It has been noted time and again in the literature on human development that young girls entering puberty may experience a crisis of confidence that causes them to be especially vulnerable to problems later in life. The heart and soul of North Star is to provide the time and the environment for critical self-reflection and bonding with peers. It is a time when self-worth can be nurtured and social and emotional development can be fostered. The Native American theme of the program has inspired a ritual that stimulates discussion and provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, active listening and group reinforcement. The art activities are designed to further promote expression and supportive interaction.
As we prepared to write this manual, a note from our very first session fifteen years ago caught our attention. In it, we said how well the girls reacted to just having the group’s undivided attention as they spoke. Young girls do need to be heard and develop their external voice, yet they often cover up their real feelings in their daily larger group interactions. North Star assures the equal status of all its members. The rituals and the art activities create a comfortable and fun place to talk, to listen, to be heard, to learn about oneself and to develop competency in social relationships with peers.
The program format can be used with any age group to help improve communication skills and foster social and emotional learning. The questions, quotes, and art activities can be easily adapted to various age levels and groups.
We have had interesting results at the Kindergarten level where communication skills are just being developed and with a group of women in their thirties who wanted to refine and enhance their social emotional learning. The program fosters the development of powerful personal problem-solving strategies which can be used any time, any place, and adapted for multiple ages.
The North Star program reminds us that especially in the intense, technology based, hectic society in which we live, it is vitally important to individual development to make time to talk with each other, face to face, really listening and really being heard.