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Photo: Larry and Inyene by the stream in Earth science class.

There are many lessons in our academic program we look forward to each year. Our 8th-grade English students reading their original writing in poetry cafes, our math classes learning about the sugar-to-water ratios in maple sap and syrup during the sugaring season, and our 7th-grade history students writing with quill pens are all recurring lessons that we love seeing new students enjoy. This week we saw two such academic traditions take place on campus. Our Earth science classes took part in the annual Stream of Consciousness lesson, where they visited spots along our campus stream to learn about how waterways change over time, and two avid readers in our community were recognized as Literary 46ers, joining a very small group of North Country School students honored over the years. 

We love watching our students follow in the footsteps of those who came before them in these favorite NCS traditions, and know that the memories formed while learning science out in nature or while being celebrated by a room full of cheering friends will stay with them long after they depart our mountain campus and head on to wherever life takes them next. 

ACADEMICS

Top: Shaun talks to Lauren’s English class. Middle 1: Wyatt listens to Shaun talk about writing. Middle 2: Shaun shows English class students one of his articles. Bottom: Lauren and Landon are honored as Literary 46ers.

This spring our 5th- and 6th-grade English students have been working on finding their voices as writers, and this week they welcomed a special visitor, our own North Country School and Camp Treetops staff writer Shaun Kittle, to their classroom to talk about what it means to work as a professional writer. Shaun talked about his history of going to school for writing and shared some personal tips and tools, explaining that whatever you’re writing, you’re telling a story. After showing the class a few of his own published pieces, he guided the class to think about exploring writing about the topics they find interesting, whether it be outdoor adventure, music, food, or traveling. 

In addition to learning more about writing, we also have the opportunity to celebrate our avid readers. This past Tuesday we held a special lunch council to recognize two members of the NCS community joining the ranks of 35 past students and teachers by becoming Literary 46ers. Teacher Lauren and 8th-grader Landon received this honor—which includes having their names engraved on an NCS plaque and getting backpacks full of books—for completing 46 Title Trek reflections written about books they’ve read over the course of their time here. While many students and teachers have written Title Treks in the past, only a small number of community members have ever received the honor of being named Literary 46ers. Congratulations, Lauren and Landon!

Top: Larry helps Koga with his stream lab in Earth science class. Middle: Zachary studies the stream. Bottom: A stream lab sheet.

Students in 8th-grade Earth science class participated in one of our favorite place-based lessons by heading outside for the Stream of Consciousness lab. The class has been learning about stream morphology and hydrology, and went down to barn bridge, the yurt bridge, and the back of Flushing Meadows to observe our on-campus stream. The class discussed the possible relationship between water velocity and particle size, as well as the influence of snowmelt on stream levels and direction, and will use their observations to write papers extrapolating theories that they can apply to larger bodies of water.

ARTS

Top: The Banks family characters perform a dress-rehearsal scene from Mary Poppins. Middle: Ella as Mary Poppins flies through the air with her umbrella. Bottom: Colton runs the lighting board for a scene in Mary Poppins

Our spring production of Mary Poppins is coming together fast, and this past Friday evening some of our cast and crew met at the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) to put on a live-over- Zoom dress rehearsal of one of the play’s scenes for our NCS/CTT trustees. We were impressed by the hard work and talent on display as we watched the scene come together, complete with a song (which was pre-recorded in individual sessions with music teacher Joey due to COVID restrictions), a flying main character, and full lighting setup. 

Top: 4th graders show off the cut pieces for their monkey bars design. Middle: Alea cuts a piece of the monkey bars set. Bottom: Jess works on her clay octopus in ceramics class. 

Our innovative 4th-grade class has been busy building a monkey bar set in the WallyPAC shop this week, measuring and cutting bars under the guidance of Design and Build teacher Larry. The climbing setup, which was proposed by the class, will be installed on the Upper Field later this term and will add a fun and impressive play space to our spectacular mountain campus. In our studio arts space, we watched another impressive project come together in clay instead of metal, as 9th-grader Jess worked on her handbuilt clay octopus. The lifelike creature was given tentacles and suckers this week, and will be fired in the kiln, glazed, and fired a final time in the upcoming weeks. 

OUTDOORS

Top: A Saturday trip group on Baker Mountain. Middle 1: The view from Bear Den Mountain. Middle 2: Matt and Felix in the snowy campus woods. Middle 3: Matt cuts wood for the campus mountain bike trail. Bottom: A painted bike that will decorate the campus mountain bike trail. 

This past weekend we saw our students taking in the views from various nearby Adirondack summits, as well as putting in some work to beautify our campus. One off-campus group explored the trail up Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake, while another enjoyed the sun and blue skies from the top of Bear Den Mountain in Wilmington. Back on campus a group of mountain bikers helped care for our mountain bike trail by building bridge features, as well as by painting some of our older bikes vibrant colors. The painted bikes have been placed around the trail as part of our ongoing initiative to install student-made art around campus. 

 FARM AND GARDEN

Top: Our new bees settle into their hive. Middle 1: Farm Intern Melody explains compost to the 4th-grade ESY class. Middle 2: Farm Intern Hania shows the 7th-grade ESY class our compost bay. Middle 3: James shovels finished compost into the trommel to be sifted. Bottom: Will holds up a handful of finished compost.

This past weekend we welcomed yet another spring arrival to our farm, honeybees. The bees were introduced to their new hive home—the colorful boxes painted by one of our March Intersession groups—on Saturday and are settling in nicely this week, enjoying the bits of sunshine and few flowers in bloom in the Children’s Garden. After the bees get comfortable in their new home over the next week or so we will introduce these important pollinators to our Edible Schoolyard (ESY) classes with some bee-themed lessons and activities. 

Meanwhile our ESY classes spent this past week learning more about compost, and our innovative rotating drum composter. Helping our school with composting is part of our community work program, and every two weeks different students are assigned to help process food scraps into nutrient-rich soil amendment using the closed-system, which processes waste into compost in a much shorter timeframe than traditional pile systems. This week Farm Interns Melody and Hania led lessons with our younger cohort of classes, giving the students a more in-depth look at compost and in our efforts at composting here at North Country School. The groups visited the rotating drum composter and participated in an activity where they guessed the composting time of common household items including shoes and plastic bags, before playing a fun composting trivia game. By composting all of our food scraps and farm waste we can help keep trash out of landfills and methane out of the atmosphere, while producing a valuable product that we need to grow our food. 

To learn more about composting at North Country School click here

To learn more about our rotating drum composter click here