Photo: Zephyr turns a bowl on the lathe.
Learning a new craft is a wonderful way for students to gain an understanding of the effort, time, and resources that go into creating the functional and beautiful objects that surround us here on the North Country School campus. In our studio art and Design and Build classes, students become active participants as they learn about the creative process from start to finish – whether cleaning wool shorn from our sheep before using it to knit clothing, repurposing materials from our buildings, boats, and farm vehicles to build intricate sculptures, or using lumber cut from our campus forest to build kitchenware and furniture. Providing our students with the knowledge, time, and space to create projects by hand fosters a deeper appreciation of the objects that they interact with every day to make their lives not only a bit easier, but also a bit more beautiful.
Top: Campbell leads a Town Meeting about Earth Day. Middle 1: Yehor and Keira participate in the Town Meeting activity. Middle 2: An Earth Day art installation. Bottom: Global Issues class discusses the history of conflict in the Middle East.
This week we recognized Earth Day with activities connected to conservation and the environment, including a Wednesday morning Town Meeting led by our environmental science teacher Campbell. After watching a presentation on the history of Earth Day, groups engaged in thoughtful conversations about their ideal visions for the world in fifty years, and specifically for humanity’s role in bringing about positive change in our environment. Students then wrote their visions and drew corresponding illustrations on pieces of cardboard, which were assembled into an inspiring piece of installation art.
Our 9th-graders also had a thoughtful, nuanced conversation during their Global Issues class. Throughout the Spring Term the class has learned about different territorial and sovereignty conflicts around the world, and this past week the discussion centered around the Middle East and the history of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The students in the class read material and watched videos showing first-person perspectives from the region, and then compared what they learned to other territorial and sovereignty disputes around the world. It was wonderful to see our oldest students, who come from a number of different countries and backgrounds, engage with one another with compassion and respect while learning about some of the world’s most complicated issues.
Top: The 7th-grade science class builds egg-drop containers. Middle 1: Jerry drops an egg off the Main Building roof. Middle 2: Claire makes observations about the Sugarbush in science class. Bottom: Anna Olivia records observations in science class.
Meanwhile, students in our science classes learned about the world around them during two different hands-on lessons. As part of their unit studying physics, 7th-grade scientists have been reviewing Newton’s laws and learning about gravitational potential energy, air resistance, and drag. This week students worked in groups to design and construct egg-drop containers that put their learning to the test. After workshopping several different designs—most of which kept the eggs collected from our chicken coop intact—the class discovered that the larger containers protected eggs better than smaller ones with less padding, even though they weighed more.
In a lesson bringing together geology and ecology, our 5th-grade scientists took to the woods to learn about how sugar maples, which are common on our campus and the surrounding region, can only grow in areas with nutrient-rich soil that is leftover from a melting glacier. The class discussed how glacial melt creates till, which is the sediment left over by a glacier when it sits in one spot and melts. They then explored the sugarbush looking for glacial erratics, which are out-of-place looking boulders deposited by a glacier. Glacial erratics are common in our campus woods in the surrounding area, and Balanced Rocks—which sits above the NCS campus and is one of our community’s favorite hikes—is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
Top: Larry works with woodshop students on their projects. Middle 1: David sands a piece of his project. Middle 2: Enola with her award-winning needlefelting. Middle 3: Owen and Rhaya rehearse a battle for The Hobbit. Bottom: Claire and Lauren rehearse a battle for The Hobbit.
Students in our beginner woodshop class have been hard at work this term building a category of items that most of us use each day but sometimes overlook—shelves and organizers. In a lesson that reinforced foundational skills of construction and intentionality of design, students thought about their own living spaces through the lens of keeping spaces neater and easier to navigate. They then built their designs using lumber sourced from our own campus and local mills. The finished projects will find homes in students’ bedrooms, where they will hold books, photos, and—an NCS favorite item—Rubik’s Cubes. Over in the fiber arts studio students also use an important campus resource—the wool shorn from our sheep—to create their projects. One of the whimsical projects to come out of the studio this year is a needlefelted piece called Breaking Through, made by 9th-grader Enola. This past week the piece was awarded third place in the grade 6-9 category at the annual Lake Placid Center for the Arts High School Juried Art Show. Congratulations, Enola, for being recognized for your beautiful and original work!
Meanwhile, the cast of the spring theater performance of The Hobbit have been busy learning the blocking for the big final battle scene of this epic show. The scene brings the large cast together on the ground floor and elevated tiers of the intricate set, and involves goblins, humans, dwarves, elves, and other creatures. This past week the entire cast met in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) to carefully choreograph the movements in this important scene, and we can’t wait to see the results of their hard work during the end-of-term-performances of this action-packed show.
Top: Outdoor Leadership class learns how to set up tents. Middle: Elie shows Emma and Yolanda how to set up their tent. Bottom: Ezra and Joseph set up their tent.
Each term, the students in our Outdoor Leadership (ODL) program go on a multi-day overnight trip to put into practice the wilderness skills they’ve been learning in class. This past week the class gathered outside Clark House to learn how to put together the tents they will be using when they go camping in the upcoming weeks. The group looked at several different types of tent poles, and worked together to set up their tents and rain flies, making sure the crucial pieces of equipment were functional and not in need of repair before bringing them into the backcountry. It was the perfect example of the first of the seven Leave No Trace principles we use to guide our outdoor recreation: to always “plan ahead and prepare” for the specific activity, season, and conditions that might be encountered during an adventure.
Top: The student-staff basketball game. Middle 1: David and Jack celebrate at the summit of Algonquin Mountain. Middle 2: A Saturday trip group hikes up Algonquin Mountain. Bottom: Zephyr completes his NCS 10 challenge on Rand Ridge.
Our NCS community took part in several exciting activities this week, some of which occur each year and are much anticipated, and some of which take place only once. This past Homenight Wednesday our students and staff participated in the annual student-staff basketball game, which both groups have been practicing for over the past few weeks. While the staff ultimately took home the victory, it was a well played game, and a great time was had by all! Our avid hikers, meanwhile, celebrated new accomplishments this past weekend during a hike up Algonquin Mountain and NCS-named bushwhack Rand Ridge. Students David and Jack planned and led the Algonquin hike as part of their Outdoor Leadership class, and they did an incredible job with the lofty goal of organizing a safe trip and encouraging their peers throughout the trek. On Sunday’s Rand Ridge hike, 8th grader Zephyr was recognized as North Country School’s latest student to finish his NCS 10 challenge by hiking the 10 highest points surrounding the NCS campus. Congratulations, Zephyr, on achieving this impressive goal!
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Students circle up at the start of afternoon barn chores. Middle 1: Chickens in the barnyard. Middle 2: Octa collects eggs in the chicken coop. Bottom: Eggs waiting to be collected in a nesting box.
One of the jobs during barn chores that is constant throughout the year is caring for our flock of laying hens. Each morning, children on chicken chores head to the coop to refill waters and grain, and open the small gate in the coop wall that allows chickens to explore the yard. In the afternoon, students refill water and grain containers once more, herd chickens back into the coop and close the small gate to keep out predators, and collect eggs from nesting boxes. While our chickens lay eggs year-round, the number of eggs laid dwindles in the winter and ramps back up in the spring in conjunction with the number of daylight hours. On the shortest winter days students collect about 50 eggs from our 120 chickens each afternoon, and on the longest days of summer our campers collect about 120 eggs, providing a bounty of these important staples of our campus cooking!
Top: Kevin and Andrew cook filling for green tomato pie. Middle 1: Filling for creamy greens pie. Middle 2: Ariana cooks filling for berry crumble pie. Middle 3: Finished ESY mixed berry pie, sweet green tomato pie, and creamy greens pie. Bottom: ESY students sample their pies.
Part of the Spring Term curriculum in our Edible Schoolyard (ESY) classes involves learning creative ways to use up the farm items we stored throughout the past summer and fall in order to make space for the coming season’s harvest. This week the 8th- and 9th-grade students in ESY elective class prepared several different varieties of pie, which is an endlessly adaptable way to use different ingredients. After making crusts and toppings, the students cooked up three fillings using frozen farm-grown green tomatoes, garlic scapes, leeks, swiss chard, blueberries, raspberries, currants, and elderberries. They then baked their two sweet dessert pies and one savory pie, and were able to sample and compare the tasty results.
To see the green tomato pie recipe the class whipped up, check out pages 44 and 45 of the NCS/CTT magazine, Organic Roots, here.