OWL letter

Our Whole Lives Expansion

The Children’s Religious Education Committee, with the help of the newly formed Our Whole Lives Expansion Committee is exploring the possibility of expanding the Our Whole Lives program at First Church. The following letter, along with these FAQs, was mailed to First Church RE families on March 16.

Dear First Church Families:

We are writing to invite your feedback on the potential of expanding the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program to fifth and sixth students at First Church in the next church year.  Please take a moment to read this letter, to review the Frequently Asked Questions and to note the dates of two important programs coming up in the next few weeks.

Background:

As you may be aware, one of the hallmarks of our Religious Education program is the comprehensive, progressive sexuality course, Our Whole Lives (OWL).  Although First Church offers OWL as a “stand alone” for our eighth graders, the UUA-developed OWL curriculum includes age-appropriate curriculum for all ages, kindergarten through adult

We are exploring the fifth and sixth grade curriculum now because many First Church parents have approached Children’s Religious Education (CRE) Committee members and staff requesting help with discussing sexuality issues with their middle school-aged children: suggestions for healthy language in which to discuss safe and/or inappropriate touching;  support in talking to children about their changing bodies and development; and ways to help children with potentially difficult decision-making scenarios (sexual and otherwise) that are beginning to  surface earlier than ever before.

To respond to these concerns, an “OWL Expansion Committee”, comprised of First Church staff and parents (including teachers, health educators and child psychologists), was convened this past fall to review and assess the fifth and sixth grade OWL curriculum.  Since that time, this group has met with representatives from other congregations who currently offer this program and has carefully reviewed the curriculum.  We would now like to present these findings and to hear from parents as we evaluate the viability of this program for First Church.

Next Steps

To begin this process, the OWL Expansion Committee has held two independent forums for interested and concerned parents, Let’s Be Honest:  Communication in Families that Keeps Kids Healthy, a program put on by Planned Parenthood, and What is 5/6 grade OWL – An open forum for parents and teachers, to learn and ask questions about the possible expansion of the program. Both of these programs were offered earlier this spring.

We will be offering a second What is 5/6 grade OWL? Forum in June:

DATE:  Wednesday, June 9th

TIME:  7 to 8:30 pm

LCOATION: First Church in Belmont Parish Hall

RSVP:  crebelmont@gmail.com (childcare available – please indicate if you will be bringing children on your RSVP)

This program offers an overview of the OWL curriculum designed for families with children in fifth and sixth grades.  The curriculum at this level includes healthy and safe bodies, puberty, decision making, family relationships, communication, sexual orientation and gender roles as well as the act of lovemaking and reproduction.  The program uses the book “It’s Perfectly Normal”, which uses cartoon illustrations and a light-hearted approach to discuss sex and reproduction.   All discussions are framed following the principles of OWL:  justice and inclusion, self-worth and responsibility.

These programs are open to ALL First Church families, and families with younger children are encouraged to attend.

The CRE Committee appreciates the thoughtful input many families have provided about this programming and looks forward to hearing from more families as the process continues.

Sincerely,

The Children’s Religious Education Committee:

Wendy Conroy, Patricia Garcia, Donna Ruvolo (Chair), Eleanor Sugarman, Beth Westlund

Laurel Whitehouse, Director of Children’s Religious Education

Allison Palm, Religious Education Assistant

OWL Expansion Committee:

Wendy Conroy (Chair), Sarah Keniston, Allison Palm, Donna Ruvolo, Eleanor Sugarman, Laurel Whitehouse, Jean Widmer