Lake Placid News: Community dines on flapjacks at North Country School

student waitersStudent-waiters at Pancake Breakfast

ON THE SCENE: Community dines on flapjacks at North Country School

By Naj Wikoff
May 16, 2024 —
North Country School’s annual “Flapjacks on the Farm” community pancake breakfast featured its largest public turnout, estimated at 250, and a food drive to benefit the Lake Placid Ecumenical Food Pantry. In addition, the breakfast featured a miniature farmers market along with new community partners: AdkAction, New York Ski Educational Foundation and Pure Chocolates.

Along with pancakes — the visitors put away around 1,000 — visitors could partake of locally sourced yogurt, granola, hard-boiled eggs collected from the school’s chickens by the students, and 12 gallons of maple syrup made from sap collected from the school’s sugar bush. The pancakes were made from Champlain Valley Mill, and there was locally sourced bacon, butter, sausage and other products.

Students seated and served the guests, bused the tables, led tours of the new performing art center, the gardens and farm buildings with the horses and sheep and offered face painting.

North Country School provides more than a quality education; all students have farm chores and experience nature through various activities, cultural experiences and sports. The 90 students, attending in grades 4 through 9, came from nine counties and 13 states, with approximately 30 as day students from the region. Delightful was witnessing the close friendships between urban and rural kids, between kids from different countries and life experiences.

Driving in, the first indication of the students’ farm chores was seeing kids planting rows upon rows of leeks, first destroying the weeds and then some making the holes, others sorting the leeks and still others planting the seedlings that had previously been grown in greenhouses from seeds.

“We hope to get in about eight hundred leeks today,” said farm intern Matu Wamae using a torch to burn the weeds. “Maybe more, maybe less; we’ll see how it goes.”

“Planting leeks is fun and easy,” said Tahj. All you have to do is drop it in a hole others made and then cover it up.”

“Sorting leeks for me is pretty new and unusual because it’s not something you do living in a big city as I do,” said Kevin, from Shanghai, China. “Sometimes I care for the chickens. We do that for two weeks about every four weeks. That’s also new. The food at the school is delicious. I like that. Many other things I get to do that are different and not normal for me. It’s pretty chill here. I like it.”

Director of Admission, School Placement, and Pancake Day Traffic Warden Bill Newman shared that the school has worked to increase diversity noting a 10% increase in children of color over last year, an outcome of partnering with agencies like A Better Chance and Oliver Scholars Program and Harlem Lacrosse and the efforts of Yunga Webb, the school’s director of diversity.

The youth managed the breakfast experience. While there was a line waiting to get in, being in line was fun as you got to meet interesting people, and coffee and tea were available. As a consequence, the wait seemed short, and soon, you were seated family-style at a small table with new people to meet.

My tablemates, new Saranac Lake residents Elise and Kahl Counts, said they read about the school in the newspaper and wanted to check it out, as their young son will be ready to attend school and summer camp within a few years.

“We used to have a garden and chickens, which are very enjoyable and fun to have in your day-to-day life, so we see the farming aspect of the school as an asset, as well as the super healthy food they serve,” said Elise.

2008 North Country School graduate Lea Collins attended along with her two kids, her mom and her partner.

“My experience at the school was fantastic,” said Lea. “You have so many different experiences that you never get in a regular school, such as meeting people from throughout the world and making life-long friends. The plan is for both of my kids to go here.”

Todd Ormiston, executive director of North Country School and Camp Treetops, said his first experience, pre-hire, was attending the community pancake breakfast. This experience introduced him to the special magic of the school, which featured the students managing the breakfast. He said that this year was the first time they invited other nonprofits to participate, and one of his goals is to increase community collaboration and engagement.

“Being here, I learned how powerful children are,” said Ormiston. “I have never worked in a school that allowed children to use their voices the way we do and empower them to do difficult things. We believe that if children are allowed to do challenging things and take risks but also have soft landings, they are more apt to take risks later in life. In talking with alumni and parents, they tell me these middle school years were the most important in helping them or their children form their values and sense of personal empowerment and self-esteem.”

Over in the new art center, industrial arts teacher Larry Robjent and students were showing off a recently created castle set for the upcoming May 22 and 23 school play “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic” from the perspective of the Hufflepuff students.

“‘Puffs’ is a show about what the Hufflelpuffs clan was doing while Harry Potter was saving the world,” said Robjent. “While Harry was doing all the heavy lifting, what were the Puffs doing? They seemed like frightened herd animals, but they had their vibe that they were doing. We’ve been doing a lot of timber-framing with the kids; we built a timber-framed cabin earlier, so they decided to timber-frame the set, resulting in a two-story castle. It can open to show the inside or close to reveal the outside.”

“It’s all a kid-run show; they designed and built the sets, did all the lighting and sounds, wrote and performed the music. Out of the 90 kids in the school, 70 or 80 are involved in putting this play together, directing, acting, makeup — all aspects. It will be great.”

Outside, two roommates at North Country School were busy painting the faces of classmates and visitors to the school.

“While where Jenny (from Shanghai) and I grew up is so different, we have learned that we have a lot in common,” said Robin from North Carolina’s Outer Banks. “We are both artists. We took a painting class together last term. And we both like cats, music, Taylor Swift, hiking. We’re not as different as people might think.”

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Copyright © Lake Placid News 2024

2024-05-17T18:30:52+00:00NCS Happenings|

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