Lowcountry churches team up for sex ed program, 'Our Whole Lives'

loberle@islandpacket.comSeptember 14, 2013 

For many students, sex ed classes can be awkward and clinical, maybe even embarrassing.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry and the Unitarian Fellowship of Beaufort are offering a different kind of sex education course for Beaufort County students this fall. "Our Whole Lives" is a national program that aims to give students a more complete sexual education. While the teachers don't use any one religion as a basis for the course, students will learn how different belief systems address sex and sexuality.

"In schools, sex ed is taught through the lens of abstinence," said Ann Harrison, one of the course's four teachers. "We want to educate these kids so they can be informed and make healthy decisions when it comes to sex."

The course's creators believe that sexual education is necessary for all stages of life, and they've tailored their program for different age groups. The Beaufort County course is open to sixth- through ninth-graders.

The curriculum does not rely on fear or shame to scare students into abstinence. Instead, it addresses issues such as sexual orientation, gender identification and intimate relationships at a young age.

"Kids who are more knowledgeable can make choices in their lives based on facts," Harrison said.

At an informational meeting held in August, one student asked how the class would be different from the two years of sexual education he has received in school.

"First of all, it will be more fun," said April Hardaway, a course teacher. "It won't be creepy and weird like it might have been in your public school."

A mandatory parent orientation meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Unitarian Fellowship of Beaufort. There, parents will be presented with everything their children will be taught in the course.

"It's a very transparent program," teacher Liz Key said. "We don't want parents later saying, 'Why didn't you tell me this was involved?'"

The 12-session course begins Oct. 6 and will meet from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays.

"This is a dream come true that we're going to be teaching ('Our Whole Lives')," Harrison said.

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura

RELATED CONTENT Universalist Unitarian OWL website

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