whiteface views Photo: A ski group takes in the views of Lake Placid and the McKenzie Range from the top of Little Whiteface.

Winter Term at North Country School brings with it many long-held traditions, and one such tradition has been a student and staff favorite for more than two decades—our weekly skiing and snowboarding days at Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort. Each Tuesday our school community spends half of the academic day taking lessons and getting in free-ski time at this wonderful local resource, and this week offered the kind of freshly frosted, bluebird conditions that we hope for throughout the winter. It was the perfect day on the trails, and students were able to take in the incredible views of the surrounding mountainscape, and work on their downhill skills, while spending time with their friends in this beautiful place we call home.


student conversationusing levers
using pulleysTop: The 7th-grade history class holds a Socratic seminar. Middle 1: Emma participates in a Socratic seminar. Middle 2: The 4th-grade social studies class learns about levers. Bottom; The 4th-grade social studies class learns about pulleys.

This week our students learned about two very different, but equally useful, problem-solving strategies during a 7th-grade history lesson on respectful disagreement and a 4th-grade social studies lesson on simple machines. In history class, our 7th-grade students have been learning about how to have conversations that honor and hear differences of opinion by looking at the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson through the lens of the Socratic seminar. Using primary sources about Hamilton and Jefferson’s relationship, as well as information about how Socratic seminars use thoughtful dialogue to consider different perspectives, the class held a roundtable conversation addressing whether they believed nations should have stronger local or federal governments. The students were challenged to provide specific examples to back up their perspectives, while giving one another the space to listen and reply with their own opinions. Everyone did a great job asking one another questions and listening with respect and encouragement as they discussed this complex and ongoing global issue.

Meanwhile, as part of their unit studying Ancient Egypt, our 4th-grade social studies students have been learning about the building of the pyramids, and how the innovation of simple machines that made that large-scale construction possible still shapes the way we live today. In order to better understand how simple machines like the pulley, lever, wedge, and inclined plane allow people to move much heavier objects than would otherwise be possible, the class visited the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC), where they were able to get some hands on experience using several of these machines. The class had a great time as they moved and lifted large theater set pieces, Design and Build teacher Larry, and one another. students and the erosion laberosion laberosion laberosion labTop: The 8th-grade environmental science class learns about erosion. Middle 1: Martin, Marley, and Matt work on their erosion lab. Middle 2: Monty and Stanley pour water on soil during their erosion lab. Bottom: An erosion lab data sheet.

As part of their unit studying the lithosphere, which is the part of the Earth that is made up of the crust and upper mantle, our 8th-grade environmental science students participated in a lab exercise using sand and soil from our campus to demonstrate how water causes erosion, creates deposition, and determines land shape. After a discussion about the different variables that could allow a river to erode the ground in a certain way, each group adjusted the gradient, channel shape, and water volume in their simulated environment—a tray with a flat layer of sandy soil—to see how these changes impacted how the sediment behaved. By observing first-hand how sudden changes in water levels can quickly alter landmasses, the class was able to consider how those changes might impact the plant life, animal life, and structures that occupy real geographical areas affected by these phenomena.


Top: Mina sands the top of her woodshop project. Middle: A in-progress woodshop project. Bottom: Harry sands the edges of his woodshop project.

The arts program at North Country School does more than give our students the opportunity for creative expression. It also incorporates knowledge they’ve gained in other classes as they learn new, and sometimes unexpected, skills. This week the students in our woodshop class put their math skills into practice while designing, cutting, and gluing together different pieces of local hardwood including birch, cherry, maple, and ash. They then sanded the wood down using gradually finer sandpaper before finishing the boards with a coating of mineral oil. These beautiful projects will be displayed in our various campus gallery spaces, before becoming pieces of useful kitchen equipment in our students’ homes around the world.

Top: Zephyr teaching younger students how to juggle for a theater performance. Middle 1: Zephyr explains the mechanics of juggling. Bottom: Riiley juggles.

While our older art students were applying math skills to their artwork, our youngest performing arts students were joined by a guest expert who taught them a delightful new skill—juggling. NCS 8th-grader and avid juggler Zephyr spent some time with a group of our 4th-6th grade actors (and theater teacher Courtney) to help them prepare for their upcoming theater production of Circus Olympus. The show is about a group of circus performers acting out Greek myths, and includes a variety of circus skills including juggling and acrobatics. Everyone had a great time trying out this new skill, and was appreciative to Zephyr for taking the time to work with them during this fun instructional activity.


ski friendscross-country skiingcpr certificationsTop: Enola snowboards on a weekend trip. Middle 1: Yehor skis on a weekend trip. Middle 2: Emma and Sienna enjoy the snow on a weekend trip. Middle 3: A weekend trip group goes cross-country skiing. Bottom: Students in Outdoor Leadership class with their CPR/First Aid certificates.

It was a great week for both play and achievement in the outdoors this week, with different groups enjoying the many recreational opportunities offered by the fresh snowfall and our dedicated Outdoor Leadership (ODL) students reaching an impressive milestone in their learning. Weekend trips provided some of our students the opportunity to practice jumps on their downhill skis and snowboards on campus and in the surrounding area, while others clipped into cross-country skis and enjoyed the groomed trails at the nearby Adirondack Mountain Club’s Cascade Welcome Center.

Meanwhile, our ODL students completed an important part of their safety training by obtaining their Adult and Pediatric CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) certifications this week. Gaining these important life-saving skills reinforces the idea that becoming leaders in the arena of outdoor recreation means always prioritizing the health and safety of the group, and that caring for the wellbeing of others is a crucial part of having successful adventures in the wild spaces around us.

skiing skiing skiing Top: Students enjoy the fresh powder at Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort. Middle 1: Vee skis at Whiteface. Middle 2: Wyatt skis at Whiteface. Bottom: A ski group takes in the views at Whiteface.

This week our students spent Tuesday morning at Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort for the second Whiteface Day of the season, and conditions couldn’t have been more ideal. The sun was shining and fresh powder coated every tree and trail, allowing everyone to get in plenty of time on skis and snowboards while enjoying the sprawling views of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. It is always impressive to see students gain skills so quickly during these days, and we are so proud of our newest beginners and most advanced winter athletes for how well they supported one another and cheered each other on throughout their time on the slopes.


egg incubation activity egg incubator egg lessonegg incubation activityeggTop: Isaac shows 4th- and 5th-grade Edible Schoolyard students the egg incubator. Middle 1: Eggs in the incubator. Middle 2: Anna Olivia draws the different stages of egg development. Middle 3: Students use a light to check egg development. Bottom: Light shines through a developing egg.

The students in our 4th- and 5th-grade Edible Schoolyard (ESY) class have been learning about eggs throughout the Winter Term during a series of hands-on lessons connecting to our NCS farm, and this past week their class saw an exciting new development—in the truest sense of the word—in their incubation project.

Earlier in the term, the class took a trip to the barnyard, where each student was able to collect a few eggs from the chicken coop. The eggs were placed in an incubator, which simulates the conditions that encourage eggs to hatch by keeping them warm (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit), maintaining a high level of humidity, and rotating them slowly throughout the day. A fertilized egg will take 21 days to hatch if provided the right conditions, but since our flock of chickens only includes a few roosters, most of our eggs are not fertilized. This past week students were able to check whether or not their eggs contain a developing chick through a process called candling, which uses a bright light shone through the eggs from behind to see through the shells. The class was able to see blood vessels and developing embryos in 13 of the 24 eggs collected (a surprisingly high percentage!) as well as tiny moving spots within the shells. As we near the end of the term we are excited to see baby chicks hatch from the class’s incubated eggs and join the new chicks we welcome to the barnyard each spring.

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