History of Rock and Roll: This continues to be a lively and engaged group with wide-ranging conversations on all kinds of topics. We discussed the music of Motown against the back-drop of the Civil Rights movement and then talked about race as a factor in the covering and plagiarizing of blues and R&B songs by white artists in the US and the UK. We spent quite a bit of time looking at Skiffle music in Britain and how it led to the “British Invasion” bands such as the Beatles, the Kinks, the Stones, and the Who. We compared post-WWII society in England and America through teen subcultures and the lyrical content of popular songs. We also studied the Beat movement of the 1950s and how it informed both the folk scene in Greenwich Village and the emergence of the Hippies in San Francisco. We have been watching clips from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival as it represents a snapshot of rock music of the time, especially focusing on the music scenes evolving around LA/Hollywood/Laurel Canyon and San Francisco.
Earth and Sky: We continued our study of the night sky by charting the phases of the moon, learning about the origin of the moon and our solar system, and staying updated with news from NASA and SETI projects including the near pass of an interstellar object named Oumuamua, a probe send to study asteroid Bennu, and the retirement of the Kepler space telescope. We also discussed the search for extraterrestrial life, what avenues of exploration are currently underway and what the possible ramifications would be of discovering life on other planets. Since the new year we’ve switched our focus to the Earth. We are currently learning about the Earth’s magnetic field, how it is generated, how it changes over time, and how it protects us from solar radiation.
Theatre Class has been working really hard on developing skills as an ensemble in creating theatre pieces from scratch, including various techniques of interview- and personal narrative-based theatre-making. We are now working on collecting and adapting source material for our own original full-length play to perform this spring. In November and December we went to see Valley Light Opera's The Gondoliers, UMass' Snowflakes, or Rare White People, and Real Live Theatre's When Last We Flew.
Lunch Class continued to pump out delicious and creative food: everything from East Asian noodle dishes to South Asian stir fries to baked macaroni and cheese to dumpling soup to pureed celeriac leek and potato soup to salad sandwiches to coleslaw to chili and more! Students have gotten really good at slicing, dicing, chopping, sautéing, washing, and all the general tasks of cooking real food well and efficiently. It's always a culinary adventure!
Animal Behavior: We are continuing our weekly viewing of documentaries. Beavers! Penguins! Ants! Camels! Bees! Who knows what next week will bring.
Social Issues: News of the week, including politics, gender issues, race relations, world affairs, economics and more.
Future of the World continues as a lively, engaged, and fun exploration of the titular topic. We have had some new members join the past couple of months, who have added new energy and perspective. Recently, we have covered topics such as nationalism vs. globalism, and the future of the human brain. We have fun, and also look at serious and deep topics.
Band has gone through some transformation recently. A couple of members have also stepped back, while some have stepped forward. It’s always a wonder and a delight to see how the band can change, and reform, and yet maintain its special quality. Currently we are preparing for the upcoming North Stars event, which is exciting!
In Bread class, we have experimented with seasonal breads from various cultures, including Pumpkin Bread and Norwegian Julekake. We made Braided Brioche, tapping into the lengthy process at two different phases. We have made Tutmanik (a Bulgarian Feta cheese ring bread), and Orange Chocolate Tea Bread, Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Savory Rosemary-Goat Cheese Quick Bread, and Limpa (Swedish Rye Bread).
Writing Your Life: Experimenting with different ways to begin a piece, writing an experience as a series of instructions, writing about things we misunderstood as children (following our reading of a passage by Annie Dillard) – these are some of the ways we have worked to write from our life material during these weeks. The group members are growing increasingly skillful at taking risks, challenging themselves, and learning how to give helpful and specific feedback to one another.
Harm and Punishment: During this period we have looked at theories of punishment, Dr. James Gilligan’s work on the psychological roots of violence and alternative approaches, the experience of families of offenders, the needs of victims when crimes remain unsolved, what it’s like to consider an event through the lens of retributive vs. restorative justice, and more. The group members take up these issues with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. They voice their initial intuitions, consider the material presented to them in each class and the comments of their peers, and sometimes revise or deepen their thinking as a result. Some of the best moments come when a group member says, “I’m not sure what I think about this …” and then goes on to trust the group with an idea-in-process.
Our Mindfulness class continues to sit every meeting and deepen our relationship with ourselves. We have been doing some other activities mindfully, like playing games, drinking tea, using heat to relax our muscles and creating art to fill our hearts.
Korean: Advanced vocabularies and expressions are introduced in the class. An additional beginning level of Korean class is being offered starting this winter.
In Sex is a Funny Word, we have recently been going over what unhealthy vs. healthy relationships look like. We often have group discussions and I create engaging questions that the students can answer and explore. We have also been going over puberty in both male-bodied people and female-bodied people, discussing changes in the body, hormones, the reproduction cycle and more.
In Herbalism 101 the students have created their very own herbal infusion, made Ghee, and are in the process of creating their very own Materia Medicas for North Star's Herbal Binder I'm hoping to create. We have been identifying plants through plant Bingo, due to the weather.