Photo: Isabella reads on the dock at Whiteface Landing.

The Adirondack Park is famous for spectacular lakeside summers, multicolored autumns, and snowy winters, but spring often arrives quietly, gently thawing our North Country home later than in many other regions. That’s why it feels so hopeful when the frigid weather takes a turn for the mild, buds reappear on trees, and new green shoots emerge from the soil. It is these signs that tell us this subtle season is truly here to stay.

This week, we saw the ice on even our coldest local lakes and rivers break up and melt away. The moss covering our campus trails popped with neon hues once more, and leaves unfurled in our woods and on the farm. It was the perfect backdrop for our students to play outdoor games with friends, to help prepare our gardens for the summer harvest, and to simply relax and enjoy a good book in the sunshine. As we move into May and the final weeks of the Spring Term, we look forward to watching the forsythia, lilac, and apple blossoms bloom and to picking (and sampling!) the delicious fresh herbs that we’ve missed throughout the cold months when our gardens lay dormant.


Top: River films Katie and Adela for their English class commercial. Middle: “Duncan the Frisbee God” gets ready to film his English class commercial. Bottom: Jonas, Liz, and Jenny with their poetry contest certificates.

Our 7th-grade English students have been honing their persuasive writing techniques throughout the Spring Term, and this week they set out around campus in groups to film commercials they’d written using the tactics observed in modern advertising campaigns. Their commercials employ different types of rhetorical language to encourage viewers to try NCS’s Sunday “Twice is Nice” lunch, take photo classes with Sierra, participate in barn chores, and learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee. Once the commercials are filmed and edited, they’ll be analyzed by the class to determine the effectiveness of the strategies used.
To watch one of the 7th-grade English class commercials, click here.

Meanwhile, the winners of this year’s Great Adirondack Young People’s Poetry Contest were announced this past week, and we were thrilled to learn that three of our very own 8th graders were recognized for this wonderful honor. Out of hundreds of entries, poems by NCS students Jonas, Liz, and Jenny were selected for publication in this year’s poetry contest booklet, Words from the Woods. Congratulations, Jonas, Liz, and Jenny, for having your powerful words celebrated in print!

Top: English as a Second Language (ESL) class discusses the book Hatchet. Middle 1: Outdoor Leadership teacher Jess shows the ESL class different ways to start a fire. Middle 2: David and Enola use magnesium to start a fire. Bottom: David with the embers of his fire.

In a collaborative lesson between our academic and outdoor programming, students in English as a Second Language (ESL) participated in an engaging, hands-on activity that brought to life the novel they’ve been reading in class. For several weeks, the students have been studying the Newbery-honor winning young-adult book Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, which tells the story of a young boy named Brian who is stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash. Brian, who is 13, must learn the skills he needs to survive, such as finding and catching food and starting a fire to keep warm. To gain a deeper understanding of Brian’s struggle, students David and Enola, along with ESL teacher Elie, welcomed Outdoor Leadership teacher Jess to their class to show them some of the methods her students have learned to start a campfire, including using magnesium to create a spark and burning natural and found materials, like cattail fluff and clothing lint. Despite having more resources available to them than Brian did, it took the class many attempts to successfully light a small fire. The exercise allowed them to more fully understand the determination and resilience needed to successfully survive on one’s own in the backcountry.


Top: Koga weaves on a table loom. Middle 1: Glass art ready to be fired in the kiln. Middle 2: Adela works on her glass art. Middle 3: The school community contra dances during the Saturday night activity.

Students worked on an array of new projects this week in our art studios. In fiber-arts class, our 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade artists created colorful belts and guitar straps on small inkle looms, as well as tapestries, wall hangings, and ornate pillows on larger table looms. Next door in glass class, students carefully cut and glued vibrant abstract pieces and mountainscapes that will be fused in the kiln in upcoming weeks.

The Saturday night activity also brought color and energy to our community, as Farm Intern Melody, along with Melody’s dance-enthusiast mother and two special guest musicians, led the school in a contra dance lesson. Everyone had a great time practicing this fun style of folk dancing, which involves long lines of dancers doing different sequences of moves taught to them beforehand by a “caller.” Thank you to all of our special guests for joining us for this wonderful activity!

Top: Larry and Alejandro look at the rabbit sculpture. Middle: Alejandro welds the legs of the rabbit sculpture. Bottom: “John the Rabbit” in his new home by the greenhouses.

North Country School, Community Projects classes give students the opportunity to leave their mark on our mountain campus. Over the course of the past year, our student-artists have been constructing both a large-scale kraken constructed from reclaimed kayaks and an old sap collection tank, as well as a giant garden rabbit made from old farm equipment. This week, we saw one of these impressive collaborative designs come to fruition and settle into its new home. The rabbit—who has been named “John” in honor of our much-loved and recently retired Director of Facilities and Sustainability, John Culpepper—was an effort that took many hands, and was led by 9th-grader Alejandro under the guidance of Design and Build teacher Larry. “John the Rabbit” was installed in his new home beside our greenhouses and growing fields, and we are sure that his presence will delight students and campers who help plant and harvest in these spaces for years to come.


Top: A Saturday trip group at Connery Pond. Middle 1: Matt and Mavi at Connery Pond. Middle 2: The view from Indian Head. Middle 3: An out-time group plays woods games. Bottom: Ryan hides in the woods during an out-time game.

We’re crossing our fingers that winter may officially have left the North Country. Last week’s hefty dose of snow has melted from our campus and the surrounding region, and our Adirondack lake and rivers are nearly ice-free. Though chilly days are still in the forecast, this week we took advantage of the milder conditions while on adventures around the Adirondack Park and around our campus woods. Weekend trip groups visited a few favorite local spots, including Connery Pond and Whiteface landing, a spot which looks out on the Whiteface ski trails our students spent time on throughout the winter. They also took in the famous view from Indian Head—one of the most commonly photographed spots in the Adirondack Park. Back on campus, out-time groups and residential houses participated in some of the same woods games students have been playing at NCS for generations, including manhunt, hide-and-seek, and ghosts in the graveyard, as well as more recent additions like Hunger Games. It’s been wonderful to see the moss and plantlife return to these spaces after many months under the snow, and to see the joy on our students’ faces as they return to these spots as well.


Top: An out-time group moves and stacks wood. Middle 1: Wyatt prunes currants in the Children’s Garden during Edible Schoolyard Class. Middle 2: Eleanor prunes currants during Edible Schoolyard class. Bottom: Lovage grows in the Children’s Garden.

Our students participated in a wide variety of meaningful work this week during classes and out-times. One afternoon group helped move wood cut from our campus forest from the woodshed to one of our favorite spots, the outdoor bread and pizza oven, in preparation for our springtime tradition of pizza cookouts. In upcoming weeks we’ll fire up the oven to bake delicious pizzas featuring the fresh herbs that are just starting to come back to our garden beds and greenhouses.

Meanwhile, our youngest students helped ready our Children’s Garden for the growing season by pruning back some of last year’s growth in the black currant bed. The currants in the garden have proven to be so successful that they’ve taken over some of the neighboring spaces, crowding out other plants. This week, our 4th-grade Edible Schoolyard class helped cut back some of the wilder areas in order to give these other crops space and to declutter the walking paths. In addition to the black currants, which are flush with healthy green buds, our other hardy Children’s Garden perennials have also started to emerge in full force. We’re excited to cook with the bounty of fresh lovage, chives, thyme, and mint in our Teaching and Learning Kitchen and in our dining room.

Top: Miles hangs out with the lambs. Middle: Laurie pets a lamb. Bottom: Julia cuddles a baby goat.

There are days when our community spends time in our barnyard and gardens as part of classes or a community work event, and there are others when we visit these spaces simply because they are fun. This past week, the students in Cascade House went to the sheep and goat barn to see a few of our youngest farm animals during Wednesday Homenight. Our students were all smiles as they cuddled with these curious creatures, who were just as excited for the visit. It was a great reminder that, in addition to providing us with wool, dairy, eggs, meat, and recreation, our farm animals also help cultivate the compassion, caring, and sense of responsibility that NCS students carry with them when they leave our campus.