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Photo: Students pose together on their Saturday hike to the Canadian border.

One of our favorite parts of the North Country School experience is the chance to witness strong connections forming between students as they learn and grow alongside one another. The bonds created at NCS are strengthened in the time spent together, whether it be studying the underwater creatures found in our stream, helping others find their footing while scrambling up boulders, or working together during our more challenging farm harvest days. When students return as accomplished alumni, they often speak about the significance of the connections they made in this community. We love watching the friendships form between our current class of caring and compassionate students, and we are proud each time we witness the supportive words and encouraging smiles that are given so readily around our mountain campus.

ACADEMICS

Top: Colin explains the stream lab. Middle 1: Koga and Olivia work on their stream lab. Middle 2: Nadya works on her barn poetry. Middle 3: James reads his blackout poetry in the Butterfly House. Bottom: Tyler works on her Spanish assignment in the Butterfly House.

This week we watched students take full advantage of outdoor campus spaces across all areas of our academic program. In Colin’s biology class, 9th-grade students put into practice what they’ve learned about the scientific method to investigate stream health at different points along our campus stream. English students in both Melissa and Isaac’s classes spent time visiting numerous spots around campus, including the Mountain Bench, the gardens, and the barnyard, to brainstorm ideas for their nature-themed poetry.

The Butterfly House—one of our favorite outdoor classrooms—was also a popular location for learning this week. Lilly’s 8th-grade students met in the beautiful spot to present their justice-themed blackout poetry projects to their peers, while Katie’s Spanish students took some time to practice their ser and estar verb conjugations while surrounded by the autumnal golds and greens of the space.

ARTS

Top: 5th-grade photography students pose for their pinhole camera photograph. Middle 1: Grace takes a digital photograph. Middle 2: Jeff takes a film photograph. Middle 3: Adela works on her coil pot in ceramics class. Middle 4: James glazes his pot. Bottom: Joseph carves his pot thrown on the wheel.

At North Country School, we love watching the many different ways students can explore the same artistic fields of study. Photography students employed several different methods of photo-creation this week, using techniques that spanned centuries of human innovation. Our younger students patiently posed for photographs using the pinhole cameras they’ve been building throughout the term, while our older students captured both digital and film images from spots around campus.

Down in our ceramics studio, groups of students spent time working on their coil skills, using the same method of building with long clay ropes that were used in some of the oldest pottery on the planet. Some of our young artists practiced more modern glazing techniques, while others honed their throwing skills on the pottery wheel.

OUTDOORS

Top: U.S.-Canada border hiking group. Middle 1: Ariana, Grace, and Ryan on a boulder. Middle 2: Cherry helps Grace boulder. Bottom: Ryan boulders.

This past week our students had adventures at locations both far and near, with one group venturing all the way to the northern border of the United States for a beautiful autumn hike. The group visited the Gulf Unique Area, a NYS DEC-managed preserve whose main trail ends at the U.S.-Canada border. The group discussed how this more than 5,500-mile long border is marked and maintained while enjoying the fall leaves, before visiting the monument that marks the border.

Back on campus, English teacher and expert climber Melissa took an enthusiastic group of students bouldering on our campus trails. We were so proud of our students as they helped one another find their footing and cheered each other on as they successfully climbed up the tricky terrain.

 FARM AND GARDEN

Top: The school community at Potato Harvest. Middle 1: Octa harvests potatoes. Middle 2: 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class learns about garlic planting. Bottom: Andrew and Matías plant garlic.

It was a busy week on the North Country School farm, with the last of the large all-community harvest events all taking place within days of one another. This past Friday our school gathered together in Dexter Pasture to harvest this year’s crop of potatoes. The bluebird skies and autumnal mountainscape provided the perfect backdrop as students and faculty helped harvest the potatoes that we all planted together this past spring. On Monday and Tuesday, our Edible Schoolyard students lent a hand to plant the upcoming year’s garlic supply. Garlic is one of the only crops that goes in the ground in the fall, with the planted cloves staying underground beneath layers of soil and straw throughout the cold season to become one of the first new green shoots to arrive come springtime. Our students worked hard to break up heads of garlic and plant the cloves, helping to ensure that we will have a healthy crop of this delicious and healthy ingredient to harvest with our campers by the end of summer.

Top: The community gathers together before Chicken Harvest. Middle 1: Lilly carries a chicken. Middle 2: James waits at the scalding station. Middle 3: Dave shows students how to break down a bird. Bottom: Cherry helps Meredith weigh and label birds.

The day we harvest our chickens is one that brings up mixed feelings for the members of our community. It is a day when we must come together with care and respect both for one another, as well as for the animals that provide us with nourishment throughout the year. At North Country School, we raise our farm animals for many different purposes, and one of those purposes is for meat. Raising meat animals is a significant part of our global food system, and at NCS we believe in the importance of understanding the processes that bring food to our plates, as well as the many different choices at play when working to raise agricultural animals ethically and humanely.

This year’s Chicken Harvest began with Farm Intern Melody gathering the students and teachers to discuss how the morning would look, explaining what everyone could expect to see in the hours ahead, and making sure that students knew they would be able to choose their level of involvement. Adults then led the group through the various stations, which included plucking, cleaning, bagging, and weighing birds, while reminding students that each station would have adults there to support and work alongside them.

Some students chose to take birds through every step of the harvest process, while others chose stations where they felt most comfortable. Students who decided to opt out of the bird harvest spent the morning helping the community in other ways, working to put the greenhouses to bed for the winter and collect the straw that will be used to insulate our garlic crop.

For some North Country School students and teachers, this was their first time at an animal harvest, while for others the event has been a part of their lives for many years. For all members of our community, these harvest days are powerful reminders about how we can come together and support one another, and about the importance of taking the time to appreciate the many animals that help sustain us.