Our Whole Lives (OWL)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto regularly offers Our Whole Lives (OWL), one of the best age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education programs available.
(Page updated October 19, 2021.)
About the OWL curriculum
Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a series of comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education curricula, developed jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ, for six age groups: grades K-2, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, grades 10-12, young adults, and adults.
Our Whole Lives is based on the philosophy of comprehensive sexuality education, which helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. It equips participants with accurate, age-appropriate information in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, comprehensive sexuality education provides not only facts about anatomy and human development, but also helps participants to clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, social, and political aspects of sexuality as well.
Comprehensive sexuality education has been shown to be effective. A review commissioned by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, released on October 22, 1997, concluded that quality education about sexuality and/or HIV helps to delay first intercourse and protect sexually active youth from STDs, including HIV, and from pregnancy. The review also concluded that responsible and safe behavior can be learned, that sexuality education is best started before the onset of sexual activity, and that sexuality education does not encourage increased sexual activity.
OWL Program Values (click to see a PDF of this handout).
OWL Program Assumptions and “Bill of Rights” (click to see a PDF of this handout).
In our parent orientation, we refer to the “Circles of Sexuality.” Here’s the PDF handout for this (click the image below to see a full-size PDF version):
More details about the OWL program can be found online here: www.uua.org/re/owl
At UUCPA, our OWL program is run by a volunteer OWL Coordinator under the auspices of the Children and Youth Religious Education Committee. Maribea Berry has been our OWL coordinator for several years now, taking care of all the logistics of the OWL program. Maribea is a trained OWL leader herself, and both her children have been through the program.
OWL classes run at times that have proved to be convenient for the participants. The goal is to ensure that all children are offered the opportunity to attend each OWL session when they reach the appropriate grades.
We draw from an amazing pool of volunteer teachers within our congregation — R.N.s, M.D.s, therapists, and classroom teachers — and some of our best OWL teachers are ordinary parents whose own children have gone through the OWL program. Many of our volunteers complete the fifteen hour OWL training, and all volunteers are trained and supported by our Associate Minister of Religious Education, who has 25 years of experience supervising OWL programs.
We welcome participants from outside our congregation, and at times as many as a third of participants have not been affiliated with our congregation. Outside participants must be comfortable with our values (e.g., we support equal rights for women and girls, we support same-sex marriage rights, and we support the right to abortion). Because of generous contributions from our members, there is no fee for our OWL programs, and we supply textbooks and other materials to participants at no charge. However, we encourage all OWL families who can afford to do so to make a generous tax-deductible contribution to UUCPA, so that we can continue to offer these programs regardless of family financial status.
OWL during COVID: (1) The curriculum writers do not allow OWL to be offered online, so all OWL classes will be in person, outdoors, masked, and physically distanced. (2) Due to physical distancing, our class sizes must be smaller; children and teens that have been attending our other Sunday morning programs will have priority for OWL enrollment, and we will admit other children and teens as space permits.
OWL for gr. 7-9
In the 25-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.
This unit of OWL is being offered during 2022-23. Register here.
Time and Location: Meetings take place on Sunday afternoons, 3:30 – 5 p.m., September through May. All sessions meet at the UU Church of Palo Alto.
Enrollment: If you would like to enroll your child in this class, all custodial parents must attend the parent orientation. All custodial parents must also attend the orientation for the visuals. Please plan your family schedule so that your child will not miss any classes; due to the nature of the program, if your child is absent for more than two weeks, we reserve the right to drop them from enrollment.
Orientation sessions: There will be one orientation sessions for parents/guardians:
Cost: There is no cost for the program; we are committed to making this program available to all families regardless of financial situation. For those who are financially able to do so, we would be happy to accept your tax-deductible donation so that we can continue to offer OWL.
Parent Activities: For parents who wish to stay on campus during the sessions, a room will be open and available for your use during the Sunday evening sessions (this room has free wifi, just ask for the password when you arrive). In addition, there will be parent discussion sessions, open to all parents with teens in the program (dates to be determined).
OWL for gr. 10-12
To accommodate the packed schedules of busy high school students, the program will meet once a month on Sunday evenings. Although we will not be able to fit in all sessions of this curriculum, we will be sure to meet the interests of the youth participants.
There will be a mandatory parent meeting before the class begins.
If you would like your child to participate in OWL gr. 10-12, please be sure to have at least one parent attend the parent orientation. (Both parents should plan to attend if no child in your family has taken either the gr. 7-9 or the gr. 10-12 unit of OWL before.)
This program is open to the community, as well as to UUCPA families. Feel free to invite your friends. Register here.
OWL for young adults
OWL for adults
At present, we do not offer OWL for young adults (ages 18-35), or for adults.