Children and Youth Overview
From the Associate Minister of Religious Education
Welcome to Sunday school programs for children and youth at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA). Religious education for children has been at the heart of UUCPA since the establishment of the congregation in 1948.
In our religious education programs for children and teens, we want to help young people become sensitive, moral, and joyful people, people who have intellectual integrity and spiritual insight. We have no interest in forcing dogmas or beliefs on children; instead, we want children to reach for the highest human values.
Four Big Goals
At UUCPA, we have four big goals for children and youth:
- We want them to have fun and feel they are part of a community
- We want them to gain the basic religious literacy expected in our society
- We want them to learn the skills associated with liberal religion, skills such as public speaking, group singing, basic leadership, how to work together, inward reflection, and so on
- We want to prepare them to become Unitarian Universalist adults, should they choose to become Unitarian Universalists when they are old enough to make their own reasoned decision
Because we believe in learning by doing, all children and youth attend the first fifteen minutes of the Sunday morning services, and attend half a dozen intergenerational services in the course of the year. When they attend services, young people learn our religious tradition through participating and doing: they sing and hear liberal religious music, they learn how to be in community with adults, they learn that sitting quietly is a form of spiritual practice. We want young people to learn that a Unitarian Universalist service is a time when you can reconnect with the best part of your self.
In the spirit of connecting with the best part of our selves, I hope you will encourage the young people in your life to participate regularly in the religious community here at UUCPA.
— Rev. Dan Harper
Associate Minister of Religious Education
Sunday morning schedule, mid-August through April
9:00 – 12:30
Child care available.
Infants and toddlers in Room 7/8. Children who are 3 and up and toilet trained in Room 2/3.
9:30 Worship Service
9:30 – 9:45: All ages attend service in Main Hall
9:45 – 10:30: Sunday school programs for pre-K through grade 8. If they wish, children may remain in worship service with parents/guardians.
10:30: Parents/guardians may pick up younger children (grade 1 and under) in their classrooms, or children may be released to the supervised play area. Older children (grade 2 and up) dismissed from their classrooms to
10:30+: “Rainbow Chasers”
Fourth Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m. — On fourth Sundays, a simple brunch is offered (e.g., waffles with fruit) for a nominal cost — an opportunity for families to socialize with each other.
11:00 Worship Service
During the 2nd service, childcare is available. Infants and toddlers in Room 7/8. Children who are 3 and up and toilet trained in Room 2/3.
After the 2nd Service
Second Sunday lunch, 12:15 p.m. — On
Summary Calendar 2018-2019
Aug. 12 — Water communion intergenerational service
Aug. 19 — First day of regular Sunday school
Sept. 2 — Labor day weekend, child care only
Nov. 4 — DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME ENDS
Nov. 18 — Thanksgiving intergenerational service
Dec. 23 — No-rehearsal Christmas pageant, intergenerational
Dec. 24 — Candlelight services at 6:30 and 8 p.m.
Dec. 30 — Winter break, child care only
Jan. 27 — Intergenerational service
Mar. 10 — DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME BEGINS
Mar. 31 — Spring project begins
Apr. 21 — Easter intergenerational service & Easter egg hunt
May 12 — Flower communion intergenerational service
May 19 — Coming of Age service (intergenerational)
May 26 — Memorial Day weekend, child care only
June 2 — Summer Sunday school begins
June 16 through July 28 — One service, with summer Sunday school, at 10:30 a.m.
For latest calendar information and corrections, see the monthly CYRE newsletter.
Sunday Programs for Families
Because we believe in learning by doing, and most important part of our religious education is participation, with all ages, in the first part of regular worship services. Then during Sunday school, young people learn and play with people their own age. Feel free to ask Sunday school teachers what they did this week. If you would like to review curriculum materials that are not online, please call Dan Harper.
9:30 Sunday morning, September through April
Child care (for infants, toddlers, and young children) — Loving and safe care with our professional child care providers. Children who are over 3 and toilet-trained may go to Red class (if your 3-year-old is not yet toilet-trained, they may be in the class as long as you are on call via cell phone if toileting is necessary). To meet our child care providers, click here.
Red group (3 and 4 year olds), 2018-2019 — We Are Many, We Are One is a curriculum to introduce young children to age-appropriate diversity concepts in a supportive setting.
Red group (3 and 4 year olds), 2019-2020 — The Chalice Children curriculum helps young children learn about their religious community, and get to know each other.
Yellow group (gr. K-1), 2018-2019 — In the fall, the Creating Home curriculum helps children develop a sense of home. In early winter, children learn about feminist god-images using the story book Hide and Seek with God. Late winter brings the wider religious world with stories from Picture Book World Religions.
Yellow group (gr. K-1), 2019-2020 — In fall, the Around the Church, Around the Year curriculum introduces children to their congregation. In early winter, children learn more about feminist god-images with Hide and Seek with God. In late winter, children explore the wider religious world with more stories from Picture Book World Religions.
Green group (grades 2-3), 2018-2019 — This group begins with Spirit of Adventure to learn about Unitarian Universalist values through fun activities. In early winter, Timeless Themes presents stories from the Hebrew Bible (Torah). In late winter, From Long Ago introduces stories from other religious traditions.
Green group (grades 2-3), 2019-2020 — This group begins with Spirit of Adventure to learn about Unitarian Universalist values through fun activities. In early winter, Timeless Themes presents stories about Jesus and his times. Then in late winter, Holidays and Holy Days introduces world religions through holidays.
Blue group (grades 4-5), 2018-2019 — In the fall, the group will explore social justice using In Our Hands. In early winter, they will learn more about liberal interpretations of Jesus with Kingdom of Equals. In late winter, the class uses Greek Myths to delve deeply into a few key myths.
Blue group (grade 4-5), 2019-2020 — In fall, this group will explore Unitarian Universalist values with the Toolbox of Faith curriculum. In early winter, Timeless Themes presents stories from the Hebrew Bible. In late winter, they explore creation myths from around the world with the Beginnings curriculum.
Middle School (gr. 6-8)
For middle school (gr. 6-8) in 2018-2019, there is a choice of two different classes:
Purple group: Ecojustice (grade 6-8) — This is a project-based program that includes projects relating to environmental justice and nature study. Projects may include urban/suburban gardening, creating habitat for non-human organisms, learning how to cook outdoors, and studying environmental justice heroes like Rachel Carson and Cesar Chavez. There will be different projects each year, and this class may be repeated.
Purple group: Neighboring Faith Communities (mostly grades 7-8) — This middle school group will visit other places of worship, typically beginning with another UU congregation, moving through Jewish and Christian groups, and ending up with non-Western religions. Participants go on 5-6 field trips during the year, and sometimes have guest speakers from other faith traditions. There will be different field trips each year, and this class may be repeated.
Lesson-by-lesson curriculum plan
We have a lesson-by-lesson curriculum plan that teachers refer to as they plan their classes. Teachers may diverge from this plan to accommodate the interests of their class.
To see the 2018-202 curriculum plan online, click here.
The Curriculum Subcommittee of the Children and Youth Religious Education Committee is currently reviewing all curriculum books used in Sunday school. The Subcommittee will be rolling out changes in the curriculum over the next couple of years. If you would like to comment on your child’s experience with any curriculum or lesson, please contact Greg Becker, chair of the Subcommittee.
Spring project, late March through May
In 2019, the spring project will be Peace Experiments, where children may choose from a range of fun activities that are inherently peaceful. (As written up in the magazine Geez: Holy Mischief in an Age of Fast Faith.)
In 2020, children will participate in Judean Village, a recreation of a village in the land of Judea in the year 29. For an overview of this popular curriculum, click here.
2019 Summer Sunday school, June through mid-August
Summer Sunday school is less formal, and emphasizes having fun and building community. In 2019, summer Sunday school will run from June 3 through mid-August. For more about summer Sunday school, click here.
Youth programs, Aug.-May
Senior High Youth Group (grades 9-12) or SHYG — Teenagers in high school are welcome to join either SHYG group for fun and community-building, learning, worship, leadership development, and social action (note that social action projects typically count for school-required community service hours).
SHYG meets on Sunday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Room A (N.B.: meeting time may change for special outings, please check the latest CYRE newsletter .)
Coming of Age (grades 8-9) — In the Coming of Age program, teens explore their own spirituality and learn more about Unitarian Universalism through group meetings, projects, field trips, and meetings with mentors. In 2018-2019, Coming of Age is offered at 11 a.m. on Sundays (some field trips and projects meet at other times), with monthly meetings Sept.-Dec., and weekly meetings from Dec.-May. Coming of Age will next be offered in 2019-2020. For more information, contact Rev. Dan Harper or see uucpa-cyre.org/parent-resources/coming-of-age/.
Our Whole Lives (OWL) comprehensive sexuality education
OWL for grades 7-9 — In the 27-session Our Whole Lives program for grades 7-9, youth learn about relationships, sexual decision making, and other facts and skills related to adolescent sexuality. Please watch the monthly CYRE newsletter for enrollment information. This popular program will next be offered in 2019-2020. For more information about OWL gr. 7-9, see Our Whole Lives (OWL).
OWL for grades K-2 and grades 4-6 — In the 10-session Our Whole Lives programs for younger grades, children receive age-appropriate sexuality education, including how to stay safe. The programs are offered every other year, or as needed. OWL gr. K-1 will be offered in winter of 2019, and OWL gr. 4-6 will be offered in winter 2020. For more information about OWL gr. K-1 and gr. 4-6, see Our Whole Lives (OWL).
OWL for grades 10-12 — To meet the needs of busy high school students, this program is scheduled as monthly meetings, Sept.-June. Teen participants report a high satisfaction level with the program, and it is recommended both for graduates of OWL gr. 7-9, and for those who have not taken OWL classes before. OWL gr. 10-12 will be offered in 2018-2019. For more information about OWL gr. 10-12, see Our Whole Lives (OWL).
How your child will progress through CYRE at UUCPA
To make maximum progress towards our four goals and gain the most benefit, keep your child enrolled through high school. Here’s how young people progress through our programs:
Preschool: Young children make friends, have fun, and learn the rhythms of the congregational year.
Grades K through 5: Children at this age like to learn facts, and we teach them the basics about Western and other religions (building religious literacy). We begin to give them skills in group process (building skills).
Middle school years: In these critical years for religious education, young people learn about religion by visiting other faith communities (building religious literacy) and doing hands-on ecology activities (building skills). They begin to use group process and leadership skills, and they continue to learn interpersonal skills in Sunday school. The OWL program offers an opportunity for deeper learning in interpersonal skills.
Coming of Age: This is the keystone of our religious education programs. Young people reflect deeply on who they are and their own personal religious identity. They use skills in group process, critical thinking, and public presentation to lead an entire worship service in the spring. At the end of this program, they are eligible to become full voting members of the congregation, and they have the skills to decide for themselves whether they are Unitarian Universalists.
High school years: The high school years are an important time for youth to develop skills in participating in democratic process. Leadership opportunities abound, and teens have served on the congregation’s Board of Trustees, the Committee on Ministry, the Finance Committee; they have taught Sunday school, served as worship associates, etc. Basic participation in the life of UUCPA will give young people aged 13-18 the skills they need to participate effectively in democratic institutions. A motivated teenager can gain enough experience at UUCPA to serve on the board of any small to medium sized nonprofit institution.
The Search Institute has shown that regular participation in a religious organization is a developmental asset that enables “young people [aged 12-18] to develop into successful and contributing adults.” The Search Institute has done research to back up their claims, and we have also seen this year after year at UUCPA. Teens affiliated with UUCPA develop healthy relationships across the generations, helping them to stay grounded and more stable.
Children and Youth Religious Education (CYRE) email newsletter
If your family has a child or youth registered in Sunday school or youth programs, your family will be subscribed to a once-a-month email newsletter. This newsletter will give you notice of upcoming events, including family social service projects, barbeques, and more. It’s also available online — to read the newsletter, click here.
How To Register for Sunday School
Please fill out and sign a new registration form each year. If you bring your children three or more times during a Sunday school year (August to June), we ask you to fill out a registration form to help us plan the program.
The form is online here.
Thanks to all those who give strong financial support through their annual pledges, we have no registration fee for the Sunday school. We can continue this tradition of strong voluntary financial support — please give as generously as you are able when you make your pledge to UUCPA this year.
Our Sunday School Teachers
People who offer to teach in the Sunday school are the heart and soul of religious education at UUCPA. Their teaching ministry is one of deed more than word, of setting an example more than wordy instruction. Their caring presence encourages new learning and new growth for all generations.
Each year, parents, grandparents, non-parents, and others volunteer to be Sunday school teachers. The Associate Minister of Religious Education provides face-to-face and online training opportunities. Teacher-to-teacher mentoring also contributes to excellence in teaching, since teaching teams typically include one or more experienced teachers who can act as mentors.
Because training and guidance are easily available, newcomers to teaching, and newcomers to Unitarian Universalism, find they too can succeed at teaching Sunday school. People who have never taught or led a program before are surprised at how satisfying this ministry can be, and they are pleased at how well they can meet its challenges.
Consider furthering your own spiritual growth by leading a church school or adult program. And don’t forget to express your thanks and appreciation to those who lead our programs for children, youth, and adults. Tell them how much you appreciate their dedication to UUCPA, and to liberal religion.
All our paid and volunteer staff follow the UUCPA Safety Policy for Legal Minors.
Need more information? Contact us!
Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto
505 East Charleston Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Sunday morning schedule
Calendar summary for 2018-2019
From the Assoc. Minister of Religious Education
Sunday morning programs for families
9:30 Sunday, Sept.-April
After the 9:30 session
Sunday eve. youth programs
Summer Sunday school 2019
Our Whole Lives program
How your child will progress through CYRE at UUCPA
CYRE email newsletter
How to register
Our Sunday school teachers
Rev. Dan Harper, Associate Minister of Religious Education
Barb Greve, Acting Religious Education Assistant
Children and Youth Religious education Committee:
Edie Keating, chair
Alyssa Erickson, treasurer
John Kostka, Board liaison