Photo: Sophie and Eleanor sit in the Community Lounge Treehouse.
At North Country School, our students have the opportunity to create art every day, and that art takes many forms. While some classes inspire our student-artists to discover their individual creative voice and vision, others allow children the opportunity to work together on community projects that will find homes on our campus and in the surrounding region. This week, we saw groups of students enjoying the Community Lounge Treehouse, a collaborative installation project created several years ago by students and teachers. The treehouse features various climbing structures and is decorated with paintings of native flora and fauna. Meanwhile, students in one of our Design and Build classes worked together to construct a reclaimed metal loon sculpture that will adorn the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation in the nearby town of Saranac Lake. The loon sculpture will join the ranks of other collaborative pieces that decorate both our mountain campus and local towns, including the large sea monster installation that also resides in Saranac Lake.
Top: Melissa distributes Title Trek bookmarks. Middle: Ezra receives a Title Trek bookmark. Bottom: Hand-illustrated Title Trek bookmarks.
Students at North Country School can often be found with a book in their hands, telling one another about their latest great read, or perusing the catalog in our cozy library. One of the ways we recognize the abundance of reading that takes place on our campus is with the Title Trek program, which asks students to write short reflections about the books they have completed and submit those reflections to our English Department. Students who read and reflect upon 46 books join the honored Literary 46ers, which includes having their names engraved on a plaque and receiving a gift of books and outdoor gear during a council announcement. This past week English teacher Melissa recognized a group of students who have just embarked upon their Literary 46er program by submitting their first Title Trek reflections. The students were given beautiful hand-illustrated bookmarks to celebrate the occasion. Congratulations to the many students who are on their way to reaching this impressive goal! Top: Joseph uses ink and a brush to write Japanese characters. Middle 1: Lorenza uses ink and a brush to write Japanese characters. Middle 2: Students learn about traversing snow in snowshoes during a lesson on winter adaptations and animal behavior. Middle 3: The 4th- and 5th-grade class visits the Adirondack Mountain Club headquarters.
Each January, the students in our Japanese class celebrate the New Year with a tradition in which they practice writing an intention or wish they hope to see come to pass in the upcoming year. In this lovely and reflective activity, called Kakizome, each student uses ink and a calligraphy brush to practice writing the characters that make up their New Year’s message, before displaying the final versions of their wishes beside those of their classmates.
Meanwhile, our 4th- and 5th-grade science students visited the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) at Heart Lake to learn how seasonal changes in the Adirondacks impact local wildlife. Under the guidance of ADK educator Mayfly Maggie, students practiced using snowshoes; identified animal tracks; made scientific observations; and reviewed Leave No Trace principles, all while learning how the many animals that live in our wintry region have adapted to living in this cold snowy place.
Top: Students construct a metal loon sculpture. Middle 1: Drilling holes in metal for the loon sculpture. Middle 2: Ariana takes photos in digital photography class. Bottom: Melissa poses for a photo in digital photography class.
In our Design and Build classes, students work collaboratively with one another to create large constructions and sculptural installations for the NCS campus and partner organizations around our region. In the past these classes have built on-campus bridges that cross streams, reclaimed-metal sculptures that take the shape of delightful and fearsome mythical creatures, and recreation spaces that provide the opportunity to practice climbing skills and play games together. Throughout the Winter Term, our loon sculpture class has been working on a commissioned loon for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation. The piece is being built using materials left over from the construction of the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) construction, including rebar, door frames, and metal framing. We are excited to see the end result of this hard work once it is installed in Saranac Lake later this year.
Digital photography students also worked together to complete an assignment on portraiture. Students took turns photographing one another and posing for portraits taken by their classmates, acting out different emotions using facial expressions and body language.
Top: Rock band class practices a song. Middle: Gwen works with Ira on the piano. Bottom: Tiago runs the soundboard in Rock Band class.
At North Country School, music classes offer our students the chance to hone their instrumental and vocal skills while forming actual rock bands that practice and perform together. This week one of our rock band classes met in the WallyPAC to work with music teacher Gwen on a Billie Eilish song they’ll perform later in the term. Bandmates worked out the bass, drum, piano, and vocal parts of the song, while sound manager Tiago used the mixer to test different sound level
Top: An overnight cross-country ski group. Middle 1: The overnight group skis to a lean-to. Middle 2: The overnight group cooks dinner at a lean-to. Middle 3: Kate ice skates on a Saturday trip. Middle 4: Carter digs a snow cave on a Saturday trip. Bottom: Using avalanche beacons on a Saturday trip.
One aspect of our outdoor program that alumni often talk about when they recount their North Country School experience is their time spent on overnight camping trips in the surrounding Adirondack region. This past weekend one group took advantage of the fresh snowfall by embarking on an overnight excursion to the Raquette River in Tupper Lake. Students cross-country skied more than eight miles to one of the area’s lean-tos, practiced their fire-building skills, prepared a homemade dinner, and roasted marshmallows for s’mores after settling into camp for the evening. We are proud of how our students worked together and supported each other throughout the experience, and we congratulate them for joining the ranks of the generations of NCS graduates who have taken on the challenge of winter camping.
Meanwhile, a separate weekend trip group enjoyed a wide variety of the winter activities available to us on campus, including sledding, downhill skiing, ice skating, snow cave construction, and campfire building. The group ended the afternoon by learning some of the important snow safety and avalanche rescue skills employed in winter backcountry rescues, then they put their skills to the test by using avalanche probes, shovels, and beacons during a mock rescue.
Top: Snowboarders at Whiteface Ski Resort. Middle 1: David skis at Whiteface. Middle 2: Skiers at Whiteface. Bottom: Alvaro and Taylor ride the chairlift.
This week marked the start of our Winter Term Whiteface Days. The program, which has been a much-loved North Country School tradition for decades, brings our students to Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort every week for a half-day of skiing and snowboarding. Everyone had a great time cheering on their peers, taking in the views from different spots on this spectacular 4,800 foot peak, and pushing themselves to build their skills.
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Kate takes photos of the horses in the barnyard. Middle: Eleanor leads a horse during barn chores. Bottom: Emily leads a horse during barn chores.
This week, students had the chance to interact with our barnyard and our herd of horses during art classes and barn chores. One photography class spent time taking photos at different locations around campus, and got some snowy shots of the horses by the barn gates. Meanwhile, students on afternoon chores helped care for these beloved members of our farm by leading them into their stalls, filling their water, and giving them hay and grain. We are always impressed by how well our youngest students work with and help care for these large and intelligent animals.
Top: The Lunar New Year menu. Middle 1: Students make dumplings for the Lunar New Year dinner. Middle 2: Edible Schoolyard students make tortilla dough. Middle 3: Edible Schoolyard students add water to dough. Middle 4: Matt works with tortilla dough. Bottom: Ezra cooks a tortilla.
Students had the chance to practice their cooking skills across different areas of our program this week. To celebrate the East and Southeast Asian holiday of Lunar New Year, students prepared homemade dumplings and an array of other dishes using garlic, pork, ginger, cabbage, potatoes, and daikon grown and raised on the NCS farm. Everyone joined together on Sunday evening to enjoy this delicious feast while learning more about how communities celebrate Lunar New Year around the world.
Meanwhile, one of our Edible Schoolyard (ESY) classes learned about the history of corn, which was first domesticated from the crop teosinte by Indigenous people in Mexico approximately 10,000 years ago. The class first discussed the process of nixtamalization, during which corn is soaked in an alkaline solution often made from food-grade lime (calcium hydroxide) to make nutrients in the grain more readily available for absorption. They then made homemade tortillas using both wheat flour and nixtamalized corn flour, called masa harina, and compared and contrasted their tasty end results.