Frequently Asked Questions
OP-OWL is a program dedicated to sexuality education. As a dedicated program, we are able to discuss the subject in more depth than is possible in school. We go far beyond what is often considered sex education (anatomy, reproduction, contraception and sexually transmitted infections) to include many other aspects of sexuality, including gender, sexual orientation, relationships, families, and feelings. It is a values-based program which develops the values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, and justice and inclusivity. As an extra-curricular, opt-in program, we are able to discuss topics that may be considered too controversial for public school, such as gender identity and sexual orientation. Please see this curriculum crosswalk for an analysis of how the OWL curriculum aligns with the Oak Park District 97 social-emotional and health curricula around sexuality topics.
Yes, all classes are mixed gender. The program aims to teach kids that people are more alike than they are different, whatever their gender, and to de-mystify the experiences of others. Occasionally a class may separate according to gender for particular activities for the comfort of the participants, such as when discussing personal concerns about puberty. All classes have facilitator teams in which more than one gender is represented.
Sexuality education is about more than sexual acts and reproduction. It is about bodies, families, values, and relationships. Take a look at the units for the Kindergarten-1st grade program. They are developmentally appropriate to the questions and concerns that children have at that age about their bodies and the world around them.
We believe that it is helpful for both children and parents to have conversations about sexuality starting at a young age. Our main goal at OP-OWL is to support parents as the primary educators of their children. By starting to talk about sexuality with their children from a young age, parents open channels of communication and send their children the message that they can come to their parents with questions and concerns as they get older. Young children are interested and curious about their bodies, about questions of gender, and about where they come from, and deserve to have their questions answered.
All program facilitators are volunteers from the communities we serve. Many are social workers, in medical and teaching fields, and parents. (Parents may not facilitate classes in which their own children are enrolled, however, other than at the K-1st grade level.) All classes have facilitator teams in which more than one gender is represented, and several of our facilitators are experienced with the program as facilitators or students. The elementary level classes have three facilitators each, and the middle school level class has four facilitators. All facilitators have had extensive background checks, and have been trained and approved to lead the curriculum.
In an effort to simplify our class offerings, we have decided to advertise and prioritize them for single grades only. Moving forward, classes will be offered and listed as 1st, 5th and 8th. During registration, priority will be given to students in those grades. However, if there are still spots available in our classes, we will offer those spots to students a grade above or below the listed grade.
If you have a student K or 2nd, 4th or 6th, and 7th or 9th you may sign up on the waitlist when registration opens. Students from these adjacent grades will be able to enroll in classes if there are spots available. We anticipate that there will be space for out-of-grade-level students each session.
Why no 3rd?
Children in 2nd and 3rd grades are growing in many ways, but their questions about sexuality tend to not be significantly different from the questions asked by younger children. Because of this, no distinct curriculum was developed for this age level within the Our Whole Lives program.
What about 10th grade and up?
Oak Park OWL does not currently offer a senior high course; we are open to doing so in future years if there is community demand.
We believe that parents are the best judge of their children's maturity and needs. If you believe your student is ready for the course you have in mind, the program will put them on a wait list for any slots that remain once the enrollment period closes. Preference will be given to students enrolled in the grades for which the program is offered.
OP-OWL would encourage parents to wait until their children are enrolled in a grade level for which OWL courses are offered and enroll them at that time. We believe that most children benefit from having OWL classes with a peer group of similar age and maturity. However, if parents review the curriculum and wish to enroll their children, we are willing to work with families to do so.
If facilitators determine, after a few weeks of the program, that the placement is not working for the student or the group as a whole, OP-OWL reserves the right to ask the family to withdraw; a full refund will be provided.
Middle school is a time when many children are going through all kinds of changes, physical, emotional, and social. They are exposed to new information and images, and often need and want guidance in thinking through the implications. OP-OWL is dedicated to helping prepare children to make good choices for themselves both for now and for situations they will face as they get older. Children in middle school are typically developmentally ready to discuss those situations and their implications in a way that younger children are not.
Thanks for asking! We are an all-volunteer organized and operated program, and we appreciate help of all kinds. One big thing you can do is to help us spread the word - to friends, neighbors, social media contacts, etc.
We have a co-op option that allows families to exchange 10 volunteer hours for a student's OP-OWL enrollment. Contact us if you are interested in this option at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in facilitating future classes, please fill out our volunteer facilitator form. Facilitating is challenging, but it is very rewarding to make such a difference in the lives of children in your community. Facilitating classes on the sensitive topics we cover is not for everyone. See our volunteer flyer for a list of characteristics we look for in volunteer facilitators. Volunteer facilitators commit to a mandatory training, as well as to facilitate all sessions and attend (a few) meetings. Parents who are facilitators have fees for their children waived, in appreciation for their commitment and service.