Photo: Savannah hands May a chicken at Chicken Harvest.
Since our inception in 1938, North Country School students, faculty, and staff have participated in the many cycles of life that bring food to our plates—from all-school planting activities, to vegetable harvest days that carry with them an air of celebration and joy. Once a year this involvement takes on a more reflective and reverent tone when we harvest the laying chickens that have provided our community with thousands of eggs over the course of the year.
Chicken Harvest is a “challenge by choice” activity, which means that students can participate in the day to whatever extent they feel comfortable. As part of this activity, they work alongside mentoring adults who engage in discussions about the many factors that go into our community’s decision to raise meat animals in a humane and compassionate manner. Some students choose to opt out of Chicken Harvest entirely and instead take part in an equally important vegetable harvest in our garden. It is a powerful day—one that serves as a reminder to appreciate the food that sustains us, the animals that are a part of that food system, and the people who work each day to grow, raise, harvest, and process that food.
*Note: To see additional photos from the week, scroll to the bottom of The Week at NCS page and click the “Weekly Photos” button.
Top: Max talks to 7th-grade Science class on the Upper Field. Middle 1: Claire looks at a field guide. Middle 2: Wyatt looks at the bark on a pine tree. Middle 3: Natalie explains the Fibonacci sequence to a math class. Bottom: Mary and Brynn hold romanesco.
This past week, our 6th-grade scientists took a walk around campus as part of their ongoing campus mapping project connecting specific locations to their five senses, and learned about ways that experts identify different wild edible plants. After discussing the Universal Edibility Test, which is a step-by-step process for identifying safe plants in a life-or-death emergency, the class learned how to use field guides and foraging books to find different kinds of conifer trees, clover, and jewelweed. Students then marked the locations of these plants on their campus map. Meanwhile, another group of students learned about fractals as part of their unit on ratios and proportions. They then discussed the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio out in the garden, where they were able to see a 3D version of this infinite sequence in our NCS-grown romanesco.
Top: Josh talks to the 7th-grade History class about the U.S. Constitution. Middle 1: Students discuss the Constitution. Middle 2: Ian gives his culture presentation. Bottom: Taylor gives her culture presentation.
As part of their Fall Term study of the United States Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, this week our 7th-grade history students took part in a thoughtful conversation about the Constitution and how the framers originally designed the election process. After examining the concepts addressed in the document, the class reflected on how the original language within relates to our current electoral system today. As the year goes on the class will come back to this lesson as they think about how choices made in these original documents impacted policy and procedure as our country grew.
Meanwhile our 9th-grade Global Issues students began their unit on anthropology and ethnography by exploring the building blocks of culture. Students spent the week exploring their own cultural identities and gave presentations to their peers, discussing with their classmates how specific cultural experiences, practices, traditions, and norms have influenced their lives.
Top: The Outdoor Leadership (ODL) group on their overnight camping trip. Middle: Outdoor Leadership students on their hike. Bottom: Scott reviews and reflects upon the overnight camping trip with the ODL class.
As part of our Outdoor Leadership (ODL) program, students plan and participate in an overnight camping trip, providing the chance to apply both the outdoor skills and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles they’ve learned throughout the term. This past weekend a group of our ODL adventurers hiked more than 11 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain during their trip to the Whiteface Brook Lean-to Friday with the end goal of reaching the Whiteface Mountain summit. After a long day taking on challenging terrain, the group took stock of the situation and made the mature decision to turn back before reaching the top, exhibiting exactly the sort of thoughtful leadership the class curriculum emphasizes. During their post-trip review, the group discussed how, in the future, overestimating how long each part of their trip might take would allow them to better embody Leave No Trace’s first principle: Plan ahead and prepare.
Top: Laurie stacks firewood for the Crag Cabin. Middle: Harry helps clean the Crag Cabin. Bottom: Jerry helps split wood for the Crag Cabin.
This past Saturday another outdoor trip worked to prepare our campus ski hill and Crag Cabin for future trips and outdoor adventures. This included trail work on the Ski Hill and helping to stock the Crag Cabin—situated back on our trail system beside the Climbing Crag—with firewood for the cold season ahead. Trips like this one reiterates the NCS adage that “many hands make light work,” and that by pitching in ahead of time will ensure we can all enjoy our mountain home together in the days, weeks, and months to come.
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Barn Manager Erica explains Chicken Harvest to the community. Middle 1: Matu passes Nadya a chicken. Middle 2: Adela holds a chicken. Middle 3: Josh passes Landon a scalded chicken. Middle 4: Students pluck feathers from a chicken. Bottom: Eleanor records the weights of cleaned chickens before they go into the freezer.
This past Wednesday our school community joined together to participate in one of the most powerful days of the year on our farm—the day we harvest our chickens for meat. As a diversified working farm, we not only grow many of our fruits and vegetables, we also produce most of our maple syrup, collect a large percentage of our eggs, and raise a significant amount of the pork, lamb, turkey, and chicken we eat each year. Raising animals for meat is an important part of the global and local food system, and there are many decisions that go into this process both on a large and small scale. Here, we care for the animals that will become our food with compassion—and when we harvest these birds that we have raised from chicks, we make sure that the last moments of their lives are as reverent and calm as possible.
During Chicken Harvest, students can participate to whatever extent they feel comfortable, whether it be by helping to carry birds, plucking feathers from already-harvested birds, or weighing fully cleaned and ready-for-the-freezer chicken. Faculty and farmers participate alongside our students, helping them with their jobs while engaging in thoughtful conversations about the process and the many choices that we make in order to feed our community. It is both a difficult and moving day, and one that is imbued with gratitude for the animals that become our food, as well as appreciation for the people who work on farms all around the world and do this important work each day.
Top: Rafa cleans a leek. Middle: Evalyn and Kim carry a bin of leeks. Bottom: A student-made sign marks the leek bed.
Students who decided to opt out of the Chicken Harvest spent the morning doing equally valuable work to provide food for our community—harvesting the bountiful leek crop that was seeded last spring. More than 115 lbs of leeks were harvested over the course of the morning for use in our dining room and Edible Schoolyard Program, and, in the spirit of giving back to our broader community, 40 pounds of that harvest were also donated to Craigardan’s Free Food Fridge to help feed neighbors beyond our campus.