Photo: Octa waits to lead a horse during barn chores.
At North Country School, our students interact with the animals on our farm during twice-daily barn chores, cross-curricular lessons in their classes, and afternoon out-time activities. This week students were able to take care of our many barnyard creatures while enjoying the warm and sunny weather, a perfect contrast to the record-breaking cold from last week.
Some students helped lead horses into their stalls for their evening meal and a bit of grooming, others collected eggs from the chicken coop and refilled water dispensers, while others helped milk our nanny goat, Bambi. Classes and out-time groups spent time with our cuddly newborn lambs, and everyone was invited to visit the two sets of newborn chicks currently residing on our campus—the six that hatched from eggs incubated in Edible Schoolyard class, and the 160 that arrived in the mail last week. By helping care for the many creatures we raise on our farm, our students are able to practice empathy and responsibility, while learning about the important role animal agriculture plays in our day-to-day lives.
Top: The 7th-grade science class learns about energy transfer. Middle: An energy transfer lab activity. Bottom: Karina makes an announcement about Katherine Johnson.
This week our 7th-grade scientists continued learning about energy transfer and conversion during a fun activity that took advantage of the Quonset gym space and campus sports equipment. The class first made predictions about how high different balls would bounce when dropped from various heights, and compared those predictions to their actual results after running several tests. Everyone then discussed why objects do not rebound to the same height they were dropped from, and used that understanding to calculate the coefficient of restitution (or “bounciness”) for the different balls tested.
Math and science were once again brought together during a short presentation, given by science teacher Karina, that recognized Black History Month. Karina spoke to the school community at lunch council about several Black figures who made significant impacts on the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, including mathematician Katherine Johnson, who worked at NASA for 33 years beginning in the 1950s. Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics were used during the first U.S. crewed spaceflights, the Apollo Lunar Module, the Space Shuttle program, and many other crucial projects involved in space exploration.
Top: Cody and Brynn address letters in writing class. Middle 1: Lucy addresses a letter to skier Mikaela Shiffrin. Middle 2: Keira holds her letter to the White House. Middle 3: Wyatt reads the 8th-grade Anthology. Bottom: The 8th-grade Anthology.
In 6th-grade writing class, students have been learning about how writing can be used as a form of advocacy. Over the past several weeks each student selected a topic that they feel strongly about, such as access to clean water and establishing a class government, and employed elements of persuasive writing such as research, emotion, and credibility (logos, pathos, ethos) to write a letter to different individuals and organizations advocating for their cause. Once the letters are complete, they will be mailed to their recipients in individually decorated envelopes.
Our older student writers also saw the impact of their words during the 8th-grade Winter Term Anthology reading. Each term the 8th-grade class works on different ongoing creative writing assignments, which are then compiled into these originally decorated anthology books. This term’s anthology, titled Finding Emo, contains short personal memoirs and poems. The young writers were able to peruse their own work and the work of their peers during an afternoon café session in the cozy Clark House living room that was complete with tea and homemade baked goods.
Top: Harry sands his woodshop project. Middle 1: Nina knits with campus wool. Middle 2: Needle felting projects made with campus wool. Middle 3: Orrin works on his ceramics project. Bottom: A handbuilt ceramic cake.
As we near the end of the Winter Term we have started to see projects coming together in many of our studio spaces. Over in the woodshop, students have been completing the final sanding and finishing work on their cutting boards. The pieces, which are made using different campus and local hardwoods, will be displayed in our gallery spaces during end-of-term performances. Fiber arts students have been using another great community resource, the wool from our sheep, to create the knitted clothing items like hats and scarves that we see worn all around campus. The whimsical needle felted creatures made from unspun campus wool have already been displayed on shelves around the Main Building.
Meanwhile, ceramics students have been preparing their greenware (or unfired clay projects) for their first firing in the kiln by smoothing out surfaces and edges. The projects will next become bisqueware, which has been fired once at around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, before being coated in liquid glaze and fired again at temperatures upwards of 2100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Top: Andrew and Joseph in Directing class. Middle: A scene acted out in Directing class. Bottom: Emma and Anika act out a scene in Directing class.
In our theater arts program, students have the opportunity to learn not just about acting and scriptwriting, but also about the vision and oversight needed to direct productions that connect with an audience. This past week the students in Directing class participated in a critique exercise that invited the community’s adults to view the scenes they’ve been working on throughout the Winter Term. Each student directed a scene from a published play, while classmates acted as the cast in each scene. Visitors were given critique sheets that analyzed different directorial choices, including dialogue delivery, blocking, and scene location, and reflected on the impact these different choices made on audience connection and understanding. The class will review this feedback as a group, and discuss if any changes should be made to their scenes in order to best get their intended message across to future audiences.
Top: Algonquin House has a campfire on Wednesday homenight. Middle 1: Algonquin House enjoys the night sky. Middle 2: A weekend sledding group. Middle 3: Vivián sleds. Middle 4: A weekend trip group visits Saranac Lake. Bottom: A weekend trip group goes cross-country skiing
The warmer weather this past week provided the perfect opportunity for more comfortable time spent outside around our 220-acre campus. The residents of Algonquin house took advantage of the mild conditions and cloudless skies during an evening campfire by Round Lake, with views of the surrounding woods and mountainscape illuminated by the bright stars and moon. It was a great opportunity for housemates to spend time together while taking in the peaceful beauty of a clear winter night.
Students also enjoyed exploring the beautiful weather during weekend activities. A sledding group went on an adventure that brought them to some of the more remote landmarks that dot our extensive campus trail system, while another group spent time cross-country skiing, working on their Nordic skills on the groomed loops across the Garden Pasture. Students also took part in off-campus excursions, with one Saturday trip group attending the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, and stopping by the monarch butterfly sculpture designed and constructed by NCS teacher Larry Robjent that makes up part of the Saranac Lake Bug Crawl scavenger hunt.
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Visiting the newborn Edible Schoolyard incubated chicks. Middle 1: Newly arrived chicks at the barn. Middle 2: Watching a lamb birth during Lamb Watch. Bottom: Mina holds a baby lamb.
Last week we celebrated the arrival of new baby animals to our farm, and this week our students had the opportunity to spend plenty of quality time with the tiny chicks and newborn lambs that now call NCS home. The six baby chicks that hatched from incubated eggs have been living in a heated enclosure by our 4th- and 5th-grade classroom, and our youngest students have loved visiting and caring for these small creatures. Across campus, students participating in barn chores and farm out-times said hello to the 160 chicks that arrived at the barnyard a few days ago. The incubated chicks will soon join this larger flock of babies that will grow into our new group of laying hens over the next few months.
Just beside the chick barn in our sheep and goat barn, some of our oldest students have been participating in the overnight Lamb Watch program, which is open to our 9th-grade class. Students who opt into this program have the chance to spend the night in the barn, where they can watch for signs of labor in our ewes and potentially witness—or even assist with—a lamb birth. This week several of our students were able to be there for a lamb birth, and were excited to bring stories of this special opportunity back to their younger classmates. While not everyone was able to see an actual lamb birth, many of our students were able to visit the lambs that have been born over the past week, helping to socialize these curious creatures as soon as they move from the separated jugs (enclosures the newborn lambs stay in with their mothers for a few days) into the larger sheep pen.
Top: Dividing up jobs at the start of afternoon barn chores. Middle 1: Kingston refills a water dispenser. Middle 2: Holding lead ropes during barn chores. Middle 3: Luke grooms a horse. Bottom: Dexter collects eggs.
Barn chores at North Country School take place each weekday, with morning chores completed before breakfast and afternoon chores right after out-time is dismissed. This week students met up in the barnyard at 4:40 for afternoon chores, ready to lend a hand in caring for our many farm animals. Students led horses into their stalls, where they groomed their coats, picked their hooves, and fed them grain. Others collected eggs from the coop, refilled water and grain dispensers, and added hay to nesting boxes. Each of the animals in our barnyard contributes to our program in some way, whether it is by providing food to our kitchens and dining rooms, wool to our fiber arts program, and manure to our fields, or by teaching our students important lessons about responsibility, care, and connection.