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Photo: Sam looks at a slide through a microscope in biology class.

At North Country School, we believe that instilling children with a love of learning means moving beyond our classroom walls and connecting lessons to the world around us. Our academic program is rooted in activities that allow students to learn science by studying our campus ponds and streams, or delve into history by building structures using the materials available to ancient civilizations. This week we saw interdisciplinary learning in action as our biology students applied what they’ve been studying in class to our farm program by examining sheep and horse blood cells under a microscope. Meanwhile, our youngest math students practiced rounding integers using the crop totals from our community potato harvest. We love seeing our students’ engagement grow as they make these connections, and as they recognize that what they learn in school can be carried with them throughout their lives.

ACADEMICS

Top: Barn Manager Erica and Lauren talk about a slide. Middle 1: Slides for the microscope activity. Middle 2: Colin shows Joseph and Yehor how to use their microscopes. Middle 3: A slide showing horse blood cells. Bottom: Anna Olivia rounds numbers using potato harvest totals.

Our 9th-grade biology students spend much of the Fall Term learning about different types of cells that make up all living things, and this past week they expanded their understanding of these complex structures during their first lesson on using a microscope. After biology teacher Colin introduced the class to the fundamentals of using these tools—which allowed scientists to see living cells for the first time in the 1600s—the class was joined by Barn Manager Erica, who brought slides with both horse and sheep blood drawn from our farm animals. Students used their microscopes to look at these “local” cell slides, comparing them to a wide variety of pre-made plant and animal cell slides before choosing a few of their favorite cell images to draw under different levels of magnification.

Meanwhile, our 4th-grade math students also connected what they’ve been learning to our farm during a lesson about rounding large numbers. The class looked at the totals from our recent community potato harvest (a whopping 3,073 pounds of potatoes!), and briefly discussed the reasons why people might round numbers up or down. They then practiced rounding this total to the nearest ten, hundred, and thousand.

Top: Riiley works on her rock project. Middle 1: Ryan with his rock project. Middle 2: Melissa talks to Carter about his poetry. Middle 3: Ariana and Nadya work on their poetry. Bottom: The 8th-grade English class poetry anthology board.

Our 5th-grade students have started their first independent research project this week by taking a deep dive into the world of igneous rocks. After selecting and researching a specific rock, each student created a poster that included a description of the physical qualities of that rock, how and where it was formed, what minerals make it up, and a few fun facts. Over the course of the academic year the class will continue to use the information they’ve learned about these rocks to gain a deeper understanding of the geomorphology of our surrounding Adirondack region.

In 8th-grade English class, our students have also been building foundational knowledge during poetry writing lessons and workshop sessions, which will inform their learning for the rest of the year. Students have been studying elements of poetic writing, focusing on choices made by authors in poems they find to be powerful. They have then applied that understanding to their own free verse poems, which will be bound together into a new 8th-grade anthology book that they will read together in November during a cafe session. Throughout the Winter Term the class will use what they’ve learned about strong writing throughout their poetry unit to inform the narrative writing that will make up the next term’s class anthology.

ARTS

Top: Dexter and Owen paint Halloween murals. Middle 1: Kate decorates the dining room for Halloween. Middle 2: The 9th-grade class practices for the Haunted House. Middle 3: The 9th-grade class at the Haunted House animal banquet. Middle 4: A completed Halloween mural. Middle 5: Aniella helps Tiago with his costume. Middle 6: Rhaya in her Halloween costume. Middle 7: The Halloween costume parade. Middle 8: Wyatt, Luke, and River in their insurance mascot costumes. Middle 9: A Halloween carnival game. Bottom: The 4th- and 5th-grade classes visit the Haunted House.

At North Country School, our annual Halloween celebration is a time where the ever-present artistic creativity on our campus is brought front-and-center for an evening filled with handmade decorations, original costumes, and scary performances. Over the past week our school community has been busy covering campus with macabre murals and carved Jack-o’-lanterns, while working on their original costumes, which at NCS are “90% imagination, 10% stuff.” Our older grades also had the opportunity to step in as leaders, with the 7th grade taking the helm on decorating the dining room, the 8th grade planning fun and games, and the 9th grade organizing and performing the yearly Haunted House. On Wednesday we gathered together to celebrate the season and enjoy one another’s work in an evening that included a costume parade, a Halloween-themed dinner, a festive carnival, and visits through the 9th grade’s haunted forest, which was full of Fantastic Mr. Fox animals. It was great to see the collective fruits of our effort come together to make the night such a “monstrous” success!

OUTDOORS

Top: The soccer team warms up before their game. Middle 1: The NCS soccer game. Middle 2: Students in Outdoor Leadership class test out camping gear for their Fall Term practicum. Bottom: Students in the Outdoor Leadership class with their Leave No Trace trainer certificates.

It was an eventful week on the NCS campus, with hard work culminating in our students achieving their goals. Those goals were literal for the players on our soccer team, who have been practicing their skills since the beginning of the year. This week the time put in paid off in an impressive 8-0 victory against a team from Pottersville, New York. We were so proud of not only the teamwork on display, but of the good sportsmanship the players showed to their opponents throughout the game. Go Pink Pigs!

The students in our Outdoor Leadership program also reached a few impressive milestones this week. The classes have spent the past several weeks learning outdoor skills and safety—particularly when hiking and camping in cold-weather locations like the Adirondack Mountains—and this Thursday they set off for their four-day camping trip to Johns Brook Valley to put those skills into practice. The groups also completed the Leave No Trace (LNT) trainer course they have been working on since the beginning of the term. The course, which is most often offered to adults, teaches participants outdoor skills and ethics, as well as “techniques for educating others about these low impact practices.” We are looking forward to these students bringing stories of their outdoor adventures, along with ways they put their newly acquired LNT skills and knowledge into use, back to campus with them on Sunday.
Top: A weekend trip group on Balanced Rocks. Middle 1: Owen in the slots at Balanced Rocks. Middle 2: A weekend trip group hikes to Balanced Rocks and Pitchoff Mountain. Bottom: Adela and Eva on the boulders at Balanced Rocks.

This past weekend several student groups took advantage of the perfect fall hiking conditions during trips up to Balanced Rocks lookout and the adjoining hike along the Pitchoff Mountain ridgeline. For several of the hikers, this was their first time visiting these favorite NCS spots, and we are always excited to see students take in the impressive views of our campus and the High Peaks Wilderness Area from these spots that tower above us each day.

FARM AND GARDEN

Top: The 6th-grade Edible Schoolyard class makes kimchi. Middle: Abel preps ingredients for kimchi. Bottom: In-progress kimchi.

In 6th-grade Edible Schoolyard (ESY) class, students were able to see food-science in action during a lesson about kimchi, a Korean dish made with fermented vegetables. After learning a bit about the lacto-fermentation process, which uses salt and naturally occurring bacteria to convert sugar into lactic acid, the class gathered ingredients from our farm to whip up a batch of the tasty dish. Students chopped NCS-grown items including cabbage and scallions, then massaged salt into the mixture until the vegetables released most of their water. The chopped produce will stay submerged in this salty brine for several days until it has fully fermented and transformed into the tangy and tasty food we often enjoy at breakfast with our rice and eggs.

Top: Poppy the horse eats hay. Middle 1: Vee and Roan help Samara milk Bambi the goat. Middle 2: Mina refills water for the chickens. Middle 3: Octa and Luke sweep the barn foyer. Middle 4: A chicken in the barnyard. Bottom: Students head back to the Main Building and their houses after afternoon barn chores.

At North Country School, our morning and afternoon barn chores rotate by residential house group (which includes the day students associated with those houses), and this week it was Cascade House’s turn to help take care of our many barnyard creatures each day after out-time. While we at NCS engage in many conversations about the farm, and talk about how the animals we raise play a crucial role in both our food system and our composting cycle, we also know that caring for living creatures and our shared spaces plays a strong role in the cultivation of empathy and compassion in young people. By helping to keep our barnyard animals warm, fed, and healthy, and by working to maintain our barnyard, our students are able to see how even their smallest actions can have a direct and positive impact others.

Check back next week to see what we’re up to on our mountain campus.

For general school information, call 518-523-9329.