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Photo: The 4th-grade social studies class begins building a model Haudenosaunee longhouse by the Frog Pond.

At North Country School, students spend much of their time learning outside of a traditional classroom environment, and those lessons carry an even greater impact when they connect to the world around us.

This week we watched our students take part in place-based lessons in which they used reclaimed and natural resources to build a model Haudenosaunee longhouse, used wool sheared from our sheep to create vibrant weavings, and discussed local and global food systems through the lens of our barnyard. We love watching the excitement on our students’ faces as they connect what they’re learning in class to their everyday lives, and begin to cultivate a greater understanding of and appreciation for all that surrounds them.

ACADEMICS

Top: Larry shows the 4th-grade social studies class how to lash sticks together. Middle 1: Eleanor helps build a longhouse. Middle 2: Ryan and Wyatt help build a longhouse. Bottom: Using grass bundles to make longhouse siding.

As part of their curriculum about the Haudenosaunee—the Indigenous people of the Adirondack region—our 4th-grade social studies class met by the Frog Pond to build a model of a Haudenosaunee longhouse. This beloved annual project brings together our academic and arts programs, and uses natural resources like sticks from campus alder trees and native grasses, along with reclaimed material including barn twine. Students worked under the guidance of social studies teacher Caroline and Community Projects teacher Larry to cut pieces of alder to length, lash together the long sticks to construct the frame of the house, and bundle fresh-cut grass to create the structure’s siding and roof. The finished project is about 1/20th of the size of an actual longhouse, and it helped our students gain an appreciation for the hard work that went into the building of these community structures.
Top: Goddess Elyssia explains her role as a deity to the 5th-grade class. Middle 1: The 5th-grade class builds a model temple. Middle 2: Spanish students explain Día de Muertos during lunch council. Bottom: The Día de Muertos altar.

Our 5th-grade social studies students also worked together using reclaimed materials to build model structures this week. As part of their unit on Ancient Greece, the class welcomed their “substitute teacher,” Greek Goddess Elyssia of Honeybees, who introduced the idea of ancient Greek temples. In honor of their Greek goddess teacher, the class then built their own model temples using found materials including paper-towel rolls and cardboard boxes.

Meanwhile, our 9th-grade Spanish students helped introduce the larger school community to Día de Muertos. Día de Muertos is a holiday recognized in Mexico and some Latin American countries, and is celebrated as a remembrance of loved ones who have passed. Typically, an altar is set out with food, drink, flowers, candles, and calaveras (skulls) to help the souls of loved ones return home. On Sunday, a table of remembrance was set up by students and Spanish teacher Katie, and the larger community was invited to bring in photos of loved ones who had passed to add to the colorful display. Our Spanish students then presented information to their peers about different aspects of the holiday during lunch council.

ARTS

Top: Katie helps Matt work on his weaving. Middle 1: Ariana works on her weaving. Middle 2: Joel weaves with campus wool. Bottom: How our wool is turned into yarn.

At North Country School, our flock of sheep play an important role in several parts of our program, including our art classes. This past week students in fiber arts class worked on their colorful weavings, which incorporate yarn spun from our sheep’s wool. Our sheep are shorn once in September and again in the spring shortly before lambing season begins. The wool is then cleaned and spun in Vermont, before it returns to campus to be dyed by students and campers. We love seeing this campus resource used to create the intricate tapestries woven by our student-artists each year.

Top: Courtney watches the students in Impact Class rehearse their show. Middle 1: Sam, Camila, and Mia rehearse lines for their Impact performance. Middle 2: Nadya and Andrew play a Rolling Stones song in Band Class. Bottom: Alice, Lily, and Justin play guitar together.

Over in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC), students rehearsed the various performances they will be putting on for the community in a few weeks. In Impact Class, students ran lines and worked on blocking for the original play they have been planning since September. Meanwhile, our musicians practiced the songs they’ve been learning for the past several weeks. We are excited to see their hard work come to fruition during Thanksgiving Showcases at the end of the Fall Term.

OUTDOORS

Top: Students do yoga during out-time. Middle 1: David skateboards during out-time. Middle 2: A weekend trip visits the Bloomingdale Bog Trail. Bottom: Katie, Ariana, Salama, and Grace on the Bloomingdale Bog Trail.

In our outdoor program we often see students take on summits and embark on epic hiking adventures, but not all restorative outdoor activities involve thousands of feet of elevation gain. This past week our students had fun while taking part in the many other ways one can enjoy and appreciate nature. During out-times, students basked in the sunshine as they moved through yoga exercises on Clark Field, and raced around the newly installed skate park on rollerblades and skateboards.

One weekend group also spent time enjoying nature, and had a very special animal encounter, while out for a walk at the nearby Bloomingdale Bog Trail. The converted railroad line is now a community-use trail that cuts through the woods and marsh, making it a great place for bird and other wildlife sightings. The lucky group was able to quietly observe a young moose out for a stroll—a rare occurrence in the Adirondack Park. Nice work to 9th-grader Tyler, who spotted the moose and pointed it out to the group!

Top: Nadya sees snow for the first time. Middle: Andrew throws a snowball during the first snow of the year. Bottom: Kate and Laurie build a snow person.

This week we also celebrated an occasion we look forward to each year at NCS—the first real snowfall of the season. For some students, like Nadya and Andrew, the exciting event was their first experience seeing snow in person. For others it marked the familiar start of a season of snowball fights, snow building, sledding, and skiing. While we are sure there will be another thaw before winter arrives in earnest, it was a delightful moment of fun, and we loved watching the campus community come together to play.

FARM AND GARDEN

Top: Vivián rides Fern the horse through the Garden Pasture. Middle: Vivián and Cherry ride during out-time. Bottom: Dexter and Matías at riding out-time.

While snow arrived midway through the week, our horseback riders enjoyed blue skies and green grass earlier in the week as they spent time with our herd. During one afternoon out-time, Barn Manager Erica helped lead our riders through the garden pasture to the riding rings, where Vivián, Cherry, Dexter, and Matías worked on their equestrian skills. We love watching students gain confidence and compassion as they take part in this special aspect of our barn program.

Top: Elie and Melody teach Edible Schoolyard students about meat animals. Middle: The 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class meets in the barnyard. Bottom: Roan, Wyatt, Matías, and Ariana sit with the lambs.

Edible Schoolyard (ESY) students also spent time with our barnyard animals this past week, as they learned about the role sheep play in our school program. At North Country School we raise sheep and lambs for meat and fiber, as well as to teach students how to care for agricultural animals. Raising animals for meat, and the many ethical choices that go along with that aspect of farming, are frequent conversations on our campus.

This past week Barn Manager Erica, Farm Intern Melody, and Edible Schoolyard Instructor Elie discussed the different aspects of raising meat animals with our ESY students. The classes then talked about how the various anatomical parts of an animal become the cuts of meat we see in our dining rooms, and how different regions around the world may use cuts of meat the students are less familiar with. Students also discussed how the parts of a sheep that aren’t used for meat, including the tallow and wool, can be used to make products like soap and yarn, which minimizes waste. The classes ended with a visit to the barnyard to spend time with our lambs. While conversations about raising meat animals can often be challenging, we were so proud of our students for how thoughtfully they discussed this aspect of our food system, and for the care and respect they give to our barnyard creatures every day.