The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell hosts OWL facilitator training, sex education for every age

Newly trained OWL facilitators after their training session, hosted on the second. Photo Contributed

By Eva Hill

With high school over and NSO fully wrapped up, first-years may think that they’ve experienced the last sex education events of their school careers. Yet, the opportunity for students of every grade level to learn more about relationships and sexual respect will be expanded this year thanks to the availability of Our Whole Lives (OWL) trainings for students.

OWL is a comprehensive sex education curriculum designed by the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Unitarian Universalist Association to cover not only basic sexual anatomy and safe sex measures, but also relationships, consent and social norms relating to sex. While the program and training are facilitated by religious groups, the curriculum can be taught from a secular perspective. Additionally, unlike traditional sex education, which typically discusses only heterosexual relationships, the curriculum was created to be inclusive a wide range of sexualities and relationships.

“OWL is rooted in four key values that are really similar to our community values — self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, and justice inclusivity,” said Emily Howe ’16, Grinnell’s Title IX post-baccalaureate prevention & outreach coordinator. Howe has participated in the training herself and was involved in bringing the training to Grinnell.

“It’s not just ‘don’t do this,’ it’s also ‘do this,’ so it’s got a very positive focus to it … when we talk about it in such a positive, that’s really — it’s enlightening, and it brings people in a lot more than just saying ‘don’t do this,’” said Charlie Saunders ’19, Community Advisor Mentor (CAM) for the Clangrala cluster (Langan, Rawson, Gates and Clark), who participated in an OWL facilitator training session earlier this year

Speaking about the recent facilitator training, Howe explained that the level of engagement from the student body was unprecedented. “We had enormous interest from students, which we were thrilled about — we thought it was going to be half students and half community members, but we filled the entire group with students, and that’s just really, really awesome,” she said. “We’re so appreciative that students have the interest to give up that time and come together and think about sexual respect. … That’s really hopeful and exciting.”

Saunders added that the program, which included representatives from Student Government Association (SGA), the Peer Educator Program (PEP), Monsoon, the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC), Stonewall Research Center (SRC), other Community Advisors/CAMs, Education Professionals (EdPros), Student Athlete Mentors (SAMs) and the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) Department, was an important networking experience. “I think that having leaders from these different organizations was really enlightening,” Saunders said. “That was really interesting to think about … how we could partner with them, that was a big thing too, that now … we can combine to make this even more effective than it would have been.”

Future CA and SAM trainings may incorporate OWL curriculum, and there is a long-term goal of using the program in trainings for many school offices beyond student advisors. Howe and Saunders agreed that their biggest concern is getting students engaged and willing to add another item to their already full schedules.

“We already have some things in mind: … follow-up sessions for NSO that use activities pulled directly from this curriculum, and STI testing coming up, and thinking about how we advertise for that and how we talk about that,” Howe said.

In addition, future programming may go beyond just Grinnell College students. Howe has also taught the OWL curriculum in the community over the past year, hosted by Grinnell’s local UCC church.

“We had awesome turnout — the parents whose kids went through it loved it, the kids loved it, so there’s definitely potential for more community involvement.”

Saunders added that facilitators hope that the program’s lighthearted nature, designed to reduce the taboo status of sex-related topics, will help increase student engagement. “Keeping it silly is definitely a big part … that’s how you engage people, get the fences down a little bit, and that’s when people start to open up and internalize the information,” Saunders said.

Newly trained OWL facilitators after their training session, hosted on the second.
Photo Contributed
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *