Religious Exploration 2019-2020

The UUCSC Religious Exploration Program for the 2019-2020 year is focused on relating to spiritualities of embodiment and on using personal identity exploration as a tool for allyship. This year, our program will be centered around learning projects exploring a few themes. We are actively seeking adults to mentor our children and youth on these various projects. Big Room children will continue our regular practice of making sandwiches for the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry.
Between the Time for All Ages and the RE learning room period, children and youth will gather for 5 minutes of mindfulness practice. Activities will be based on the wonderful Mindful Kids activity pack.
Sex and Gender Identity
As our community works through recertification as a Welcoming Congregation, we will include the children and youth in our explorations. We will impart a contemporary understanding of sex and gender in the context of identity exploration and community-building. We will place particular emphasis on using this kind of personal exploration as a tool for allyship and inclusive democratic values. Because this will be an emphasized theme of the year across the whole community, five of our learning projects will be targeted to this area of exploration.
  1. During Summer and into Fall 2019, the Turning Tides and Teens group will gather to work through the book Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia. We will explore narratives of personal identity formation in the context of religious communities, schools, and family, with an emphasis on sex and gender identity.
  2. During Fall 2019, the Turning Tides and Teens group will take on a series of smaller learning projects. One of these is exploring a way of conceiving of sex, gender, and personal identity called The Gender Wheel. This model will be explored on 9/15, 9/22, and 9/29.
  3. Children in our Big Room will learn basic concepts of sex and gender through an exploration of activities grounded in The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids, chapters 1-9. While encouraging them to investigate their own sense of self and identity, we will explore the ways in which this kind of questioning allows us to widen our circles of compassion, for ourselves, for the natural world, and for the human community as a whole. We’ll work with this material on 9/15, 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/17, 12/15, and 12/22.
  4. Big Room children will also explore The Gender Wheel, as in number 2 above. They will undertake this in the context of number 3, exploring the idea specifically on 11/24, then overlapping with number 3 on 12/15 and 12/22.
  5. In January, Turning Tides and Teens youth will support the Big Room children in an RE Fundraising effort centered on Valentine’s Day. The children and youth will do a bake sale of inclusive Valentine’s Day sweets. Profits from this effort will be pooled with a special collection from the adult congregation to support efforts to purchase a forest to be planted by Oxfam (see here). They will work on this project together on 1/5, 1/12, and 2/2.
Holiday Activities
Besides number 5 in the above, the Valentine’s Day Bake Sale, Turning Tides and Teens kids will support the children in our regular holiday activities. They will support these on the following dates:
  • Yule Logs: 11/10, 11/17, 11/24, and 12/1.
  • No Rehearsal Holiday Pageant: 12/8, 12/15, 12/22, and 12/24.
  • Easter Hunt: 3/8, 4/5, and 4/12.
  • On 10/6, 10/13, and 10/20, youth in Turning Tides and the Teens group will work together to plan and execute a Halloween haunted house.
  • On 10/27, Turning Tides and Teens will have a one-session learning project on the history of Halloween for the Turning Tides and Teens.
  • On 11/3, Turning Tides and Teens will have a one-session learning project about Thanksgiving and its various meanings.
  • We will also undertake a small learning project in all classrooms to learn about Eid al-Fitr on 5/24.
Connecting to Nature
While all of our programs and learning projects actively seek to help children and youth connect to the natural world, we will take it up explicitly as a one-day learning project in the Big Room on 5/17.
Turning Tides and Teens will look at the work and speeches of Greta Thunberg on 4/26, 5/3, and 5/10.
Turning Tides and Teens will also examine the personal example of Winona LaDuke on 5/17.
Additionally, many of our mindfulness activities are grounded either in direct work with connecting to the natural world or in metaphors drawn from nature.
Our fundraising activities in January will  support efforts to purchase a forest to be planted by Oxfam (see here).
Turning Tides and Teens will work with a series of short stories by the Nigerian-American author Dr. Nnedi Okorafor ( The short stories are similar in some ways to other popular genre fiction for children and youth, such as Harry Potter, though they represents its own independent storyline, narrative universe, and sensibilities. We will look at these short stories from multiple angles: as a chance to learn about religious expression in other communities, as a way to think about friendship and allyship, as a way to imagine possible futures not centered in Whiteness, and as a way to think through issues of trauma and violence in relationship to school. The first short story includes a narrative of school-associated violence and will help youth explore their thoughts on this issue before the Gun Violence Prevention Promise takeover the following week. We will read the stories according to the below schedule:
  • “Binti” on 1/19  (Read our own Antoinette Scully’s review of this story here.)
  • “Binti: Sacred Fire” on 2/9
  • “Binti: Home” on 3/1
  • “Binti: The Night Masquerade” on 3/29
  • “Prologue” from her novel Lagoon, set in the same narrative universe, on 6/14
In the Winter and Spring, we will have a series of takeovers.
  • 1/19: We are inviting a special guest to teach in our program from the Islamic Center of Los Angeles.
  • 1/26: Our own Gun Violence Prevention Promise will mentor our children and youth.
  • On 2/16 and 2/23: Our own Social Justice Committee will work with the children and youth.
  • 3/1 will be an extension of the above Social Justice Committee takeover in the Big Room.
  • 3/15 and 3/22 will be focused on an exploration of yoga and related body-based spiritualities
  • 3/29 and 4/5 will continue the above body-based exploration in the Big Room, shifting focus to Tai Chi.
  • On 4/19 our own UUCSC Pagan affinity group will mentor the children and youth.
  • 4/26 will continue the Pagan takeover in the Big Room.
  • On 5/3 our new Environmental Justice Committee will work with children in the Big Room.
  • On 5/31, our Music Team will work with children and youth to prepare for the Bridging Ceremony and Coming of Age Ceremony on 6/7.