The Top of the Kuskokwim School in the rural village of Nikolai enrolls children in grades pre-kindergarten through high school.

“We have a total of 14 students,” principal and teacher Tara Wiggins said. “Fourth grade is our largest class with five students.”

This year, the fourth graders are working hard raising money for a class trip to Anchorage and Seward in late-April.

“The kids are all working in our cafe,” Wiggins said. “Helping mix juice, clearing tables and wiping them down.”

The Tecone cafe is located in the school's gymnasium and during Iditarod it serves three meals a day to mushers, media, volunteers, fans and other guests.

“Right before we start Mark Norman with the Iditarod stopped by and donated $1,000 dollars to us for food,” Wiggins said. “They wanted to make sure all the money made went to the kids.”

The students need to make $1,400 each — $900 for the trip and $500 for the airfare to get to Anchorage and back. In late-April, the fourth-graders will meet up with the other fourth-graders in the school district and travel together.

In all, there will be about 25 to 27 students, Wiggins said. The district also includes Takotna, Anvik, Grayling, Holy Cross, Shageluk and McGrath.

The students are taking this opportunity learn more about the Iditarod and how it works in Phillip Freeman's class.

"All this week has been pretty much Iditarod," Freeman said. 

Freeman's classroom consists of students from fourth through sixth grades, as well as a high school sophomore. Freeman says at this age the kids really get into the Iditarod because it's easier to comprehend. Of course, there's the dogs.

"When people needed medicine and they didn't have a way to get it to them, they used dogs," fourth-grader Xavier Hall said. "They used dogs to get all around."

On Tuesday morning, just after his class arrived, Freeman took the students down to the Nikolai checkpoint to meet some of the mushers and practice their interview skills.

"Today we are looking at statistics and where they are in the race," Freeman said. "How they did, are they first or second place and how fast did they go."

So which mushers are the students' rooting for? Their favorites: Matt Hall and Aliy Zirkle.

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