Photo: Matt helps move firewood.

At North Country School, we believe that valuing what we have is rooted, in part, in understanding where things come from and the work involved in their production. Playing an active role in providing for our community—whether it be by carrying buckets of maple sap, harvesting vegetables from our fields, cleaning and dyeing wool sheared from our sheep, moving and stacking firewood, or collecting food scraps for composting—gives our students a deeper understanding about conservation and use, as well as how we define waste. This first-hand knowledge also allows us to engage our students in ongoing conversations about our impact on the environment around us, so that when we pour maple syrup on our pancakes, scrape leftovers into the dining room compost bin, or turn up the heat that warms our houses throughout the winter, we do so thoughtfully, consciously, and with appreciation.

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Top: Melissa greets everyone at the poetry cafe. Middle 1: Colton and Alejandro listen to poetry. Middle 2: Tyler recites her poem. Middle 3: Grace and Isha read poetry. Bottom: 8th-grade poetry anthology.

Our 8th-grade English students have spent much of the fall term studying poetry, and this week the class celebrated the culmination of this unit with the printing of their annual 8th-grade poetry anthology and a live poetry reading. Their teacher, Melissa, hosted the poetry cafe—which took place in our dining room in order to prioritize social distancing and air filtration—and began by congratulating the student-poets on their work both writing pieces and designing their anthology book. Students spent some time reading through one another’s work while sipping tea and sampling fresh-baked cookies and muffins, before each poet read their work aloud to their peers. We were excited to see the class supporting one another as they shared their personal work, and were proud that nearly every member of the class opted to read several of their poems aloud.

Top: Dave helps Langlang program her robot. Middle 1: Robot parts. Middle 2: Brian fixes his robot. Bottom: 7th-grade robot battle. 

This fall term our 7th-graders have had a great time learning about building and programming robots in our STEM robotics elective class under the guidance of their teacher, Dave. Using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 system, the class has been studying core logic and reasoning skills within robotics engineering, and using that knowledge to construct and program robots. Each robot is designed to work through several different challenges, the first of which is battling their classmate’s robot by pushing it out of a wrestling ring while keeping their own robot inside of it. The final challenge of the term will be programming their robots to complete a variety of place-based, North Country School tasks, such as herding sheep into their pen, harvesting vegetables from the garden, climbing to the top of the crag, kicking a soccer ball into a goal, or unloading the honeywagon compost pile at the barn.


Top: Katie helps Matt weave. Middle 1: Anika’s finished bag. Middle 2: Sophie’s finished bag. Bottom: Wyatt’s string art. 

This week our 5th- and 6th-grade art class has been finishing up their large weaving projects by tying off yarn ends and attaching woven straps to bags. Some of the students, including Anika, Sophie, and Matt showed off their final colorful projects, which incorporate yarn from our sheep, while others began new projects, including needle felting using unspun farm wool and sewing decorative string art onto boards.

Top: Nate builds a stop-motion figure. Middle 1: Nate’s stop-motion figures. Middle 2: Nate’s unfinished stop-motion figure. Middle 3: Larry, Ella, and Bing look at their fly crane design. Middle 4: Fly crane design. Bottom: Teagan welds. 

In filmmaking class, Nate has been working on his short stop-motion film by finishing up his clay characters. One complete, Nate will take hundreds of still images of his characters, making small changes between each image, and edit those images together to show motion. He will then edit those images together into a short film about friendship and adventure.

Many of our art classes use resources from our campus, whether it be in the form of wood cut from our forests used for woodshop projects, wool from our sheep knitted into hats and woven into belts, or in reclaimed building materials being turned into large-scale art installations. In Community Projects class, students recently finished up their wood projects—the academic Adirondack chairs being used in our outdoor classroom spaces—and have started working on projects using reclaimed scrap metal. This week, Teagan used her new welding skills to begin building a rack that will store materials for future art projects, while Bing and Ella began working with their teacher, Larry, on the design and construction of a “fly crane.” This crane, built from a mix of reclaimed metal materials and new steel, will be used to lift and move performers around the stage during future theater productions.


Top: Monty and Matt on the Cascade Mountain summit. Middle 1: Ani on the Cascade summit. Middle 2: Biking on campus trails. Middle 3: Jess gives Olivia her CPR/First-Aid certificate. Bottom: Jess gives Landon his CPR/First-Aid certificate. 

This past weekend saw bluebird skies and fresh snow dusting our surrounding mountainscape, and groups took advantage of the beautiful weather during Saturday and Sunday outdoor trips. On Saturday, students hiked right from campus to the top of nearby Cascade Mountain, a 4,098-foot peak that’s one of the 46 mountains over 4,000 feet in the Adirondack Park. Icy conditions at the summit gave students their first opportunity of the season to hike wearing microspikes—metal spikes that strap onto the bottom of hiking boots, allowing for better traction. The group reached the open top with time to relax and enjoy the spectacular view. On Sunday students spent some time exploring our campus, with one group of students taking advantage of our skatepark and another riding their bikes around the campus trail system.

This past week we celebrated the students in our Outdoor Leadership Program as they completed their hands-on CPR and First-Aid training and took their written tests. Each student in the class finished the training successfully, and was awarded a certificate in these crucial skills from the American Red Cross.


Top: Elie runs a wood stacking out-time. Middle1: Adyan tosses a log onto the pile. Middle 2: Brynn moves logs. Middle 3: Matt, Landon, and Adyan help load wood into a truck. Bottom: Wood stacked in the shed. 

North Country School is not only a farm that grows vegetables and raises animals, it is also a Certified American Tree Farm System. This means we manage our forest using a plan designed by a forester, using methods that prioritize the health of the land. Part of managing our forests involves strategically and sustainably removing trees from our maple sugarbush when and where it is appropriate. The lengths of wood cut from those trees are then used in our woodshop for students’ projects, to fire the sap evaporator during maple sugaring season, and to heat our buildings during the cold months of the year.

This week our students helped us in our efforts to provide firewood for campus by spending out-time up at the woodshed. Students helped load up the truck with wood, and then walked down the path toward the Hill House boiler room to unload the wood needed to heat our residential spaces (having plenty of fun while tossing logs onto the pile). By helping with the big task of keeping our houses warm throughout the winter, our students are able to have a better understanding of what it takes to offset our energy needs, and why we try to conserve energy use whenever and wherever we can.