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Participants (A Place of Wholeness)

A Place of Wholeness is designed for 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 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.

Integrating All Participants

No one should be excluded from A Place of Wholeness or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations. Inclusiveness sometimes requires adaptation, and specific suggestions for adapting activities are included under the heading Including All Participants. By changing approaches or using alternate activities, you can help ensure that every workshop is inclusive of youth with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations.

As you plan 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. When meeting in small groups, ensure the accessibility of all meeting spaces.

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

Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food. Workshop 12: Wholeness suggests a celebration with food. Make sure all your youth can eat the food you plan to use.

The program mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole group and individual activities. Alternate activities can be substituted for core activities if you feel they better suit the group or if you have additional time.

In the Teacher Development section of the UUA website, you will find descriptions of a helpful resource book, Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs. 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, October 27, 2011.

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