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Participants (Exploring Our Values Through Poetry)

Exploring Our Values through Poetry is designed for use with high-school-aged youth. You may find it useful to think about the developmental norms for this age group. Not all youth arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall from fourteen- to eighteen-year-olds can be quite helpful, especially to first-time leaders.

In her book Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd discusses developmental characteristics of older youth:

  • practices increased cognitive skills
  • expresses growing interest in abstract values and moral principles
  • engages in moral relativism
  • becomes less egocentric and more interested in the larger society
  • struggles with gender and sexual identities
  • continues to develop ethnic or racial identity
  • needs to belong and have a sense of self worth
  • demonstrates empathy
  • conceptualizes religion as an outside authority that can be questioned
  • questions faith, sometimes leading to deeper ownership of personal faith or disillusionment
  • deepens or attenuates religious or spiritual identity
  • explores sexuality
  • navigates greater risks relating to alcohol, drug use, and unsafe sexual activity
  • sustains the personal fable that "it couldn't happen to me"
  • considers friendships and peers important, with some shifting of alliances

Though this program is written for youth, adults might find it interesting also. Consider offering the program for a mixed group of youth and adults. If using this option, look for leaders who are experienced in working with both groups. During the workshops, you will want to monitor the group to make sure both youth and adults are given the space to contribute and that any personal sharing is appropriate for all ages involved. Safety issues will need to be addressed. Your congregation's religious educator can help with guidelines, as can advice from The Safe Congregation Handbook, edited by Pat Hoertdoerfer and Fredric Muir (Boston: UUA Publications, 2005).

Integrating All Participants

By adapting activities or using alternate activities, you can help ensure that every workshop is inclusive of participants with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. Below, you will find general guidance on adapting the activities along with some resources for implementing inclusion. Within the workshops, some activities suggest specific adaptations under the heading "Including All Participants."

As you plan your Poetry workshops, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for youth who are differently-abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone who might be in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes.

Since many of the activities in this program involve reading and writing, pay particular attention to youth who might have learning disabilities. Be prepared to adjust times allocated for writing activities if some participants consistently need more time. Always seek volunteers to read so no one is forced to read who might not be comfortable doing so.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and their allergies, particularly to food. Adolescence is a time when bodies are busy growing. Consequently, youth will welcome food when it is available. Offering a snack at every workshop is a good idea, but make sure all youth can eat whatever is served.

Each workshop mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole-group and individual activities, along with alternate activities that you can substitute for core activities if you feel they better suit a group. As you begin to recognize different learning styles among the participants, let this information guide your selection of activities for each workshop.

Some activity descriptions mention specific concerns or suggest adaptations under the heading "Including All Participants." Feel free to devise your own adaptations to meet any special needs you perceive. As the leader, you will know best how to provide a fully inclusive learning experience 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.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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