Photo: Emma and Enola search for an avalanche beacon during 8th-grade Earth science class.

At North Country School, the lessons students learn during class time can transform their understanding of the world around them. This week, we watched our 8th-grade Earth science students participate in one of our favorite nature-based lessons: simulating an avalanche rescue. Using avalanche beacons and shovels, the class applied the information they’ve acquired throughout the term about snow conditions to practice the same search-and-rescue techniques that are used to save lives in the backcountry.

We’re always proud to see our students apply newfound knowledge to solving real-world problems, and to watch them recognize that the skills they take away from their time at NCS can be used to help both themselves and others.


Top: Grace, Laurie, and Sophie make a poster. Middle 1: An information sheet about Wangari Maathai. Middle 2: Tyler holds a prop dagger while reciting Shakespeare. Bottom: The 4th-grade social studies class during project time.

As part of their African studies unit, our 6th-grade social studies class has been learning about change-makers from around the world. This week they watched a short film and read about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and women’s-rights activist who was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Students worked in groups to create posters highlighting Wangari Maathai’s impact on her community and discussed how we can follow her example to improve our own communities today. Our 9th-grade English students, meanwhile, are also learning about a cultural figure with long-lasting impact: William Shakespeare. The class has spent the past few weeks learning about Shakespeare’s use of meter and how modern linguists and actors have reconstructed the accent (or pronunciation) of his time. This week they translated passages from the play Macbeth into their own modern English, before reciting both their revisions and the original text using a prop dagger to set the scene.

Our 4th-grade social studies students traveled even farther back in history to learn about the simple machines used in the construction of the ancient pyramids. The class gathered with teachers Caroline and Larry in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) to build a few machines including pulleys, levers, and wheels, and used their constructions to lift and move heavy objects.
Top: The 8th-grade Earth science class meets outside for an avalanche rescue lesson. Middle 1: Lauren and Liz practice an avalanche beacon search. Middle 2: Enola uses an avalanche beacon. Bottom: Justin and Mateo dig in the snow to find an avalanche “victim.”

Our 8th-grade Earth scientists had the chance to apply their classroom learning to real-world situations during an avalanche rescue lesson. After spending several weeks studying avalanche causes and effects, the class met outside to participate in a simulation in which they searched for avalanche victims buried in the snow. Students paired up and used avalanche transceivers, also known as beacons, to locate another beacon located under the snowpack, racing to do so in under two minutes. These same beacons are carried by outdoor adventurers when they embark upon activities in areas with heavy snowfall. Students will use the knowledge gained in this exercise to inform the avalanche presentations they’ll give their peers later in the term.


Top: Students critique one another’s work in 2D art class. Middle 1: Kate weaves on the loom. Middle 2: Alice hand-builds a tiny turtle in ceramics class. Middle 3: Gwen teaches Grace a song on the guitar. Bottom: Dexter plays the drums.

Providing students with the skills to give one another constructive feedback is an important component of our arts program at North Country School. When students critique the work of their peers, they are challenged to think deeply about the intent behind someone’s art, the creative choices made, and the effect of those choices on the viewer. After this contemplation, they are tasked with articulating their opinions in ways that are respectful to their peers. This week our 2D art students critiqued recently-completed perspective paintings. We were heartened to hear encouraging words and thoughtful insights as they participated in this valuable exercise.

Over in our studio spaces, we saw our other student artists work independently this week, as colorful weavings came together in the fiber arts room, and tiny hand-built creatures took shape in the ceramic studio. In the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) music rooms, our 6th-grade band students have been busy practicing the songs they will perform for the larger school community later in the term. It’s been wonderful to watch their enthusiasm as our young musicians hone their skills under the guidance of teacher Gwen.


Top: A Saturday trip group goes ice climbing. Middle: Mateo ice climbs. Bottom: Marcos teaches Isabella how to belay for ice climbing.

On Saturday we celebrated the first NCS ice climbing expedition of the season at the frozen cliffs of nearby Pitchoff Mountain. The group of students, which included several first-time ice climbers and belayers, did a great job conquering routes and supporting each other despite the chilly and windy conditions. We feel lucky that, in addition to having our own on-campus climbing crag, we also live so close to this incredible climbing destination.

Top: Skiers at Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort. Middle 1: Skiing under the Whiteface chairlift. Middle 2: Snowboarding group on the NCS Ski Hill. Middle 3: Koga snowboards on the NCS Ski Hill. Bottom: Ira skis on the NCS Ski Hill.

It was a phenomenal week for snowsports in our Adirondack home, and the powder seems to be here to stay for the foreseeable future. Conditions were ideal at Whiteface Mountain this past Tuesday, providing the sort of bluebird day our students and faculty will likely remember for years to come. Meanwhile, weekend trips and out-times provided plenty of time to enjoy our own campus Ski Hill. Our students continue to impress us as they work on their skills each week, and have already exhibited an incredible amount of growth due to the time spent on their skis and boards.


Top: Garden Manager Kim shows Camila how to transplant seedlings. Middle 1: Laurie and Langlang transplant seedlings into the aeroponics towers. Middle 2: Heqing cooks vegetable filling for dumplings while dressed up for Lunar New Year. Middle 3: Joseph cuts dumpling dough. Middle 4: Edible Schoolyard students make homemade dumplings together. Bottom: A bowl of the Edible Schoolyard class’s homemade dumplings.

The aeroponics room at North Country School provides us with the opportunity to continue growing produce throughout the winter months, as well as a space to teach our students about different methods of agricultural production. On Saturday, students worked alongside our farmers to transplant seedlings into towers, as well as start a second succession of seeds. This flourishing space will provide our dining room with fresh tatsoi, lettuce, chives, basil, and cilantro in upcoming months, and gives us a great way to extend the short growing season in our cold mountain home.

Meanwhile, our oldest Edible Schoolyard (ESY) students celebrated the East and Southeast Asian holiday of Lunar New Year while utilizing the local ingredients that are available to us in abundance throughout the winter. Students in the class used pork and ginger from the NCS farm, as well as local cabbage, carrots, garlic, and flour, to prepare the homemade dumplings that are traditionally eaten in China as part of the Lunar New Year feast. The class then enjoyed the tasty results of their efforts while learning more about this joyous holiday.