Keepers of the Earth – We are All Connected
Learning, Sharing and Caring Together
“We believe in caring for our planet earth, the home we share with all living things.”
~Children’s version of the 7th Unitarian Universalist principle
- Preschool/Kindergarten – Natural Wonders
- 1st-6th Grades – Keepers of the Earth
- 7th-8th Grades – Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education
- 9th-12th Grades – Sharing the Journey
Natural Wonders (Preschool – Kindergarten)
Children are full of wonder and it’s no surprise – the world is full of wonders! This program is based off of our seventh principle and is designed to explore the web of life and our part in it. Direct experience with nature is good for our bodies and souls and this program will be held primarily outside with nature walks and outdoor play built into our time together. Time spent exploring nature now can bring a lasting openness to the wonder of our world and encourage responsibility and action to protect it.
Keepers of the Earth (1st-6th Grades)
This year we will delve deep into our 7th principle to learn, explore, grow and connect. There are countless benefits to spending time in nature. We can often find solace and spiritual renewal for our spirits. Also we can see the importance and value of community and interconnectedness demonstrated in a myriad of ways. We know that our human activities are causing harm to the earth and the ecosystems upon which we depend, and yet ignorance, overwhelm and apathy abound.
First hand interactions with nature can offer our children so many opportunities:
- Nature provides the chance for Wonder and Awe to flourish
- Close observation of nature offers insights into natural systems and rhythms
- Experiencing time in nature fosters intimate connection
- Intimate connection fosters understanding, empathy and caring
- Understanding and caring cultivate better informed choices
- Wiser choices prepare our children to live as responsible citizens of the earth
- Deep understanding and experience of being one strand in the web of life
The COVID pandemic has caused much change and loss among us during these uncertain times. Gathering together once again can provide opportunities to help process the changes and resulting emotions that have arisen. In order to mitigate risks, we plan to conduct the majority of our religious education programs outside on our beautiful church grounds so please dress for the weather.
Our Keepers of the Earth curriculum uses a wide variety of carefully chosen Native American stories to engage children’s hearts and minds. The accompanying hands-on activities are designed to spark curiosity and wonder while children are engaged with one another in the natural world. We are so fortunate to have extensive grounds at People’s Church for children to wander and explore a variety of habitats.
“We are one in relationship with the Earth and other people. Doing good supports this relationship. Love and moral goodness are inseparable, they are the elemental components of a life ethic.”
~ Michael Caduto
“It is important to foster caring, nurturing and compassion in children’s lives. Empathy is the tangible sense of our interconnectedness. When we feel what another person feels and understand that the Earth is a living organism whose parts also have an awareness, even though different from our own, we want to help because we share that emotional experience.” From Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children
Our hope is to awaken and foster the deeper sense of interconnection with all life while inspiring responsible actions and relationships among one another and the earth. Counter to dominant views, the perspectives offered emphasize a close relationship with nature versus control over the natural world from peoples who recognize that they are a part of nature rather than apart from it. These stories come from the perspective that the natural environment has value in and of itself regardless of economic benefits to humans.
While the stories themselves focus on native peoples, animals, plants and nature, most of them also share wisdom on values, moral issues and how to live ethical lives in harmony and balance with all life. As our kids engage with these stories and activities, may their respect and appreciation for the earth deepen and may their actions reflect the interconnectedness of all beings on this planet.
Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education (7th-8th Grades)
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.
The curriculum for our 7th-8th graders 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.
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
Sharing the Journey (9th-12th Grades)
Our high school aged youth will gather together on Sunday mornings for connection and fellowship using a small group ministry model of religious education programming.
The small group ministry format can include:
- Chalice lighting and opening
- Topic of focus
- Reflection questions
- Individual Sharing and Deep Listening
- Optional group game or activity,
We aspire to create a respectful atmosphere for youth to gather together and feel safe enough to express their truest selves. Our teens have endured countless changes due to the pandemic and many have experienced much loss. This program is designed to create a container able to acknowledge and hold the variety of experiences and emotions each person brings to the circle.
Opportunities will abound for youth to vote on the activities and topics explored as well provide leadership as desired. We will begin with the sessions provided in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Tapestry of Faith curriculum entitled Sharing the Journey.
Our Director of Religious Education, Diane Melvin, is happy to answer any questions and provide additional information. She can be contacted at email@example.com.