Photo: The 9th-grade biology class goes birding on campus.

Where most classrooms end, ours at North Country School begin. Our 220-acre mountain campus and the surrounding Adirondack wilderness provide our students with the opportunity to learn by observing nature. This week, several of our science classes took advantage of this special aspect of our academic program during lessons centered around native flora and fauna.

Each spring, we welcome the return of migratory birds to our campus, and this week our 9th-grade biology class learned how to identify a number of these species during a series of outdoor lab activities. The class also recorded data about the wild plants that arrive in different spots in our woods and meadows at this time of year. Meanwhile, our 6th-grade life science students used trail cameras to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. They’ll use the steps of the scientific method, which they’ve studied throughout the year, to compile and present their findings to their peers. By bringing lessons beyond the textbook, our students are able to recognize the real-world applications of what they learn in class, and form lasting connections to the natural world around them.


Top: Sophie and Julian review their wildlife photos. Middle: A deer appears in a camera trap image. Bottom: A martin appears in a camera trap image.

In 6th-grade science class, students have spent the Spring Term practicing the scientific method by observing animals and recording collected data. While some of the students in the class have centered their research around animals in our barnyard, Sophie and Julian turned their focus to the wild creatures that share our North Country home. Using camera traps, which take still images when triggered by motion and infrared sensors, the two have been monitoring wildlife appearances in wooded campus locations over the past several weeks. This week, they collected their cameras and reviewed the captured images, which included photographs of deer, a fox, a fisher cat, and an American pine martin. In upcoming weeks, the class will analyze their findings and present them to their classmates. Their final presentation will describe the discrete and continuous data they collected, the independent and dependent variables of their methods, and the quantitative and qualitative conclusions they reached.

Top: The 9th-grade biology class looks for native birds. Middle 1: Field guides for the 9th-grade biology class lesson. Middle 2: Eric marks a point on his transect line. Bottom: Josie records observations about the habitat around her transect line.

Throughout the Spring Term, our 9th-grade scientists have been participating in lab exercises that involve observing spring transitions in nature. This past week, the class practiced several methods of cataloging local flora and fauna, including using binoculars and field guides to locate and identify birds. On their various outings looking for these migratory birds, the class was able to spot and identify downy woodpeckers, a red-eyed vireo, and turkey vultures, as well as the bald eagle that returns to our lake each spring! The class also began the transect line projects they’ll be working on for the remainder of the academic year. Each student chose and marked off a hundred-foot transect line, which is a point-to-point line across a specific habitat, along our Upper Field or Lake Hill that they will observe over the next few weeks. At the end of the term, the class will review their collected data and compare the different plants, animals, birds, and insects they observed over time in these different campus locations.


Top: The play band practices songs for the spring theater performance. Middle 1: Gerby, Martin, and Monty in play band class. Bottom: The 5th- and 6th-grade woodshop class with new ice cream cone holders.

At North Country School, our student-artists often have the opportunity to create work that can be enjoyed by the entire community. This week, the students in play band class have been busy rehearsing songs for the spring production of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The bluegrass and folk tunes they’ve been working on will be the perfect addition to this barnyard tale of adventure, friendship, and family.

Meanwhile, in 5th- and 6th-grade woodshop class, students finished up the projects they’ve been constructing throughout the Spring Term: whimsical ice cream cone holders. Each Saturday night, boarding students at NCS enjoy a delicious dessert of local ice cream, which is served by 9th-grade students using wooden trays. In a collaborative project between our art program and the NCS kitchen staff, the class designed new trays to replace the old, worn-out ones. The projects helped students hone foundational woodshop skills including measuring, cutting, and sanding, and offered room for creativity with their colorful surface designs.

Top: Lucy takes a photo using her pinhole camera. Middle: Matt makes a fly in fly fishing class. Bottom: A completed fly in fly fishing class.

Our student-artists also turned their focus to the outdoors this week. Our 5th-grade photographers sought out pristine spots on our mountain campus for their darkroom projects. Students brought their homemade pinhole cameras to different spots of their choosing before carefully timing their exposures to capture images of these beautiful natural spaces. Students in fly fishing class have been hard at work creating intricate fishing flies constructed using wire, feathers, and wool from our sheep. In upcoming weeks, the class will have the opportunity to test out their handmade flies in our local lakes and rivers, and assess which designs are most effective in attracting the native trout, perch, and bass that populate our Adirondack waterways.


Top: An overnight trip group hikes Mount Marcy. Middle 1: The Mount Marcy group hikes through snow. Middle 2: A Saturday trip group on Cascade Mountain. Bottom: A Saturday trip group on the Cascade Mountain Summit.

It was a busy weekend for our NCS hikers, with groups venturing out on the trail toward two of the Adirondack Park’s most famous 4,000-foot peaks. On an overnight camping trip to Mount Marcy—New York State’s highest mountain–one group hiked through sunny, mossy woods at lower elevations before encountering snowy conditions that became icier as they closed in on the summit. While the group was prepared to encounter these wintery conditions, upon approaching a particularly difficult stretch of trail below the summit, they reassessed their plan and made the thoughtful decision to turn back. It was a great reminder that safety should always come first in the outdoors, and that a successful day in the wilderness includes supporting one another, assessing unforeseen circumstances, and prioritizing the wellbeing of the group.

A Saturday trip group hiking nearby Cascade Mountain encountered far better trail conditions on their own wilderness excursion. Cascade, which is 1,200 feet lower in elevation than Mount Marcy, offered clear paths and blue skies, and students were able to enjoy the sunshine and the view of our own NCS campus during their mountaintop lunch before heading back down to the trailhead.

Top: Lily on a boat on the 9th-grade rafting trip. Middle: The 9th-grade rafting trip conquers rapids. Bottom: The 9th grade enjoys sunset on Round Lake after their rafting trip.

Our 9th-grade graduating class spent time together engaged in special programming this past Saturday, as they participated in a white water rafting trip down the Hudson River Gorge. The group, joined by their teachers and four professional rafting guides, navigated 17 miles of river, successfully taking on class 3 and 4 rapids over the course of the trip. It was an excitement-filled day that ended with a special dinner in our Teaching and Learning Kitchen and a sunset walk to the Lake Hill once the group returned to campus.


Top: Andrew picks kale for salad in the greenhouse. Middle: The 6th-grade Edible Schoolyard class makes salad using kale from the greenhouse. Bottom: Fresh salad made with kale from the greenhouse.

While the plants in our outdoor garden beds are just starting to fill in with the crops we will harvest in the upcoming months, the greens that overwintered in our greenhouse have been producing up a storm. This past week, several of our Edible Schoolyard classes enjoyed this bounty during lessons that highlighted the campus-produced ingredients available throughout the spring. The groups first discussed a few of the challenges we face growing food in our cold mountain home, and the different methods we use to help lengthen our short growing season. Students then prepared a farm-fresh salad using kale they harvested from the greenhouse, along with a few chives, which are the first herb ready to harvest in our Children’s Garden. The groups also mixed up homemade salad dressing using maple syrup and honey from our farm.

Top: Edible Schoolyard elective class learns about the milking process. Middle: Yehor milks Bambi the goat. Bottom: ESY elective students with our goats in the goat pen.

This week saw the start of another exciting time of year on our farm: milking season! After giving birth to two goat kids earlier in the term, our nanny goat Bambi is ready for milking, and this week the 7th- and 8th-graders in our ESY elective class had the opportunity to participate in this special aspect of animal agriculture. The group met up in the barnyard to talk to Barn Manager Erica about the biology of milking and to discuss the different methods used to make milk safe for human consumption. Each student then had the chance to get hands-on experience with the milking process, to great success! While we don’t use the goat milk produced on our campus for food or drink purposes, both NCS students and CTT campers will be able to use this wonderful farm resource to make other useful products, including homemade soaps, salves, and lotions.