Four Ways We’re Different
|"It is not so much where you live, what work you do, the college degrees you have, where you have traveled, your I.Q., or how much or little money you have. It is most of all how you feel about yourself, your family, other people, other animals, your work, the place where you live, our planet, the stars, sky, and the universe.”
— Walter Clark, NCS Founder
FIRST, Our Diverse Community
At North Country School, our families are unique, their needs eclectic, and stories idiosyncratic. Our students embody racial and cultural diversity, a broad socioeconomic range, global composition, wide variety of learning styles, and unusual combinations of individual strengths and interests. This fascinating assortment is the magnet that draws many of us to this place, and the subsequent quality of our interactions with students is the power that keeps us here.
Our longstanding commitment to diversity is as old as the institution itself and one of our greatest assets. Over the past five years, our community has been composed of 17 percent students of color and 22 percent international students from countries like Antigua, Columbia, Haiti, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sierra Leone, and Taiwan. Our robust scholarship program supports our efforts to be economically diverse as well; in any given year, more than 30 percent of our students benefit from financial aid.
SECOND, Strong Relationships with Renaissance Adults
Over the past half-century, children have spent progressively less time with adults on a daily basis—a deficit most would agree is a serious detriment to their healthy development. At NCS, our student/teacher ratio is 3:1. (By comparison, our peer schools average about 5:1; private day schools are roughly 12:1; and nationally, public schools are 25:1.) Our students benefit academically from individual attention from teachers who are able to adjust the content, pace, point of departure, and style of delivery of their instruction to the individuals in their classrooms.
Our faculty and staff share their lives with children, not just in the classroom but on the trail, ski hill, and in the house as well. As a result, our students are known well by many caring adults who lend generous and varied support as mentors, guides, counselors, and confidantes. When children spend time with dedicated adults willing to share their own vibrant personal pursuits—whether the constellations, romance poetry, telemark skiing, or the mandolin—students’ interests are sparked, their learning facilitated, and horizons expanded.
THIRD, A Healthy, Simple Lifestyle
NCS offers a literal and metaphorical breath of fresh mountain air. We live in a stunningly beautiful place, in an environment of four-season outdoor activity. Our small farm rotates crops sensibly without use of pesticides or petroleum-based fertilizers, raises animals humanely, and supports the concept that human beings should be producers as well as consumers of food. Ours is a life of relative simplicity, as free from toxic media encroachments as possible in this wired age.
Though we keep pace with technology, we are not driven by it. Our problem-solving looks first to human ingenuity, not electronic gadgetry, and in our choices we emphasize creativity over consumerism. We make our own holiday cards and decorations, bake brownies and cookies from scratch, create team uniforms from hand-me-down clothes. While the average American teenager spends close to four hours daily in front of the television, our students watch virtually none (the rare exception granted to events of historical significance, like the inauguration of President Obama, which we watched together on a large screen in the dining room). We typically show one movie per week and limit both computer use and game-playing. Instead, NCS students play board games or guitars and head outside for skateboarding, Capture the Flag, and fort-making in the woods.
FOURTH, Uniquely Balanced Program
Perhaps our greatest strength, our program features equal parts academics, arts, work, and play. We offer a traditional core curriculum, highlighted by frequent hands-on learning opportunities, and our academic program rescues the studio and performing arts from the margins, where fiscal crises too often push them, and enshrines them at the core of the curriculum, where they belong. Approximately one-sixth of our campus’ programming space is devoted to the arts, and nearly one-third of the faculty teaches an art offering of some kind.
We also balance the cerebral with the active, complementing a humanely-paced academic day with a robust outdoor and recreational program. Come afternoons or weekends, NCS students typically can be found rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, skiing, or in pick-up games of soccer, dodgeball, or ultimate frisbee. These opportunities for play are balanced with daily work jobs at the barn, in the gardens, or elsewhere on our 200-acre property. Underlying all our activities—academic, artistic, physical—are values that guide all our days here: the importance of individual expression and responsibility, the merit of togetherness and cooperation, the dignity of work, and fun in everyday tasks.