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 Photo: Arden, Lucy, Julia, and Josh pose during the Senior Hunt out-time.

Winter is an incredible time in our Adirondack home, filled with skiing, sledding, snowball competitions, and ice skating, but we are always more than ready once spring truly arrives on the North Country School campus. This past week brought a breath of fresh air to campus as warm weather and sunshine arrived in full force, melting most of the snow, with leaf buds appearing in the trees and the first bright green grass of the year visible on the ground. There is often a feeling of optimism that comes with the arrival of spring, and perhaps never more so than during this year when so much of our daily lives has looked different and presented new challenges. The ability of our faculty, staff, and students to put away (at least temporarily) our heavy winter gear, bring out shorts and T-shirts, and comfortably be outside recreating together has brought a lightness to our mountain campus, as well as a renewed sense of gratitude for this place, the natural world around us, and one another.

ACADEMICS

Top: Larry teaches Earth science class outside. Middle 1: Larry explains the glacier lab. Middle 2: Colton works on his glacier lab. Middle 3: Jennifer and Mia work on their popcorn lab. Bottom: James works on his popcorn lab. 

Warm weather made it easier for academic classes to be held outdoors this week, and Earth science class took advantage of both the sunny days and the last remnants of winter by gathering outside of the Main Building and using the bit of snow left on the ground for a lab on glacial morphology. Each student collected their own chunk of ice, and then used this “glacier” to push dirt across the ground and observe the effects the movement had on the resulting terrain. The class then made scientific drawings of the land in front of them, labeling the moraines, kettle ponds, striations, and grooves left behind by the earth-changing event. 

Our 7th-graders also made scientific observations and recorded results in a lab involving mass and volume. The activity asked the student-scientists to make predictions about the change in mass between popcorn in kernel form and after being popped, and then measured and recorded the actual results of their experiment. The lab fits into the class’s larger unit on the physical properties of matter.

Top: Meredith leads an activity in Japanese class. Middle 1: Practicing Japanese writing skills. Middle 2: Author Kyle Lukoff talks about his books. Bottom: Students watch guest author Kyle Lukoff’s presentation in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center.

This week students at North Country School students were able to explore language both in and out of class time. In Meredith’s introductory Japanese class, students answered the question “What is it?,” while learning the names of some classic Japanese dishes including nabe, tempura, and zaru soba. After completing the fun exercise, the class practiced reading and writing the hiragana syllabic characters used in Japanese writing. 

Our student body was also invited to discuss creative ways to use writing and self-expression during a special event with a visiting author. This past Monday we welcomed Stonewall Award recipient Kyle Lukoff to North Country School via Zoom as part of a collaboration between our visiting author series and our Equity and Inclusion Committee’s initiative to invite guest speakers to campus. Kyle’s middle-grade and picture books create complex stories featuring transgender characters, and we were all excited to hear Kyle’s personal stories about navigating finding his voice, style, and genre as he pursued his writing career. The thoughtful and engaging question-and-answer session touched upon topics including identity, banned books, world building, and the ins-and-outs of the publishing world. We were thrilled to have Kyle join us remotely, and hope to welcome him and other guest speakers to the NCS campus in person in the future. 

ARTS

Top: Justin works on his weaving in art class. Middle 1: Justin’s weaving. Middle 2: Abigail attaches mug handles in ceramics class. Middle 3: Amon’s mug project in ceramics class. Bottom: Langlang’s NCS drawing.

Our art studios were full of color and creativity this week, with beautiful work coming out of our fibers, 2D, and ceramics spaces. Vibrant weavings are starting to come together, and we look forward to the pillows and tapestries that will be on display in the upcoming weeks. In the ceramics studio we watched as students created beautiful mugs and teapots both on the wheel and using handbuilding and carving techniques. The clay pieces will be fired into bisqueware in the kiln before getting coated in glaze and fired a final time to create functional pieces of art. Our drawing students also continue to impress us with their ability to recreate different spots around campus, and this week we were particularly amazed by Langlang’s spot-on pencil rendering of the exterior of Clark House. 

OUTDOORS

Top: Ani sits beside the falls at Wilmington Flume. Middle 1: Meredith and Liz find a geocache. Middle 2: Alice relaxes on a swing set. Middle 3: Olivia eats a roasted marshmallow. Bottom: Sean, Jack, and Fred practice casting in fly fishing class.

The warm weather and sunshine made it much easier for us to find spots to relax and enjoy the outdoors together. On Saturday students visited a few of our nearby trails and vistas, with one trip exploring the waterfalls at Wilmington Flume, hiking up Silver Lake Mountain and locating a few geocaches along the way, and taking a moment to enjoy the swings at a park. On campus, the week was filled with time spent enjoying our campus lean-tos and firepits. We also spied the students in our Art of Fly Fishing class taking advantage of the melted (but not yet drained) on-campus ice skating rink to practice their casting skills in preparation for their upcoming fishing outings.  

Top: Cocona as a Senior Hunt tagger. Middle: Sophie shows off her purple Senior Hunt mark. Bottom: Students go on a search for hidden seniors by the Hill Houses.

In past years our traditional April “Senior Hunt” activity, modeled after an Easter egg hunt, involved our 9th-grade seniors hiding indoors and being found by the younger students, who received candy treats for each 9th-grader discovered. This year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our community, the event was moved outdoors and restructured slightly, and we were excited to see the results of our community’s creative thinking. The 9th-grade class split into hiders, taggers, and riddlers, with our younger students acting as the seekers. For each 9th-grader found, our younger students received a different color tally on their arm. By the end of the fun out-time event only two of our younger students—8th-grader Tyler and 7th-grader Samantha—boasted all five colorful marks representing each of the hiding seniors. We loved watching our students’ creativity and energy come together in such a playful way, and were glad that the unpredictable April weather provided a beautiful week for the event.  

FARM AND GARDEN

Top: Tess shows Edible Schoolyard class how to harvest spinach. Middle 1: Samantha harvests spinach. Middle 2: The first spinach harvest of the season. Middle 3: Em seeds basil. Bottom: A handful of tiny basil seeds.

Nothing says spring on the farm like seeding in the greenhouse and harvesting the first fresh greens of the season. This past week we celebrated both of those things, as our Edible Schoolyard classes joined their teacher Elie, Garden Manager Tess, and the farm interns in our greenhouse to learn about seeding, greenhouse growing, and how we use indoor spaces to extend our farming season. After a discussion about how cold locations use different sorts of adapted growing spaces—aeroponics rooms, cold frames, and greenhouses—to begin plants sooner in the season and continue to harvest past the autumn frost, we touched upon how we at NCS have also used our own greenhouse to overwinter a few varieties of cold-hardy plants. We then split into groups, with one group harvesting the very first greens of the season. The fresh and vibrant spinach leaves went right to our dining room for the week’s meals. Other students learned how to make soil-block trays, before seeding a few flats with the seeds that will grow into our year’s crop of annual herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Once the plants germinate and are strong enough to be transplanted they will be moved into indoor and outdoor garden beds, where we will be able to watch them grow throughout the summer and fall. 

Though much of the world around us and our day-to-day lives may look different this year than in the past, helping the farmers harvest the food we eat and pick the flowers that brighten our spaces remains the same integral part of the North Country School and Camp Treetops experience that it has for generations. We are grateful to be able to continue this valuable tradition, and to see the engagement and excitement on the faces of our students as they watch seeds sprout into plants, plants bear fruit and flowers, and fruit and flowers produce the seeds we will collect and plant once more when next winter turns into spring.

Check back next week to see what we’re up to on our mountain campus.