Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a lifespan comprehensive sexuality education program created as a joint project of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC). It acknowledges that all humans are sexual beings from the time they are born until they die. Age-appropriate information about our bodies, self image and the importance of developing healthy, respectful relationships is included in classes for all the age groups.
The Our Whole Lives values are:
- Sexual Health
- Justice and Inclusivity
The OWL curriculum is a joint project of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Visit the UUA website for more information on OWL.
Though we are learning informal messages about our bodies and sexuality all the time, the OWL program has six formal classes that are offered through People’s Church. These are:
Children, along with parents and teachers, learn about our wonderful bodies and how to keep them safe and healthy. Other topics include safe touches, different kinds of families and babies. The emphasis is on open and honest communication and healthy self-esteem.
Continuing with the themes of health, safety, and family relationships, this class also provides an introduction to the changes that occur during puberty. There is also a session on gender identity and sexual orientation as well as a focus on communication and decision making.
The 7th-9th grade curriculum is the cornerstone of the OWL program. Instead of 8 weeks of sessions, this program consists of 27 sessions and is offered over a whole church year. This curriculum is a comprehensive and age-appropriate progressive sexuality education program. While teaching caring, respect and justice, this program gives young people the knowledge, values and skills to lead sexually healthy and responsible lives.
The specific objectives for the Junior High Curriculum are:
- Affirm and respect themselves as sexual persons and respect the sexuality of others.
- Increase comfort and skills for discussing and negotiating sexuality issues with peers, romantic partners and people of other generations.
- Explore, develop and articulate values, attitudes and feelings about their own sexuality and the sexuality of others.
- Identify and live according to their values.
- Increase motivation and skills for developing a just sexual morality that rejects double standards, stereotypes, biases, exploitation, dishonesty and harassment.
- Acquire knowledge and skills for developing and maintaining romantic or sexual relationships that are consensual, mutually pleasurable, non-exploitive, safe, and based on respect, mutual expectations, and caring.
- Increase knowledge and skills for avoiding unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- Express and enjoy sexuality in healthy and responsible ways at each stage of their development.
- Assess the impact of messages from family, culture, religion, media and society on sexual thoughts, feelings, values and behaviors.
This twelve week class is geared toward the older adolescent and is designed to ensure they have accurate information about sexuality while also guiding them in making good decisions. Clear messages about the importance of sexual health, self-worth, responsibility, justice and inclusivity are woven through the curriculum.
Young Adult (18-35 years old)
The young adult OWL curriculum is the last of these to be developed as it became clear that there are often many issues that arise during these years. The young adult years frequently include increased independence, dating, partnering and children. Decision-making, identity development, sexual exploration, boundaries and communication issues are addressed in this curriculum.
Adult (18 years old and up)
Because we are sexual beings until we die, there are always ongoing issues throughout the lifespan to explore and discuss. This popular curriculum is most enriching when participants span a wide age range as well as represent diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and relationship statuses.
Each level of Our Whole Lives offers:
- Up-to-date information and honest, age-appropriate answers to all participants’ questions
- Activities to help participants clarify values and improve decision-making skills
- Effective group-building to create a safe and supportive peer group
- Education about sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment
- Opportunities to critique media messages about gender and sexuality
- Acceptance of diversity
- Encouragement to act for justice