Photo: Keira with face paint and a marigold crown at the Harvest Festival

Fall is a busy season in the North Country School barns and gardens. It is a time filled with meaningful work we complete together, centered around the idea that it takes many hands to grow and harvest the food that helps sustain us. This past week we gathered together by the Children’s Garden and Lake Hill to celebrate the literal and figurative fruits of our collective labor during our annual Harvest Festival. It was a wonderful event filled with outdoor games, joyous music, and farm-fresh food made with ingredients picked right from our fields.

While Harvest Festival is an event that highlights the most joyful parts of living on a farm, our 9th-grade class gathered later in the week to participate in one of the more serious and reverent farm activities of the year—harvesting the turkeys that will be part of our Thanksgiving meal in November. While these two annual events strike very different tones, they both help teach our students about the complex life cycles involved in bringing food to our plates, and remind us all to take the time to appreciate the many plants, animals, and people that play a role in that journey.


Top: The 6th-grade English class acts out a scene from The Hobbit. Middle 1: Ira narrates The Hobbit. Middle 2: Keegan acts out The Hobbit. Bottom: Landon and Lucy act out The Hobbit.

Our 6th-grade English class took advantage of the beautiful fall weather this week to have class in one of our favorite outdoor learning spaces, the Children’s Garden. The lush setting provided the perfect backdrop for the group to act out a scene in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which they’ve been studying over the past few weeks. By acting out the “Roast Mutton” scene from the book, the group was better able to understand the dynamics between the characters, as well as the clever and sometimes subtle humor of the scene.

Top: Elyssa introduces an activity to the 4th-grade social studies class. Middle 1: Information about the Haudenosaunee clans. Middle 2: Anna Olivia works on her clan poster. Bottom: A tree display honoring the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

This week we saw our thoughtful students learn about and recognize different cultural histories and traditions, both inside the classroom and out. As part of their unit about the importance of myths and legends, our 4th-grade social studies class read a myth about how the first three clans of the Haudenosaunee, the Indigenous people of northeastern North America, were chosen. Each student then made Wolf, Bear, or Turtle clan posters to demonstrate the importance of and differences between each clan before discussing how the clans supported one another across the Six Nations.

The community also came together during our weekly Town Meeting to learn about and honor two Jewish holy days which took place recently—Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the annual day of atonement. Teacher Isaac led a discussion about the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which translates to “healing the world” or “making the world whole.” Tikkun Olam provides a universal message of introspection and reflection, and encourages people to consider the tangible actions they can take to better their lives and the lives of those around them. Each community member then received paper leaves, on which they wrote down past mistakes and challenges, and paper apples (which are a traditional food eaten on Rosh Hashanah), on which they wrote down steps they could take to correct their wrongdoings and improve upon their actions moving forward. The leaves and apples were assembled into an autumn tree display, with the backward facing leaves falling from the trees to signify moving forward from past mistakes, and the forward facing apples symbolizing the opportunities for positive change in the sweet new year ahead.


Top: Community Projects class works on the bog bridges. Middle 1: Joseph and Yehor work on the 9th-grade Ski Hill project. Middle 2: Rhaya handbuilds in ceramics class. Middle 3: Vee handbuilds in ceramics class. Middle 4: Students in ceramics class mix up the clay slip bucket. Middle 5: Claire works on his rubber print. Bottom. Wyatt with his rubber print of a leaf.

We saw plenty of hands-on creation this week in our arts program, both in our campus woods and in our studios. Students in Community Projects class made significant progress on the bog bridges they’ve been building throughout the past several weeks, and were able to begin replacing the old bridges that lead from the Summer Loop Road to the campus Ski Hill with their newly built structures. A few of our 9th-grade students have also made progress on the new Ski Hill lift that is part of this year’s Senior Project. Meanwhile, our ceramics students were having a great time down in the pottery studio, working on their coil pots and getting their hands dirty in the clay slip bucket, which must be thoroughly mixed in order to best turn the wet slip leftover from ceramics projects back into usable clay. Next door, our 5th-grade 2D art class learned about reduction-cut printmaking, which involves carving designs into plates of soft, cut rubber, then using those plates to make prints. The decorative and nature-themed designs will be coated in colorful ink and pressed onto sheets of paper that will be folded into original stationery.


Top: The view of the Main Building and Balanced Rocks across the Garden Pasture and pond. Middle 1: William and Tiago canoe on Round Lake. Middle 2: An out-time group plays frolf. Middle 3: An out-time group plays soccer. Middle 4: A horseback riding lesson. Bottom: Riiley rides Tucker the horse.

Our students didn’t need to travel far to participate in our favorite outdoor activities this week. Afternoon out-time provided a wide variety of on-campus activities that offered beautiful views of mountains and water, time to move and play, and chances to develop new skills. Groups paddled canoes across Round Lake, where they were able to look back at our campus and the surrounding mountains of the High Peaks. Others took advantage of the student-built frolf (disc golf or Frisbee golf) course—which spans the Upper Field and Lake Hill—while others used our soccer field to practice for the upcoming games that are taking place over the next few weeks. Our Riding Ring has also been busy, with the fall horseback riding season going in full swing. Different student groups have been practicing their equestrian skills each afternoon, and we’ve seen great progress as our beginner riders learn to walk, trot, and steer the friendly horses that make up our herd.


Top: Barn Manager Erica helps Yehor carry a turkey. Middle 1: Biology teacher Colin helps Jenny learn about turkey anatomy. Middle 2: Information for the 9th-grade biology class turkey lab. Bottom: Joseph works on the 9th-grade biology turkey lab.

Our community engagement with our barn and gardens can take many forms. Sometimes it involves planting tomato seeds in our greenhouses for next year’s crop. Sometimes it means carrying buckets of food scraps from our dining room to our compost bay, where it will be transformed into the nutrient-rich soil amendment that will nourish the plants growing in our fields. And sometimes the ways our students and teachers engage with our farm requires more reflection and nuance. Our participation in animal agriculture, which includes raising and caring for the animals that will become our meat, falls into this latter category. It requires serious and honest conversations about where our food comes from, and about how we can best participate in this process in a way that feels humane and respectful of both the animals and the people around us.

This past week, our 9th-grade class participated in the first on-campus animal harvest of the season while completing one of the most powerful hands-on academic lessons of the NCS experience—Turkey Harvest and the corresponding biology lab activity. Everyone met in the barnyard for a conversation with Barn Manager Erica and biology teacher Colin. The teachers explained the process of harvesting, plucking, cleaning, and weighing the birds, and what each student would be looking for as they examined the internal anatomy of the birds for their lab. The class then participated in the different stations of the harvest process. We were so proud of our 9th-graders, who supported one another throughout the morning, worked hard, and treated these animals with compassion and respect. Next week we will participate in our all-school Chicken Harvest, and completing this earlier harvest will give our oldest students the opportunity to take on leadership roles with their younger peers.

Top: Colin and Gwen play music at the Harvest Festival. Middle 1: Melissa shows Sophie and Liz how to make flower crowns. Middle 2: Tiago eats a farm-fresh snack. Middle 3: Ian and Martin play lawn games. Middle 4: Brynn and Lucy at Harvest Festival with face paint. Middle 5: The blindfolded taste-test station at Harvest Festival. Bottom: Edison with a flower crown at Harvest Festival.

While this week saw our community participating in some of the more challenging moments of farm life, it also brought some of the most fun and festive ones. This past week we participated in one of our favorite NCS events of the year—our annual autumn Harvest Festival. Harvest Festival is a time when we gather together to celebrate the farming season that began the previous spring by enjoying the fruit, vegetables, and flowers that come out of our fields each fall.

This Harvest Festival was a great success, with joyful sights and sounds to be found all around our gardens, greenhouses, and Lake Hill. Students played fun lawn games and participated in mystery taste tests, prepared homemade pizzas and snacks using ingredients harvested from our fields, made beautiful flower crowns and had their faces painted, and listened to live music provided by our talented teachers. It was a great way to celebrate the hard work that went into producing our abundance of food, and we look forward to enjoying the bounty of this year’s harvest in delicious meals throughout the Fall and Winter terms.