Photo: Alice at the Mount Baker summit.

For many North Country School alumni, one of the most memorable aspects of their NCS experience was the time spent braving blustery weather conditions while exploring the surrounding Adirondack Park. Our current and former students have countless stories of adventures into the wilderness on days when many others would choose to stay warm indoors. This past week, as we experienced some of the coldest days of the year, we were reminded that the rugged, resourceful, and resilient nature of the NCS community couldn’t exist without another crucial “R”—responsible. 

As our students and faculty hiked, skied, and sledded through negative-degree temperatures, we were impressed by everyone’s ability to understand that safety in these conditions depends on being responsible and prepared. By wearing appropriate gear, communicating and caring for one another, and choosing the right activities, we were all able to enjoy our spectacular mountain surroundings safely, while having plenty of fun in the process. And as generations of past North Country School students know well, the memories formed on these beautiful but chilly days can last a lifetime. 


Top: 4th-grade science class tries snowshoeing. Middle 1: Brynn, Alea, and Ira snowshoe. Middle 2: 4th-grade science class listens to wildlife biologist Dr. Nina Schoch. Middle 3: Listening to Dr. Nina Schoch on Zoom. Bottom: An owl being cared for by Dr. Nina Schoch.

For the past several weeks our 4th-grade scientists have been learning about the physical and behavioral adaptations that allow animals to survive in their given habitats. In order to best understand how animals might adapt to snowy conditions, the class donned snowshoes, which demonstrate a physical adaptation, and tested different walking and running strategies, which demonstrate a behavioral adaptation. After the activity and discussion about how local animals have adapted to our wintery climate, the students welcomed guest expert Dr. Nina Schoch to their class via Zoom. Dr. Schoch—an NCS day parent—is a local wildlife biologist and veterinarian. Dr. Schoch toured the class around her animal rehabilitation property, introducing students to some of the wild animals in her care, before answering students’ questions about life as a scientist. The interview with Dr. Schoch was part of a five-interview series with scientists taking place over the course of the winter term.

Top: 9th-grade Global Issues class holds up their Model U.N. signs. Middle 1: A slide for the practice Model U.N. activity. Bottom: Summer advocates for the pizza topping “meatball” during the practice Model U.N. activity. 

In 9th-grade Global Issues class, students have been engaged in a multi-week Model United Nations unit. In preparation for their upcoming Model U.N. committee sessions, students practiced presenting opening statements and writing resolutions. This past week the class participated in a humorous simulation where students represented different pizza toppings, and then worked together to make a pizza that met the requirements of the individual representatives attending the session. Model U.N. is an international program that teaches students around the world about the importance of employing diplomacy and compromise when working together on important humanitarian and environmental issues.


Top: Sophie cuts wood for her coaster project. Middle 1: Monty shows Elie his cut for his woodshop coaster project. Middle 2: Anika’s design for her coaster project. Middle 3: Sean takes a photo for his digital photography class. Bottom: 7th-grade digital photo class heads outside for class.

Our 5th- and 6th-grade class is split into groups for the arts program rotation, and this term some of our students began working on a coaster project that was similar to the one completed by their peers during the fall term. The woodshop class spent the week designing, measuring, and cutting pieces for their coasters, which will be constructed using strips of different local hardwoods and were inspired by the Offerman Woodshop and artisan Krys Shelley

In our digital photography classes, our older students have been learning how to find the light for their photos. The individual students in the class worked independently to take creative shots of locations around the Main Building. Meanwhile our 7th-grade students bundled up and spent time outside learning how repetition and leading lines can be employed in their landscape compositions.

Top: The in-progress Martin Luther King Jr. Day mural. Middle 1: Mia works on her jewelry project. Middle 2: Liz works on her jewelry project. Bottom: One of Mia’s jewelry projects.

This week we watched as the panels of our Martin Luther King Jr. Day mural came together to form a nearly completed image. Art students have spent the past several weeks working on this project in their free time, and there are only a few panels left to be painted before the colorful and uplifting piece can be fully assembled and displayed on campus. 

In jewelry class, students have been learning the foundational skills of wire-weaving and wrapping, beadwork, and assembling jump rings. We enjoyed watching their colorful and intricate designs take shape in the form of earrings, necklaces, rings, and pendants.


Top: Alice poses in winter gear on Mount Baker during her very first hike. Middle 1: The Mount Baker hiking group. Middle 2: At the Mount Baker summit. Middle 3: Skiing at the NCS Ski Hill. Bottom: Brian on the Ski Hill.

This past week we experienced the coldest temperatures we’ve had this winter, with daytime highs below zero degrees. But generations of North Country School alumni know that cold days don’t put our program on pause. As the old quote goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing,” and our students made us proud during this weekend’s Saturday trips by layering up (and up some more) in order to safely enjoy our beautiful mountain wilderness. A group including students Matt, Monty, and Alice stayed warm while successfully summiting Mount Baker, one of the Saranac Lake 6ers, before spending some time sledding on nearby hills. The group did a great job cheering each other on, and celebrated with Alice as she completed her very first hike despite the challenging conditions of the day.  

Our students also spent plenty of weekend and afternoon time on the Ski Hill, enjoying several inches of fresh snowfall on their skis and snowboards. The constant fresh and fluffy snow these past few weeks has made it an excellent season for snow sports, and we’ve been able to watch our students improve their skills and confidence nearly every day.


Top: An Edible Schoolyard mural on display in the Main Building. Middle 1: Garden Manager Tess answers Edible Schoolyard questions in the Dining Room. Middle 2: Octa meets the goats at the barn. Middle 3: Farm Intern Melody and the goats. Bottom: The goats and the ram say hello. 

One of the many pieces of community art displayed around our campus is a colorful mural hanging outside our dining room. The piece was created by our 4th- and 5th-grade Edible Schoolyard (ESY) class in 2017, and features students’ poetry and artwork highlighting the many large and small ways food connects our communities. This past week our 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class passed by that mural as they gathered in the dining room to learn more about one of the members of our own local food community, Garden Manager Tess. The class asked Tess questions about her background growing food, and about the challenges and joys of her role as a vegetable farmer. The interview was part of the current 4th- through 7th-grade ESY unit, where each grade has been interviewing different members of our campus food system in order to recognize and make connections between the many people that work together to keep our community healthy and fed. In addition to this past week’s interview with Tess, our younger students also interviewed Barn Manager Erica and Head of Kitchen Jess.

This week we were thrilled to add a few new members to the North Country School community, and we welcomed them to campus with an introduction to the farm. Our new students toured our barnyard, meeting the horses, sheep, and goats while talking about how these animals are an important part of student life here at NCS. Meanwhile, Farm Intern Melody, who began her work this past week after clearing quarantine guidelines, jumped right in to lead a barn out-time alongside Farm Intern Hania. We are so excited for Melody to join our farm and garden staff, and look forward to the additional set of helping hands during our upcoming lambing and sugaring seasons.

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