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Participants (Riddle and Mystery)

Riddle and Mystery: UU Reponses to Big Questions is designed for sixth graders. Think: the end of childhood, the beginning of adolescence. Think of looking back with the knowledge that it is time to move on, and ahead with a mixture of wonder, hope, awe and trepidation. Think of the brink of puberty.

In Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd discusses characteristics of young adolescents. These include:

  • Seek support for self-esteem and body image as they transition into an adult body
  • Engage in abstract and hypothetical thinking
  • Concentrate on self and others' perceptions of the self
  • Engage actively with peers and social relationships
  • Try to reconcile the inner self with the outer self
  • Explore gender, racial and ethnic identities through affiliations
  • Express criticisms of self and others
  • Seek belonging and membership; are concerned with social approval
  • Take on others' perspectives; understand that sharing perspectives does not necessarily mean agreement
  • Express interest in religion that embodies values
  • Sustain faith development by engaging with a community that allows questioning
  • Seek love, understanding, loyalty and support.

When leading Riddle and Mystery, take advantage of opportunities to support the young adolescent in these ways:

  • Promote their self-esteem
  • Affirm and support the adolescent's many physical, emotional and cognitive changes
  • Model respect
  • Be flexible and responsive
  • Provide opportunities for complex thinking and the pondering of big questions
  • Respect and take seriously the adolescent's self-consciousness
  • Recognize that challenging authority provides an outlet for new cognitive skills
  • Maintain clear expectations to enable adolescents to make independent decisions
  • Keep some routines or rituals that provide continuity from childhood to adulthood
  • Be a sounding board for youth's exploration of ideas
  • Encourage involvement in multiple settings
  • Actively support the adolescent's exploration of identity
  • Encourage participation in a faith or religious community
  • Provide outlets for questioning faith, religion, and creed
  • Facilitate youth's work in the community
  • Celebrate both change and continuity.

Integrating All Participants

Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive religion and Riddle and Mystery is an inclusive curriculum. No one should be excluded from the program or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations. As you plan sessions, be aware of activities that might pose problems for youth who are differently abled.

Inclusiveness sometimes requires adaptation. Suggestions for adapting specific activities appear under the heading "Including All Participants." Make changes or use alternate activities to ensure that every session is inclusive of youth with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies and other sensitivities or limitations.

All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables and the terrain of outdoor landscapes. When an activity requires forming small groups, ensure the accessibility of all meeting spaces.

When activities involve reading, such as the Kid for the Day’s announcement of each session’s Big Question and some roles in each session’s scripted WCUU broadcast, routinely offer participants the opportunity to “pass.” Be prepared to support young people who wish to read, but need assistance. It would be a good practice to regularly offer volunteer readers the words of a Big Question or a scripted part ahead of time, so they can get comfortable by practicing. Always be alert to group dynamics. Plan how you will make Riddle and Mystery a safe place where participants who need assistance can ask for and receive it.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food. Session 16 suggests a celebration with food. Make sure all the youth can eat the food you plan to offer.

The program mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole group and individual activities. Each session offers alternate activities you can substitute for core activities if you feel they better suit your group. You can also extend each session with alternate activities if you have more time. As you recognize different interests and learning styles among participants, let this knowledge guide your selection of activities for the group.

In the Teacher Development section of the UUA website, find descriptions of a helpful resource book, Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs.

For more information contact web @

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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