Updated Class Descriptions, February-April 2018

ART AS YOUR TOOL: This is essentially an art class with the aim of expanding the students' artistic horizons in mediums and philosophies. Most of our projects are only one class long because attendance is not consistent enough to have longer term projects. However we have had a few projects that have lasted a 2-3 classes (notebook-making, self-portraits, mythological creatures). We have also experimented with watercolors, acrylic paints, "sketch-hunting," collaborative drawing, realistic drawing, collage, etc. This class has been a great space for several of the artists of North Star to gather and share ideas, opinions, feedback, and general support for each other as well.

BAND: COMPOSITION AND PERFORMANCE: Band has continued as we have all year - choosing songs and rehearsing them until we have a chance to perform them. Every show has been delayed and then still subject to weather. We had our last show
in early April. We've made quick work of choosing and rehearsing our last batch of songs for the end of year Shindig!

BREAD: We have made a different kind of bread every week, and have tried out some seasonal and holiday recipes including strawberry bread and matzoh. We've made artisan bread, Bulgarian banica, English muffins, pita, whole wheat honey bread, and more!

CHEMISTRY: We've been studying reactions by electroplating metals and also learning about the electromagnetic spectrum, electricity, and metallic bonds. Next we explored oxidation-reduction, acid-base, and precipitation reactions. Finally we discussed isotopes and radioactivity as well as nuclear energy and weapons. We watched a documentary about uranium called “Twisting the Dragons Tail,” calculated the speed of light using a microwave oven, and built a cloud chamber to detect subatomic particles (we didn’t see any). We’ll finish out the year examining atomic fusion and the origin of the elements in space.

DIGITAL ART AND MORE: The past few months in Digital Art & More we've focused on general art technique, and the different ways working digitally can aid you. From effortlessly moving and changing lines and shapes at will, to mixing and working with any color imaginable in whatever way you want, every week we discover something new about the digital playground. We've also started to shift focus from things I've planned, to discussing what people are interested in learning about that day and then going for it!

FUTURE OF THE WORLD: This class continues to be a lively forum for exploring key topics related to the long-term viability of our world, both in human society, as well as the ecology. Topics have included: environmental issues, economics, artificial intelligence, healthy approaches to governance, city planning, gun control and peacemaking.

HEALING OURSELVES: We have had a steady little group, and continue to explore tools for ameliorating stress, and enhancing health and wellness. Each week we do a short section of yoga, chi-gong, and exercise, often accompanied by breathing practices and a brief meditation. Then we look at some health-related topic such as: getting enough sleep and exercise, managing our emotions, enhancing personal energy, working with anxiety, energizing the chakras (energy centers in the body) and so forth. Then we end class with a 15 min guided relaxation.

HERBALISM 101: In Herbalism we still continue to go over making materia medicas together. We discuss multiple plants, the family they're in, their botanical descriptions, what it's used for, contradictions and more. We still make a few fun things together in the kitchen. Recently we made a salve together and how to roast your own coffee beans.

KOREAN GROUP TUTORIAL: The Korean tutorial is currently offering more grammatically structured sentence formation practice. Previously, students used isolated Korean vocabularies and phrases to make basic communication. However, at this point, they are adding up with unique Korean propositional particles to it so it makes more authentic Korean. I am very proud of my students who made it this far!

LET'S TALK ABOUT ELECTRICITY: Electronic devices, house wiring and Boolean Algebra have been discussed. All students participate in the discussions and all like to present their ideas on the white board.

LUNCH CLASS: Lunch Class was definitely a highlight of my year as a teacher. Everyone who came to class, both the regulars and the drop-ins, worked so well together - they were generous, supportive, funny, hard-working, and adventurous. We made so many dishes!  Garlic and goat brie mashed potatoes with bok choy, Vietnamese spring rolls, baked lemon dill salmon with steamed broccoli and cauliflower in cheddar sauce, lemon pasta and salad, mixed boiled potatoes with sauteed red onions on arugula salad in honey mustard vinaigrette with or without bacon bits, vegan Puerto Rican rice and beans, sesame tofu on rice and snow pea stir fry, three bean vegetarian chili with rolls, smoothie bowls, calzones, sweet and savory crepes, lemon garlic rice and veggies, vegan creamy tomato sauce pasta with salad dressed in raspberry vinaigrette, vegan chili rice, garlic lemon pasta with sauteed veggies and parmesan cheese, vegan coconut milk curried rice with peas and mangos, udon noodle sesame soup with tofu and veggies, vegetarian taco salad, olive oil & garlic pizza with arugula goat cheese and roasted red peppers, black bean burritos, saag paneer on naan bread, creamy pumpkin fettuccini with pecans and sauteed red onions and arugula and Romano cheese, vegetarian minestrone stew, salad sandwiches with pickles and chips, creamy parmesan lemon garlic spaghetti with salad and garlic toast, veggie brown rice stir fry, South East Asian spring rolls, spiralized sweet potato sesame noodles. Whew! Delicious! Check out our Facebook photo album to see all of our culinary adventures.

MATH: Math has completely shifted these past few months to a student-led class taught by Leigh Collins. She has introduced the entire class to fascinating aspects of math including Group Theory and Topology. Every week she stretches our imagination and understanding with a variety of unique problems, and then she works with the class to help everyone make sense.

MINDFULNESS: The Mindfulness students have really settled. The students arrive and as they sit down they are immediately grounded and quiet. There is very little chatting any more and as we do activities, the students are focused and paying attention to themselves. It is a beautiful and loving group.

MUSIC THEORY: This class continues to be completely dependent on which students come on a given day and their questions. We've continued to look at things like scale and chord construction, the mathematics of our tuning system and the relationship of musical constructions and emotions.

PSYCHOLOGY: This class covers various topics in Introductory Psychology, such as Personality, Developmental, Cognitive, and Social Psychology. We’ve spent the past month on the classic social psychology experiments of Asch, Milgram, and Zimbardo. We’ll finish up with Jane Elliott’s Eye of the Storm and consider the ways our environment affects our individual behavior. We will also discuss the ethics involved in conducting these experiments.

SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING MASTERMIND: Recently, we’ve been working on resumes, looking at examples, using suggested words lists, and experimenting with layout. We also learned about creating a .txt version for uploading online. This has led to interesting conversations about interests, work, current projects, and future goals. It’s been impressive to see what robust and varied resumes our self-directed teens have.

SEX IS A FUNNY WORD: We create lesson plans that are a lot of fun, to make the subject a little less awkward. We often play games, show educational videos and have open conversations with the students where they get a chance to express their opinions, understandings and learning. We include such topics as media literacy, body image and body positivity, etc. We have a box for students to put anonymous questions, suggestions, thoughts, and curiosities in and we cater future classes based on what is on the students' minds. This class is new this semester and so far we have touched on contraceptive options, stigmas and stereotypes, sex myths, gender and sexual orientation, consent, etc. The students generate interesting discussions which lead to educational conclusions.

SOCIAL ISSUES: Discussing weekly news headlines, including politics, immigration, taxes, foreign relations, The Constitution, and more.

SOCIAL PIONEERING: For the first half of the year (Sept-Dec), each class was different in content, but always in a sociological framework. We have covered topics such as cultures/subcultures/countercultures, interdependency and interconnectedness, values and ethics, controversial issues, current social issues, etc. Now that the students have dabbled in a sociological framework, the second half of the year is geared more on individual and creative research projects regarding which area of sociology the student is interested. The first half of the class is now usually spent with sociological prompts/activities and the second half we dive into researching our areas of interest. A goal of the class this year is for each student to present their research topic in their own original way (be it an oral presentation, comic strip, prezi, experiment, etc.) at the end of the North Star year.

SPANISH: Students in Spanish class have learned greetings, colors, months, days of the week, numbers, and regular and irregular verbs.

THEATRE: Theatre has been a small and mighty troupe this year! The group has been pushing themselves to make richer artistic choices and develop their craft. We've gone on field trips to see The Lily's Revenge at UMass and Real Live Theatre's The *Annotated* Taming: Or, Out of the Saddle, Into the Dirt, and Begets: Fall of a High School Ronin at the Drama Studio. The students have been working very hard on the play coming up in May, and we're very excited for everyone to see it!

VOLUNTEER TIME AT AMHERST SURVIVAL CENTER: Over the last few months we have transitioned from working in the basement storage area (unloading the truck and sorting non-perishables) to more often helping the volunteer team upstairs unload and organize perishable donations for same-day distribution. It continues to be exciting and satisfying work with a wonderful group of reliable teens.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO: We have read and talked about material having to do with Stanley Milgram’s “obedience to authority” experiments and Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, including reflections from people who participated in those experiments and how that participation affected their later lives. We’ve learned about the difference between dispositional and situational factors influencing behavior (in other words, inherent in the person or dependent on the external circumstances). We’ve read and talked about material related to what motivates lying and how exaggerating might sometimes be motivated by different factors than lying, and what influences a person’s ability to delay gratification. The group members have grown increasingly skilled at listening to each other, discovering and articulating their own thoughts, and tolerating being unsure or changing their minds.

WRITING YOUR LIFE: During this period we have experimented with various restrictions, like writing using only questions, in order to break out of our familiar writing style and move into new territory. We’ve written about fears, hiding, lying, and much more. Along the way we have continued to think about structure, tone, where to start and end a piece, how titles matter, and all kinds of other considerations regarding what makes a piece of writing effective and moving. We spend about 20 minutes writing and then share what we’ve done so far, and a big part of the group’s focus is on learning how to listen carefully to each other’s work and offer helpful responses. The group members have continued to be wonderfully attentive and supportive of each other, always finding something to appreciate in each other’s work.

YEARBOOK: In this class, one and sometimes two or three students join in on the process of creating a North Star 2017-2018 yearbook. During class, we discuss and problem-solve about yearbook logistics such as costs, materials, number of pages, content, etc. We have printed out yearbook bios for students and staff to fill out, held a picture week last week which will continue for another week, asked different North Star student photographers to take photos of North Star events and activities, announced at community meetings updates with yearbook, and figured out fundraising possibilities.

YOUNG ADULT FANTASY BOOK GROUP: In the book club I allow students to choose the next book we read. The last book we read was A Wrinkle in Time and currently we are reading The Eye, the Ear, and the Arm. We usually discuss what we like, what we don't like, questions we have, future predictions and common tropes.