Our Whole Lives: Lifespan Sexuality Education
Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a progressive, comprehensive lifespan sexuality education program offered by many of our congregations. Based on the principles of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity, OWL helps people of all ages make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behaviour. The program provides accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality, and affirms parents and caregivers as their children’s primary sexuality educators.
OWL as Unitarian Universalist ministry
Offering fact-based, comprehensive sexuality education is an important part of our ministry and faith development, and is one ways that we promote love and justice in the world. Although the basic OWL curriculum is secular and can be taught in a wide variety of settings and institutions, the program is developed jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC). When OWL is offered in a Unitarian Universalist context, the companion volume Sexuality and Our Faith is used to connect it to our seven Principles and religious values.
The CUC’s OWL as Ministry resource sheet outlines many ways that OWL is connected to our Unitarian Universalist faith and ministry, and will help you share its value with families and all the members of your congregation. Visit the UUA’s OWL website to find out more about the program.
Sexuality and identity continue to evolve throughout our lives, and OWL programs can help participants understand themselves as sexual beings at every point in their life.
Our Whole Lives has specific curricula for the following age groups:
- Kindergarten–Grade 1
- Grades 4–6 (elementary school)
- Grades 7–9 (junior high)
- Grades 10–12 (high school)
- Young adults (ages 18–35)
- Adults (ages 35–50)
- Older adults (50+): the curriculum is in development
OWL Facilitator Training
In order to teach the OWL curriculum in a congregation, facilitators must complete an official OWL facilitator training for each level they wish to teach. Weekend-long OWL trainings introduce participants to the curriculum and its companion volume Sexuality and Our Faith, preparing them to teach engaging sessions and answer tough questions while maintaining healthy boundaries. Trainings are offered for combined levels (grades K–1 and 4–6, grades 7–9 and 10–12, and young adults and adults) and are led by accredited trainers.
The curriculum books and Sexuality and Our Faith are available from the UUA bookstore. If your congregation isn’t registered for a discount with the UUA, you can use the CUC’s; contact us at email@example.com for information.
The CUC organizes one training per year in Canada and supports congregations in hosting others. More frequent trainings are offered in the United States; they are open to Canadians and teach the same material. Trainings in both countries are listed on the UUA calendar, and those in Canada are also listed on events calendar.
How the CUC supports the OWL program
The OWL program is created, administered, and governed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. As a partner organization, the CUC helps to promote and support OWL trainings and programs in Canada through the Youth and Young Adult Ministry staff person, Asha Philar.
The CUC supports OWL by
- planning and financially supporting one annual facilitator training in Canada (location varies from year to year)
- supporting facilitator trainings that are organized by congregations
- consulting with congregations about their OWL programs, and providing help and resources
- maintaining a list of Canadian OWL facilitators and trainers, which is available to congregations upon request
- supporting and working with OWL trainers to promote OWL in Canada
- connecting OWL facilitators through the Canadian OWL Facilitators Facebook group
- developing links with other faith groups and organizations, including the United Church of Canada, to spread the OWL program more widely
Hosting an OWL Facilitator Training
Does your congregation want to offer OWL, but you need training for your facilitators? If you’re not able to send people to a training sponsored by another congregation, the CUC, or the UUA, you may want to host your own.
What to know before planning an OWL training:
- 12–15 participants (at a $250 fee) are required for the training to break even.
- Trainings should generally not have more than 20 participants.
- The budget includes fees for two trainers, plus travel and accommodation costs, training supplies, and some meals for participants.
- Each training requires about 20 hours of workshop time. The CUC can provide a sample schedule, which should be finalized with your trainers.
- Although the OWL program is developed and supported by the UUA and UCC, facilitators need not be members of either faith. It’s useful to promote your training to outside organizations and faith groups to attract more participants. Bear in mind these criteria for selecting potential OWL facilitators.
It’s helpful to review the Planning Guide for Our Whole Lives/Sexuality and Our Faith Facilitator Trainings as you begin planning.
The CUC can help you plan and run a training workshop, and may be able to provide logistical support with registration and payment. See the chart below for more information, and contact us to explore possibilities!