It appears online learning will continue for the foreseeable future. Live Oak closed our building in the middle of 4th-5th grade OWL. Plans for 8th-9th grade OWL during this school year are cancelled. Here’s an update on Our Whole Lives (OWL), along with a request for feedback from families in the various age groups.
When learning went virtual in our congregations, the UUA OWL office quickly made a statement that OWL is not intended to be taught online and congregations should stop programming until further notice. I attend monthly meetings dedicated to discussions about how to move forward.
Curriculum designed for online education is different than in-person lesson planning. OWL is designed for the latter. There are safety and confidentiality issues to consider when learning is happening virtually in your own home. How can families be sure that someone else isn’t in the room with the youth or with the facilitators? Much of OWL is about personal exploration and relationship building, both between participants and the facilitators. Trust is more difficult in a virtual setting. Not to mention that many of our children and youth are already online for hours a day.
So what do we do when I know many of you are asking…when…
In November the OWL office issued a new set of guidelines which I’m reviewing. For the most part their stance is the same. They provide some resources for families to work with their children in grades K-1 and 4-6, including a long list of books and questions to spark conversation. One underlying principle of OWL has always been that parents should be approachable and askable about all things related to sexuality. Using these materials at home with these two age groups is right on target for OWL programming.
Middle school and high school programs present a more difficult problem. The middle school program is the cornerstone of OWL and the longest of the offerings. It consists of twenty-five 90 minutes sessions. One solution offered by the UUA is an abbreviated sexuality education program with greatly shortened lessons, offered online. This requires a lot of trust from families and facilitators, and some steep hurdles in planning, but is doable. It also is NOT to be called OWL, nor is it the OWL program in its entirety. However, it is something we might consider to stay ‘on schedule.’ And even as I write those words, I cringe at the thought that there is a schedule to learning these things.
My questions for Live Oak families only:
K-1st & 4th-6th: Contact me if you would like access to the resources and/or if you are interested in participating in a Parents as Sexuality Educators class
8th-9th: Contact me if you are interested in pursuing the abbreviated sexuality class this spring/summer. If there is sufficient interest, we will consider it. (Please note these sessions will be 40 minutes in length and there will approximately 18 of them.)
I am keenly aware of the desire of the congregation to continue OWL. I am also protective of my team of dedicated facilitators who commit to leading OWL on a schedule that provides an opportunity to have a break between OWL years. When we resume our in-person gatherings, OWL facilitators and I will consider how to get us back into a rotation and catch up people who missed out this year.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.
*See* you on Sunday