We are pleased to announce that Heritage will offer the Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality education program for our 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students and homeschool equivalents this fall! Why is this course important for your middle school student? Read on!
Sexuality is complex because it encompasses not only anatomy and development, but also communication, emotions, relationships, values, self-image, and social justice. Although we acknowledge that parents are the primary educators for their children, it is important that teens have the opportunity to discuss these issues with other knowledgeable adults and their peers in a structured and safe environment.
The OWL program will offer the following for your youth:
1) Accurate Information: The OWL program is designed to provide accurate, comprehensive and useful information about sex. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that quality information is necessary for making healthy decisions.
2) Skills for Living: The OWL course helps teens to develop valuable skills that they will need as adults.
a) Recognizing and articulating their own feelings;
b) Communicating those feelings openly and honestly with each other and the adults in their lives;
c) Healthy and responsible decision-making about relationships, self, and sexual behavior.
3) Religious Values: Our Unitarian Universalist Principles call us to make choices about our sexual behavior that are respectful of rights, boundaries, and integrity of self and others. Making responsible choices in relationships is a significant part of our discussions.
4) Valuing All Forms of Diversity: OWL includes accurate information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) identities and relationships and strives to avoid hetero-normative and gender-binary bias.
5) Fun!: Yes, the OWL class has lots of fun activities built in to keep your youth engaged and interested!
The OWL Team
We have a stellar group of OWL facilitators who attended 25 hours of training to qualify to teach this class. They include Miranda Fash, John Murley, Ann Roberts, Leila Saxena and Garry Wilson.
Course Format and Expectations
OWL gatherings have not yet been scheduled, however facilitators have indicated willingness to accommodate dual-household families by holding classes twice each month during Heritage UU Church’s regular religious education time. In order to cover all the material, class will need to begin earlier than worship and end later. We hope to work with families to ensure that all interested youth can attend. Because each session builds on previous material, it is vital that youth attend all sessions, though we realize that life happens and will work with your family as needed.
Questions about “Our Whole Lives”
What is OWL?
Our Whole Lives (OWL) is an expanded and updated series of sexuality education curricula developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and others. It is a comprehensive program that addresses sexuality throughout the human lifespan, with programs for age groups ranging from Kindergarten through adults. The program provides accurate information for children, families, and parents to learn about sexuality in the affirming and supportive setting of our religious communities.
OWL is a ministry! Our Whole Lives is about much more than just anatomy and health. It is about values, respect, emotions, and justice, too. It is about the sacred aspects of sexuality, which is part of the miracle of creation. This is why we teach OWL in church—because sexuality is sacred and sexuality education is ministry. OWL helps participants develop and articulate their religious and sexual values and it helps participants make informed, responsible, healthy decisions based on those values.
Who is leading the class?
Our volunteer OWL facilitators are chosen for their comfort and/or skills in working with teens, their dedication to Unitarian Universalist values, and their willingness to make such a big commitment. They have all completed the required course sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association for OWL facilitators and all have had criminal background checks.
How often will this program be offered?
We plan to offer the OWL program for 7th, 8th and 9th graders every second or third year. Because this is the first time that HUUC has offered Junior High OWL, there may be room for older youth to take this class on a case-by-case basis. Contact Rev. Leslie for more information.
Will I know what my child is learning?
You have the opportunity to review all materials beforehand to ensure you are comfortable with the lessons. There is a mandatory parent orientation before the class begins. To get a fuller picture of what is covered, you can view the course Table of Contents posted on the HUUC website: https://huuc.net/owl7-9/
Are the class discussions confidential?
Yes. All discussions in class are confidential unless something that threatens the health and/or safety of a participant is revealed. We will work to encourage open communication between you and your teen, but we recognize that teens are often reluctant to talk with their parents about sexuality. To encourage our youth to grow and trust the group, confidentiality is imperative.