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Participants (Building Bridges)

This program is designed for youth in eighth and ninth grades, usually ages 13 to 15. Growing in their use of higher reasoning, these youth can attain significant understanding of different religious concepts and the roles religion plays in human experience. The program is adaptable for somewhat younger or significantly older groups. Each workshop offers activities diverse in style and complexity to address the needs of the group.

In her Tapestry of Faith Toolkit book Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook, Tracey L. Hurd identifies some characteristics of the young adolescent:

  • Seeks support for self-esteem and body image as she/he transitions into an adult body
  • Engages in abstract and hypothetical thinking
  • Concentrates on self and other's perceptions of the self
  • Engages actively with peers and social relationships
  • Tries to reconcile the inner self with the outer self
  • Explores gender, racial, and ethnic identities through affiliations
  • Expresses criticisms of self and others
  • Seeks belonging and membership, and is concerned with social approval
  • Takes on others' perspectives and understands that sharing perspectives does not necessarily mean agreement
  • Expresses interest in religion that embodies values
  • Sustains faith development by engaging with a community that allows questioning
  • Seeks love, understanding, loyalty, and support.

This program offers ways to support the young adolescent, including:

  • Promote healthy body image and self-esteem
  • Affirm and support the adolescent's many physical, emotional, and cognitive changes
  • Model respect
  • Be flexible and responsive
  • Provide opportunities or 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 enabling 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 Building Bridges is an inclusive curriculum. No one should be excluded from the program or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations.

Inclusiveness sometimes requires adaptation, and specific suggestions for adapting activities are made as appropriate under the heading "Including All Participants." By modifying activities or using alternates, you can include youth with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations.

As you plan workshops, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for any participants. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to everyone. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes.

Allow participants the opportunity to pass on any roles that involve reading. Be prepared to support young people who wish to read, but need assistance. Be alert to group dynamics and ready to do what is needed to keep the workshops safe for all participants.

Since discussion plays a central role in the program, deaf or hearing impaired participants will require an interpreter. For a blind or vision-impaired participant, have an adult volunteer (in addition to the facilitators) explain visuals and provide any other needed assistance. To accommodate a participant with a cognitive or learning disability, discuss with the youths' parents what adjustments you can make to support their full participation.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food. Serve only food everyone can eat.

In the Teachers section of the UUA website, you will find descriptions of a helpful resource book, Welcoming Children with Special Needs by Sally Patton. The congregation's religious educator is another resource for adaptations to make workshops as accessible as possible.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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

Last updated on Thursday, September 26, 2013.

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