Photo: Outdoor Leadership students on their four-day camping trip.

This past weekend the students in our Outdoor Leadership (ODL) Program participated in an important milestone in their wilderness education—a four-day backcountry camping trip in the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. The group put into practice the skills and Leave No Trace (LNT) principles they’ve been learning throughout the Fall Term as they used a map and compass to navigate terrain; carried heavy packs up to spectacular mountain vistas; prepared meals using backpacking stoves and water filtration systems; and helped repair and maintain hiking trails. Everyone returned to campus with stories to share about their time in the woods, and the many ways they worked together to achieve their goals. Congratulations to our ODL students for exemplifying what it means to be leaders in outdoor spaces, and for completing this important part of their North Country School experience!


Top: Tahj, Elyssa, and Nina build a model longhouse in social studies class. Middle 1: Leo ties twine around longhouse sticks. Middle 2: The 4th-grade social studies class builds a model longhouse. Middle 3: Liam writes a poem from the perspective of a sheep. Bottom: Sophie and Gerardo write poems from the perspective of our chickens. 

It was another great week of place-based learning here on our mountain campus. In 4th-grade social studies class, students have been learning about the Haudenosaunee, who are the Indigenous people of the Adirondack region. This week Elyssa and the class was joined by Community Projects teacher Larry for one of our favorite annual projects—building a model of a Haudenosaunee longhouse using sticks from campus trees and native grasses. The group met behind the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) with their natural materials to begin construction on the longhouse. To make the house’s frame, everyone cut their sticks to the correct length before lashing them together with twine cut from hay bales at the barn. The longhouse will be completed by covering the walls and roof with the grass they collected. Measuring in at approximately 1/20th the size of an actual longhouse, this project helps our students understand the different methods and materials that were used to build these structures, as well as the hard work involved in their construction. 

Meanwhile, our 7th-grade English students were able to look at the world from a very different perspective—that of the animals on our farm—during a creative exercise that is part of their larger unit on poetic writing. The class met down in the barnyard to spend some time with the horses, chickens, sheep, and goats, before writing persona poems from the point of view of these creatures.

Top: Jenny recites her poem at the Adirondack Center for Writing’s High School Writers’ Retreat. Middle 1: Garth explains a graphing lesson to the Algebra II class. Middle 2: Ian marks points on a basketball curve in Algebra II class. Bottom: Vivián creates a graph in Desmos.

Our 9th-grade poets also had the chance to get outside the classroom—and off our campus—this past week by attending the annual High School Writers’ Retreat hosted by the Adirondack Center for Writing. Students heard several professional poets perform their own work, attended workshops, and presented their own poems at open-mic sessions. It was wonderful to see our talented writers engaged in this new environment and excited to share their words with others.

Meanwhile, students in Algebra II applied what they’ve been learning in class to their day-to-day lives by using polynomial equations to predict motion. First, the group visited the Main Building Quonset, where they took a video of themselves playing basketball. After returning to their classroom, they used an online graphing utility program called Desmos to plot a curve modeled after the path of the thrown basketball in their video. By applying the parabolic equation of motion, students were able to predict the path of the ball and evaluate the source of any possible errors in their predictions.


Top: Katie helps Ryan with his needle felting. Middle 1: Eleanor draws her needle felting background plan. Middle 2: Riiley’s needle felting and a blank background. Middle 3: Edison with his “elements of power” needle felting. Middle 4: Jack, Josh, and Stanley trace mask shapes on foam. Middle 5: Jack, Josh, and Stanley with traced mask templates. Bottom: Orrin works on a wooden sword for the fall production of She Kills Monsters.

At North Country School, our farm-to-fiber program allows us to use the wool sheared from our sheep in a wide variety of arts classes. Some of that wool is dyed and spun, becoming yarn that is woven into belts, bags, and blankets, or knitted into warm hats and scarves. Other wool is left unspun, and can be felted into sculptural pieces. This week our 5th-grade artists used the colorful unspun wool to needle felt vibrant creatures and objects, while also felting the 2D backgrounds on which those projects will be displayed. We are excited to see the finished projects decorating the Main Building and WallyPAC gallery spaces in the upcoming week!

Our older students also worked on their 2D and 3D art skills this week, creating pieces that will be part of the costumes and sets for the Fall Term production of She Kills Monsters. Some of our artists worked to trace and cut out the flat foam pieces that will later be assembled to make masks for this Dungeons & Dragons themed show, while others were busy in the woodshop cutting and gluing prop swords that will be ornately painted and bejeweled before becoming part of the production’s collection of magical objects.


 Top: The “Hiking with Gwen” out-time group explores the campus trails. Middle 1: Hugging for a photo by the hugging trees. Middle 2: Cody plays hide and seek during out-time. Middle 3: Tahj plays hide and seek during out-time. Bottom: A Saturday trip group throws a puppy graduation party for James on the summit of Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

One of our favorite parts of the North Country School outdoor program is that it doesn’t simply celebrate achievements and milestones, it also recognizes the value of play by encouraging students to find fun and joy while interacting with the natural world. This week we saw plenty of that play, both during afternoon out-times and weekend trips. One out-time group posed for photos while exploring our campus trails, while another played a round of hide and seek around the sugarbush and in the woodshed. Meanwhile, a weekend hiking group put a festive spin on their hike up nearby Mt. Van Hoevenberg, taking in the views from the summit while celebrating James the puppy’s graduation from dog school. James (along with a few of the students) donned a party hat while showing off a few of the tricks he’s learned over the past few months.

Top: The Outdoor Leadership trip group hike on their camping trip. Middle 1: Martin uses a map and compass on the Outdoor Leadership trip. Middle 2: The Outdoor Leadership group does trailwork by Johns Brook Lodge. Middle 3: Anika on the Johns Brook suspension bridge. Bottom: Dexter looks out from Mount Marcy plateau while on the Outdoor Leadership trip.

The Outdoor Leadership (ODL) Program at NCS teaches our students the knowledge and skills to safely and responsibly enjoy the outdoors. Over the course of the past two months, students in our ODL classes have studied Leave No Trace outdoor principles and become LNT trainers, and this past weekend they were able to apply that knowledge during their four-day camping trip in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The group hiked more than 22 miles over the course of the trip, using a map and compass to navigate parts of the journey. They camped at lean-tos while weathering freezing overnight temperatures, and carrying heavy packs filled with gear during the day. The group also built a trail for the Adirondack Mountain Club—a local conservation and education organization—which included constructing a stable stream crossing. It was wonderful seeing our thoughtful students thrive and work together over the course of the trip, and to witness firsthand the care and compassion they exhibited while making group decisions. Those traits exemplify just the sort of leadership the ODL program emphasizes.


Top: Marley and Melissa combine wood pellets and food scraps as part of their compost job. Middle 1: A bucket of food scraps. Middle 2: Luke brings empty compost buckets back to the Main Building. Middle 3: An out-time group constructs a scarecrow in the hayloft. Middle 4: Wyatt draws a face on a scarecrow. Bottom: Wyatt, Marley, and Edison with Ray the scarecrow.

NCS students have the opportunity to interact with and help the farm in many different capacities, sometimes in a single day. One afternoon this week, groups of students had a hand in two very different farm projects—processing the food scraps from our dining room into nutrient-rich compost, and building a scarecrow that has found a home in our vegetable garden.

Each afternoon, as part of our community work rotation, groups of students help to bring buckets of food scraps from the dining room to the compost bay, where it is mixed together with wood pellets. It is then shoveled into our rotating drum composter, where it breaks down over the course of a month to become the soil amendment that goes into our gardens come springtime. By participating in the composting process, students are able to see first-hand how a product that is often considered to be waste can become an important part of our local food system.

During out-time that same day, another group (also including 8th-grader Marley) spent time in the barn hayloft building a scarecrow that, true to its name, will help scare crows away from our fields. The new farm feature, which has a hand-drawn face, reclaimed clothing, and is stuffed with the hay we feed to our animals, is named Ray after one of the teachers who led the activity. Scarecrow Ray is yet another example of how we can turn reclaimed or everyday resources into something both fun and useful, and we look forward to visiting this new community member at his new home beside the Garden Pasture.

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

For general school information, call 518-523-9329.