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Photo: Mavi and Sophie at the Harvest Festival.

Welcome back to the North Country School campus and to the #ThisWeekAtNCS blog! This week we celebrated the beginning of Fall Term classes, as well as the first weekend of our regular outdoor programming. After a week of orientation and outdoor activities, we were thrilled to come back together this past Friday for a more traditional start to the school year.

Academic and arts classes took advantage of our many outdoor classroom spaces, and the picturesque fall weather provided the perfect backdrop for exploring both our 220-acre campus and the surrounding Adirondack wilderness. On Wednesday the entire school gathered in our Children’s Garden to celebrate autumn on the farm with our annual Harvest Festival. It was a wonderful way to come together as a community in appreciation for one another, as well as for the food that helps sustain us. As we look ahead into the Fall Term, we are excited for the many other North Country School traditions we will participate in together. We hope you will join us along the way.

Note: The #ThisWeekAtNCS blog features weekly updates from our mountain campus. Check in each Friday for a window into the many ways our students are learning, growing, and exploring during their time at North Country School.

ACADEMICS

Top: Max teaches 6th-grade science class by Raspberry Knoll lean-to. Middle: Laurie and Mavi attach a camera to a tree. Bottom: Chloé sets up a camera.

This week our 6th-grade scientists began an exciting partnership project that they will be working on throughout the Fall Term. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is collecting species data from the northern portion of New York State, which includes the Adirondack Park, and our NCS science department is helping by gathering data in the mountains around our campus. This past Monday, Max’s 6th-grade class met up by Raspberry Knoll lean-to to begin learning how to use motion-activated camera traps, or game cameras. Over the next couple of weeks students will set up the cameras in several wooded sites around campus. The cameras will automatically photograph any wildlife that passes in front of them, while AI technology will blur the faces of any people who may appear in a photograph. The data collected by our classes will be part of ongoing DEC research studying how different species populations may be changing along with our climate.

Top: Sam observes the Frog Pond in math class. Middle 1:  Lauren’s life-cycle drawing in math class. Middle 2: Meredith’s Japanese class watches a video on exchanging business cards. Bottom: Mia and Salama exchange Japanese business cards.

Dave’s math class also connected to our local wildlife this week, gathering under blue skies by the Butterfly House and Frog Pond to diagram the life cycles of different species. The class discussed how the step-by-step nature of animal life cycles can relate to the mathematical Order of Operations. Students in Meredith’s Japanese class turned their focus inward, learning how to say and spell their own names with Japanese pronunciation and transliterated katakana syllables. Each student then designed their own meishi, or business card, with their name and information, exchanging cards with one another while introducing themselves in Japanese.

ARTS

Top: Colin teaches Heqing guitar. Middle 1: Katie teaches knitting outside. Middle 2: Sierra introduces her students to the photo lab. Middle 3: Brynn and Alea learn how to set up their looms. Bottom: Students play the outdoor drum set. 

At North Country School we know that creative expression is crucial to student growth and development, and that individual expression can take many forms. One of our guiding principles is providing students with “art every day”, whether it be in music classes, the fiber arts studio, the photo lab, or the metal shop. This week we watched our students build their foundational knowledge in a wide variety of artistic arenas, while taking the time to simply have fun and play. After a long summer away from campus we loved seeing the start of colorful compositions and hearing the sounds of music coming from our spaces once again, and look forward to seeing what our students create together as they discover their individual and collaborative visions. 

OUTDOORS

Top: Monty jumps between the boulders at Balanced Rocks. Middle 1: Students explore campus trails during opening week. Middle 2: Colin introduces students to the campus climbing crag. Middle 3: Cascade House students canoe on Round Lake. Bottom: Bryan and the Mountain House students look at campus from the Trouble viewpoint.

At North Country School, our outdoor program offers students the time and space to explore the world around them. Fostering a connection to and wonder for the outdoors has been woven into the NCS curriculum since our founding in 1938, and we know that it is only when children feel a connection to nature that they value protecting it. This past week the long tradition of introducing children to the outdoors continued as students ventured out into our expansive campus as well as into the Adirondack wilderness that surrounds our home. Groups took in majestic vistas from Trouble viewpoint and the Balanced Rocks ledge, ascended new routes at the Climbing Crag, and worked together to hone their paddling skills on Round Lake. We are sure that this year’s class will join the generations of NCS alumni that came before them in experiencing the connection to nature that is formed while discovering oneself in wild places.

Top: Erica and Katie introduce students to our horses at the riding ring. Middle: Wyatt rides a horse. Bottom: Emma helps Andrew ride a horse.

The NCS barnyard is a place for students to help care for our many farm creatures, including our laying hens, sheep, goats, and pigs, along with our herd of horses. This past week our students were able to spend time with our horses outside the barnyard, heading over to the riding ring for the first lessons of the year with Barn Manager Erica. We were so proud of our returners, as well as our first-time riders, who all demonstrated great care and compassion while working with these beautiful animals.

 FARM AND GARDEN

Top: 5th-grade Edible Schoolyard class meets in the Children’s Garden. Middle: 7th-grade Edible Schoolyard class visits the pigs. Bottom: The pigs in Dexter Pasture.

The Edible Schoolyard Project was started by Alice Waters in Berkeley, California, in the 1990s to engage students with growing and cooking farm-fresh food in their classrooms. At the time, Waters selected six like-minded institutions, including North Country School and Camp Treetops, as founding members of the organization, describing NCS/CTT as “the pioneer of edible education.” A century later, we continue to value the importance of connecting children to their food systems, and to the life cycles involved in those systems. Our own Edible Schoolyard (ESY) program provides our students with the foundational knowledge to make healthy food choices for themselves, their communities, and the environment. 

This past week our ESY students met in the Children’s Garden to share some thoughts on their own food choices and preferences, before learning about our NCS farm and gardens. Our 7th grade classes then visited our pigs in Dexter Pasture to learn about how and why we choose to raise some of our own meat here on campus, as well as what it means to raise animals humanely. The class learned how our pigs have been cared for since they were piglets, and how we make sure they live healthy, happy lives while they serve their agricultural role on our farm. Discussions about raising animals for meat can often be challenging ones, but are an important part of building an understanding about how food gets to our plates each and every day.

Top: Lawn games at the Harvest Festival. Middle 1: Grace and Laurie with fresh mint tea. Middle 2: Working the cider press at the Harvest Festival. Bottom: Eleanor and Emily at the Harvest Festival.

This past Wednesday we held one of our favorite all-school events of the year—our annual autumn Harvest Festival. The event celebrates the cycles of life we participate in every day at North Country School, and is the culmination of the growing season that began last spring. Students and faculty, surrounded by the rainbow of flowers, herbs, and produce in our gardens, enjoyed an afternoon of outdoor fun that celebrated this busy and bountiful time in the farming season. Everyone worked together to press freshly picked apples into cider and prepare delicious dishes that showcased ingredients grown on our campus, including garden mint tea, cucumber salad, salsa, and herb butter. Creativity and color was everywhere at the facepainting station, and we loved watching our students playing lawn games and joining our faculty to perform live music. 

Farm-fresh ingredients headlined the menu later that evening on our first Wednesday Homenight—the night in the week when our residential students and houseparents cook and eat together in their own houses. It was a great start to the year, and we can’t wait to enjoy more of our farm-grown ingredients at future Homenights, in Edible Schoolyard classes, and in our dining room throughout the Fall Term.