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Photo: The 4th-grade science class learns about the sheep on our farm.

As we welcomed our students back to North Country School after several weeks away for Winter Break, we were excited to once again see all the curiosity, teamwork, and dynamic learning taking place all around our mountain campus. At NCS, the natural world is both our playground and our classroom. We began the second half of our Winter Term this week by taking full advantage of the 220-acre campus at our fingertips. Academic classes visited the barnyard for a hands-on science class about our farm animals, while weekend activities and afternoon out-times saw students sledding on our Lake Hill, ice skating on our rink, and exploring our campus trails on cross-country skis. It was a wonderful return to campus after the time away.

In upcoming weeks and months, we will celebrate several of our favorite winter traditions, including Whiteface Days at our local ski mountain, our annual Skimeister ski and snowboarding event, and February’s Intersession week of special programming. We hope you’ll join us for these beloved parts of the NCS experience!

ACADEMICS

Top: Patrick explains tessellations to Anika and Katie. Middle 1: The 7th-grade class cuts shapes for their tessellation designs. Middle 2: Monty traces a tessellation. Middle 3: Mia plays a game in Japanese class. Bottom: Alice places features on face in Japanese class.

Creative lessons got our students out of their seats and out of the classroom this week. Our 7th-grade math classes, which spent the first part of Winter Term learning about area and volume, returned to a lesson highlighting the intersection of math and art. Students designed and cut out shapes to make their own tessellations–arrangements using repeating shapes that fit together without any gaps. These original tessellations will be recreated using colorful 3D materials in upcoming days.

Students in Japanese class also used shapes in a tactile lesson that allowed the group to practice their vocabulary while working together to complete a task. The game, called Fukuwarai, challenges players to place cut-out features in the correct spot on a face while their eyes are shut, using only their classmates’ Japanese instructions as a guide. We loved watching the teamwork on display as students mined their vocabularies for words related to directions and facial anatomy.

Top: Emily’s 4th-grade science class meets in the barnyard. Middle: Looking at the sheep. Bottom: Miles pets Dumbo the goat.

Our 4th-grade students this week began a unit that connects their math and science curriculum with our Farm and Garden Program. On Wednesday, the group met in the barnyard to talk about how our farm animals stay warm throughout the winter months, then visited our goats and sheep for some close-up observation. Barn Manager Erica and Farm Intern Melody led the lesson, explaining how fur, wool, and feathers help trap warm air in much the same way as our own many layers of winter gear. The class learned about the thick winter coats that our goats and horses grow each year, as well as the different ways we prepare the sheep barn so the flock stays warm after they are sheared for the season. The group will head back to the barn for their upcoming math class, where they will analyze egg-collection data from this year and years past, as well as track the growth of our baby chicks when they arrive later this term.

ARTS


Top: The 4th-grade theater class acts out an Anansi story. Middle 1: Ryan in character as a tiger. Middle 2: Kate and Sophie learn to knit. Middle 3: Sophie knits. Middle 4: Julia, Lucy, and Alea play music together. Bottom: Octa plays the drums.

The 4th-grade class connected to animals in theater class as well this week, as they used improvisation to create a dramatization of the stories they’ve been learning in social studies about early African cultures. In this collaborative lesson, the students chose to dramatize a tale about how the character of Anansi—a mischievous spider in West African mythology—received wisdom from the Sky God Nyame.

Meanwhile, students in our other arts classes have been building foundational skills and creating harmonious melodies together. In fiber arts class, our 6th-grade students are learning to knit warm winter gear using the wool sheared and spun from our sheep. We love seeing students and faculty all around the NCS campus wearing these cozy creations throughout the cold Adirondack winter. Over in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC), 5th-grade band class has been working together on songs they will perform later in the term. We’re excited to hear their renditions of both modern and classic songs in the months to come.

OUTDOORS

Top: Salama, Camila, and Olivia skate. Middle 1: Bramwell House students skate. Middle 2: Alejandro and Amon play in the snow. Middle 3: Cascade House students ski on the Lake Hill. Bottom: Aaron at the skating rink.

The freezing temperatures that came to our mountain home over the past few weeks have allowed us to get out on our ice skating rink for the first time this term. The rink, one of the newer additions to the NCS campus, sits beneath beautiful Cascade Mountain—one of Adirondack Park’s forty-six 4,000-foot summits. Each house group spent time on the rink this past weekend, and it made us smile to see seasoned skaters help newer ones find their footing on the ice. There was also plenty of time to play in the snow, cross-country ski on the Lake Hill, and simply enjoy being back together after several weeks apart.

FARM AND GARDEN

Top: The 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class interviews filmmaker Jen Rustemeyer about her movie, Just Eat It. Middle 1: Martin asks Jen Rustemeyer a question. Middle 2: Algonquin House students wait to lead the horses into the barn. Middle 3: Andrew refills the chicken grain. Bottom: Fresh eggs in the collection basket.

The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) program at North Country School strives to teach young people to make food choices that are healthy for themselves, their communities, and the larger world. Oftentimes these lessons focus on our NCS campus, the Adirondack Park, or on students’ own backyards and kitchens at home with their families, and sometimes they connect us to others who are making positive change around the globe.

This week our 7th-grade students had the opportunity via Zoom to interview Jen Rustemeyer, the filmmaker and co-star of Just Eat It—an award-winning documentary about food waste. In the film, Jen and her partner, Grant, eat only “rescued foods” that would otherwise be thrown away. The students, who watched Just Eat It in their past several classes, had been discussing the different strategies we can employ to prevent food waste in our own daily lives. At NCS, some of those strategies include composting our scraps and feeding them to the pigs we raise on the farm. The class asked Jen great questions about the quality of the food she and Grant found, the impact that eating reclaimed food had on their perspectives on food insecurity and waste, and their inspirations to make a film tackling these serious topics. We were so proud of our students for thinking critically about this complicated issue, and for welcoming Jen, albeit virtually, to our campus.

Over at the barn, the students of Algonquin House have been caring for our farm animals each afternoon this week. The group met in the barnyard for their job assignments before splitting off to feed and water our sheep, goats, horses, and chickens. Andrew worked alongside his houseparent, Garth, to refill the chicken grain and water, before collecting eggs from the chickens’ nesting boxes. After the freshly laid eggs are washed, they will go to our dining room, where they will be cooked into delicious meals by our kitchen staff.