Photo: Eleanor and Emily hold seed potatoes ready for planting.

At several points throughout the year, we at North Country School come together to lend our hands in planting and harvesting the food that helps feed our community. This week, we celebrated our spring potato planting, spending the afternoon in Dexter Pasture seeding the potatoes that we’ll harvest when we return to campus in the fall.

Though we restructured certain aspects of our programming this week in order to prioritize the health of our community, potato planting was a joyous event that looked remarkably similar to each potato planting that has come before it. Working in groups, we marked spots, carried bags of seed potatoes—which had been cut into pieces by Edible Schoolyard students earlier in the week—and planted more than 700 pounds of potatoes. We were so proud to see the same flexibility, resilience, and teamwork on display that has defined the NCS experience since our founding more than eighty years ago, and look forward to enjoying this bountiful crop in delicious meals served in our dining room and Teaching and Learning Kitchen next year!


Top: The 8th-grade history class in the Children’s Garden. Middle 1: Katie teaches math class in the Butterfly House. Middle 2: Colton does math in the Butterfly House. Bottom: Monty reads in English class on the Main Building lawn. 

It was a picturesque spring week in our North Country home, and academic classes, which were all held outdoors this week, took advantage of the many beautiful learning spaces located around our campus. In Lilly’s 8th-grade history class, students circled-up in the Children’s Garden for an engaging and thoughtful lesson about the Civil Rights Movement. The class learned about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Brown v. Board of Education while our herd of horses grazed on fresh green grass just over the fence in the Garden Pasture. Katie’s 9th-grade math students met in one of our other regularly-visited spots, the Butterfly House, for a lesson on adding and subtracting algebraic fractions. The calculations were accompanied by the seasonal sounds of the redwing blackbirds that perch on the cattails in our Frog Pond. Meanwhile, our students across grade levels participated in an activity that NCS students have been enjoying since our founding in 1938: relaxing on the grass with a good book. 

Top: The 7th-grade science class discusses potatoes. Middle : The 7th-grade science class launches rockets. Bottom: A 7th-grade science rocket launch.

In a lesson that connected back to our community potato planting event, this week our 7th-grade scientists took a closer look at the environmental science behind why this common tuber is such an important crop on our NCS farm. The class began with a discussion about the origins of potatoes in the Andes Mountains of South America, comparing the climate of that region to the very similar climate in the Adirondack Park. They also learned about one of the specific potatoes we grow on campus, the Adirondack red, which was originally bred in New York state.  

The class then changed gears to continue the ongoing lab activity they’ve been working on for the past few weeks. The lab, which explores different types of fuel and energy transfer, allowed students to design and redesign bottle rockets using various methods of propulsion. This week, the class experimented with varying amounts of water and levels of air pressure for their launches, making predictions about the height and distance the rockets would travel before each launch and comparing those predictions to their results. 


Top: Wyatt finishes his large weaving. Middle 1: Alice works on her weaving. Middle 1: Woodshop students with their original birdhouse designs. Middle 2: Matt stands by a newly-installed birdhouse. Bottom: Lily paints the compost mural.

It was a week for making headway on projects in our NCS art classes. In fiber arts class, Wyatt was all smiles as he completed his first project on the large floor loom, while Alice continued work on her own colorful weaving. Woodshop students finished construction on the original birdhouse designs they’ve been building throughout the Spring Term. Each student put creative original details into their designs, including geometric patterns, asymmetrical roofs, chimneys, and front landings. The class also installed the simple birdhouses made earlier in the year by an out-time group, and we’ve already seen swallows building nests in these new spaces. Meanwhile, the students in Bramwell House added color and texture to the mural that has been an ongoing community project in the compost bay. The mural is a collaborative design that includes a sprawling mountainscape, whimsical patterns, beneficial bacteria and invertebrates, and campus buildings and gardens. 


Top: The 4-day overnight trip sets off on their paddle. Middle 1: Ariana paddles on the 4-day overnight trip. Middle 2: Brothers Jonas and Zachary on the 4-day overnight trip. Bottom: Students on the 4-day overnight trip on the summit of Ampersand Mountain.

This past weekend, a group of students participated in one of our annual outdoor traditions—the 4-day overnight trip. This year’s trip was a canoe-camping excursion around nearby Middle Saranac Lake, Lower Saranac Lake, and Lake Kiwassa, and included a hike up Ampersand Mountain. The warm days were spent paddling these pristine waterways under blue skies. At night, everyone pitched in to set up camp, cook tasty meals, and roast marshmallows by the campfire. 

Top: Students play basketball during out-time. Middle: A horseback riding out-time in the riding ring. Bottom: Cherry rides Tamarack the horse. 

Campus was busy with outdoor activity this week, with students meeting in the Upper Field and Riding Ring for out-times to partake in some of our favorite activities. Spring weather has provided the perfect opportunity to move our basketball games out of the Main Building and into the sunshine, while riding lessons saw our students mastering foundational skills like asking our horses to walk, trot, and stop, as well as steering around obstacles using both hand and leg cues. 


Top: Farm Intern Emma explains potato planting. Middle 1: The community plants potatoes. Middle 2: Heqing, Emma, and Patrick gather seed potatoes. Middle 3: Tyler plants potatoes while Sean marks planting spots. Middle 4: Ira, Laurie, and Mavi work together at potato planting. Middle 5: Alice, Lauren, and Camila work together at potato planting. Bottom: A row of potatoes waiting to get covered in soil. 

On Wednesday, our community joined together to participate in the final all-school farm event of the academic year: planting the seed potatoes that will become next year’s potato crop. Everyone gathered in Dexter Pasture to learn about the potato planting process from Garden Manager Kim and the farm interns before splitting by residential house groups and day students groups to plant this important staple crop. Students divided up responsibilities, with some marking planting distances, some carrying bags of seed potatoes, and others placing the spaced-out pieces of potato in the soil. It was a great afternoon spent working together and helping one another, and we look forward to digging up this important and crowd-pleasing crop during our annual fall potato harvest event.