North Star classes and workshops are offered on a variety of topics. The schedule is a reflection of the interests and expertise of our core staff and extended staff of 25-40 volunteers, interns, and work-study students. Rather than attempt to fulfill any particular curriculum, we ask our teachers to share the topics that excite them.
All classes and workshops are optional and open to every member. Classes vary in length, format, and content.
The format of each class can vary significantly as well, again depending on the vision of the leader as well as the input of the students. We encourage all members to learn about and try as many classes as they can. Once a student decides to be a regular participant of a class, we expect commitment.
There are no grades or punishments, but we expect class members to communicate with the teacher regarding attendance and other issues and to fulfill any requirements such as readings, research, or other assignments.
Some classes will ask for and expect a considerable amount of work to happen outside of class time while others will be more limited. This is made clear in the class description and by the teacher and should be taken into consideration by the student deciding to join the group.
Teens sometimes lead classes without adults. In addition, members frequently ask for the creation of certain classes and participate in the planning.
Weekly classes are held on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, 9:00-4:00.
with Ellen Morbyrne and Rachel Hall This year-long class will explore the vast art of theatre, including: ensemble-building, heightened physicality, dynamic vocal techniques, scene study and text work, physical improvisation, and improv exercises. We will present performances of work based on student interest and ability, including a fully produced mainstage production in the spring. We will schedule several field trips to see local performances of plays over the course of the year.
10-10:55 Bodies, Barriers & Boinking with Morganne Crouser Learn the ins and outs of all things sexual health! We’ll cover everything from anatomy to “zorbering,” including sexual identity, consent, sexually transmitted infections, and barrier methods like condoms and dental dams. Then we’ll get creative and design a project to teach others about what we’ve discovered in fun and/or surprising ways.
11-11:55 Tabletop Tactics
with Morganne Crouser
Learn about game mechanics and design by playing your favorite board and card games, as well as many you may have never seen before. We will explore the nuances of game play by sampling a wide variety of games across genre, then apply what we learn through creating and play testing our own games.
11:30-12:55 Social Issues
with Ken Danford
Let’s talk about the news of the week: politics, world events, major topics in the news such as gun control, medical marijuana, LGBQT issues, and more. We’ll talk about challenges, and good things happening too.
1-1:55 Permaculture and Sustainability
with Dan Cabral
Between fear mongering, grotesque descriptions of factory farming, and climate change, media make it seem like we are living in a dystopian future novel that is free falling towards a cataclysmic collapse. But fear not! there are proactive solutions to our problems. In this class, we will discuss the principles of permaculture and sustainability in a contemporary context. We will examine the theoretical practice of permaculture and discuss the practical purposes that permaculture can serve in our own lives. Similarly, we will study the principles of sustainability, discuss how they differ from permaculture, and brainstorm how we can make tiny alterations in our own lives to create a more sustainable future.
with John Sprague
This class focuses on Eastern religions and philosophy, and their potential value and importance for westerners like ourselves. We will look at Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, and compare and contrast them with Western approaches to philosophy and religion. We will explore the current growth of interest in eastern traditions such as yoga, and mindfulness meditation. We will also look some at the east / west connection in art and music.
2-3:25: Get Your Head in the Maker Space: Small Engine Repair with Rafael Fields Ever wondered how a lawnmower works? How about a chainsaw, snowplow, woodchipper, or snowblower? In this class we will begin to learn about small combustion engines, how they should work, how they stop working, and how to get them working again. This class could evolve into other types of projects. The theme will be “repair not replace” and it can be applied to everything from electronics to pants.
9-9:55 Bread with Loran Saito Weekly baking of all kinds of bread. Depending on the type of bread we make and whether it requires rising, we might finish the baking in this hour, or there may be other chances during the day to pop in and help out.
9-9:55 The Beauty of Numbers with Melanie Dana “To do mathematics is to engage in an act of discovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration.” (Paul Lockhart, author of A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form.) This class will focus on mathematics as the study of patterns. Open to everyone including (especially) the math-phobic, we will take an open-ended and hands-on approach.
10-10:55 Music Workshop
with Josh Wachtel A class for all who just want to play music. We will do a lot of improvisation sprinkled with some instruction around rhythm, chord structures, melody and a variety of other musical concepts. All levels and instruments welcome."
11-12:25 Applied Concepts in Science with Melanie Dana Hands-on science using a variety of tools and concepts to explore how science informs our understanding of the world. Topics may include: Energy and the properties of matter, evolution and genetics, ecosystems and ecology, and the nature of scientific inquiry. We will explore these topics with hands-on activities, experimentation, modeling, discussion, lecture and documentary video. The class will pick up where we left off last Spring with Newton’s Laws. Open to new and returning members.
11-12:25 Writing Your Life: An Ongoing Workshop with Susannah Sheffer
How do we turn life into art? How can we take what we think and feel and notice and experience and shape it into written work that others can appreciate? In this weekly workshop, we will experiment with using writing to wonder and explore. We will challenge ourselves to go farther or deeper than we are used to going. The workshop is appropriate both for people who are comfortable with writing and for people who are less confident, and our focus is on writing itself and on learning to respond helpfully to others’ writing. After the first couple of weeks of checking it out, we'll want members who commit to attending regularly so that we can form a strong and trusting group.
with Ken Danford
Who was Alexander Hamilton? What was his vision for the United States?Would we agree with him? Where would he stand on current issues? We’ll use the topics from Hamilton the musical to lead an investigation into the politics, economics, and history of the early United States. We’ll start with the music itself, as many people are walking around singing the songs and memorizing all the words.
2-2:55 Voice with Joshua Wachtel Learn to sing with a healthy voice technique. Every class begins with a warm-up followed by opportunities for each participant to sing and be coached.
2:00-2:55: Exploring Human Nutrition: Controversies and Cononundrums with Will Parks and Sheri Rosenblum What we put in our bodies every day has both short-term and long-term effects on every dimension of physical and mental health. Yet questions of what to eat are complicated and hotly disputed among people considered to be experts. This class will be a discussion of controversial topics in nutrition where we will explore the health, ethical and ecological implications of food choices. Bon appetit!
2-3:25 Agricultural Literacy with Erin Matica Explore connections between farming, culture, health, and the natural world. Combining agricultural philosophy with practical skills.
9:30-10:25 How to Listen to Classical Music with Loran Saito What’s the big deal about Bach? And how do you tell Mozart from Beethoven from Brahms? Through reading, listening, art, architecture, stories, and film, this class provides an introduction to Western classical music literature, with discussions of what was going on in the world at the time the music was written, and how it reflects historical and cultural trends of its time. We'll plan to attend some live concerts too!
with Lisa Moore This class explores different meditation techniques and uses art projects, poetry, literature and the teachings of the Buddha to support and deepen our understand of ourselves and the world in which we live.
11-11:55 What Is Love?
with Dan Cabral
This class will examine how the notion of love (romantic, familial, etc.) has been expressed across cultures and throughout history. Rather than attempting to create a universal definition for love, we will take a broad approach to the subject in the hope to enrich our understandings of how it has been represented and its significance to the individuals of a culture. We will look at various mediums, from word to brush stroke, no art form is off limits. While I will plan material for every meeting, it is encouraged for teens to bring anything that they find relevant and interesting, regardless of what we were scheduled to talk about. The class will be open source; meaning everyone will have equal chance to drive our conversations.
12-12:55 Harm and Punishment with Susannah Sheffer When one person breaks a rule or harms another person, how should we respond -- in a family, in a school, in a society? Does punishment work effectively with children? With criminals? What are other options? We'll explore these questions through reading short pieces, watching video clips, and, most of all, through group discussion. Come ready to read and think and listen and talk.
1-2:25 Letterforms with Loran Saito For people who like to draw and are interested in the shapes of letters, this studio art class will focus on hand-lettering and the formation of letters and words. We’ll do group and individual projects using many a variety of hand-lettering media. No experience or particular talent needed!
2:30-3:55 History of Rock N Roll with Melanie Dana
The History of Rock and Roll examines the development of rock music in the context of related issues such as race, civil rights struggles, gender, social change, rebellion and conformity, geography, subculture, the intersection of art and business, media, technology, politics, and censorship. Using handouts, maps, lecture, audio and video clips and documentaries, we will see how rock and roll emerged in the mid-1950s out of rhythm and blues, and country and western music and how it evolved decade by decade.
2:30-3:55 Rethinking Things, Their Origins, and Their Stories with Rafael Fields We are surrounded by things we buy, things to carry around those purchased things, things used to move ourselves around, etc. These things are made up of smaller things, and those made up of even smaller things...Each thing has a story, or rather, an infinite number of stories. We will rethink our relationship to the things in our lives, and the relationships between those things and the entire world.
9-9:55 Yoga with John Sprague Support your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being through the time honored movements and breathing practices of yoga. John has been practicing yoga for 30 years, and is the resident yoga teacher at the Green River Zen Center.
10-10:25 Community Meeting A weekly gathering to check in with the community and talk about news, upcoming events, issues we need to discuss, etc. If you’re at North Star on Fridays, please plan to attend.
11:00-12:25 North Star Band 1 with Josh Wachtel and John Sprague Want to be in a band?! Each year North Star musicians come together to make a band. We focus mostly on rock and pop tunes, both current and classic, but we are open to other styles as well. Required: a commitment to come each week, and to contribute in some way to the music as an instrumentalist or singer. We work together to develop sets of tunes to perform at North Star variety shows, and possibly outside performances. Everyone is welcome to try it out.
12-12:55 North Star Ambassadors with Jodi Cutler
Work with the Outreach Director to help publicize North Star’s work by brainstorming ideas of ways to reach more teens. Participate in monthly info sessions and other outreach events as a representative of North Star.
1-2:30 Design Your Own Unique Outfit with Nona Hatay Any style--imaginative, costume, funky, upcycled fusion, high fashion, etc. Nona will guide students from the first ideas, sketches, making a pattern, fitting, and sewing the garment. She teaches mostly hand sewing.
1:30-2:55 North Star Band 2 with Josh Wachtel and John Sprague This band is by invitation, and provides an opportunity for advanced instrumentalists to work together as a group, developing original material and arrangements of covers. The ensemble will perform at North Star events and outside venues as well. It is likely that we will have some crossover amongst the two bands, and that they will work together sometimes. We ask everyone from both bands to come at 11:00 on September 9, which is the first day for both bands.
Individual one-on-one meetings are available in a variety of subjects. These are not listed on the calendar. Each teen talks with his or her advisor about what meetings might be helpful and schedules them around other commitments.
Common subjects like math are very easy to arrange. More specialty topics like electronics or foreign language are often available but can be more challenging to schedule.
North Star core staff offer some one-on-one meetings, and many more are provided by volunteers and college students. Each week North Star hosts an average of 70 individual meetings in topics ranging from math to personal organization to music lessons to history.