Photo: The 6th-grade class hikes Mt. Jo during NCS orientation.
Welcome to the first This Week at NCS of the 2023-2024 academic year! Students returned to North Country School this past week after a summer vacation away and immediately dove into fun-filled activities, exciting orientation events, bonding time with residential houses and grade levels, and their first academic and arts lessons of the Fall Term. It was wonderful seeing all of our classrooms, studios, trails, and farm spaces filled with smiling faces once more, and to see our returning students introduce their new classmates to their favorite spots around campus.
Join us each week as we bring you updates from our mountain campus, and celebrate alongside us as we take part in the many place-based lessons, seasonal events, and long-held traditions that make fall at North Country School so special.
*Note: To see additional photos from the week, scroll to the bottom this page and click the “Weekly Photos” button.
Top: Emily talks to the 4th-grade science class about patterns in nature. Middle: Emily and Elizabeth look at flower patterns in the Children’s Garden. Bottom: The 4th-grade science class observes patterns in nature.
The first full week of academic classes was full of foundational knowledge building and making connections to the natural world around us. In a place-based lesson that connected their math and science curriculum, our 4th-grade students examined patterns in nature. The class began with a discussion about four types of patterns that are common in nature—spirals, branching, star/explosion, and repeated shapes. Then the students came up with a few real-life examples of these patterns, which included hurricanes, starfish, and honeycombs. The class ended with a visit to the Children’s Garden, where students looked for those patterns in the herbs and flowers that we grow in that popular outdoor learning space.
Top: Larry reads to students in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC). Middle: Savannah reads to students in the Birch Room. Bottom: Aniella reads to students in the library.
Each Wednesday morning after we finish breakfast everyone gathers for our Town Meeting, during which we engage in an all-school activity that connects us as a community. During this week’s Town Meeting we participated in a long-held favorite of students and adults alike—Read Across NCS. As a school with intentionally limited technology time, books are a beloved part of the North Country School experience, and Read Across NCS allows us to share our favorite books with one another by offering a variety of simultaneous read-aloud options around campus. It was wonderful seeing students hear new and familiar short stories, dive into rich fantasy worlds, and explore genres they may not have previously considered.
Top: Sierra shows her 6th-grade class a 4×5 camera. Middle: Students look at upside-down mirror images of their classmates through using a 4×5 camera. Bottom: An upside-down image of the 6th-grade photography class.
Art lessons also focused on building foundational knowledge by connecting hands-on activities to art history. In 6th-grade photography class, students learned how light travels in straight lines to project an image into a camera by looking at one of the earliest versions of image technology, the 4×5 camera. After an introduction by Sierra, the class took turns putting a dark cloth over their heads and viewing an upside-down mirror image of their peers on the camera’s ground glass. In the upcoming weeks the students will apply this understanding of optics and image projection as they make photograms and use digital cameras.
Top: Conway shows Leo how to make a coil pot in ceramics class. Middle: Tahj makes a coil pot. Bottom: Trianna makes a coil pot.
Meanwhile, the 5th-grade class got their hands dirty as they practiced one of the oldest forms of clay art—coil building. By building with coils, which are long snakes of clay made by rolling clay on a flat surface, potters throughout history have been able to build large and strong vessels without the use of a spinning potter’s wheel. As the term progresses the class will learn other methods of ceramic handbuilding including slab rolling and pinching, and will see their projects come to fruition after being fired in the kiln at temperatures in the thousands of degrees.
Top: A Saturday trip group goes canoeing on Round Lake. Middle: Wyatt and Claire canoe on Round Lake. Bottom: A group of students swim in Round Lake during a Friday night activity.
Round Lake, located on the North Country School campus, is a spot that changes with the seasons but never fails to provide a picturesque backdrop to our outdoor adventures. Throughout the fall and in the late spring it is common to find excited swimmers and paddlers spending afternoon out-times and weekend trips enjoying the sparkling blue water, surrounded by vibrant foliage. On the coldest days of winter the frozen, and sometimes snow-covered, surface offers a great spot to ice skate, cross-country ski, or create snowshoe designs. This week the gorgeous fall weather presented the perfect opportunity to pull on our swimsuits and grab our life jackets and paddles for afternoons and evenings at the lake.
Top: The 8th-grade class climbs at the Crag. Middle 1: Garth shows Harry how to belay. Middle 2: Wyatt on a high ropes course during the 9th-grade trip. Middle 3: William builds part of a fort during the 7th-grade trip. Bottom: Ziggy and Abel relax in one of the 7th-grade forts.
This past week our students were able to try a wide array of outdoor activities and skillbuilding during Orientation days and grade-level trips. Our 8th-grade class practiced rock climbing at the Crag, a modest-sized cliff located back in our campus woods, where they learned how to safely climb and belay one another. Our 9th-grade “senior” class enjoyed the views of Lake Champlain as they traveled to Vermont, where they enjoyed some group bonding and team building time at MetroRock Climbing Gym before visiting the nearly 300-year-old fort at New York’s Crown Point Historic Site. Our 7th-grade class, meanwhile, carried on the tradition of designing and building forts out of natural and reused materials including tree branches, logs, and barn twine saved from hay bales.
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Mina and Jenny chop vegetables from the farm in the Teaching and Learning Kitchen (TLK). Middle: Dexter harvests herbs for tea from the Children’s Garden. Bottom: Fresh-picked basil and tomatoes from the NCS greenhouse.
North Country School has had a fully working farm since our founding in 1938, and we are proud to be one of the six founding members of the Edible Schoolyard Project, which was started in Berkeley, California, in the 1990s with the goal of connecting students to farm-fresh food. Our students engage with the farm in a wide variety of ways: during twice-daily barn chores, in Edible Schoolyard classes, during afternoon and weekend activities, and at mealtime. During Orientation activities, groups of students spent time in our greenhouses, gardens, and the Teaching and Learning Kitchen (TLK) harvesting fresh produce, preparing it for storage by freezing and pickling, and helping to transform it into delicious meals and drinks.
Top: Erica welcomes the students of Cascade House to the barnyard. Middle: May grooms Bo the horse. Bottom: Cat picks dirt out of a horse’s hoof.
Other groups explored our barnyard, where they spent time with the different agricultural and equestrian animals that we raise on the NCS farm. At North Country School we raise chickens, turkeys, and pigs, which are all part of the campus food system; sheep that connect to both our food system and our arts program in the forms of meat and wool; and horses which are part of our riding program. This past week students were welcomed to the barnyard by Barn Manager Erica, who explained how we care for the many different creatures on the farm, before teaching everyone how to use different brushes to groom our horses and how to use hoof picks to clean their hooves.