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Place-Based Learning

Northwood School is dedicated to providing authentic and enriching learning opportunities for all students. The benefits of linking learners to their communities - or place-based education -  include hands-on experiences, increased student engagement, as well as the opportunity to grapple with and create solutions for real-world issues.  

Northwood School’s surroundings provide an exceptional setting for place-based learning and its academic enrichment.  Located in the six million acre Adirondack Park, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, Northwood School is nestled in the Olympic Village of Lake Placid, host of the 1932 and 1980 games.  All of our students, not just our elite athletes, have the use of world-class Olympic facilities such as Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic hockey rinks including the storied 1980 rink, the Olympic Training Center (OTC), and the Intervale Ski Jumps to train, compete, play and study.

Place-based learning opportunities are found in all of our academic disciplines. Students enter poetry contests and participate in local writing retreats in our English classes.  Students take a scenic flight over the Adirondacks in our Geology class. They visit local farms in Environmental Science.

These are some of the ways our faculty seamlessly weave place-based learning into the curriculum:

  • Geology:  Students visit the Cascade Waterfall, raft on the Hudson, climb into the cave at Pitchoff, Clarksville Cave, and have the opportunity for AuSable River Flume cliff jumping. They head to Henry's Woods for garnet crystals, Peninsula Trail to see weathering and erosion, Cobble to see metamorphic rocks and view the ADK High Peaks, and to Whiteface to find glacial erratics and moraine deposits.
  • Biology: Students visit the Biodome and The Wild Center and engage in local water testing and tree identification in local forests.
  • Environmental Science: Students participate in the maple sugaring process, learn about land use and conduct soil profiles, visit local, carry out water quality testing and visit a local wastewater treatment facility, and have a leadership role in the Youth Climate Summit, a two-day conference on climate action, at The Wild Center. 
  • Physics:  Students take part in a ski jump egg drop, launch rockets off Mirror Lake and in Gabriels, NY, and explore the bobsled/skeleton push track at the Olympic Training Center to study motion.
  • Social Science: Classes visit a variety of local museums and historical sites such as Fort Ticonderoga. 
  • The Arts: Northwood offers a unique Adirondack Art Exploration course. Students seek inspiration from area landscapes and surroundings, visit local artists at their studios, participate in guest lectures & ceramic firings with other schools. Classes are enhanced by partnerships with the local art institutions including Pendragon Theatre, The Upper Jay Arts Center and the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

With the addition of Northwood School’s Innovation Hub, students are now more poised than ever to experience place-based learning.  The Hub’s central location in downtown Lake Placid serves as a natural and authentic connection between students and their community.  The year-round events and activities that take place in Lake Placid offer a vast array of possibilities for student involvement and leadership. The Hub’s maker-space resources provide students the tools they need to develop creative solutions and to find success in any leadership opportunity.