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Inside Look: Campus life

April 5, 2015
by North House Folk School

As Easter Sunday arrives and passes, and the sun rises earlier and higher, we have a rare weekend on campus: our buildings are empty and quiet, there will be no weekend potluck, and we won't be giving any “Welcome to North House!” talks. We happen to have a weekend without any classes.

March 13th

March 29th

A weekend at North House without courses is like a 60 degree day in Grand Marais in April – you just don't see it real often.

Speaking of weather in Grand Marais, here's an update: yesterday was 50 degrees on the lake shore, which felt positively balmy and must have been the warmest day so far in 2015. We have had the classic, unpredictable spring weather, including a few snow flurries after the snow melted, but for the most part it has been a dry, sunny spring so far.

Anyway, this quiet weekend at North House has me thinking about our space here at North House: how we use it, and how full and busy things are here.

For the number of classes that we hold, we are a small campus. We have 4 classroom buildings with space for around 7 classes to happen simultaneously. Our classes are from 1-14 days long, with classes averaging 2-3 days each. When a class ends, let's say on a Sunday evening, that same classroom space has to be cleaned, reorganized and prepped for a class that might start on Wednesday morning. It might be a very different class with completely different needs. In March, we transformed our milling shop from a silversmithing studio into a door-building shop. That meant moving all the jewelry equipment out, dismantling tables, rearranging power tools, and sprinkling sawdust in key places (to help the incoming woodworkers feel at home).

This is a North House staple - a little task we like to call a "flip", when we "flip" a classroom into a new version of itself. It is constantly happening and takes many hands - interns, staff, and our weekly work study volunteers - thanks to all you helpful people!

To give you a sense of the variety and frequency of our classroom use, here's a series of photos documenting what all was in our campus kitchen in an eight day stretch during mid-March (yes, I said eight days):

A yurt cover being sewn

A milk painting class

Carving a spatula

Old-fashioned soapmaking

I wonder if our kitchen is ever confused...

One of the only classes on campus this week was the Wood Canvas Canoe class. Brothers Buck and Tom built this beautiful boat under the guidance of instructor Jeanne.

It also takes a lot of planning behind the scenes to coordinate this ever-changing landscape. It could be chaos, but it is far from it. Kudos to Matt and Jessa, our programming team, for all the energy they put into keeping things sailing straight!

Speaking of sailing, I'm happy to say the Hjordis survived the winter in the severe Lake Superior water, and today she sits in a harbor that is fully ice-free!

Goodbye ice, hello geese.

So, we will appreciate this slow weekend here, thinking about what is coming, working on projects that might otherwise be put on the back burner, and anticipating the next group of eager students that will soon fill our classes with learning and laughter.