Jan. 29, 2018.
I remember the first time I heard about the Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality education program offered by UUCF. It was at the Fall Adult Retreat when I was mingling in the dining room after dinner, chatting with a longtime UUCF member. Upon learning that I had an adolescent son, she asked if I was going to enroll him in OWL. My response, no doubt like many new to UUCF, was a blank look and the question, “What’s OWL?” And as I listened to the response, I was both excited and surprised that such a course was offered to the youth here. But still, I couldn’t really comprehend how a sexuality education class fit into a church RE curriculum.
But today, 10 years later, it makes perfect sense. We live in a world where the widespread lack of comprehensive sexuality education has led to the kind of headlines we are reading daily. The lid is off Pandora’s box and we must confront the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobia, human trafficking, child pornography and sexual predation that reaches every level of society. Sexuality in our culture has been damaged by violence, exploitation, dishonesty, objectification and abuse of power. The best way to protect our children, and ourselves, is to provide accurate, age-appropriate information about sex and to help people develop a better understanding of healthy sexual behavior. The Our Whole Lives program teaches sexuality within the context of our UU faith, and fosters meaningful dialogue about sexuality among peers, partners, families and friends.
The OWL curriculum was developed through a collaboration between the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ and is periodically updated. It is a lifespan education program that includes workshops for Kindergarten-1st Grade, 4th-6th Grade, 7th-9th Grade, high school and adults. The curriculum is rooted in our first UU principle that every person has inherent worth and dignity. It teaches that all persons are sexual and that sexuality is a good part of the human experience. Throughout the program, participants learn to clarify their values and build interpersonal skills. The ultimate goal is to empower participants to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. While providing honest, age-appropriate answers to participants’ questions, the curriculum does promote the view that it is healthier for adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.
Here at UUCF, our 8th Grade OWL class runs for 26 weeks during the regular RE program year. The programs for 1st and 5th Grades are shorter sessions held in the spring. These classes are currently forming, and if you are a parent of a child at one of these grade levels and want them included, the required orientation sessions will be held on Sun., Feb. 4, 3-5 p.m. in the Program Building. Grade 6 students who did not take OWL last year are welcome to participate in this year’s 5th Grade OWL class. We are planning to offer high school OWL next year. While we have found that our high schoolers (almost all 8th Grade OWL graduates) are reluctant to do the program, the fact that many will be involved in sexual relationships by the end of high school and during college makes it imperative that we offer them the opportunity to review issues of consent, sexual exploitation and harassment, contraception and sexual health.
To my knowledge, we have not held any adult OWL classes here. However, repeatedly parents of students remark that they wish they had taken OWL when they were younger. It makes sense to me to offer OWL classes for adults at UUCF. To some extent we have all been damaged by the distorted ideas about sexuality in our culture. An adult OWL class can help us improve our understanding of healthy sexual relationships, be better advocates for diversity, better affirm our own sexuality and help us to be more comfortable discussing sexuality with our children, partners and friends.
I urge you to contact me if you would like to help develop adult OWL classes for the congregation. Also, let me know if you are interested in becoming a trained OWL facilitator. We need a minimum of 14 facilitators each year to teach our current course offerings.
I welcome your questions, thoughts and participation in the wonderful Our Whole Lives classes here at UUCF.