in Barrow are of Native Eskimo heritage.
  • No trees or plants grow in Barrow, and no road can be paved because the ground is permanently frozen.
  • During the winter in Barrow, there is no sunlight. "The wind chill gets to 110 below zero and the buses get so cold the tires get square and we can't turn them," school superintendent Trent Blankenship told ABC News.

    Additional Resources

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Ask students to reflect on some of the difficulties faced in bringing football to Barrow, Alaska.

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • In what Alaska city did this news story take place? (Barrow)
  • Why didn't Barrow have a football team? (Accept reasoned responses.)
  • How many people live in Barrow? (about 4,500)
  • Why did school officials in Barrow decide to start a football team? (They thought it might help keep some kids from dropping out of school.)
  • Who was the team's coach? (A computer teacher in Barrow, Mark Voss, coached the team.)
  • Why do the Whalers from Barrow High School have to fly to their games? (There are no roads out of town; the nearest high school team is 500 miles away.)

    Think About the News
    Ask students to identify some of the obstacles faced in bringing football to Barrow, Alaska. Why was it such a difficult thing to do? Then challenge students to respond to the Think About the News question that appears on their news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about stories of other challenges that required groups of people to come together and work together to achieve a goal.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Geography. Project or provide copies of this map of Alaska cities. Ask student to identify which city in each of the following city-pairs is the northernmost city. The northernmost city in each pair below is the one in italic type.
    Which is the northernmost city

  • Kodiak or Anchorage?
  • Wainwright or Barrow?
  • Nome or Valdez?
  • Anchorage or Fairbanks?
  • Juneau or Ketchikan?
  • Fairbanks or Juneau?
  • Seward or Kodiak?

    Technology. Challenge students to use the free graph-making tool, Create a Graph, to create a graph that shows the racial makeup of Barrow, Alaska. Students can decide whether to create a bar or pie graph. Then they click the Data tab to input their graph title (Barrow, Alaska Population By Race), source (U.S. Census), and the data that appears below:

  • American Indian (64%)
  • White (21%)
  • Filipino (7%)
  • Hispanic (3%)
  • Other (5%)
    After inputting data, students can Preview and Print their graphs. Your might follow-up this activity by having student create racial distribution graphs of their own or nearby communities. They can find the required data by typing any City and State into the City-Data search engine.

    Science - wind chill temperature. Explain to students that the wind chill temperature is how cold people feel. On a cold day, people will feel colder that the actual temperature if the wind is blowing. Provide students with copies of this Wind Chill Chart (alternate source). Invite them to answer grade-appropriate questions such as the following:

  • If the temperature is 40 degrees (F) and the wind is blowing at 20 miles per hour, what is the wind chill temperature? (20 degrees F)
  • If the actual temperature is 10 degrees below zero (F) and the wind is blowing 50 miles per hour, what is the wind chill temperature? (45 degrees below zero F)
  • If the actual temperature is 30 degrees (F) and the wind chill temperature is 15 degrees (F), how fast is the wind blowing? (30 miles per hour)
  • If the temperature is 10 degrees (F) and the wind is blowing at 60 miles per hour, how many minutes will it take frostbite to set in? (30 minutes)

    Math - decimals. Reinforce students' decimal skills by playing an online game, Power Football.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
    NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

    GRADES K - 12
    NPH.K-12.6 Respect for Others
    NPH.K-12.7 Understanding Challenges

    GRADES K - 4
    NPH-H.K-4.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.K-4.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
    NPH-H.K-4.7 Health Advocacy
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NPH-H.5-8.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.5-8.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
    NPH-H.5-8.7 Health Advocacy
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NPH-H.9-12.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.9-12.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
    NPH-H.9-12.7 Health Advocacy

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.3 Physical Systems
    NSS-G.K-12.4 Human Systems
    NSS-G.K-12.6 Uses of Geography

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.3 Technology Productivity Tools

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World