Bringing Hogwarts to American Teens—the Curriculum for my Class

(Gretchen Lawlor has been teaching astrology and other metaphysical topics for a decade at an alternative high school. She shares her experiences with these alienated but eager young people, what was included in her curriculum, and how you can approach your school district about similar classes.)

We've covered many topics over the years that we've been working together, but in a certain sense, there's only one topic that matters to teens and that is THEMSELVES! In order to hold their interest and attention, each unit we covered—whether it was astrology, numerology, Tarot, or past lives—had to be tailored to helping them make sense of themselves and people in their lives.

Each had their astrology chart and access to software on the school computers to draw up other people's charts. TheGirl painting at tablere were always Tarot decks lying around. There were also stacks of books, magazines, and tools donated by other astrologers.

What really hooked them was learning about their Moon signs because it showed the differences between their day-to-day needs and styles and those of people they had to live with—their parents and siblings. Being at the age of the first Saturn opposition to Saturn, they found great relief in discovering that their Moon signs were likely to be different from their mother or father. That made it clear why they didn't want to live the same way their parents did.

The elements—fire, earth, air, and water—were a familiar bridge between astrological language and their own experience, and thus were a fabulous way to learn about the signs. Common words like “fiery”, “hot”, airy fairy, juicy, and down to earth were descriptions they related to.

In each of the four corners of the room, I pinned up a large sheet of paper with the signs that belonged to an element (Aries, Leo, and Sag for the fire signs) and wrote down related terms as we brainstormed. I had them go to the corner for their Sun sign and notice who they were with and how they compared and connected with one another.
 Girls sitting at table painting
Then they moved on to the corner for their Moon sign, and so on through their charts. When we got to chart features that were the same all year—the planets from Jupiter on out—I pointed out what made their class unique and different, even from kids a bit older and younger than themselves. We got to talking about their group destiny.

The Nodes were particularly illuminating. I had explained that the South node symbolized something they had mastered in past lives, while the North node was something new to reach for.
The experience of standing in the corner of their South node and then walking across the room to the North node often evoked strong responses. Some noticed discomfort in leaving the South node because the North node felt far away and very alien. Some even wanted to turn around and go back.

The real hit—the topic they always wanted to come back to no matter what tool we were using that day—was the riveting subject of love and dating. The room seemed to take on a special charge. Faces would flush; they'd squirm in discomfort; eyes would light up; and giggles would erupt. In studying Venus and Mars, they again retired to the four corners to discover compatible signs. If it was numerology, they wanted to know if the numbers favored a match. For Tarot readings, they had burning questions about boyfriends or girlfriends.

Astrological Mask Making—Another Key to Teens' Identity

To give the students a less cerebral way of experiencing the planets energies, I hit on the idea of astrodrama using masks to symbolize each planet. An artist friend and I led them in a 3-day project of creating masks from cardboard and papier mache. We had already explored myths and archetypes in class. You'd think these would be abstract concepts at their age, but in fact, they took to them surprisingly well.

I had them each chose a planet to work with and assigned them to research the associated myths and symbols. I had each of them complete three statements about that planet that would be taped on te inside of their mask. For example, these are the statements for the Sun:

  1. I walk the path of ____________________.
  2. I shine when I am_____________________.
  3. I'm majoring in becoming_______________.

Girl working on art projectI then sat down with each of them separately, and we brainstormed ideas for their masks. The girl who portrayed Uranus used discarded computer parts, a light bulb, and lightning bolts. The boy who chose Jupiter covered his mask with maps and then glued dice to them. The Pluto mask was half black and half white. Venus wore a veil. The Neptune mask was the most beautiful—dreamy, turquoise, and covered with mother of pearl beads. I shouldn't have been surprised, given the typical adolescent antagonism toward authority, but no one was willing to do a mask for Saturn, and I wound up making it myself.

We then began to act out the planets, starting with the three statements pasted on the back of their masks. Each student in turn had their chart enacted.  I'd place the chart in the middle of the circle, and each planet would take their place on the wheel.  Each one stepped forward and spoke their part.

I got planets in aspect to one another to dialogue, some forming good connections, some at more difficult angles. Soon the students really got into their roles. The masks helped them feel comfortable with acting because they could hide behind them and not feel so exposed. They alternately teased and supported one another. You could tell they were really into it together and were talking about the project between classes.

As always, the students' originality and quirky creativity amazed and delighted me. I loved the freshness, playfulness, and enthusiasm they brought to the process of discovering who they were.  It made me remember myself as an alienated 17 year old, and how excited I felt when I was able to find and embrace my own special place in the cosmos.

Hogwarts in your Local School District: Astrology for Teens
©2010 Gretchen Lawlor