By Melanie Davis
The newly released second edition of Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9 is now available from the Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore. Like the first edition, this sexuality curriculum is comprehensive, inclusive, and justice-oriented. It is filled with new ways to help youth learn about both timeless and contemporary issues. Online, you can read descriptions of the new edition's units and workshops and then, order the new edition.
The revision process began with a needs assessment that included a nationwide survey of Our Whole Lives facilitators. We engaged Pamela Wilson, author of the earlier edition, to revisit the curriculum, and we cast a wide net for expert contributors on contemporary issues. The new edition also benefits from the input of Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ (UCC) curriculum developers, critical readers, and editors; feedback from congregations that field tested new material; suggestions from OWL trainers; and ideas that emerged from e-list conversations.
Every workshop in the original program was updated; many offer new approaches, activities, and readings. To respond to the changing context of being an adolescent, we added workshops on body image; sexuality, social media and the Internet; bullying and bystander responsibilities; consent education; communicating with a sexual partner; and self care. We also updated the curriculum’s introductory material, facilitator notes, resources, and handouts.
Including youth with special needs in an Our Whole Lives program can pose challenges, not only in terms of classroom management but also because these participants may have particular sexual health issues and risks. The new edition has a chapter that describes how the curriculum can support youth who have a variety of cognitive or psycho-social disabilities; it also helps facilitators anticipate and address the learning needs of youth with autism spectrum or attention-related disorders. The chapter explains how Our Whole Lives can help prepare them to navigate the physical changes of puberty and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and communication, while helping to reduce their vulnerability to unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual abuse.
In short, the new edition of Our Whole Lives for Grades 7-9 is an excellent investment because it includes:
- Updated language and discussion related to gender identity, sexual orientation, and anatomy
- New workshops related to contemporary youth needs and interests
- Enhanced focus on justice and inclusivity
- More multimedia suggestions (however, Internet access is not essential to workshops)
- Many alternate activities, so facilitators can tailor the workshops to their group’s interests and learning styles
- Special Needs Implementation Guide
As you can tell from this post, you will notice many changes. However, you’ll also find that the new edition feels familiar—that it embodies the same values and assumptions, has the same workshop format, and includes many facilitators’ and participants’ favorite activities from the first edition.
We anticipate that every OWL facilitator and religious educator will have an opinion about the revised edition. We encourage you to experience the curriculum. We welcome questions and hope you will offer feedback, because we all have the same goal: to create a world full of sexually healthy human beings.
- Unfamiliar with Our Whole Lives? The program for grades 7-9 is one component of a lifespan sexuality education curriculum serving age groups from children to adult. Find out more on the UUA website.
- The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS) published Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten–12th Grade, which helped shape the Our Whole Lives curriculum.
- Looking for an Our Whole Lives program provided by a UU congregation near you? Use the Find a Congregation search tool on the UUA website.
- Are you currently providing or considering an Our Whole Lives curriculum for your congregation? Use the publicity tools provide on the UUA website. “Sexuality is Honored Here” is a brochure to help congregants and visitors understand why Our Whole Lives is appropriate for use in the congregation. This page provides flyers you can print to promote your Our Whole Lives program.
- Interested in becoming an Our Whole Lives facilitator? Locate a training event here.
Melanie Davis is the Our Whole Lives Program Associate in the Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association.