Photo: Zachary visits the lambs down at the barn.

This past week we welcomed our boarding students back to campus for a week spent grouped together by residential houses while we cleared New York State’s COVID health and safety requirements. The time was spent playing games, visiting farm animals, and enjoying the outdoors with housemates, while attending remote classes alongside off-campus peers. After everyone received a clean bill of health this Tuesday, we returned to on-campus learning for the official start of our in-person Spring Term.

Spring Term at North Country School brings with it a barn full of baby animals, maple sap collection, paddling on Round Lake, the spring theater production, and our 9th-grade graduation ceremony. While life on campus may look a bit different this year, we are excited about the many creative ways we can include our students and extended community in the beloved traditions that make the NCS experience so special.


Top: Caroline teaches social studies over Zoom. Middle: Ira makes a map for science class. Bottom: 7th graders visit the aquaponics room over Zoom.

Spring Term classes began remotely this past week—just as they have each time we’ve returned to campus since the fall—and our creative teachers continued to engage students both on- and off-campus in thoughtful lessons and activities. In 4th-grade social studies class, Caroline welcomed everyone back over Zoom before introducing the next unit in their studies of early African civilizations, which will move forward in time through the Middle Ages. On Tuesday the class read about The Epic of Sundiata—the story that inspired The Lion King—and discussed how historic texts have influenced some of the familiar stories they have grown up with. In Elie’s 4th-grade science class, one of the Spring Term objectives is to analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. This week the class met over Zoom and discussed the different components that go into creating a map. Each student then spent time observing their own spaces, hand-drawing maps of their surroundings. 

Our 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard (ESY) class was able to explore one of our flourishing on-campus growing spaces with the help of Farm Intern Hania and remote technology. Hania brought the class to our aquaponics room for a tour of the space, showing everyone the grow towers and explaining how we cultivate plants outside of a traditional garden bed. The greens growing in the aquaponics room—which were seeded last term by our oldest ESY students—will be used in our dining room over the next few months.

Top: Isaac teaches 9th-grade Global Issues in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center. Bottom: 7th-grade science class makes sensory observations.

We were excited to return to in-person learning this Wednesday, and our 9th graders got right back to group activities with a roundtable discussion in Isaac’s Global Issues class. The group met in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) to discuss the Colorado Coal Strikes of 1914, using the event as a lens through which to examine the impact of strikes and reform on social change. The discussion fits within the class’s study of protest, revolution, and reform, which examines both historical and contemporary instances of protests and activism around the globe.

Our 7th-graders also got right back into taking advantage of being together on campus during a lab activity in their science class. The lab, which focused on developing observational skills, asked students to use their sense of touch to evaluate soil texture to build a foundational knowledge of soil composition. The class will continue to study soils throughout Spring Term to help connect students with the healthy soils that help grow our food here on campus. 


Top: Katie teaches drawing over Zoom. Middle 1: Justin works on his drawing over Zoom. Middle 2: Julia’s cartoon. Middle 3: Leo plays the drums. Bottom: Eden’s award-winning photograph.

Our arts classes also made the smooth transition from remote to in-person learning this week, with students practicing foundational skills from home and working on projects together once they returned to campus. In Katie’s drawing classes, our younger cohort spent the remote-learning week meeting over Zoom to work on their cartoon drawing skills, and began to work on their original cartoons once they returned to our studio spaces. Students in Joey’s music classes used the week of at-home classes to practice new music, and were able to show off some of what they’d learned when they came back together for band class and independent study later this week. 

Over spring break we were excited to learn that one of our students, 9th-grader Eden, was selected as a winner of the Lake Placid Institute’s 2021 photography contest, 24 Hours: A Photographic interpretation of Life in the Adirondacks. Eden’s darkroom photograph was honored in the Nature Landscape Fine Art category. We are so proud of Eden, and impressed by her beautiful work.


Top: Bramwell House bikes to the barn. Middle 1: Liz on a campus dog walk. Middle 2: Woods House cross-country skis. Middle 3: Zachary helps make a campfire. Bottom: Board games in Cascade House.

Even though our boarding students and houseparents were more limited than usual in their activities throughout the quarantine period, there was no shortage of fun to be found in residential houses and around campus. The warm and sunny week brought our bikes out of storage, and Bramwell House spent time riding around campus roads and to the barn. The students in Cascade House borrowed several faculty and staff dogs for a lovely walk on our trails, while Woods House searched out some remaining snow on shadier spots around campus for a fun cross-country ski. S’mores were roasted over a campfire up by the Hill Houses, and plenty of card games and board games kept everyone entertained during the more restful hours. 


Top: Snowdrop flowers blooming on campus. Middle 1: Azalech helps collect maple sap. Middle 2: Olivia cuddles with the lambs. Middle 3: A baby lamb takes a nap in a bucket.

Spring has truly arrived on the North Country School campus, bringing with it the first new shoots and blossoms of the year, sap running in the maple sugarbush, and the birth of more baby farm animals. 

This week we spotted the first spring flowers—tiny white snowdrop blossoms appearing overnight beside the bright green shoots of this season’s daylilies.Over in the maple sugarbush students have been helping with sap collection, and the first boil of the Spring Term will take place any day now. Sap flows through the trees on sunny days when the daytime temperatures reach above freezing and the overnight temperatures are still cold. The collected sap—which contains approximately 2% sugar—is then boiled in a large evaporator in our sugarhouse until it reaches about 67% sugar, giving us the delicious maple syrup that we use in our School and Camp dining rooms throughout the year. Down in the barn, there is only one ewe left who has yet to give birth to her lambs. The students have loved spending time with the bouncy baby sheep throughout the past week, and are excited to help care for the flock during next week’s barn chores. 

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