Photo: Abigail rides Brownie the horse on Pajama Day.

Monday marked the start of Spirit Week on the North Country School campus, and we have been looking forward to the special activities and cheer that comes along with this annual tradition. This year the fun week of programming was organized by our 9th-grade class and included community dress-up days like Pajama Day, Twin Day, and Wacky Wednesday, along with an all-school game of capture the flag. Although the unpredictable weather was the epitome of springtime in the mountains, we were delighted to catch a few sunny moments to gather outside in larger groups—something we’ve greatly missed throughout the long winter. 

The temporary thaw also allowed us to begin another beloved Spring Term tradition—horseback riding. With our trails and riding rings mostly melted and our herd groomed of their thick winter coats, we were able to begin spring riding lessons on Monday. It was wonderful watching our students on horseback once again, and it reminded us of the strong bond between children and horses at North Country School and Camp Treetops that has been with us since our founding. We never stop being surprised by all the ways working with horses, whether while in the barnyard or out on the trails, can brighten someone’s day, bring a sense of accomplishment, and foster greater compassion for the living things that share our home.


Top: 4th-grade social studies class in the rain. Middle: 4th-grade students learn about ancient irrigation. Bottom: 4th graders look at water collecting in a puddle.

Our 4th-grade social studies class took advantage of the wet weather this past week to expand their learning about the ancient Indus River Valley. The class is beginning to study how civilizations throughout history have gathered and stored water by digging different kinds of irrigation systems, and the rain provided the perfect opportunity for hands-on observation. The class geared up with raincoats and umbrellas before visiting different muddy spots around campus to test their own water-routing designs, observing how they could control water flow and storage on a small scale using similar methods to those employed by ancient civilizations. 

Top: Spanish students perform an original skit. Middle: Grace and Josh represent anti-coal activists from Haimen, China. Bottom: Posters from 9th-grade Global Issues class.

The idea of stepping into new roles was woven into the 9th-grade curriculum in both Spanish and Global Issues class this week, though with distinctly different goals. In Spanish class, students have been learning food and restaurant vocabulary, and they practiced their new knowledge by acting out funny skits about unpleasant restaurant experiences. In Grace, Cocona, and Eliza’s scene their unusual experience included being served a plate with a wig on it.

This past week we recognized Earth Day with community discussions and activities, in addition to addressing ongoing conservation efforts and environmental concerns in several of our academic classes. In 9th-grade Global Issues class students researched environmental groups throughout history including the Sompeta warriors from Sompeta, India; Cheyenne tribe members from Montana; and activists from Haimen, China. Students then made posters about the specific environmental issue fought for by each group, including the struggle against fossil fuel corporations and efforts to shift to renewable energy sources, and assumed the roles of these real activists during persuasive presentations to their peers.


Top: Azalech leads a dance out-time. Middle: Dance out-time students stretch. Bottom: Ella takes a photograph of her “twin” Eliza during Spirit Week.

We’ve loved watching our creative student-artists express themselves lately—especially while choosing to pursue their passions outside of studio time. This week our students brought their artistic interests to afternoon out-times, with 9th-grader Azalech taking on a leadership role by teaching a dance routine to a group of her peers, and 9th-grader Ella, in Twin Day attire alongside her “twin” Eliza, bringing her camera to the Upper Field to get some shots for her photography class.

Top: Marcos helps Abigail work on a yearbook page. Middle: Josie and Ella rehearse a scene from Mary Poppins. Bottom: Isha and Zachary stand in front of a set piece from Mary Poppins.

Art students have also been working hard during class time to prepare for the end of the academic year. 8th-grader Abigail has been sorting and editing the hundreds of photos that will make up our 2020-2021 NCS yearbook, while the cast of the spring production of Mary Poppins has been busy running their lines together. Down in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) theater space, finishing touches are being put on the impressive background displays that will become the park, bedrooms, and bank lobby sets where the show takes place. 


Top: Capture the flag on the Upper Field. Middle 1: Samantha goes bouldering during out-time: Photo credit 7th-grader Liz S. Middle 2: Mia jumps in a puddle. Middle 3: Hania helps Joel label the Superloop trail. Middle 5: A weekend trip group on Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Bottom: Outdoor Leadership class meets a forest ranger at the Downhill Grill. 

Just as Spirit Week brought with it a different theme each day, the weather on our mountain campus has been equally variable. It felt as though we traveled through each of the four seasons over the course of this week, with warm and sunny weather, sudden downpours and wind, and freezing temperatures with inches of snow accumulation. Our rugged students and faculty took full advantage of the beautiful spaces around us throughout these different conditions, playing capture the flag and bouldering under blue skies, puddle jumping and doing trail work as rain clouds moved in, and hiking and staging snowball fights while fresh powder covered the ground. 

The students in our Outdoor Leadership Program even bundled up during a heavy snowstorm on Wednesday to meet a guest visitor—New York State Forest Ranger Megan LaPierre. Megan talked to the students about the different roles rangers serve in the protection and conservation of our surrounding wild spaces, and the class was able to use what they’ve learned this term to ask thoughtful questions about how we responsibly engage with the natural world around us. 


Top: Horses crossing the Garden Pasture. Middle 1: A riding lesson in the riding ring. Middle 2: Tyler rides Fern the horse. Bottom: Barn Manager Erica rides Banker the horse in the morning.

While the latter half of the week brought with it heavy snow showers, the first half of the week provided perfect conditions to begin our horseback riding season on the farm. After weeks of grooming out-times with students and many mornings of training out on the trail with Barn Manager Erica, our horses were ready to once again get tacked up for lessons with our riders. We couldn’t keep the smiles off the faces of our students as they got back into the ring after a winter of spending time with our herd in their stalls, and we were impressed by the skill on display as returning and new students showed care and respect for their horses during their lessons. We look forward to seeing our young riders hone their skills as they work with our horses in the barnyard, in the ring, and on the trails in the weeks ahead.

Check back next week to see what we’re up to on our mountain campus.