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Our Whole Lives - Goals, Assumptions, Values


Our Whole Lives: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Program





Offered by Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church

25 Main St.

Peterborough, NH 03458



This brochure is derived from materials created by the Unitarian Universalist Society, Wellesley Hills, MA, and UU Church of Muncie, IN.

Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a comprehensive sexuality education program. Its courses are calibrated to the developmental needs of different age groups, from first graders through retired adults. OWL was developed through a collaboration of the Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ. 


In 2024-25 Peterborough UU Church (PUUC) is offering OWL for 7th and 8th graders and seeking grant support to offer courses for other age levels, as well. Our intent is to provide a service to the community; while we wholeheartedly welcome young families, this program includes no proselytizing or pressure to enter our congregation.


The lead facilitator is a certified sex education with additional training in leading OWL courses. All facilitators have gone through background checks, and our Safe Congregation Policy requires that two adults be in the room throughout each class.


Information about the goals, philosophy, and content of OWL programs follows, along with the rationale for offering it within a religious organization. By knowing what to expect and talking with your child about this, we hope that your family will make a commitment to regular participation. If there is initial ambivalence, please encourage them to attend at least three sessions before making a final decision.


Before a youth is eligible to participate in Our Whole Lives, at least one parent must attend the orientation session. Details will be mailed directly to families who have youth eligible to take part.



The overall goal of Our Whole Lives is to create a positive and comprehensive lifespan educational program that helps participants gain the knowledge, values, and skills to lead sexually healthy, responsible lives. More specifically, this curriculum offered for seventh and eighth graders is designed to help young adolescents:

  • Affirm and respect themselves as sexual persons (including their bodies, sexual orientation, feelings, etc.) and respect the sexuality of others.

  • Increase comfort and skills for discussing and negotiating sexuality issues with peers, romantic partners, and people of other generations.

  • Explore, develop, and articulate values, attitudes, and feelings about their own sexuality and the sexuality of others.

  • Identify their values and live according to them.

  • Increase motivation and skills for developing a just sexual morality that rejects double standards, stereotypes, biases, exploitation, dishonesty and harassment.

  • Acquire knowledge and skills for developing and maintaining romantic or sexual relationships that are consensual, mutually pleasurable, non-exploitative, safe and based on respect, mutual expectations and caring.

  • Increase knowledge and skills for avoiding unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Express and enjoy sexuality in healthy and responsible ways at each stage of their development.

  • Assess the impact of messages from family, culture, religion, media, and society on sexual thoughts, feelings, values and behaviors.



Our Whole Lives is based on a set of assumptions about the rights of young people. We believe that they have the right to:

  • Ask any questions they have about sexuality.

  • Receive full and accurate information about sexuality.

  • Explore any issues of sexuality that interest them.

  • Have support in making their own decisions about sexual matters.

  • Express their sexuality in ways that are healthy and life affirming.

  • Be treated with respect by leaders and participants in this group.

This curriculum is also based on the following assumptions about human sexuality:

  • All persons are sexual.

  • Sexuality is a good part of the human experience.

  • Sexuality includes much more than sexual behavior.

  • Human beings are sexual from the time they are born until they die.

  • It is natural to express sexual feelings in a variety of ways.

  • People engage in healthy sexual behavior for a variety of reasons, including to express caring and love, to experience intimacy and connection with another, to share pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to experience fun and relaxation.

  • Sexuality in our society is damaged by violence, exploitation, alienation, dishonesty, abuse of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.

  • It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.


While Our Whole Lives is designed to be relevant for young people from a wide range of family backgrounds and religious traditions, it is not value free. The program gives clear messages about key sexuality issues. These issues are organized into four broad topic areas:


  • Every individual is entitled to dignity and self-worth and to their own attitudes and beliefs about sexuality.

Sexual Health

  • Knowledge about human sexuality is helpful, not harmful. Every individual has the right to accurate information about sexuality and to have their questions answered.

  • Healthy sexual relationships are consensual (both people consent), non-exploitative (equal in terms of power; neither person pressures or forces the other into activities/behaviors), mutually pleasurable (both receive pleasure), safe (no or low risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional pain), developmentally appropriate (appropriate to the age and maturity of persons involved), based on mutual expectations and caring, and respectful (including the values of honesty and keeping commitments made to others).

  • Sexual intercourse is only one of the many valid ways of expressing sexual feelings with a partner. It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.


  • We are called to enrich our lives by expressing sexuality in ways that enhance human wholeness and fulfillment and express love, commitment, delight and pleasure.

  • All persons have the right and obligation to make responsible sexual choices.

Justice and Inclusivity

  • We need to avoid double standards. People of all ages, genders, races, backgrounds, income levels, physical and mental abilities, and sexual orientations must have equal value and rights.

  • Sexual relationships should never be coercive or exploitative.

  • Being romantically and sexually attracted to both genders (bisexual), the same gender (homosexual), or another gender (heterosexual) are all natural in the range of human sexual experience.


Regular, punctual attendance is necessary for this class. 

Please do not enroll unless you can commit to regular attendance.

The OWL curriculum is a life-affirming course that will begin on September 18, 2024, at 6 pm. There will be a total of 25 90-minute sessions, all held at PUUC.

We ask the parents of participants to offer support to the leaders of the program by helping with snacks for meetings. Activities may include discussions, games, activities and viewing of current media images, pictures, and slides prepared specifically for use with Our Whole Lives. 

The philosophy is one of openness and respect, with great emphasis on personal responsibility and healthy, informed decision-making.


This class is not a therapeutic environment.

While questions and personal concerns can and usually do arise, the goal is to provide a setting for our youth to safely and comfortably learn about human sexuality rather than dealing with specific personal issues. Participants will be asked to follow these guidelines, based upon Unitarian Universalist values:

  1. In order to respect the privacy of participants, confidentiality is maintained between the leaders and youth regarding what is discussed in each class. Adult leaders will not speak about individual issues to any youth or parent outside of class. The one exception is that parents will be notified if there is a safety or legal issue. The youth will informed that the leaders will be in touch with parents.

  2. Participants can have many differing and contrasting values. In order to respect our teens and their families, we do not seek to bring the class to a consensus concerning the material. The expression of a wide variety of opinions, beliefs, information, and feelings will be encouraged.

  3. Your teen will not be asked or forced to disclose personal information. All class participants may refrain from participating in any activity they wish or refrain from discussing any subject.

  4. Each person in the class has the right to an emotionally and physically safe environment. No put-downs of any participant’s opinions, questions, attitudes, or beliefs will be tolerated.

  5. At the beginning of the course, youth will have an opportunity to review the following ground rules. It is important that they are committed to these to ensure that all participants are safe and have equal opportunity for growth and sharing.

  • Listen with an open mind.

  • Be nonjudgmental.

  • Ask any question. None are dumb.

  • Participate as much as possible, but share the time.

  • Keep what is said in the group confidential.

  • Respect others’ right to privacy. 

  • Use “I” language.

  • Pass if you wish.

  • Avoid making assumptions about other people.

  • If anything, assume diversity.

  • Have fun!



Abortion: Our Whole Lives discusses the medical procedure of abortion and provides a respectful format for participants of differing viewpoints to discuss the ethical controversies that surround this procedure. (Gr. 7-9, Gr. 10-12, Adult)

Abstinence: Our Whole Lives supports abstinence from sexual activity as one of a number of healthy choices individuals can make at any point in their lives. Abstinence is consistently stressed as the best way to prevent sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. Our Whole Lives also emphasizes the maturity and responsibility required for sexual activity, and presents abstinence as the best choice for young adolescents.

Body Image: Our Whole Lives affirms that bodies of all genders, sizes, colors, ages, and abilities are beautiful. Our Whole Lives offers the opportunity to critique the prevailing cultural standards of beauty, and to expand that definition.

Families: Our Whole Lives affirms that families come in many forms. It features stories and readings about stepfamilies, single parent families, two-parent families (both same-gender and other-gender), multi-ethnic families, adoptive families, and families where children live with a family member other than their parents.


Gender Identity: Our Whole Lives upholds the worth and dignity of people of all genders, including transgender people. It affirms that gender identities are not limited to male and female, and clarifies the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation.

Gender Roles: Our Whole Lives stands for gender justice, countering sexist stereotypes. The program affirms people in non-traditional, as well as traditional, gender roles, and challenges participants to understand the pressures that sexism puts on everyone.

HIV/AIDS: Our Whole Lives contains up-to-date and age-appropriate information on HIV and AIDS symptoms, treatment, and prevention. It stresses the importance of safe behavior and HIV testing. It promotes compassion for those infected with HIV and afflicted with AIDS.

Homosexuality and Bisexuality: Our Whole Lives teaches that bisexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality are all natural sexual orientations, and that people of all sexual orientations have the right to express love, commitment, and pleasure. Our Whole Lives (Gr. 7-9, Gr. 10-12, Adult) invites guest panels of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to speak to the class. Our Whole Lives assumes that its participants will include people of all sexual orientations.

Love and Commitment: Our Whole Lives celebrates love and commitment at all stages of life. It teaches that love requires understanding oneself as well as one's partner; that loving oneself improves one's ability to love another person; and that loving another person can be one of life's greatest joys. Our Whole Lives stresses that marriage and lifetime commitments require mutual effort and understanding.

Masturbation: Our Whole Lives presents masturbation as a natural, valid, and safe form of sexual expression. This curriculum recognizes that individuals, cultures, and religions have differing opinions about masturbation and that ultimately, the individual will decide for her or himself.

Parents: Our Whole Lives affirms that parents are children's primary sexuality educators. Our Whole Lives parent orientation programs help foster positive, proactive communication between parent and child regarding sexuality. Parents will be informed of the topics and issues being presented during the sessions. Studies show that comprehensive sexuality education programs like Our Whole Lives promote communication between parents and children. (For more information, see Facts about Comprehensive Sexuality Education.)

Puberty: Our Whole Lives teaches that people go through puberty at different times and in different ways. Our Whole Lives educates participants about bodily changes and teaches that those changes are natural.

Relationships: Our Whole Lives helps participants recognize that healthy relationships are based on responsibility, respect, love, and commitment. Same-sex relationships are celebrated in the same way that heterosexual relationships are.

Sexual Relationships: Our Whole Lives teaches that healthy sexual relationships are respectful, consensual, non-exploitative, mutually pleasurable, safe, developmentally appropriate, and based on respect, mutual expectations, and caring.

Values: Values are central to Our Whole Lives and gives participants the opportunity to evaluate and strengthen their values, and to act on them.


Comprehensive, Sensitive and Thoughtful...

Professional sexuality educators working in both secular settings and faith communities have been waiting for this resource for years. Our Whole Lives is truly the most comprehensive, sensitive, and thoughtful curriculum available, promoting sexual health and responsibility in a positive way.

--Barbara Kemp Huberman, Director of Sexuality Education and Training, Advocates for Youth

Promotes Compassion and Responsibility

As a scholar and activist in the field of child welfare, and as a parent of a teenager who has participated in the program, I deeply appreciate the wisdom imparted by Our Whole Lives. Our Whole Lives transmits a great deal of valuable information, but more importantly, it promotes compassion and responsibility. As my 15-year-old told me, "Our Whole Lives does much more than teach us plumbing, Mom. It helps us to know what we should do in a difficult situation."

--Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Chair, National Parenting Association

Puts Children and Families First

Finally, a responsible curriculum that puts the needs of children, teens and their families first. Our Whole Lives is comprehensive—meaning that it addresses all the questions children and teens have no matter what their age—paving the way for our youth to grow up to be healthy, caring, connected, and productive adults.

--Robie H. Harris, author, It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health and It's So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families.

Values-Based and Values-Aware

It is wonderful to see a values-based and values-aware curriculum that handles sexuality with such sensitivity and respect. Our Whole Lives is a masterwork of sexuality education.

--Donald A. Dyson, MSS, LSW, Director of Education & Training, Planned Parenthood of Delaware

Comprehensive and Teacher-Friendly

The Our Whole Lives curriculum guide is extremely well written and easy for professional educators to use. The program handles a variety of issues that are absent from many sexuality education programs—sexual orientation, body image, sexuality throughout the life cycle—in 

creative and engaging ways. Most importantly, the program ensures that young people not only get the information they need but that they get the skills practice that evaluations show is critical to ensuring healthy choices and behaviors.

--Leslie M. Kantor, MPH, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood of New York City


Opens Lines of Communication…The most important part of Our Whole Lives was that it opened lines of communication between 


parents and young people. Parents sometimes need help in raising sexuality issues with their children. Not only were the children themselves eager to talk about the issues with their parents, they were able to 'check out' information they had received from peers or the media."

--Gail Forsyth-Vail, Director of Religious Education, North Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, North Andover, MA

Empowering, Challenging, and Community Building... "Teaching Our Whole Lives for Grades 7-9 was a powerful experience that challenged my sexual values to my inner core. It was a most enlightening experience, allowing me to witness young people as they grow through the struggles within themselves, their bodies, and their values about sexuality."

--Volker Thomas, Our Whole Lives for Grades 7-9 facilitator, Unitarian Universalist Church of Lafayette, IN for all who participated. The youth were grateful to be treated as maturing young adults and not children who must be sheltered. For many it was the first time they had had such an experience. They felt respected and incredibly supported that a church would provide a safe space and safe adults to talk about the importance and beauty of their sexuality. Having an opportunity to be honest, open, and even emotionally vulnerable was something they cherished. Bonds were made, understanding occurred, and lives were positively touched. Youth and adults alike were brought closer to an understanding of the gift of our sexuality and responsibilities toward our community and ourselves."

--Cheri Britton, Our Whole Lives facilitator, Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, NC


What some youth have liked about OWL 

  • It was more informative than school.

  • Being comfortable with everyone.

  • How you could be very open about anything.

  • It was somewhere to hear about sex from adults who weren't squirming and nervous.

  • Building stronger relationships.