228 Our Whole Lives: Grades 7-9!
Planning Committee Funded
Judith A. Frediani, the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) Curriculum Development Director and Developmental Editor of the Our Whole Lives Grade 7-9 curriculum, gave an overview of the Our Whole Lives program. She emphasized that the curriculum is very values oriented, with both person and Unitarian Universalist (UU) values. It encourages critical thinking and justice-seeking—helping youth to take action for justice.
According to SIECUS, only 5% of schoolchildren receive "comprehensive" sexuality education. Ms. Frediani said that Our Whole Lives involves a broad definition of sexuality, and took feedback from the audience as to what that broad definition might be. She asked what people associated with sex, and agreed that Our Whole Lives would involve all of the suggestions, except for perhaps "Just Say No."
Ms. Frediani talked about the differences and similarities between About Your Sexuality (AYS) and Our Whole Lives. She said that as AYS was the best we had for its time, Our Whole Lives was also the best we have for our time. Our Whole Lives, like AYS, helps to open communication, and helps with group-building, community-building, and forming "trust-bonds" between youth. Instructors are still supposed to be trained. The anatomy game and the brainstorming of terms by youth are still included. And the program is still candid and explicit, like AYS.
Our Whole Lives has been updated in important ways, including new facts, diseases, and a new understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integrated into the curriculum instead of being isolated in separate units. The curriculum is much more inclusive and is explicit in values, even without the separate religious supplement. The curriculum, since it was developed with the United Church of Christ, is designed to deal with secular values, and a separate religious supplement is available for UUs.
Our Whole Lives is also more parent friendly. Parents will be shown any portion of the curriculum that they want during the orientation, unlike what sometimes occurred with the AYS filmstrips. Judith then discussed common parental concerns. Some members of the audience felt that parents are overprotective of their children, and that the media provide their own "sex education" and that Our Whole Lives was necessary to counteract these negative images. The K-1 and 4-6 grade programs have very heavy parental involvement, with separate parents guides available. The 7-9 grade, the only part of the Our Whole Lives curriculum that is available, and 10-12 grade curricula have 2-4 parent orientations and youth are continually encourages to talk with parents. There is also a bibliography available with resources for parent/child communication relating to sexuality.
It was also suggested that parents would be worried that sexuality education would be encouraging sexual behavior among youth. She pointed out that studies by the World Health Organization, Planned Parenthood, and SIECUS actually found that comprehensive sexuality education delays sexual activity among youth.
There are also a set of visuals for the 7-9 grade Our Whole Lives program. These slides, which are probably one of the most controversial parts of the program, are optional and are considered to be part of the religious supplement. A congregation can choose to use Our Whole Lives without ever dealing with the visuals. The slides, which cost about $75, are only available to congregations who have trained leaders for the program. These slides are hand-drawn, are very realistic, explicit, and in Judith's words, "beautiful." They are divided into three parts—Anatomy/Physiology, Lovemaking, and Masturbation. They also are very inclusive and diverse, including racial diversity, different body types, people with disabilities, and people of various ages.
Training was also a very important aspect of the program that Ms. Frediani touched on. The District Religious Education committee is responsible for organizing and arranging training for Our Whole Lives leaders. The congregations, or possibly the district, is responsible for expenses.
Several questions from the audience were dealt with. To a question about possible usage as a curriculum in the school system, Ms. Frediani emphasized that she would utilize extreme caution even though as a secular curriculum, it is possible to utilize it in a school. She suggested that perhaps local teachers would be willing to use portions of the curriculum, but that taking it directly to a school board in most areas would be a bad move. To a question about the number of participants required to run the program, she said that 6, 7, or 8 would probably be a reasonable minimum, depending on whether or not the youth attended on a regular basis. She suggested networking with neighboring congregations or perhaps the United Church of Christ (UCC). A member of the audience suggested contacting local Baha'i congregations but more than a year in advance since they plan things very far in advance.
For more information, see the Program Outline (PDF, 2 pages)