Van Slyke’s Art a Wintering: Reflection of a Journey

Between March 2nd and the 11th, Northwood art teacher Ms. Ingrid Van Slyke hosted an exhibition of her paintings at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA). The showcase featured 24 pieces, all with a central theme surrounding winter. This was Van Slyke’s thesis exhibition to advance towards completing her Master of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)—a journey four years in the making. She titled it “Wintering: The Nature of Resilience.”

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When asked about her favorite piece from the gallery, Ms. Van Slyke replied: “It’s called ‘The Road Home.’ It’s one of the smaller pieces and is painted in soft pastel. The painting depicts somebody’s driveway that I frequently walk by when I go for a walk on John Brown Rd.” The Road Home was displayed alongside the exhibition’s thesis at the gallery’s forefront. “I used it as a metaphor for a journey in life. There are snow tracks and bumpiness on the road, which contrasts everything else around. In that sense, it represents the uncertainties in our lives—at times, it can be bumpy, and other times it can go smoothly,” she added.

Four years ago, Ms. Van Slyke began her journey as a student pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree. Amongst the requirements for graduation were the inclusion of a thesis show exhibition and a thesis paper to complement it. After that, she invited three professors from her thesis committee to arrange a walkthrough of the gallery, where they would ultimately evaluate the exhibit.

Ms. Van Slyke spent three years creating the art gallery—an incredible feat considering her full-time job at Northwood.

The planning of the exhibition began a year ago when Ms. Van Slyke reached out to the LPCA to find a date for the show. After discussions, they agreed upon a date, which was the beginning of this March. Fast forward to a week before the opening reception, she brought over her now-completed artworks; and, with the help of Anya from the LPCA, set up the gallery. Everything was curated—works had to be level and in proper placements.

The exhibit was a success. The opening reception took place on the evening of Friday, March 3rd, when around 80 people attended.

Ms. Van Slyke describes the theme behind her show: “I have been painting winter for three years—it’s an environment that I like to paint a lot. The term winter does not refer to snow. For me, it was a personal time. Last year, I lost my mom, my dad, and my mother-in-law, all in a short period of time. With loss like that, people go through what I call wintering: it’s a time where you delve into your conscience and try to figure out things in life.” Afterward, she explained its connection to the gallery: “I used the showcase as a metaphor for wintering because when we look out the window here, everything is blanketed in snow. Everything becomes much more still. Then, spring comes, and life goes on.”

Study of Concussed Fruit Flies May Add to Understanding of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Abby with the HIT Device (Photo: Hung Nguyen ‘25).

Advanced STEM Research is a unique, year-long course offered at Northwood. Students can pick their topic of interest, devise a plan of operation, conduct experiments, and ultimately present their findings at the Hub in the final weeks of school. This year, Abby Sinclair ‘23 is researching the effect of diets on fruit flies’ ability to withstand concussions.

The experiment begins by feeding two fruit flies with two different diets. One group is fed a controlled diet, primarily carbohydrates, while the other will be fed a keto diet with more protein. The flies will then be struck at different angles using the High Impact Trauma (HIT) device, and observation will be made within 24 hours. Noted details include mortality rates and aggressive behavioral patterns. According to Sinclair, Sinclair hopes to see whether the data results can translate to humans with a traumatic brain injury, given that humans and fruit flies share 75% of the disease-fighting genes.

Proceeding with the preliminary observation, Abby will run three additional treatments: the control diet group, the keto diet group before and after being concussed, and the keto diet group after being concussed with the control diet group before the concussion. The upcoming procedure will be for the control group. The flies will be concussed at four combinations of hits: one hit at 40°, two hits at 40°, one hit at 90°, and two hits at 90°, respectively. After that, Sinclair will monitor the flies for the following 48 hours instead of 24 hours to record the mortality rate in the period. As mentioned, she will note any behavioral changes resulting from diet and hit combinations.

Abby developed the basic experimental design over the summer. “Originally, I came up with this idea while talking to my cousin, who was experimenting with reducing mortality in fruit flies. It piqued my interest, and the materials were accessible, so I contacted Mrs. Walker in the summer to see how we could make this happen. Once the school year started, I talked with Mr. Roy for guidance in creating the HIT device,” Sinclair said.

“I decided to take this course because I wanted to be challenged in Biology and get a taste of lab work,” she said. “I’ve liked the independence of structuring my time and how the project will turn out, the ability to make my own decisions, working out the process of dealing with fruit flies and the process of trial and error. I’ve learned the patience needed to carry out the experiment. There have been obstacles throughout the project. One instance is trying to keep the fruit flies alive, especially during the past winter break. Ultimately, I’m enjoying the class because I have learned a lot and would encourage others to take it,” added Sinclair.

Sinclair will pursue a pre-med curriculum in college, where she will continue her studies in Biology. She aspires to one day become an anesthesiologist.

Visual Arts at Northwood: “It Starts with a Line”

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

In addition to the many programs offered at Northwood, it also offers a humble but proud visual arts program. In charge of the classes is Ms. Van Slyke, a painter and teacher who has hosted eight workshops, and 18 juried exhibitions and won 9 awards for her work with pastels. She began her tenure at Northwood in 2009 and has been part of the community ever since.

In the Drawing and Painting class, students study Pablo Picasso and his artworks in Cubism. There, they learn about Cubism, watch a documentary on Picasso, and understand the world around the artists at the time and how it influenced their art. They are creating a still-life Cubist drawing and will soon begin a Cubist painting.

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

In Adirondack Art Exploration, students learn about folk art and Adirondack artists. One of these artists is Edna West Teall, a deceased folk artist who lived in the Adirondacks. They learned of her style of art and put their learning into practice. Other notable artists students learned about: Georgia O’Keeffe, Harold Weston, Rockwell Kent, and Winslow Homer. In addition, students also explored their art in person. They have gone to the Museum of Plattsburgh to see the art of Rockwell Kent in person and visit a local artist in Saranac Lake to appreciate her art gallery and discuss with her. Not to mention, students will sometimes be able to go outdoors to paint in the Adirondacks.

Intertwined with the classes, the rising artists also learn different art techniques: drawing perspectives, buildings, landscapes, and portraits. It all started with a line. Then, line thickness is added to the equation. After that comes value contrast (shading). Eventually, it comes to the larger context: composition, where to place things on the canvas, and color. Ultimately, students will learn more and more art techniques as they hone their skills and learn about the different genres of visual art.

Artist: Tam Nguyen ’23

Building students’ art portfolios is one of the program’s most significant points of pride. “Every year, we have students go to major art schools, which is huge for a small school like us: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Pratt Institute, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Otis [College of Art and Design], and all sorts of visual art schools. That’s a good background to have for a small school like ours,” expressed Mrs. Van Slyke. Even without an AP Art department, Northwood has been able to support emerging students in building their art portfolios. With that being said, those in pursuit of fine arts will often have supplemental aid elsewhere.

“I think [the art program] enriches the population to a great extent,” Van Slyke said. “I’d have students come in that haven’t had art in years, especially some of our students who are more geared toward athletics. They come in here and are a little afraid that they haven’t taken drawing or painting since they were kids and love it. Now all of a sudden, they find that they’ve got other people in this room that’s like them, and they allow themselves to be okay with failing, learning slowly and then skill building.

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

I’m thinking of my drawing class right now because there’s a group of boys there and they’re so focused and into drawing that it relaxes them. There’s so much stress in other parts of our lives because everyone is so busy that drawing and art allow them to be single-minded, focus on what’s in front, and let everything else go. This year, I’ve seen so many students who have never taken art latch on to it and enjoy coming to class and enjoy art. I think that’s how it enriches kids. They may never draw again or take another art class but now they know that they can draw, paint, know that they can find a place of peace—a place where it clears their mind—and that they can do it.”

Humans of Northwood: Mr. Santos Chaparro III

With the coming of the second semester of the 2022-23 school year, Northwood School welcomes a new member into its community, Mr. Santos Chaparro III, the new Director of Food Service. Originally from New Jersey, Santos moved to the Adirondacks 24 years ago when he attended Paul Smith’s College for Culinary Arts. He currently resides in Lake Placid with his wife and son. The Mirror sat down with Santos to learn about his life and journey to Northwood.

When I was younger, I had asthma and allergies, so I spent a lot of time home with my mother. We would pass the time watching cooking shows, and I would try to help her in the kitchen. As years went on, I grew out of being ill, especially when I moved up here to go to Paul Smith’s College. Initially, I was going to school for medical technology in North Jersey.

When I first started at Paul Smith’s, I fell in love with the area because I saw the towering snowbanks—they were taller than I was. You would hear a guy blowing snow all over the place, and you couldn’t even see over them. It felt like this little tunnel you were going through, except it was all snow. It was gorgeous. ‘Oh my God, this is where I need to be,’ and I have loved it ever since.

Before I came here, I worked at the Crowne Plaza many years ago when it was called the Holiday Inn. After that, I went to Lisa G’s and spent seven years there. I then moved on to the Lake Placid Conference Center for eight years.

Working at a school is the same idea. It’s still food service; I know the business. I built rapport with customers, clients, and vendors, which has made it a clean transition thus far.

My favorite food is fall cooking, such as stews and casseroles. The smell of decaying leaves makes me happiest, especially when cooking, and the windows are always open. My hobbies are fishing when springtime-summer hits, cleaning the house and doing laundry, which sounds odd. I grew up always making my bed and ensuring the room was picked up and tidied. Other than that, I enjoy working out, reading, and watching the news.

I always saw my passion [in cooking] as a hobby because it’s easy, and everything else is just duty, like management and payroll. It feels simple: I can make soup and cook food whenever. It’s more about focusing on attention, verbal interactions, and networking. That’s always the best part—I’m no longer being bogged down in the kitchen or office.

As told to Hung Nguyen ’25. Photo provided.

Humans of Northwood: Ms. Jill Walker

I grew up in Minnesota, in a neighborhood where kids just ran around and played and had fun. We were outside all the time, and I played many sports. I was a good student; I wasn’t a great student. Very early on, I learned that I loved math and science. I went to college to be a math major and then switched because I fell in love with biology. I originally thought I would be a math teacher since I loved working with people, and I didn’t like sitting still. So, I thought I’d be a teacher there and then.

I got involved in some scientific research, and I loved it. I received my master’s degree and was going for a Ph.D. and becoming a college professor, but I realized a large part of that was writing grants and looking for money and not really doing the hands-on stuff, which is what I liked. So, I went back, and after I got my master’s, I started teaching high school.

That’s been the last 24 years. I’ve been teaching high school for a long time and have taught at the university level. I taught for two years at the university and did research. Before I went to grad school, I worked at Outward Bound. I was an Outward Bound instructor for three years, where we took kids in the woods and taught them how to hike, whitewater, canoe, backpack, and camp. I did that for three years, and I loved it, but three years was long enough—I didn’t need to keep doing it. I went to graduate school after that. So chronologically, it was college, Outward Bound, graduate school, and I started teaching high school.

My husband and I lived in Rochester, NY, about four hours away. And every time we had time off, we would drive here to do outdoor activities like rock climbing and camping. I was teaching there, and my husband works for a publishing company so that he could work from home. He still works from home, so we decided to go to the Adirondacks because I can get a teaching job anywhere, and I taught at the public school here in town for a year. Then, I came to Northwood for one year to teach biology. It was a maternity leave job. As it turned out, the position became vacant after that year, so they reached out to me, and I continued working here. This is my 19th year now.

My favorite cuisine is probably Indian food, but anything ethnic would do: Ethiopian, Korean, Chinese, or anything with many flavors. I do like spicy food also. I like to ride my mountain bike, cross-country ski, and canoe. My biggest hobby is my dog, who’s 16 now. I also like to read, cook and garden, so there’s a lot of them. My favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption. It might be an older person kind of movie. I don’t know if it would resonate with a younger person, but it’s an excellent book.

One of the things people might not know about me is that I spent over a decade as a high-level rock climber. That was my sport; we, my husband and I, climbed all over the country, and I loved it. It was only when I got into teaching that I started running out of time for it. I don’t do it at all, mainly because I’ve hurt my feet doing it too much for so many years, but I’ve rock climbed all over the place.

My teaching philosophy is not that any student leaves my classroom remembering a detail. The number the bones in the body, etc.? Whatever. It’s that they have enjoyed the class or learning the material enough that when they leave, they might want to look more into it. I don’t have any goal for all my students to become biologists.

It’s more if you’ve learned something in my class that you thought was interesting or fun, then maybe ten years from now, you’re reading the newspaper, or you hear something, and you’re like, oh, that’s cool, so you read or listen to it. It’s just about igniting an interest in science in the world around us and making kids enjoy learning and learn how their brains work.

I think any kid can do whatever they want now. Maybe you’re not going to be an NHL player. Perhaps you’re not going to be a Yale University doctor. But I think you can do anything if you are passionate about something. If you want to be a doctor, you can be a doctor. What are you willing to give to it, though? Academically, if you find what you’re passionate about, you can do anything you want, and it’s just a matter of putting in the time and work. I hope I can help kids learn that they can do anything they put their minds to if they’re willing to put in the time to do it and that they shouldn’t be stopped by thinking they’re not smart enough.

As told to Hung Nguyen ’25. Photo by Mr. Michael Aldridge.

Head of the Fish Marks the End of 2022 Crew Season

A double scull training on Mirror Lake (Photo: Mr. Michael Aldridge).

With the conclusion of the Head of the Fish regatta, the 2022 crew season has finished. Held in Saratoga Springs, NY, the regatta features a 2-mile head race course. Head racing means that participants do not race simultaneously, but rather are timed and ranked based on that metric instead. Northwood participated in 2 events, the Boys and Girls U17 Single (sculling). Participants included Gus Garvey ‘25, Hung Nguyen ‘25, and Sophia Sherman ‘25. Despite competing against some of the top scullers in the country, and facing obstacles such as water weed, everyone finished the race.

Coach Howard Runyon reflected on the team and the season. “It’s a young team with good potential. It’s a young team of capable people whom I hope to watch grow and develop into skillful racers.” He also praised the team’s camaraderie.  “Another thing I’d like to say is that we have good luck right now to have a group of people who are all good at getting along with others so that it’s a cohesive group. It’s easy to make collective effort happen.”

The crew team will return to activity in the spring of 2023.

Humans of Northwood: Anthony Sparo ‘23

“I am actually color blind – partial color blindness – mostly blues, purples, and violets. It’s pretty much 50/50; if you give me blue or purple, I will answer ‘… let’s go with purple.?’

“I’m from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, about 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I have a younger sister. I live in a very populated area, on a street where all the houses are connected. In my middle school days, I would always go out with the kids on the street, ride bikes, and then when it got dark, my dad would whistle, and we would come back in because you can hear it from anywhere on the street. It was so loud.

“My friend went here right before I came here and then left right after. His name was Andrew Centrella. He and I played [hockey] together our whole life; we were family friends. His dad liked how I played, so he reached out to Coach, and he ended up wanting me to come here. One thing I never told anyone: due to COVID, when I moved in last year, it was the first time I had ever stepped foot on campus.

“So far, I kind of like it [this year]. I take 3D Modeling, it’s probably my favorite class—so fun. Right now, I’m printing a Vince Lombardi trophy with the [Philadelphia] Eagles logo on it. I also take Adirondack Sciences, Data Science, and From Word to Essay. I am taking the next step in hockey, getting some college looks.

“I like fishing. I used to fish all the time when I was little, but I haven’t recently—a lot of traveling. Golf. I got into golf this spring; we played once a week with all my buddies.

“I want to play college hockey, go to a military academy, and pursue law after my service. It kind of happened recently. Over the summer, I visited campus, and I was like “Wow, I could see myself doing this.

“Hockey-wise, there’s a lot of new kids on the team, and at least by them, I want to be remembered as the guy that treated them like we’ve been friends forever: open arms, welcomed them in. I get what they went through last year, being homesick and all. For them, I wanted to be a bigger figure—a role model.”

As told to Hung Nguyen ’25. Photo by Mr. Michael Aldridge.

Robotics Team 6300 Wins Rah Cha Cha Ruckus

Robotic team action in Rochester, NY, in the fall of 2022 (Photo: Piper Teig ’24)

On Friday, October 21st, Northwood Robotics journeyed to Rochester, NY, sending out Team 6300 and Team 9999 to compete in the Rah Cha Cha Ruckus, the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics preseason competition.

“We had a really good showing at the Rah Cha Cha Ruckus. 2 robots—both teams did reasonably well in the qualification rounds,” Mr. Martin, who leads the robotics program, described. “Both made it to the top 20 out of 36 teams. Both teams made the playoffs; that’s a big deal. Twelve teams had to go home. Team 6300: 6 wins in a row in the playoffs is hard to do. It took a lot of work to keep the robot running and driving amidst teamwork and chaos.”

Matches have a fixed format for the entire tournament. Teams play in groups of three, called an alliance, against another alliance. Matches begin with a 15-second autonomous period; no driver can be in play, and the teams’ programmers entirely code all motion. Teams then have two minutes to score. They score points by shooting balls into a low basket and receive additional points if they score on the high basket. They also get even more points by climbing on a set of bars, although most teams reserve this until the final 30 seconds of the match. As with any competitive sport, penalties also exist, in which severe violations can result in disqualification from the match.

After staying overnight in Rochester, the group woke up at 6 to get breakfast and come to the stadium. Both teams prepared for the six qualification games they played that day and potential playoff games. After a rough first half of the day, both teams ended up at 3-3, in the middle of the pack. The newly formed Team 9999 actually outperformed the main team and landed in the top 15.

In playoffs, the top eight teams build an alliance. A snake draft is performed, with the highest-ranked team getting the first and final pick of the draft. Team 9999 ended up being the first pick of the fourth-place team. As for Team 6300: they almost went undrafted. In a suspenseful manner, Team 6300 was finally chosen as the first-place alliance’s last pick of the draft.

Team 9999 had a strong showing but sadly lost in the semifinals. Team 6300, as mentioned before, went on a dominant run with the top alliance and won the tournament.

Brian Brady, who operated as the lead driver for Team 6300, remarked, “I thought it was a good success. It was nice to win the tournament for the first time in a while. I think it was good to get everyone some exposure and have them thinking about it in general.”

Mr. Martin shared his perspective on the event’s significance: “The preseason event gives us an idea of why we build robots the way we do. Why is all this important? You have to know all of the electronics and the mechanics. You have to do things with care, reliability, and some planning. Your robot has to last—it gets smashed around out there. The process of going to these competitions is a stimulating thing, and it shows you what it takes to do well.”

Racist Incident Leaves Community Unsettled

Junior Happi ’23 and Abigail Sinclair ’23 (Photo: Mr. John Spear).

Recently, two Northwood experienced an unsettling event in which they were treated with incivility. The students were heading to a faculty home on the edge of campus, and while they were on their way, a vehicle drove past them on Northwood Road, took a U-turn, came back, and a yelled racist slur. The New York State Police have an active investigation into the incident that includes the acquisition of nearby security camera footage in the hopes of identifying the perpetrators.

News of the incident, which occurred on October 1, was shared with the Northwood community on October 4 in the form of a message from Mr. Kelvin Martinez, Northwood’s Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Mr. John Spear, Assistant Head for School Life.

Martinez has been supporting the students, who are Black. “There’s still such a massive lack of awareness and empathy for people who are different, who look different, sound different,” Martinez said. “It shocked students, especially those from underrepresented communities, creating a sense of tension and insecurity,” Martinez added. “Because it happened right at our doorstep. You want to walk out of campus feeling that you belong to at least the immediate community, and for the otherwise to happen, it almost feels like a part of your humanity is being chipped away,” Martinez said.

“It was sad, but sadly not completely shocking.” That is Abby Sinclair’s perspective. Sinclair is the president of the Multicultural Students’ Club (MSC). “Based on some things that I’ve seen within our own community and the Lake Placid area, I would say that sometimes, being a person of color, I have seen weird looks and uncomfortable atmosphere when coming into town,” Sinclair said. She would have liked the school to talk about the incident more openly. “It’s kind of sad to see the lack of talking that has been done about it within our own classes and community—enough wasn’t done in trying to support people of color. This should have been an opportunity to bring the community closer together, but rather it’s done nothing, essentially,” she added.

“Unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of people have to deal with,” said Mr. Riffle, Northwood’s Director of Admissions. “It’s a very small percentage, I believe, of our makeup that are like that or are ignorant in that way. In my opinion, it affected those two individuals personally and had a community-wide effect because it brings to the forefront that it’s still out there and it’s sad,” Riffle added. Riffle expressed both concern and admiration for the students involved. “It’s sad that people have to deal with it. I just feel really bad for those kids, but at the same time, I know that they’re strong. If that had happened to me at their age, I don’t know if I would have handled it as well as they did.”

“I was shocked,” Junior Happi ‘23, Vice President of the MSC, said. “This was my first time hearing of a racial incident in Lake Placid since I’ve been here. If I was in that situation, I wouldn’t have known what to do, and more awareness towards what to do in that situation needs to be built in the community, at Northwood and Lake Placid. There needs to be more awareness about racial discrimination in Lake Placid, and it should be taken more seriously. These cases don’t often happen, but we need to be prepared for when it does,” he added.

NOC Provides Unique Experiences and Skills

Colton Cushman ‘25 climbing “Cure Cottage” at Mt. Baker (Photo: Alex Randall)

The Northwood Outing Club began about fifty years ago as a student hiking club and was quite popular for two decades before going dormant around 1980. It was re-launched as a co-curricular activity in 2021 and has ever since rapidly developed its palette of diverse activities and offerings. Led by Mr. Bobby O’Connor, with the occasional Mr. Emery and less frequent Don Mellor ‘71, students here develop unique skill sets and have experiences unlike any other.

Students will get to know a myriad of activities and skills. These activities include, but are not limited to, rock climbing, bouldering, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, a bit of hiking, mountain biking, and indoor gym climbing. Intertwined with these activities, students are armed with an arsenal of outdoor skills: belaying, rappelling (descending from the top of a cliff), outdoor survival (first aid, cooking, heat conservation, layering system, gear usage), Tyrolean traverse (going across a river using 2 ropes), tying knots, putting up a tent, and orienteering (mapping, using a compass, determining the direction of travel and location).

Mr. Emery finds the program beneficial. “I think NOC gives young men and women an opportunity to explore their boundaries out in the physical world, challenge themselves, and see what happens when they’re faced with adverse situations,” Emery said.

In the last few weeks, the NOC crew has done rock climbing on various walls, namely at Mt. Baker, Beer Walls, Spruce Hill Crag, and Chapel Pond. Furthermore, they have also done mountain biking, indoor climbing at the Climbing Center in Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and orienteering on Cobble.

Alex “Big Al” Randall ’25 is an avid rock climber and NOC member. “NOC has made me a more thoughtful person; it teaches me to be more careful with my decisions,” Randall said.

The Outing Club is currently offered as a Co-Curricular, a Friday class, and 48-hr weekend trips.

NOC is offering two week-long trips during school breaks this year. During the Thanksgiving break, students may join the group to rock climb at Red Rocks, Nevada. In addition, they will learn about the environment there and tour the area. The other trip is Kilimanjaro, which is during the FISU week in January. This trip requires extensive training and signups have already closed. Students who have signed up will travel to Tanzania to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, sightsee the Uvalde gorge (site of the earliest human footprint), and top it off with a safari.

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