Photo: Lucy studies a bug.

This week we were thrilled to welcome students back to the North Country School campus for the start of our fall term. Though this year will look different than years past, our core values of learning from nature and caring for others remain the same as they have since our founding over eighty years ago. The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is at the forefront of everything we do, whether it be while learning in one of our nine new outdoor classroom spaces, enjoying meals in our reorganized dining room, or ensuring everyone is healthy every morning as houseparents and nurses check in with each of our students.

In academic classes this past week, students were able to spread out and explore our 220-acre mountain campus—the perfect environment to engage in both scientific observation and create nature-based artwork. Afternoons were spent playing in the woods, relaxing with friends down at the lake, reaching new heights at our climbing crag, and riding horses in the riding ring. After a summer of planning, we were delighted to witness the sights and sounds of school in session.

We at North Country School can’t wait to see all the new and creative ways our students adapt, explore, learn, and grow with us this year. Join us here each week for exciting updates from our campus.


Top: Horses in the Garden Pasture. Middle 1: Main Building welcome sign. Middle 2: Flags on display outside the Main Building. Middle 3: The health-check table on move-in day. Middle 4: Houseparent Lilly helps Raia move in. Bottom: Will and River eat lunch in the Dining Room.

The majority of our boarding students arrived back to campus this past Sunday, and were greeted by our new Director of School, Matt Smith, our two nurses, Jess and Shannon, and our new school counselor, Colleen. After moving through a health-and-safety check, students were welcomed to their residential houses by their house-parenting team. The morning was spent settling into their rooms, meeting housemates, and learning routines before heading out to explore campus together as house groups.

In addition to re-envisioning parts of our residential housing structure, many of our on-campus spaces have been redesigned to provide students with more space this year. One such area is our dining room, where we have changed our seating arrangements and installed new air filtration to provide our community with a healthy and safe experience. This week our wonderful kitchen staff was hard at work providing delicious, home-cooked meals to our students and staff, using a rainbow of ingredients picked fresh from our farm.


Top: Dave talks to students in the Butterfly House. Bottom: Ella helps build one of our campus benches.

In addition to the many existing outdoor spaces used in our academic program, North Country School added nine new outdoor classrooms this summer, including the beautiful Butterfly House classroom located beside the Frog Pond. These spaces ensure that all of our students will have plenty of room to learn and create throughout the term. Students who arrived to campus earlier in the month, along with some of our faculty children, were able to help build some of the seating for these new learning spaces. 9th-grader Ella helped assemble some additional benches and academic Adirondack chairs (complete with built in desks) over the past few weeks, working outside alongside her father, industrial arts teacher Larry.

Top: Inyene observes the crabapple tree in science class. Middle: 4th-graders meet by the Children’s Garden. Bottom: Brynn paints flowers by the Children’s Garden.

Since our founding in 1938, we at North Country School have always believed that nature is our master teacher, and that connecting to the natural world is a crucial part of educating compassionate young people. This week both our 8th-grade and 4th-grade classes spent some time exploring our campus and observing the green spaces around them as part of their academic and art lessons. Our 8th-grade Earth science students participated in a lesson on perspective, sharing their different observations about the crabapple trees in front of the Main Building. Our younger students got some space (using hula hoops for a fun visual cue on social distancing) for an art lesson where they painted watercolor interpretations of the colorful blossoms from our flower garden.


Top: Ira catches a fish at the lake. Middle 1: Tyler rides a horse. Middle 2: Raia explores the stream. Bottom: Daven and Colton spend time at the lake.

Our campus provides our students with a playground to hone new skills, practice favorite outdoor activities, and simply spend time together with friends. This week students enjoyed afternoons down by our lake, exploring our many wooded trails and stream-crossings, and spending some quality time with our horses in the riding ring.

Top: Nate boulders on campus trails. Middle: Isha belays at the climbing crag. Bottom: 9th-graders play giants, wizards, and elves on the Upper Field.

This first week back on campus reminded us that, while certain activities may be more challenging in this moment, there are still countless ways to safely recreate together. Students engaged in some of our beloved NCS outdoor pastimes this week, including rock climbing at the Crag and bouldering by the Yurt, while others found ways to put creative new spins on old favorites. Our 9th-grade class and their teachers joined together to put a new, larger-than-life spin on a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, spacing apart with foam swords for an energetic game of Giants, Wizards, and Elves.


Top: Tess and Alex pick flowers. Middle 1: Ani and flower bouquets. Middle 2: Pumpkins in the field. Middle 3: Teagan trims onions. Bottom: Arden and her onion braid.

North Country School’s full working farm has a barnyard full of animals that provide us with meat, eggs, and recreation; maple trees used for sugaring in the spring; and fields and greenhouses that provide us with a colorful array of flowers and produce. The cycles of farm life shape many of our daily activities, and this week, as overnight temperatures dipped below freezing and fall began to creep in, our community worked together to put away some of our autumn harvest.

Garden manager Tess and Edible Schoolyard teacher Elie worked with students throughout the week to pick flowers for community bouquets and flower-pressing art, while our 9th graders trimmed and braided our onion harvest and pulled out some of our greenhouse tomato plants. In the upcoming weeks we will pick and store the carrots and pumpkins still growing in our fields, and dig up the potatoes that we planted together last spring. Many of the crops will be stored in our root cellars for use in our dining room later in the academic year.

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

For more information about the #ThisWeekAtNCS blog, contact Becca Miller at .