Photo: Morning frost on campus.

This week marked the first full week of classes in our fall term, as well as the first weekend filled with outdoor adventures and fun activities. Our students and teachers made good use of a variety of different outdoor campus spaces for their lessons, with classes taking place high atop viewpoints, around our woods and trails, and in our garden and farm spaces. Though we are not straying far from campus for outdoor trips this fall, there were no shortage of exciting options for our students to participate in this past weekend. Saturday saw groups of students paddling around Round Lake, learning tricks in our newly constructed skatepark, and hiking to nearby Balanced Rocks—a longtime favorite of North Country School students and Camp Treetops campers. Fall colors are nearing their spectacular peak in our surrounding Adirondack Park, and each day we make sure to take some time to pause and simply appreciate the view.

Note: This week we returned to our standard #ThisWeekAtNCS format of highlighting each of our four signature program areas—place-based academics, the visual and performing arts, our outdoor program, and our farm and garden—in these campus updates. Check in each week to see how our students are learning, growing, and exploring in all of these areas of the North Country School program.


Top: Max teaches science class on the Trouble lookout. Middle 1: Anika does science work on Trouble. Middle 2: 5th- and 6th-grade science class on Trouble. Bottom: River, Matt, and Ani write their scientific observations.

This week provided the perfect autumn backdrop for outdoor classes, with our youngest students taking full advantage of our mountain campus to practice their skills of scientific observation and identification. In Max’s 5th- and 6th-grade science class, students took a hike up to Trouble—a sprawling view of the North Country School campus and High Peak mountains—for a lesson on sensory observation. Students in the class took notes on the many sights around them, from large to small, before sharing some of their observations with their classmates. The group also discussed how our brains store information, constantly sorting through and weeding out data in order to shape our perceptions of the world around us.

Top: Julia and her leaves for science class. Middle: Alea selects leaves. Bottom: A leaf rubbing.

While their older peers made scientific observations from the top of Trouble, our 4th-grade scientists began studying the forest around the Upper Field for their unit on tree identification. Each student in Elie’s science class selected five unique leaves from the trees around them. They then made leaf rubbings in their science journals using crayon and colored pencil, before examining and writing about the different leaf shapes, margins, and venation (veining patterns) they observed in their leaf samples.


Top: Courtney’s class plays an improv game. Middle: Abigail creates a weaving pattern. Bottom: The colorful weaving supply shelf.

At North Country School, our core value of “art everyday” can take many forms, and this week our students explored their creative voices and vision through a wide array of mediums. In Courtney’s improv class, students played a mix of improv games that will help them hone their skills of reacting quickly and working together as a group. Down in the fiber arts studio, students began designing original patterns that they will follow as they weave colorful tapestries and belts.

Top: Sierra teaches a photo class outside. Middle: Grace learns about her film camera. Bottom: Colton takes digital landscape photos.

Students interested in photography at North Country School have the opportunity to experiment with both digital and film cameras, and to edit their projects both in our digital photo lab and in our darkroom. This week, photography teacher Sierra worked with our 8th- and 9th-grade photography students, explaining the mechanics of their different cameras and guiding them on photo walks around campus. Students including Grace and Colton were able to explore and capture beautiful images of the garden, Round Lake, and our surrounding mountainscape as summer turns to fall all around us.


Top: A Saturday trip to Balanced Rocks. Middle 1: Eliza jumps between the rocks at Balanced Rocks. Middle 2: Azalech rides a horse. Middle 3: Canoeing on Round Lake. Bottom: Alejandro skateboards at the skatepark.

This past weekend marked the first official weekend trips of the year, and though we are not straying too far from the North Country School campus this fall, there are no shortage of spectacular sights and fun adventures to be had within our own spot in the Adirondack Park. This Saturday saw one group of students hiking up to nearby Balanced Rocks to take in the sprawling views of campus and the surrounding mountains. The group then followed in the footsteps of so many before them by jumping between the towering “balanced rocks” that give the vista its name. Back on campus, other groups spent time in the riding ring practicing their equestrian skills, paddling around Round Lake in canoes, and heading over to the newly-constructed skatepark to work on their jumps and tricks.

Top: Jess J. teaches Outdoor Leadership class. Middle: Inyene reads a compass. Bottom: JT and Jess J. use compasses to navigate through the Upper Field.

This fall we are excited to be offering a new Outdoor Leadership class to our 8th-grade students, led by one of our nurses and lifelong outdoor adventurer Jess Jeffery. This week Jess, who also has a background as a wilderness caretaker and ski patroller, led the class through some of the foundations of wilderness safety and navigation. The group, which includes students Olivia, Inyene, JT, and Landon, learned the basics of reading a compass and using maps, before creating their own navigation courses through campus. The group then led and instructed some of their peers through the courses they’d created.


Top: Monty at barn chores. Bottom: Lucy, Julia, Duncan, and Julian give the sheep hay during barn chores.

At North Country School, caring for our barnyard creatures, and understanding how those creatures provide for us in turn, has been an integral part of our value system since we were founded in the 1930s. Each day our students work together to ensure that our farm animals are safe, happy, and healthy. This week our youngest students participated in their first weekly chore rotation down at the barn, working alongside Barn Manager Erica and our farm interns to learn how to collect eggs in the chicken coop, top off water and grain troughs in our sheep and goat barn, put out hay bales on the horse pasture, and muck out animal spaces.

Top: 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class meets in the Children’s Garden. Middle 1: The farmers talk about our pigs. Middle 2: The pigs in Dexter Pasture. Bottom: Brian in front of the pig enclosure.

When Alice Waters, a founder of the farm-to-classroom movement, created the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, California, in the 1990s, she selected North Country School and Camp Treetops as one of the six founding members of the organization, calling NCS/CTT “the pioneer of edible education.” Today, just as in our earliest years, we continue to believe in the importance of connecting children to the natural world, to the food systems that provide us with sustenance, and to the life cycles involved in those systems. Our own Edible Schoolyard (ESY) classes, offered weekly to our entire student body, strive to provide our students with the foundational knowledge to make healthy food choices for themselves, their communities, and the environment.

This past week our 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard students met up in the Children’s Garden to share some thoughts on their own food choices and preferences, before heading over to visit and learn about our herd of pigs. ESY teacher Elie, along with Barn Manager Erica and our farm interns, talked about how and why we choose to raise pigs for meat, and about the importance of considering what it means to raise meat animals ethically. The class also discussed the many different factors involved in making personal food choices. Erica and Elie explained how our pigs have been cared for, and how we value and appreciate their role in keeping us fed and healthy. While discussing raising animals for meat can be challenging, these conversations serve important reminders about the many factors involved in getting food to our plates each and every day.

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 .