Our Whole Lives (OWL)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto regularly offers Our Whole Lives (OWL), one of the best age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education programs available.
Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a series of comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education curricula, developed jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ, for six age groups: grades K-2, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, grades 10-12, young adults, and adults.
Our Whole Lives is based on the philosophy of comprehensive sexuality education, which helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. It equips participants with accurate, age-appropriate information in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, comprehensive sexuality education provides not only facts about anatomy and human development, but also helps participants to clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, social, and political aspects of sexuality as well.
Comprehensive sexuality education has been shown to be effective. A review commissioned by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, released on October 22, 1997, concluded that quality education about sexuality and/or HIV helps to delay first intercourse and protect sexually active youth from STDs, including HIV, and from pregnancy. The review also concluded that responsible and safe behavior can be learned, that sexuality education is best started before the onset of sexual activity, and that sexuality education does not encourage increased sexual activity.
OWL Program Values (click to see a PDF of this handout).
OWL Program Assumptions and “Bill of Rights” (click to see a PDF of this handout).
In our parent orientation, we refer to the “Circles of Sexuality.” Here’s the PDF handout for this (click the image below to see a full-size PDF version):
More details about the OWL program can be found online here: www.uua.org/re/owl
At UUCPA, our OWL program is run by a volunteer OWL Coordinator under the auspices of the Children and Youth Religious Education Committee. Maribea Berry has been our OWL coordinator for several years now, taking care of all the logistics of the OWL program. Maribea is a trained OWL leader herself, and both her children have been through the program.
OWL classes run at times that have proved to be convenient for the participants. OWL for grades 4-6 and grades K-2 is offered Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. (in 2011 and 2013), and OWL for grades 7-9 is offered on Sunday evenings (in 2010, 2012 and 2014). The goal is to ensure that all children are offered the opportunity to attend each OWL session when they reach the appropriate grades.
We draw from an amazing pool of volunteer teachers within our congregation, including R.N.s, M.D.s, therapists, and classroom teachers — and some of our best OWL teachers are ordinary parents whose own children have gone through the OWL program. Many of our volunteers complete the fifteen hour OWL training, and all volunteers are trained and supported by our OWL coordinator and Associate Minister of Religious Education, who between them have over 30 years of experience supervising OWL programs.
We typically offer an optional parent discussion group at least twice during each OWL unit. Parent discussion groups take place while children are in OWL, and are facilitated by a volunteer. Our volunteer facilitators have included social workers and other experts.
We welcome participants from outside our congregation, and at times as many as a third of participants have not been affiliated with our congregation. Outside participants must be comfortable with our values (e.g., we support equal rights for women and girls, we support same-sex marriage rights, and we support the right to abortion). Because of generous contributions from our members, there is no fee for our OWL programs, and we supply textbooks and other materials to participants at no charge. However, we encourage all OWL families who can afford to do so to make a generous tax-deductible contribution to UUCPA, so that we can continue to offer these programs regardless of family financial status.
OWL for gr. K-1
OWL for gr. 4-6
The next time we plan to offer these two units of OWL is in the 2016-2017 church year. We currently expect both these 8-week programs to begin in early January, 2017, with meetings taking place Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m.
We will schedule a mandatory parent meeting in December, 2016. If your family is new to UUCPA, all custodial parents must attend the parent meeting. All custodial parents must sign the permission forms.
Please watch the CYRE newsletter for the latest information about these programs.
The following schedule is from 2015 and is left here so you can see what a past OWL schedule looked like. The schedule for 2017 will vary due to school vacations.
The 2015 schedule for OWL gr. K-1 and gr. 4-6 was arranged to accommodate our Navigators scouting group. Here is the 2015 schedule:
Jan 4, 11-1 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Parent/Child Orientation
Jan 11, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 1
Jan 18: No OWL (Navigators meeting)
Jan 25, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 2
Feb 1, 9:30-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Sessions 3 & 4
Feb 8, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 5
Feb 15: No OWL (Navigators meeting)
Feb 22, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 6
Mar 1, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 7
Mar 8, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 Session 8
Mar 22, 11-12 p.m.: OWL K-1 / OWL 4-6 final session (celebration)
Parent letter for OWL K-1 AND 46 for 2015 — NOT CURRENT INFORMATION, left online as a sample
OWL for gr. 7-9
This unit of OWL will be offered in 2016-2017.
Time and Location: 2016-2017 meetings will take place on Sunday evenings beginning in January. We are still finalizing the schedule, but we expect weekly sessions to last 2-3 hours; the longer meeting time allows us to complete OWL between January and June, to better accommodate the busy schedules of our families.
Enrollment: If you would like to enroll your child in this class, there will be a mandatory parent meeting in late autumn, date to be announced. Please watch the CYRE newsletter for details.
N.B.: We plan to cap enrollment at 12 this year, in order to provide the best educational experience. Priority will be given to families enrolled in the Sunday schools of UUCPA and the UU Fellowship of Sunnyvale (UUFS) as of August, 2016. We do expect to have space for additional students, but please note that for families not enrolled in UUCPA or UUFS, both parents MUST attend the parent orientation.
Orientation sessions: There will be two orientation sessions for parents/guardians:
• Early December: Mandatory parent orientation to the OWL program; all custodial parents must attend and sign permission form. If you are new to UUCPA, all custodial parents must attend this session (no exceptions).
• Date TBD: Mandatory orientation to the visuals used in Session 15. All custodial parents must sign a separate permission form for the visuals. If you are new to UUCPA, all custodial parents must attend this session.
Cost: There is no cost for the program; we are committed to making this program available to all families regardless of financial situation. For those who are financially able to do so, we would be happy to accept your tax deductible donation so that we can continue to offer OWL.
Parent Activities: For parents who wish to stay on campus during the sessions, a room will be open and available for your use during the Sunday evening sessions (this room has free wifi, just ask for the password when you arrive). In addition, there will be a parent discussion sessions, open to all parents with teens in the program (dates to be determined).
Teachers for OWL gr. 7-9 in 2015-2016:
(N.B.: THIS INFORMATION IS FROM 2015-2016)
Caryn Ragsdale, trained OWL leader
Eleanor Lin, R.N., pediatric nurse
Kevin Bourillion, trained OWL leader
Maribea Berry, trained OWL leader (more than 10 years OWL experience)
Shannon Casey, trained OWL leader
Alyssa Erickson, trained OWL leader, will help support the program
Facilitator of the parent support group in 2015-2016:
Rev. Dan Harper, trained OWL leader (more than 20 years OWL experience)
Schedule for 2017:
The following is a TENTATIVE schedule. All classes to meet from 5:30-8, with dinner break; parents will be asked to serve dinner on a rotating basis.
Jan. 22, sess. 1, 2
Jan. 29, sess. 3, 4
Feb. 5, sess. 5, 6
Feb. 12, sess. 7, 8
Feb. 19, school vacation, no meeting
Feb. 26, sess. 9, 10
Mar. 5, sess. 11, 12
Mar. 12, no meeting
Mar. 19, sess. 13, 14
Mar. 26, sess. 15, 16
April 2, school vacation, no meeting
April 9, school vacation, no meeting
April 16, sess. 17, 18
April 23, sess. 19, 20
April 30, sess. 21, 22
May 7, sess. 23, 24
May 14, no meeting
May 21, sess. 25
OWL for gr. 10-12
We are offering the gr. 10-12 unit of the OWL comprehensive sexuality education program in 2016-2017. We expect to offer OWL gr. 10-12 again in either 2018-2019, or in 2019-2020, depending on demand.
To accommodate the packed schedules of busy high school students, the program is meeting once a month, on the second Sunday of each month, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Although we will not be able to fit in all sessions of this curriculum, we will be sure to meet the interests of the youth participants.
There will be a mandatory parent meeting on Sun., Sept. 11, at 6:30. The other dates of the course are listed below.
This program is open to the community, as well as to UUCPA families. Feel free to invite your friends. Enrollment is now closed.
Adult leaders for OWL gr. 10-12 in 2016-2017:
Rev. Dan Harper, trained OWL leader (more than 20 years OWL experience)
Esa Jacobi, R.N.
We are also scheduling a few guests with expertise in human sexuality and relationships.
Sun., Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m.: Mandatory parent meeting
Sun., Oct. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Exploring Sexual Development (Gender Roles; Identity, Roles, and Orientation; Sexual Orientation)
Sun., Nov. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Probable visit by a former Planned Parenthood nurse
Sun., Dec. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sun., March 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sun., April 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sun., May 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
OWL for young adults
OWL for adults
At present, we do not offer OWL for young adults (ages 18-35), or for adults.