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Photo: Students complete a magical task during WARP.

When North Country School opened its doors more than eighty years ago, our founders, Walter and Leonora Clark, believed that play was a crucial, and too often overlooked, part of childhood. Since 1938 our inspiring teachers have been committed to providing students with the opportunity to learn, grow, and explore the world around them, not just with academic curiosity, but with wide-eyed wonder and joy.

This past Sunday we watched our students engage their imaginations during our annual all-day WARP event. WARP, or Wilderness Action Role Play, is a day when our entire community works together to solve puzzles, complete magical quests, and battle ancient creatures, all while exploring our 220-acre campus. It is a day when lighthearted silliness can be found around every turn. We are proud to preserve this special aspect of our founding philosophy for the students in our care, and we are grateful to be part of an organization that provides children with the space and time to simply play.

ACADEMICS

Top: 7th-grade science students take temperature readings at the compost pile. Middle 1: Checking the compost temperature. Middle 2: Ira and Octa present their poster on Ancient Greece. Bottom: Social studies Venn diagram about farming.

One of our favorite aspects of the North Country School experience is how our academic curriculum continuously connects to our real-world surroundings. This week our 7th-grade students began an exciting project that tied their science and math classes to our farm and garden program. On Tuesday, students visited the compost pile in Dexter Pasture during their science class to take temperature readings in different spots and at various depths. They then brought the temperature data to their math class, where they used spreadsheets to visualize the information collected. The next stage of the project will be to bury raw farm eggs in the pile to see if the temperature of the compost is hot enough to cook the eggs, and if so, how long the process will take. Though the class will not eat the compost-cooked eggs, their findings will give our students greater insight into the energy that is produced when organic matter goes through the composting process.

Meanwhile, our 5th-grade social studies students researched different aspects of daily life in Ancient Greece, such as agriculture and industry, special events, and government and citizenship, while connecting those aspects of life to our own NCS campus. Students worked in pairs to present what they’d learned to their peers, before the class created a Venn diagram comparing our farm to those in Ancient Greece. With our recent potato harvest on their minds, students were able to identify similarities and differences between our more modern farming practices and the older models used centuries ago.

Top: 4th-grade science class discusses repeating patterns in nature. Middle 1: Wyatt learns about branching patterns. Middle 2: Eleanor finds repeating patterns in flowers. Bottom: 4th-grade science students have fun while learning in nature.

Our 4th-grade students also tied their science and math curriculum together while learning about Fibonacci numbers—a sequential numerical sequence that accounts for many of the repeating patterns found in nature. The lesson began in their classroom, where students looked at several different types of patterns, before the group ventured outside to find examples of those patterns in the plants growing on campus. Everyone was excited to see real-life examples of repeating patterns in our garden’s echinacea flowers, as well as in the pine needles on our conifer trees.

ARTS

Top: Katie shows Julia how to make a print. Middle 1: Alea works on her print. Middle 2: An elephant print in progress. Middle 3: Courtney shows the 6th-grade theater class how to use the lightboard. Bottom: The 6th-grade theater class tests different lighting schemes for their original play.

Our arts classes spent time learning new skills this week, both in our studio spaces as well as in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC). Artists in Katie’s 5th-grade class worked on their printmaking designs, before testing out different color combinations. Their vibrant work will become part of the rotating art display around the Main Building in the upcoming weeks.

In Courtney’s 6th-grade theater class, students have spent the past several weeks writing and rehearsing an original Halloween-themed play. This week the students joined Courtney in the WallyPAC lighting booth to look at the light board and learn some technical skills, before discussing different lighting elements they might want to incorporate in the upcoming Sunday production of their show.

OUTDOORS

Top: Students pose with their magical WARP props. Middle 1: Kate tries to decipher a WARP code. Middle 2: Completing a magical task during WARP. Middle 3: Camila the fairy gives students a clue during WARP. Middle 4: A WARP battle. Bottom: Completing a magical task during WARP.

At North Country School, our annual WARP, or Wilderness Action Role Play, event is one of our favorite days of the year, and is certainly the most playful. WARP is an all-school event where students and teachers dress in homemade costumes, wield foam swords, and battle monsters throughout our campus woods. This past Sunday, our school community spent the morning exploring the autumn forest, working together in groups to complete magical quests and solve complex riddles. After deciphering coded clues and helping one another overcome epic obstacle courses, the groups finished the afternoon by participating in battles between factions and coming together against terrible beasts. It was a day filled with whimsy, imagination, and smiling faces, and—just as it does every year—it reminded us of the importance of taking time to play.

 FARM AND GARDEN

Top: Clover the horse in front of Balanced Rocks. Middle 1: Erica helps Octa clean horse tack. Middle 2: Horse halters and lead ropes. Bottom: Langlang cleans horse tack.

Many of our barnyard activities on the NCS farm involve working directly with our farm creatures, while others help care for these creatures in an indirect way. This week a group of students spent an out-time in the horse barn working alongside Barn Manager Erica to clean the horse tack. Keeping horse saddles, bridles, stirrups, halters, and reins in good condition means that this important equipment will last longer in our riding program, and will make the riding experience more comfortable for these gentle animals in our care.  Top: 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class makes boxty. Middle: Grating a potato for boxty. Bottom: Andrew mashes potatoes for boxty.

7th-grade Edible Schoolyard classes were able to enjoy the fruits of our community labor this week while using our newly harvested potatoes in one of their cooking lessons in the Teaching and Learning Kitchen. The class began by discussing local food systems, talking about the different paths a local potato might take to get to their plates in comparison to a potato coming from a large farm across the country. Students then split into two groups to prepare traditional Irish boxty using our own NCS potatoes. Boxty is a grilled pancake that uses both grated and mashed potatoes, and is sometimes served with sour cream, cheese, butter, or eggs. The students did an excellent job preparing the dish that was new to most of them, and the savory treat was a big hit with the whole class.