Our Whole Lives (OWL)

Our Whole Lives Policies

Download PDF



  1. Structure of the Program
    1. Registration and Fees
      1. All legal parents/guardians of minor participants must sign the permission form. If divorced parents share legal custody, the congregation must obtain written permission from both parents. If divorced parents do not have joint custody, and the divorce agreement clearly stipulates that the custodial parent may make decisions regarding their child’s education without consulting the non-custodial parent, then it is only necessary to get the written permission of the parent with sole legal custody. However, if the situation is unclear, or if there are persistent questions or concerns, and especially if there is a history of conflict between the divorced parents, it is wise for the participating parent to consult a lawyer for clarification of their agreement because even a parent without physical custody can still share legal custody and retain rights regarding decisions about the child, including decisions about education or religion.
      2. It is strongly recommended, but not required, that all adults who are in an active parental/guardian role (e.g., step-parent) for the child sign the permission form, even if they technically don’t have legal custody. This is both to satisfy legal requirements and to honor the diversity of family structures in our congregations.
      3. The Our Whole Lives program has a Restricted Fund that pays for the costs of the program (e.g., travel and fees for training facilitators, curriculum, supplies).This fund is comprised of fees collected from each participant, as well as any donations that might be made directly to and for the Our Whole Lives program.
      4. The fee amount per student is determined by RE Staff and the OWL coordinator each year. Fees for longer classes (e.g., 7-9 and 10-12) may be higher than those for shorter classes (e.g., K-1 and 4-6). Fees may be changed each year as RE staff and the OWL coordinator deem necessary.
      5. Should a family have more than one child in the program in the same year, each additional child will be charged approximately 75% of the full fee.
      6. RE Staff or the Minister have the authority to award a scholarship for UUCT member families or other families with a long association with UUCT at their discretion.  UUCT will not normally grant scholarships to families that are not associated with UUCT, although other organizations that the family is associated with (e.g., other churches) may pay the family’s fees for them.
  2. Teaching
    1. Class Coverage
      1. Each class shall have at least 2 facilitators, although 3 to 4 are recommended to allow them to rotate. Each class session must have at least 2 facilitators during the entire class (except for brief periods when one facilitator is escorting a student to the bathroom or bringing equipment from the RE office, etc.). For each class session, at least one facilitator must be a member of the church (see C.2.) It is recommended, but not required, that each facilitator team represent a diversity of gender identity and sexual orientation.
    2. Training Requirements
      1. Facilitators must attend a UUA- or UCC-sanctioned training program to prepare for leading Our Whole Lives. A facilitator must have received training for the level being taught in order to be a lead teacher; however, those trained in other levels may co-teach and lead activities. While only those who have received training can teach, others may be present in the classroom to attend to the needs of participants (see Section IV).
      2. If the trainers at the Our Whole Lives training program express reservations about a prospective facilitator, their recommendations must be followed.
    3. Recruitment
      1. Our Whole Lives facilitators are recruited by the RE Council OWL portfolio holder, OWL committee members (if applicable), and RE Staff. Facilitators are then affirmed by the REC. Appeals may be made to the LFDD. If a prospective facilitator wishes to attend a training that occurs before the next regularly scheduled REC meeting, they may be affirmed by the REC following training.
      2. Given the unique nature of the Our Whole Lives curricula and the specialized knowledge necessary to cover the material and answer participants’ questions, Our Whole Lives facilitators need not be members of the congregation. However, they should ideally have been associated with the congregation for at least 3 to 6 months and have a relationship of trust with their fellow facilitators. (Please see the last page of this document for further information on choosing facilitators.)
      3. Teachers will be asked to provide references, attend an interview, and/or submit to a criminal background check before they can be sent for training.
      4. People who have already attended an approved Our Whole Lives facilitator training who are affiliated with some other religious organization (e.g., a local UCC church, UUCNWT, etc.) may also serve as Our Whole Lives facilitators for a UUCT Our Whole Lives class, at the discretion of the OWL coordinator, RE Staff, and the REC. In the case of facilitators who have a long-term relationship with the UUCT Our Whole Lives program, only approval of the OWL coordinator is needed. In the case of facilitators who are new to the UUCT Our Whole Lives program, the OWL coordinator and/or RE Staff should first develop a relationship of trust with the prospective facilitator. The items in point 3 above may also be required.
    4. Age Requirements
      1. Grades K-1, 4-6, and 7-9: Facilitators must be at least 21 to teach Our Whole Lives programs for children or junior high youth.
      2. Grades 10-12: So that the boundary between youth and adult is clear, adult facilitators of Our Whole Lives for Grades 10-12 must be age 25 or over. However, a trained, qualified youth or young adult could co-lead a high school program in collaboration with a trained, qualified adult 25 or over.
      3. Adult and Young Adult: Facilitators of Our Whole Lives for Adults and Our Whole Lives for Young Adults can be either young adults or older adults.
    5. RE Program Requirements
      1. All facilitators must be trained in (1) the safety policies and practices of the congregation and the RE Program and (2) teaching children and youth with special needs. To accomplish this, teacher training workshops will be offered each year, as needed. Our Whole Lives facilitator training, for this aspect of training only, may be co-convened with RE teacher training.
      2. Teachers will be required to read and sign a Code of Ethics each academic year.
  3. Classes
    1. Class Assignments
      1. Children are assigned to classes by school grade.
      2. Exceptions can be made by the OWL coordinator in consultation with the facilitators, parents, and possibly RE Staff. (See IV A)
    2. Class Sizes
      1. Our Whole Lives classes should ideally be taught with approximately 8-12 participants at the beginning of the class. However, a planned class will normally be offered if the number of expected participants is between 4 and 15, to accommodate the needs of families and the program.
      2. If a substantially higher number of participants is expected, the OWL coordinator should investigate the possibility of opening a second class at the same age level, or otherwise expanding the program temporarily or long-term. In no case will an Our Whole Lives class for K-1, 4-6, 7-9, or 10-12 be allowed to exceed 18 participants.
      3. A planned class may be cancelled if less than 4 participants are expected, but the assigned facilitators, in consultation with the OWL coordinator and RE Staff, may still choose to offer the class.
      4. Parents should preregister their child/youth  before the class (orientation session) begins. Acceptance of late registration will be determined by the Our Whole Lives facilitators (if possible, in consultation with the OWL coordinator) on a case-by-case basis.
    3. Class Schedules
      1. Timing of classes (number of sessions, days of the week, times of day) will be determined by the Our Whole Lives facilitator team and the OWL coordinator, and will be dependent on both pedagogical considerations and room availability.  Our Whole Lives facilitators may consult parents of participants about scheduling changes that come up during the class.
  4. Inclusion of Participants With Special Needs
    1. Class Assignments
      1. Children and youth with special needs should not be excluded from Our Whole Lives classes because of their special needs. They should take Our Whole Lives classes at a stage that is appropriate to their individual development, which may not correspond with the usual age ranges for the program. For example, depending on the type of special need, it might be more effective for a child to take the 4th-6th grade Our Whole Lives class at a later biological age. When to have a particular child or youth participate in a particular level of Our Whole Lives will be determined through consultation among the Our Whole Lives facilitators, parents, OWL coordinator, and possibly RE Staff.
      2. Parents should make every effort to notify Our Whole Lives facilitators, the OWL coordinator, or RE Staff of their wish for their child or youth with special needs to participate in Our Whole Lives class well before the class begins.  If parents do not do so, it may not be possible to offer all accommodations, as recruiting the volunteers necessary for some accommodations requires a longer timeline. In extreme cases only, children or youth may be denied the chance to participate during a given year if there is not enough time to set up the necessary accommodations.
    2. Accommodations
      1. Accommodations should be made for children and youth with special needs to allow them and other students to benefit maximally from Our Whole Lives class.  The accommodations will be determined on a case-by-case basis before the beginning of the Our Whole Lives class by the Our Whole Lives teachers, parents, OWL coordinator, and possibly RE Staff.  Patton’s work “Faith-Based Sexuality Education Guide for the Inclusion of Children and Youth With Special Needs” provides extensive guidance on this topic, and should be consulted. The accommodations suggested here are based on that work. Accommodations may include any of the following:
        1. No accommodations (for mild special needs or those being successfully treated, as might be the case for ADD/ADHD or mild dyslexia).
        2. Reduced use of reading/writing activities during class, and conversion of reading/writing activities in the curriculum to oral activities (implemented by the teachers, as needed).
        3. Allowing a child/youth to sit out of activities and not participate, while still remaining in class.
        4. Use of an Inclusion Committee throughout the time period of the class will be used to determine and implement the necessary accommodations. The committee may include at least one RE Staff member or the OWL coordinator, one Our Whole Lives teacher of the relevant class, and one parent of the child/youth)
        5. A separate meeting before the Our Whole Lives class begins between parents, the Our Whole Lives teachers for the class, and possibly an RE Staff member or the OWL coordinator, to discuss accommodations.  A meeting that involves the child/youth with special needs may also be held.
        6. Recruitment of a buddy or mentor to attend all Our Whole Lives sessions together with the child or youth and facilitate the child or youth’s understanding of material and participation in class. The buddy/mentor could be an older youth (e.g., junior high or high school for a K-1 or 4-6 student) or an adult. For a special needs youth participating in a 7-9 or 10-12 Our Whole Lives class, only an adult mentor should be used. Buddies/mentors need not be trained Our Whole Lives facilitators or members of the church, but they should be carefully chosen by the Inclusion Committee or similar people.
        7. Lending of a curriculum book to the child’s/youth’s parents, or advice that they buy a copy, so that the parents can pre-read or review lessons with the child/youth. Alternatively, the buddy/mentor may do this.
        8. An orientation session for the other children/youth in the Our Whole Lives class, with or without the special needs child/youth present, in order to teach them what to expect, explain how to interact with the child/youth with special needs, or explain what the role of the buddy/mentor is. The child/youth with special needs should be consulted about this orientation, and may be involved in presenting it.
      2. The need to include children and youth with special needs in Our Whole Lives classes does not mean that disruptive behavior that interferes seriously with the class is acceptable. Patton’s work includes guidelines on making an agreement with the child/youth about what behavior is necessary in order to remain in the Our Whole Lives class. However, the Inclusion Committee should make every effort to find a solution before any child is excluded from Our Whole Lives class.
      3. Inclusion of adults with special needs in Young Adult and Adult Our Whole Lives classes:  As part of the pre-registration process, an adult with special needs may request a meeting with the Our Whole Lives facilitators, and an RE Staff member or the OWL coordinator to discuss what accommodations, if any, are necessary.
  5. Parent Involvement
    1. Orientation
      1. Part of Our Whole Lives’s philosophy is that parents are their children’s primary sexuality educators. For this reason, at least one parent/guardian must attend the Orientation. . However, it is recommended that all parents/guardians/step-parents in a child’s life attend.
      2. Facilitators may arrange to meet with parents who are unable to attend orientation, provided that this meeting is held before the first session.
      3. Childcare will be available during all orientations.
      4. Parent Orientation for Our Whole Lives 7-9 and 10-12 must include the showing of the appropriate Sexuality and Our Faith DVDs. Parents must give written consent for their child(ren) to view the applicable DVD in class.
    2. Meals/Snack: Parents may be asked to contribute to the class by supplying meals or snacks for long sessions (i.e., for Our Whole Lives 7-9 and 10-12 classes).
    3. Overnights: Our Whole Lives 7-9 and 10-12 facilitators will not normally be the chaperones for overnights, if overnights are used; therefore, parents may be asked to chaperone overnights.
  6. Multi-church Involvement
    1. Outreach
      1. The OWL coordinator should be in contact with relevant Staff or lay leaders at UUCNWT to make Our Whole Lives classes taught at UUCT available to families at UUCNWT as well, as deemed appropriate by Staff or lay leaders at both churches.
      2. Because Our Whole Lives is a program jointly developed with the UCC denomination, and because other liberal religious institutions may also have an interest in making it available to their families, the OWL Coordinator, OWL committee, or RE Staff may do outreach to other churches regarding the Our Whole Lives program at UUCT. Such outreach may include contacting staff and lay leaders at other religious organizations, presenting about the Our Whole Lives program at those organizations, and providing registration materials for Our Whole Lives classes to those organizations so that children/youth from those organizations can participate in Our Whole Lives classes at UUCT.
      3. The OWL coordinator, OWL committee, or RE Staff may also perform outreach to the Tucson community more broadly, for example, by hanging posters about Our Whole Lives at community organizations, contacting charter or private schools that are likely to be interested, etc. These outreach activities may include similar activities to those done with other religious organizations. Such outreach increases the reach of UUCT’s ministries.
      4. Children/youth who are not associated with UUCT, and whose parents/guardians are not members of UUCT, may participate in Our Whole Lives classes at UUCT. If there are more participants expected for an Our Whole Lives class than can be accommodated (see III.A, III.B, and III.D above), UUCT will make efforts to accommodate all interested participants, but priority may be given to UUCT member families, if necessary.
      5. If a large number of participants from a particular organization other than UUCT are expected (e.g., a partnership with a nearby UCC church), the OWL coordinator and RE Staff may wish to plan a joint social action event or social event before Our Whole Lives classes begin, to allow participants from UUCT and the other organization to get acquainted.
    2. Sexuality and Our Faith [The text, not the DVD]
      1. If a class consisting of children from UU and UCC churches is arranged, the OWL coordinator and RE Staff (or counterpart) of each church may wish to meet to discuss how to incorporate the Sexuality and Our Faith aspect of the curriculum.
      2. In a mixed class of UU, UCC, and community members, the OWL coordinator and RE Staff should meet with their counterparts in each group to discuss how to (or whether to) incorporate the Sexuality and Our Faith aspect of the curriculum.
      3. At the joint social event (see VI.A.5.), parental input should be elicited on the plan to incorporate Sexuality and Our Faith openings/closings in the sessions.
    3. Location & Fee Sharing
      1. UUCT and UUCNWT may sometimes wish to co-convene Our Whole Lives classes, with some meetings at each of the campuses. This arrangement should only be made after carefully considering the needs of all the involved families and Our Whole Lives facilitators.
      2. If a separate religious organization coordinates with UUCT to offer an Our Whole Lives class and one or more Our Whole Lives facilitators are members of the other organization, a proportion of the participants’ fees (usually proportional to the contributions of the various facilitators, but to be agreed upon by the relevant staff or lay leaders of both organizations) will be returned to the other organization. Fee-sharing will be based on facilitators, not affiliation of participants or location of rooms used.

The following was excerpted from Planning Guide for Our Whole Lives Trainings (revised and updated Fall 2007); It can also be found on UUA website in OWL FAQs (updated June 1, 2010): 

The success of this program depends on the qualified and caring persons who are selected and trained to be Our Whole Lives facilitators. Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing your facilitators:
  1. A commitment to value-based, comprehensive sexuality education. A facilitator needs to have values in harmony with the Our Whole Lives program and goals, and to feel comfortable with his or her own sexuality.
  2. Experienced, skilled, and comfortable with the specific age group and its developmental needs.A facilitator needs to stimulate discussion by asking open-ended questions, encouraging communication among participants, and facilitating activities that foster experiential learning.  A facilitator needs to use sexual terminology and age-appropriate language comfortably, relate well with the age group of the participants, and convey warmth and a sense of humor.
  3. Anti-bias awareness. A facilitator needs to understand, appreciate, and celebrate diversity of race/ethnicity, culture, age, ability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. A facilitator needs to have the skills to work with people of diverse backgrounds as well as the ability to create a safe and engaging learning environment.
  4. An advocate for sexual health and safety. A facilitator needs knowledge and skills not only to educate about sexual health but to fulfill the trust inherent in the role of sexuality educator. This role includes the responsibility to recognize and report abuse. The facilitator must support your organization’s safety-abuse policy and must follow your state’s or province’s process for reporting and investigating an alleged abuse.
  5. Ability to build relationships. A facilitator needs to develop rapport with participants, and when the participants are children or youth, with parents and family as well. Facilitators need to build community in the classroom, uphold the Participation Guidelines, and develop relationships of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility within your organization and the wider community.
  6. Dedicated learner and facilitator. A facilitator needs to be willing to become thoroughly familiar with the content of the program, to work with a co-facilitator or teaching team, and to listen to and learn from young people and parents.
  7. Appropriate boundaries. Facilitators need to understand that the class is an opportunity for the participants to explore their sexuality and test boundaries and assumptions, which may occasionally involve self-disclosure from participants. Facilitators may be called upon to uphold boundaries on participants’ sharing. Further, facilitators should not use class for their own personal exploration or self-disclosure. This is critically true for the children’s and adolescent levels of Our Whole Lives, but it is also true for the peer-led Young Adult and Adult levels. Facilitators need to understand the ways that their own participation could compromise their effectiveness as facilitators.
  8. Person of faith. When offering Our Whole Lives in a congregational context, a facilitator needs to be a person who is respected by the congregation and comfortable discussing the integration of sexuality and spirituality with members of their faith community. They should be aware of their own spiritual or religious grounding, and should possess an ability to connect the program values with their religion’s principles, traditions and history.



RE Policies for OWL - Approved - September 2, 2010