children build firePhoto: Ian, Wyatt, and Marley build a fire during Outdoor Leadership class.

At North Country School, our academic year is separated into three terms: Fall, Winter, and Spring. During each of these terms, students have the opportunity to engage in new areas of interest and build upon their existing skills through our rotation of arts, Outdoor Leadership, and Edible Schoolyard classes. This past week the Winter Term Outdoor Leadership class practiced fire building and campfire safety in a lesson that they will refer to as they navigate wild spaces during the coldest months of the year. The students reviewed the Leave No Trace principle of minimizing campfire impacts while using flint and steel, as well as a bow drill, to construct small fires in the Children’s Garden fire pit. We are excited to see these students continue to expand their foundational knowledge throughout the next few months, and to use these important skills during their end-of-term wilderness practicum.


students in science classscience lessonscience lessonchildren in class children in classTop: Laurie and Owen work on a science experiment. Middle 1: Testing surface tension. Middle 2: Liam works on a science experiment. Middle 2: Edison and Eleanor work on their passport project in social studies class. Bottom: 5th-grade students find out they’ve had a special visitor.

This week our 7th-grade scientists brought together their knowledge of the scientific method with the information learned in their Fall Term chemistry unit during a hands-on lesson about surface tension. In a lab exercise that looked at the cohesive and adhesive properties of water, students counted how many drops of water could stay on the surface of a penny. They then designed their own experiment by swapping the fresh water out for either rubbing alcohol, borax solution, salt water, or water with food coloring added, and replicated their original process to compare results. The exercise allowed the class to see how the chemical properties of different substances can cause those substances to react differently in the same circumstances.

Meanwhile, our 5th-grade social studies students expanded their understanding of global cultures in a lesson focused on the many celebrations that take place around the world in the winter. The class began the term by learning about different holidays that are recognized in countries including China, Mexico, France, and India, which prepared them for a discussion on the various traditions associated with these holidays. This week the students returned to their classroom after recess and were delighted to learn that they’d had a surprise visitor while they were gone—St. Nicholas, who brings French children candy on St. Nicholas Day. The tasty chocolate treats were a delightful way to take part in a bit of this festive winter celebration. 


ceramicsceramicsdancingdancing Top: Mavi and Mina take photos. Middle 1: Mavi takes a photo. Middle 2: Kevin makes a coil in ceramics class. Middle 3: Jerry works on a handbuilding project. Middle 4: Nadya works on the wheel in ceramics class. Middle 5: Dance teacher Samara leads a ballet out-time. Bottom: Students practice ballet.

This past week our students returned from Thanksgiving break to begin Winter Term art classes, and creativity was on full display as everyone began working on their new projects. Photography students could be found all around campus testing out camera settings and experimenting with framing. Meanwhile, down in our ceramics studio, we saw a group of new ceramics students learning foundational pottery techniques including rolling coils and carving sculptures. Students returning to the pottery studio continued to hone their skills on the wheel, working with clay that they will become cups, bowls, and vases over the next several weeks.

The North Country School value of “art every day” doesn’t only apply to class time, and this week our dedicated dancers also had the opportunity to practice their skills during afternoon out-times. One group of students spent a rainy afternoon in the Pavilion practicing ballet alongside dance teacher Samara, learning the different dance positions while enjoying this beautiful campus space.


building firebuilding firebuilding fireTop: Students in Outdoor Leadership class celebrate building a fire. Middle: Anika and Dexter build a fire. Bottom: Using a flint and steel to start a fire.

While the weather hasn’t been particularly cold or snowy this week, wet and chilly conditions often bring about some of the more precarious wilderness situations for outdoor adventurers.. Students in Outdoor Leadership (ODL) class spent time learning some of the several methods to stay warm and safe while recreating in the backcountry, including how to safely build and manage campfires. The class first discussed how to select the size and type of wood that would catch quickly, burn for the desired amount of time, and leave minimal impact, before learning several different ways to spark a fire. Teacher Jess showed everyone how to stack tinder and kindling, and how to use a flint and steel to create a spark, while returning ODL student Oliver taught his peers how to start a fire using a bow drill. Everyone celebrated when they were able to successfully start their small fires, before completing their lesson with another crucial wilderness skill: ensuring that their fires had been safely and completely extinguished.

athlete presentationathlete presentationhiking boardhiking grouphikingTop: U.S. Olympian Maddie Phaneuf talks to the school at Town Meeting. Middle 1: Students listen to Maddie Phaneuf talk about her career. Middle 2: The Mountain Cakes bulletin board. Middle 3: A hiking group at the Bear Den Mountain trailhead. Bottom: Joseph and Sam on the Bear Den summit.

At North Country School, our Lake Placid location means that many of our neighbors have connections to the Winter Olympics, which were held here in both 1932 and 1980. This past week we welcomed to campus local community member Maddie Phaneuf, a U.S. Olympic biathlete and NYSEF (New York Ski Educational Foundation) coach, to talk to our student body about her background as an athlete, the different kinds of Nordic ski events, and her current role mentoring young athletes. Thank you, Maddie, for spending time with our students and offering them a window into the world of an Olympian!

Nordic skiing—half of the biathlon event—is a common pastime throughout the snowy season at NCS, and one that adds an important winter component to the North Country School Mountain Cakes program. The Mountain Cakes program recognizes the students who canoe, hike, and Nordic ski (also known as cross-country skiing) the most miles over the course of the academic year. Though the winter has started out warm, we are crossing our fingers for a snowy season ahead, and to long days of cross-country skiing on campus and around local trails. Even though the snow is currently in short supply, students are still earning plenty of Mountain Cake miles on weekend hiking trips. This past week we saw one Saturday trip hike up Bear Den Mountain, which looks directly at the downhill ski trails of Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort, where we will spend one afternoon a week downhill skiing when we return from winter break in January.


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cooking lessonhorses
horse treatshorse treatsTop: Landon and Rhaya mix up dough in Edible Schoolyard class. Middle 1: Tiago and William get creative with their cookie recipe. Middle 2: 6th-grade Edible Schoolyard students with their different cookie recipes. Middle 3: Horses in the barnyard pasture. Middle 4: Edible Schoolyard students give treats to Bo the horse. Bottom: Bo the horse selects a treat.

The Winter Term in our Edible Schoolyard (ESY) program often focuses on how we can use the local- and campus-grown ingredients available to us throughout the cold months in new and creative ways. This week both our younger and older ESY classes took advantage of the many ingredients that can still be found on campus in two different lessons focusing on recipe creativity and flexibility.

In 6th-grade ESY class, students used the eggs laid year-round by our chickens in a lesson that allowed them to experiment with a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe. Students changed the quantities and ratios of different ingredients, as well as the baking time of their batches, keeping careful track of the differences between each batch. The class ended with a delicious sampling of their end results and a discussion about the ways their experimental recipes led to very different finished products.

Meanwhile, one of our older Edible Schoolyard classes used farm carrots from the root cellar and campus apples that were cut and frozen in the fall to make treats for our barnyard animals. The class baked up the healthy treats, which also used sunflower seeds, oats, and molasses, before bringing them to the barnyard for a taste test and informal snack survey. While the small sample of horses in our herd seemed to go to pieces of green apples and carrots before eating the homemade treats, the ESY-made snacks still got Bo the horse’s coveted seal of approval.