From the Associate Minister for Religious Education – OWL

I was pleased to see that 23 children registered for our OWL program for gr. K-2. OWL stands for “Our Whole Lives,” and it’s our standards-based comprehensive sexuality education course, with units for gr. K-2, gr. 4-6, gr. 7-9, gr. 10-12, and adults. 23 children was twice as many children as we were expecting, so the OWL team of volunteers has had to scramble to figure out how to accommodate all these families. But now we’re all ready to go, and the first OWL class will be on Jan. 13.

You may wonder why we offer OWL when the state of California has mandated standards-based sexuality education state-wide. A state-wide mandate doesn’t mean that every California teen is getting high quality sexuality education. My friend Alex, who works for a San Francisco non-profit that provides high-quality teen sexuality education, tells me that in reality not every school implements the program well. And teens and tweens tell me that they don’t always feel safe talking openly about sexuality in a school setting. So while it is great that California has mandated a basic level of sexuality education, there is still a strong need for our OWL program.

I think of OWL as one of our congregation’s key social justice programs. We do not charge for OWL, and we welcome families who are not part of the congregation to take part in it. As part of the OWL program, we give out kid-friendly, age-appropriate books to every participant. With the older units of OWL — especially the gr. 7-9 and gr. 10-12 units — we hear from our OWL graduates that their friends turn to them for solid factual information about sexuality, so OWL values and knowledge spread far beyond the families who actually participate in the program.

I can’t help but point out that the reason we are able to maintain this important social justice program is because our congregation provides generous support for OWL. UUCPA members and friends are volunteer teachers; UUCPA provides rooms and heat and light; UUCPA pays staff who provide supervision and administrative support; and thanks to a bequest left by Sherwood Sullivan, we can give out free books on sexuality education. This is something to think about when the annual UUCPA fundraising appeal begins next month — your contributions help fund life-changing social justice programs like OWL.

OWL is a perfect example of what we’re here for: to transform ourselves, each other, and the world.

See you soon,
Dan Harper

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