Throughout the year, students at North Country School study science and math by undertaking project-based assignments on the school’s farm, in its greenhouses and gardens, and within its 200 acres of Adirondack forest. During Intersession, the school’s February program that “inspires new passions and builds new skills,” students choose from half- and full-day weeklong courses. In 2016, students had their choice of 22 electives, including robotics, 3-dimensional design, backcountry skiing, and maple sugaring.
The school has run an extensive maple sugaring operation since the 1950s, and produces up to 100 gallons of syrup a year. Everyone takes a turn at tapping trees, collecting sap, stacking wood, and monitoring boils. Intersession, held at the beginning of sugaring season, allows half a dozen students to delve into the science, math, and history of maple syrup production. With farm educators, this “advance team” drills holes, inserts spouts, and sets buckets. They determine the age and condition of trees, analyze the freeze and thaw cycle, and investigate environmental factors that could affect that year’s yield.
At the end of the week, the junior sugarmakers prepare a multimedia presentation for the school community that sets the stage for the upcoming harvest. This project, and the balance of the school’s experiential curriculum, is designed to instill knowledge that is relevant and applicable, with processes students can master from start to finish.