Friends hosts Our Whole Lives sexuality education conference

Earlier this fall, Friends School hosted its first-ever Our Whole Lives (OWL) Conference—a three-day intensive sexuality education training for educators across all divisions. Offering a holistic approach to sexuality education, the OWL curriculum provides “accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality.”

The conference’s origins stem from the School’s Healthy Relationships Task Force, which is beginning to build capacity to implement the OWL curriculum across all divisions. Upper School Counselor, Amy Melchin, organized the training this semester, working with four trainers who are nationally known sexuality educators as well as with authors and social justice activists. The intensive was well attended with 21 Friends School staff from every division and nine educators from neighboring schools participating.

Melchin notes that “sexuality education is critical for children, and as a society, we are woefully behind in this type of education. We know parents are their child’s primary educators and we aim to partner with them to support dialogue at home. At Friends we seek to help children develop a positive, inclusive view of sexuality and relationships; learn medically accurate information about sexuality; understand how to take care of their bodies and get help if they need it; learn skills to communicate in their relationships, and understand and honor their and their families’ values and beliefs about sexuality.”

Melchin adds that “the OWL curriculum invites us to consider four critical values, aligned with our Quaker philosophy: self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity. We encourage all members of our community—parents and faculty—to gain competency in discussing  healthy sexuality and building healthy relationships.” Ultimately, Melchin and the rest of the Task Force hope the conference will further their efforts to prioritize holistic sexuality education and to foster a community where students are able to communicate clearly and compassionately.

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