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Photo: Isaac helps students harvest rutabaga

At North Country School, our campus farm, gardens, and wooded trails provide us with a dynamic environment for student engagement, and allow us to introduce students to the many cycles of life at play in the natural world. This week we saw hands-on learning taking place all around us, as students discussed seasonal eating while harvesting the vegetables that will be stored for use throughout the winter, constructed projects using wood from our sustainably managed forest, and created temporary art using the autumn leaves from our maple trees. 

As our campus transforms with the seasons, so will the many ways our students can engage with the natural world all around them. We look forward to watching our students participate in autumn garlic planting, to seeing our Earth science classes study snowpack during the cold winter months, and to hearing our math students explain the sugar ratios of maple sap and syrup during our spring sugaring season.

ACADEMICS

Top: Lilly and 6th-grade social studies class at the lakefront. Middle 1: Gerby and Grace pour water in their geological sand construction. Middle 2: Mavi works on her sand construction. Bottom: Kate shows off her finished construction.

The beautiful fall weather provided our 6th-grade geography students the perfect backdrop for place-based learning this past week, when they headed down to our lakefront to put their landscape vocabulary into action. The group worked in pairs to construct 3D versions of various landforms including islands, tributaries, canyons, and mountains. Each pair then experimented with how water interacted with the different sand creations, before presenting their findings to one another. 

Top: Caroline shows the 4th-grade class how to build a pipe-cleaner longhouse. Middle 1: Eleanor builds a pipe-cleaner longhouse. Middle 2: Class resources for 4th-grade social studies class. Bottom: Miles works on his pipe-cleaner longhouse. 

In 4th grade social studies, students began their lesson on early civilizations around the world by learning about the Haudenosaunee, or “the People of the Longhouse.” The Haudenosaunee (also known as Iroquois) are the Native people of the Adirondack region. This past week, the class applied some of their knowledge about Haudenosaunee living structures to a project in which they constructed longhouse models out of pipe cleaners. By studying the Indigenous groups that are native to this place where we all live, we recognize the people who have stewarded the land around us for generations.

ARTS

Top: Joseph and David cut pieces for the Community Projects bookshelf. Middle: Langlang begins to paint the Community Projects mural. Bottom: Dian leads an African drumming performance on Sunday evening.

One of our favorite aspects of the North Country School experience is the focus placed on community, whether it be during barn chores and garden harvest events, while cheering for one another at the climbing crag, or while helping with dishes in the dining room. Community Projects art class is another space where artistic creation is centered around working together for a shared goal. This week we watched our student-artists make headway on a few collaborative projects, including the construction of foam swords for our annual Wilderness Action Role Play (WARP) event, and a mural-and-bookshelf installation that will become part of the Community Lounge. 

We also saw our students and adults working together for a fun performance on Sunday. Staff member Dian—a master drummer who leads events in the larger Adirondack community—brought his African drumming skills to campus to lead a student workshop in the afternoon. Dian and the students then brought the audience of students and teachers out of their seats for a crowd-pleasing performance later that evening.

Top: River and Adela create leaf art. Middle: Katie creates leaf art. Bottom: A completed work of leaf art.

Students at North Country School have the opportunity to create art not only in our studio spaces, but on the beautiful canvas that is our mountain campus. During one of our out-times this week, our creative students designed vibrant leaf art inspired by nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. Windy days ahead mean that the ephemeral installations won’t last long, but—much like the fleeting fall transformation itself—their short time on our campus brought joy to all that saw them. 

OUTDOORS

Top: Hiking to Ampersand Mountain. Middle 1: In the clouds on Ampersand Mountain. Middle 2: Celebrating at the summit on Ampersound Mountain. Middle 3: The marker at the Ampersand Mountain summit. Middle 4: Paddling on Lower Saranac Lake. Bottom: Gerby in a tent on the 6th-grade trip. 

One phrase that comes up frequently when describing our NCS students is “rugged, resourceful, and resilient.” This is rarely more evident than on those days in our outdoor program when weather conditions provide an additional challenge. This past weekend our students once again proved themselves to embody those trademark qualities while on a hike up nearby Ampersand Mountain. Spirits were high from the start of the hike up the towering peak, and remained that way despite the rain, wind, and white-out conditions encountered on their way toward the summit. We loved watching our students complete this challenging hike, and were thrilled to see them celebrate together from their spot high up in the clouds. 

Our 6th-grade class also pushed through challenging conditions on their overnight canoe camping trip to Pirate Island on Lower Saranac Lake. Blue skies quickly turned to rain and wind, but that didn’t stop the rugged group from bonding as they set up tents together and played games while hunkering down for this unique NCS experience.

 FARM AND GARDEN

Top: Students harvest carrots by the greenhouse. Middle 1: Sorting freshly harvested carrots. Middle 2: Colton harvests tomatoes. Middle 3: Harvesting and cleaning rutabagas. Bottom: 6th-grade ESY class harvests rainbow chard. 

This week our community participated in one of the busiest weeks of vegetable harvesting of the year. One out-time saw our larger school community gathering together by the Children’s Garden and greenhouses to pick our crop of carrots, rutabaga, and leeks, as well as the last of this season’s cucumbers. Everyone worked together throughout the afternoon, harvesting over three-hundred pounds of produce with the autumn mountains as our beautiful backdrop. Our Edible Schoolyard classes also lent many hands during their class time to harvest, chop, and freeze some of the last greens of the season (including colorful rainbow chard), and our crop of watermelons. While there are still more vegetables to be harvested before we officially put our gardens to bed for the season, we are so proud of our hardworking students for the time and effort they put in this week to ensure that we will have delicious farm-fresh food throughout the long Adirondack winter.