Photo: Wyatt, Duncan, River, and Will in their cereal and milk group costumes.

Halloween is a much-loved and highly-anticipated event at North Country School—one that takes a great deal of planning and the work of many hands. Like so many NCS events and traditions, our Halloween celebration looked a bit different this year, but still brought with it plenty of fun and excitement. After weeks spent working on scary decorations, designing socially-distant candy dispensers, putting together homemade costumes, and creating a COVID-friendly haunted house, our students were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor in an evening filled with seasonal celebration. We were, as always, thrilled to see our community adapt to new circumstances and creatively take on challenges, while never losing the collaborative spirit or playful silliness that makes North Country School so special.

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Top: Bryan teaches about lacrosse. Middle 1: 4th-graders learn about lacrosse. Middle 2: Alea helps build a longhouse. Bottom: 4th-grade builds a longhouse.

Our 4th-grade social studies class has spent the past several weeks exploring the history and culture of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois), who are the Indigenous people of the Adirondacks. During this unit, students have focused on the development of the Haudenosaunee civilization, which celebrates connection to and preservation of the natural world, as well as learning about the mythology, village life, family structure, and rituals embedded in the Haudenosaunee culture.

Last week, the class was excited to welcome two sets of visitors. Karonhianonha and Maie, cultural educators from the Native North American Traveling College, joined in via Zoom and taught the class some of the traditional song and dance rituals still practiced by members of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. The class was also visited in person by Dean of Students Bryan Johansmeyer and his son Sam, who showed a video on the origins of lacrosse within the Haudenosaunee. The students headed outside to learn some lacrosse skills for themselves. The class has also continued working on their hands-on project of constructing a Haudenasaunee longhouse using materials from around campus.

Top: Larry explains the carbon cycle. Middle 1: 8th grade plays a game of carbon cycle playground ball. Middle 2: Zachary represents the atmosphere in the carbon cycle. Middle 3: Steven presents his cell diagram. Middle 4: Steven’s wallpaper art cell diagram. Bottom: Completing a cell lab in costume. 

In Earth science class, students are beginning a unit examining the effects of carbon on climate change. This Halloween week, our costumed 8th-graders learned about the carbon cycle, playing a game to demonstrate how carbon moves around the Earth through fossil fuels, plants, and animals. Using a playground ball to represent carbon, each student selected a different part of the carbon cycle and sent the ball through different carbon cycle scenarios. The class observed that by changing the amount of plants in the world, carbon can either become sequestered in a safe way or increased to dangerous levels in the atmosphere.

To kick off their unit on cells, our 9th-grade biology students were tasked with making a creative and accurate representation of either a plant or animal cell. The goal of the cell project is to familiarize students with the organelles found in the cells of eukaryotes, or organisms with complex cells containing organelles and a membrane-bound nucleus. Once they completed their projects, each student presented their creation and what they’d learned to their peers. Some students chose to construct their cells from fired clay,  wallpaper, or thread, while one student presented their cell information in musical form. The class (fully decked out in their Halloween costumes) then looked at magnified plant and animal cells through a microscope, drawing what they observed.


Top: Clark House poses for a Halloween photo. Middle 1: Halloween murals in the dining room. Middle 2: Arden as Katniss Everdeen and Melissa as Rey Skywalker. Middle 3: Algonquin House as Despicable Me characters. Middle 4: Langlang gets candy from a tube dispenser. Middle 5: Decorated lights in the Dining Room. Middle 6: Ella, Grace, and Teagan as the Powerpuff Girls. Bottom: Haunted house woods scene.

At North Country School, we celebrate Halloween as a community on the Wednesday homenight of Halloween week. It is one of our most anticipated days of the year, with many beloved traditions including a costume parade, a scary themed dinner, games and contests, a dance, and a haunted house.

As with so many events and traditions this year, this week’s Halloween festivities were celebrated in smaller groups and relocated to different areas of campus, but none of the scary fun was lost. Our annual costume parade moved outdoors to Bramwell Run, where everyone marveled at all of the creative homemade costumes including Katniss Everdeen (complete with homemade wings), characters from Despicable Me, and a breakfast complete with cereal, milk, a spoon, and a bowl. In lieu of our usual indoor carnival, this year students went trick-or-treating with their advisory groups, visiting different on-campus stations to collect candy from socially-distant candy stations designed by our 8th-graders. After eating a gory (and delicious) dinner of worms, green slime, and mummies in our festive dining room, small groups visited a scary haunted house in the woods conceived and acted out by the 9th-grade class. Though it may have looked a bit different than past events, this year’s NCS Halloween proved once again that by being flexible, thinking creatively, and working together, our spirit of collaboration and community will continue to shine through.


Top: Jess teaches Inyene CPR. Middle 1: Olivia performs CPR. Middle 2: Jess teaches the Outdoor Leadership class CPR. Bottom: Olivia and Grace D. act out an emergency first aid scenario. 

Over the course of the past week, students in our Outdoor Leadership Program have been working toward their certification in First-Aid and CPR. During their weekly class, each student practiced their CPR skills and watched videos showing them how to approach emergency situations safely. On Saturday, they were able to practice responding to emergency situations, with the help of other students playing the role of victims. The students in the class applied their emergency First-Aid knowledge to each while their peers (wearing gory makeup for extra authenticity) acted out the parts of patients needing different types of medical care. Once the students successfully complete their training, they will receive a certification in First-Aid and CPR for adults, infants, and children through the American Red Cross.

Top: Adyan and his swing. Middle 1: Homemade swings in the woods. Middle 2: Raia celebrates the first snowfall. Bottom: First snowball of the season. 

This past Saturday saw a group of our younger students finishing up their homemade swings in the woodshop, before installing their completed projects on our campus trails. The five swings, made from pine cut from our forest, were hung from trees near Hubbard Lean-to, and will surely be enjoyed on weekend camping trips and during out-times for years to come.

This week, in addition to celebrating our Halloween festivities, we also celebrated the first real snowfall of the year. Everyone rushed outside to play in the fresh dusting of fluffy powder, creating snow angels and making the first snowballs of the season. The first snowfall means that our mountain winter is truly on the horizon, and we are all excited to begin a fun season of skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in the upcoming months.


Top: Tess explains garlic planting. Middle1: 7th-graders separate garlic cloves. Middle 2: Garlic cloves ready for planting. Middle 3: Langlang plants garlic. Middle 4: Planting rows of garlic. Middle 5: Brian spreads straw on garlic beds. Bottom: Ani finishes covering garlic beds in straw. 

This past week our 7th- and 8th-grade Edible Schoolyard (ESY) classes planted this season’s garlic crop. Garlic, like many bulbs, must go in the ground in the fall, and then spends the darkest, coldest months of winter buried under the soil. At North Country School we save some of our own garlic harvest each year for planting, and this week our students, alongside Garden Manager Tess, Farm Intern Hania, and ESY teacher Elie, met in our gardens to go through the planting process together.

Heads of garlic were first broken into cloves, and then those cloves were spaced apart and planted in the freshly turned soil. The beds were then covered in straw that will insulate the crop as it overwinters, before appearing as one of the first vibrant green shoots in the spring—an early harbinger of the harvest bounty to come in the warmer months. Each garlic clove will grow into its own plant, sending up grassy leaves and an edible flowerstalk (or scape) in early summer, and will be ready to harvest as a garlic head in late summer. The garlic grown on our campus will be stored in our root cellar and cooked into delicious meals by our kitchen staff throughout the school and camp season.