Photo: Lucy makes pasta dough.

At North Country School, many of our favorite activities and lessons bring together different aspects of our program, and this week we saw an abundance of interdisciplinary learning taking place all around campus. We all know that art, academics, the farm, and outdoor activities don’t exist in isolation from one another, and we were reminded of that fact as our students used farm eggs in a pasta-making lesson that incorporated math; as art students felted blankets for our lambs using wool from our sheep; and as our talented students sculpted a life-size snow ox in honor of the Lunar New Year holiday. As always, we were impressed by our students’ creativity and collaborative spirit as they worked together in classrooms, art studios, at the barn, and around our snowy Adirondack home. 


Top: Jennifer and Justin build their solar oven. Middle 1: Brian builds his solar oven. Middle 2: A solar oven cooks s’mores. Middle 3: Max shows a fractal video. Middle 4: Duncan and Monty learn about fractals. Bottom: Anika watches the fractal video.

As part of their unit studying climate change and the greenhouse effect, this week our 7th-grade scientists worked on a lab that allowed the class to experiment with the concept of capturing and storing solar energy. Students worked in pairs to design and build solar ovens using cardboard, glass, Styrofoam, reflective material, and black paint. Each pair then placed their ovens in the sun for several hours, testing their design’s ability to cook s’mores despite the frigid temperatures of the day. The lesson, while fun and tasty, also showed the class how heat that is trapped in the atmosphere affects the temperature on the earth’s surface.  

This week our 5th- and 6th-grade math students learned about fractals, which are complex and infinite patterns created using mathematical formulas. Fractals appear in nature in the form of leaves, shells, flowers, and vegetables like Romanesco. The class watched a fun clip explaining how fractals were discovered, before viewing a small portion of a video showing a beautiful and colorful Mandelbrot set fractal unfolding and repeating.


Top: Arden works on costumes for Mary Poppins. Middle 1: Grace sews costumes for Mary Poppins. Middle 2: Ella and Alejandro paint sets for Mary Poppins. Middle 3: Set painting instructions. Bottom: Zachary paints sets for Mary Poppins.

Preparations for our spring production of Mary Poppins are underway in full force, and this week we were amazed at all the progress being made on costumes and sets for the show. Courtney’s costuming class has been assembling, creating, and altering pieces in our costume vault, putting together the early 1900s period clothing that will help transform our cast of characters. In Larry’s set design class, students have been recreating the antique wallpaper designs that will adorn the walls of the Banks’ family home in the play. The class has been using intricate stencils and instructions gifted to the NCS program by nearby St. Lawrence University to paint the beautiful old patterns. We can’t wait to see the colorful finished results decorating the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) stage during the production in late May. 


Top: Students pose with their snow ox for Lunar New Year. Middle 1: Building a snow ox. Middle 2: Students help work on the rope tow. Middle 3: Alejandro snowboards down the Ski Hill. Middle 4: Landon on the Ski Hill. Middle 5: A Saturday trip up Belfry Mountain. Bottom: Liz at the top of the Belfry Mountain fire tower.

This week, to honor Lunar New Year and the start of 2021’s Year of the Ox, our students spent some time on the Lake Hill creating a giant snow ox. We loved watching our creative students bringing together our arts and outdoor programs in a way that honors this important celebration. We will be celebrating alongside our extended community around the world Saturday evening with a special Lunar New Year meal organized by some of our students and led by 7th-grader Jennifer. To view North Country School’s “Happy Lunar New Year!” video message, click here

We were thrilled to have another week of excellent snow conditions here on our mountain campus, and students spent plenty of weekend hours and out-times on the Ski Hill working on their skiing and snowboarding skills, as well as learning how to use the tow rope. On Saturday we also saw our students out winter hiking, with one group visiting nearby Belfry Mountain, reaching the summit and climbing the fire tower to take in a spectacular view of the surrounding mountain range. 


Top: Amon fills water buckets at the barn. Middle 1: Edible Schoolyard class checks on the ewes. Middle 2: Isha feeds a goat. Middle 3: Felting blankets for the newborn lambs. Middle 4: Leo makes pasta dough in Edible Schoolyard class. Bottom: Pasta dough in Edible Schoolyard class. 

We are likely only days away from the start of lambing season on our farm, and this week our 8th-grade Edible Schoolyard class spent some time caring for our flock of sheep and checking the pregnant ewes for early labor signs. Farm Intern Hania described what physical and behavioral signs to watch for as we approach lambing, and explained how we care for the newborn lambs once they arrive. This Friday begins our 9th-grade Lamb Watch program, where our oldest students are offered the opportunity to sleep in the barn in small groups in order to observe lambing. This year’s Lamb Watch, which has been restructured in accordance with our COVID protocols to prioritize the health and safety of our students, will continue throughout the Winter Term. 

Our art students have also been helping prepare for lambing season, and this past Saturday a group began using leftover sheep wool from our farm to felt small blankets and coats for our tiny newborn lambs. The wool, which was shorn from our flock last year, will help keep the new lambs warm during our chilly Adirondack nights. 

The cold season on our farm brings with it the opportunity to think creatively about seasonal eating, and this week our youngest Edible Schoolyard students took part in a hands-on lesson that brought our farm food into the Teaching and Learning Kitchen. The class used eggs collected from our chicken coop, along with locally milled flour, to whip up some fresh pasta dough. The lesson showed our enthusiastic 4th-graders how to prepare from scratch one of the many foods that we often purchase pre-made, and offered the opportunity to take part in some fun recipe math. It also reminded us that, while there may not be many fresh vegetables and fruits growing around our region at the moment, there is still an abundance of local food to be enjoyed in the form of grain, eggs, dairy, meat, and storage produce. 

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