Learning

LEARNING OVERVIEW

Religious Exploration (RE) is one of the ways that UUFC supports faith development at all stages of life. RE offers participants opportunities to develop spiritual practices, connect with our liberal religious heritage, cultivate understanding and respect for diverse religious traditions, clarify our own personal values, and utilize our unique gifts to create a better world for all.

Religious Exploration

NURSERY CARE/

FAMILY AREA

Birth to Age 4

To honor the diversity of attachment styles and blossoming personalities, we offer two options for infants and toddlers on Sunday mornings. Families may check their children in for cooperative playtime in the nursery (room 4) before the service begins, or stay together in the Family Area in the gallery of our sanctuary, which has been set up for comfortable nursing, play, reading, or naps during the service. Choose what feels right for your family.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

The nursery. located in room 4 of the classroom wing, is a space where our youngest members can build the foundational trust and sense of community necessary to flourish as spiritual and emotional beings at UUFC and beyond. Our nursery care providers follow the child’s lead, model and encourage sharing and good citizenship, and prioritize having fun!

We know that attachment styles vary widely from family to family and child to child, so parents are always welcome to stay in the nursery to help their child become acclimated. We encourage parents to share their own preferences around things like how long to let their child cry for them before calling them out of the sanctuary and best methods of soothing during those initial trust-building days. We’re here to make this as comfortable and positive a transition as possible for our tiny friends!

Below is a little look at what you can expect in the nursery at UUFC!

REGISTERING FOR NURSERY CARE

Before dropping your child off for the first time, we ask that you register them for the nursery. You can do this by stopping at the tree stump in the classroom wing and clicking “Nursery Registration” on the iPad, or register in advance with this link. This allows us to provide the safest possible experience and to contact you if you are needed during the service. Once registered, our nursery care team will be able to check your child in on their phone whenever you drop off.

Please do not leave your child unattended in the nursery when no childcare provider is present, or take them without checking out with a nursery care provider. We also ask that you pickup your child before attending coffee hour in the social hall so that our caregivers can have time with their spiritual community as well.

THE NURSERY TEAM

The nursery is staffed with a combination of paid childcare providers and fully background-checked volunteers from our Grandfolks Squad who are eager to provide a caring and uplifting environment for our smallest members.

THE PHYSICAL SPACE

From building to cooking, driving to climbing, there’s something to spark any imagination in our nursery! Our space is thoughtfully prepared with diverse, non-biased books, toys, and puzzles that encourage creativity, curiosity, and self-exploration. There is always water available in the nursery, and children can bring their own snack , if desired, but because allergies are still being identified at this age, we do not provide snacks or allow snack sharing in the nursery.

For everyone’s safety, we ask that parents take care of their child’s diapering and potty training needs. A changing station and diaper pail are provided in the bathroom beside the nursery, and parents are welcome to use the changing pad stored in the nursery if there is a need while that bathroom is occupied.

Grandfolks Squad for Event Chilcare

When parents of young children wish to attend UUFC events other than the Sunday service, they can request childcare from the Grandfolks Squad by filling out this request form. Every effort will be made to arrange for a team of Grandfolks to care for your child, free of charge, while you attend a UUFC sponsored event. Please note, Grandfolks are not available for non Fellowship gatherings.

As mentioned above, grandfolks are volunteers who are background checked and serve in teams of two, in accordance with our safe congregation policies.

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SPIRIT PLAY

Kindergarten to Grade 5

Children five and up begin Sunday mornings in the sanctuary and head to Spirit Play in Rooms 6 after the time for all ages. Spirit Play is a Montessori-inspired RE program that includes active storytelling, wondering time, and child-directed activities carefully designed to develop the skills of independent thought and community building.

Our Philosophy

Spirit Play is based in story and ritual, play and creativity. It gives children the tools to make meaning of their lives and questions such as Who am IWhere did I come from, and What is my purpose, within the container of Unitarian Universalism. We use the Montessori approach with key elements of a prepared classroom environment, child-directed activities, and trained teachers. These elements free the children to choose their own focus after an initial lesson or story within a safe and sacred structure shepherded by two adults.

This style of learning environment encourages independent thinking through wondering questions, offers children real choice within a structure, creates a mixed age community, and develops an underlying sense of spirituality and mystery.

Check out what to expect in Spirit Play below!

Registering for Spirit Play

Before the service, we ask that parents register their children for Spirit Play. You can do this by visiting the tree stump in the classroom wing and tapping on “Spirit Play Registration,” or by using this link. Registering helps us create the safest possible learning experience for your child!

Please do not allow your children to be unsupervised in any of our classroom areas, and please make sure you check out with one of our classroom volunteers before leaving with your child. When a child is not properly checked out, it initiates an emergency search. We also ask that you pickup your child before attending coffee hour so that our volunteers may have plenty of time to engage with their spiritual community as well.

Where To Go, And When

Children should obtain a nametag, just like their parents, either at the welcome desk or from the nametag racks, depending on how long you’ve been attending.

Children begin with their families in the sanctuary for shared worship. It is important to us that our children know that they are part of a larger community than just what takes place in the classroom wing. We want them to know and be known by all the members of the Fellowship, and understand their importance and place in our community.

After the time for all ages, the congregation will sing Go Now Children, and a Spirit Play guide with the sign you see to the left will lead the children to room 6 in the classroom wing for their Spirit Play time.

The Guides

Spirit Play is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides who have been trained in the Montessori approach to classroom management. This means they allow the children to make choices and even struggle a bit, only offering help when it is requested or safety is a concern.

Our guides model the values of curiosity and joy, as they share stories and answer questions. They seek to create a calm and engaging environment that is conducive to exploration and community building.

The Experience

The Spirit Play classroom is a highly prepared environment. Children arrive and sit on the rug for a chalice lighting and a shared story with a basket of physical supporting elements to help bring the story to life. After a shared discussion about the story, which is designed to highlight one of our UU principles or central figures, the children are invited into “work time.”

During work time, children can select their own activity from the prepared trays and activity spaces around the room. They may choose to work alone or form a collaborative group to build, paint, write stories, read books, or investigate our natural world with science trays. It is not uncommon to find the whole room silent, as children are deeply invested in their chosen project. Other days, though, you’ll find a raucous explosion of enthusiastic sharing.

When the weather is right, or the children are squirmy, we occasionally end our time together on the playground. When we do, you’ll find the sign to the right on the door of the Spirit Play classroom. To check your child out from the playground, please pass through the classroom find the two exit doors. The door on the left of this pair will take you to the playground. The door to the right will take you to the parking lot. Again, please make sure that a Guide knows you are taking your child.

Please send any questions about our children’s and youth programs to Director of Religious Exploration, Skyla King-Christison at dre@uucorvallis.org

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YOUTH PROGRAMS (YRUU)

Grades 6-12

At this time, our middle and high school programs are combined on Sunday mornings for YRUU in Room 7. In this space, we encourage shared adult/youth leadership and select curriculum that explores personal engagement with values like awareness, courage, empathy, and joy. During the summer, we use a program called D’oh, God! that uses carefully curated episodes of the Simpsons to spark discussion about culture and world religion.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Our youth programs are designed to prioritize the immediate needs of the youth above the regularly scheduled programming, recognizing that these can be turbulent and fruitful years with a high degree of need for compassionate mentoring and social support.

Our formal programming aims to help participants notice their experiences with the sacred, clarify their own personal values while learning what it means to be Unitarian Universalist, and gain practice expressing their own religious convictions through action towards a better world.

It is our goal that these aims be accomplished through adult/youth partnerships rather than direct teaching, so as capacities develop in our youth for leadership, space is made for a greater portion of our time together to be directed by youth, while adults lean into a mentoring and advisory role.

Check our what to expect in YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) below!

HOW TO REGISTER

Before the service, we ask that parents register their children for YRUU. You can do this by visiting the tree stump in the classroom wing and tapping on “YRUU Registration,” or by using this link. Registering helps us create the safest possible learning experience for your child!

While youth are permitted to check themselves in and out of YRUU, we ask that you and your children be aware that we do not permit teens to linger unsupervised in the classroom wing. This provides a layer of safety for both our children and adults, and helps us ensure that our youth are an integrated part of our larger congregational community. Thank you for your support in this area.

WHERE TO GO AND WHEN

Youth should obtain a nametag, just like their parents, either at the welcome desk or from the nametag racks, depending on how long you’ve been attending.

Youth begin with their families in the sanctuary for shared worship. It is important to us that our youth know that they are part of a larger community than just what takes place in the classroom wing. We want them to know and be known by all the members of the Fellowship, and understand their importance and place in our community.

After the time for all ages, the congregation will sing Go Now Children, and a Spirit Play guide with the sign you see to the left will lead the children to the classroom wing. Youth will follow in that general direction and split off to meet their advisors in room 7.

THE EXPERIENCE

When youth arrive in room 7, we will always start with a chalice lighting and brief check-in about how things are going in life, to help get centered in a spirit of community and worship. If appropriate, we move into the lesson for the day. After the session, we’ll have some closing words, extinguish the chalice, and youth are invited to join the wider congregation in the social hall. Light snacks are provided during the session, and donations for the cause of the month are accepted in the social hall after services.

For the 2023/24 Fellowship year, we will be adapting the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith Programming, Heeding the Call: Qualities of a Justicemaker. Each month, the group will explore a different spiritual calling, such as the call to awareness or the call t compassion. These callings will be explored through stories, hands on activities, discussion, and “faith in action” tasks that invite the youth to apply what they’ve learned to the context of our congregation.

in the 2024/25 Fellowship year, we will be using the Harvard Justice Course, an introduction to moral and political philosophy. It explores classical and contemporary theories of justice, and applies these theories to contemporary legal and political controversies. We will be weaving in events and prominent figures in UU history, examining our our religious heritage with a critical eye toward justice.

SPECIAL EVENTS

In an effort to provide more spaced for young UUs to deepen their connections with one another and between communities, we provide a monthly special event for youth. Often, neighboring communities are invited to join, or we travel to them to ensure that our teens are getting experiences beyond our local congregation. You can check out the most current YOUTH EVENTS CALENDAR HERE. Types of events that you can expect include the fall trip to the corn maze, the spring youth coast retreat, and a summer outdoor movie and camping on the lawn. All youth are welcome to join.

Annual Middle School Programming

Every year we offer a special 6 week series of programming specifically for 7th and 8th graders. We alternate between our Coming of Age program and our OWL (Our Whole Lives, comprehensive sexuality education ) program. Both of the programs are central to our UU tradition and community building, and we encourage everyone to take them in the middle school years. These programs are also generally well attended by non Fellowship youth. Space is limited, with priority registration given to member families.

Please send any questions about our children’s and youth programs to Director of Religious Exploration, Skyla King-Christison at dre@uucorvallis.org

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We offer a monthly special event outside of Sunday mornings, which often includes youth from other congregations. You can access our most up-to-date youth event calendar.

*7 & 8th graders are offered an annual special program, alternating between Coming of Age and OWL.

ADULT RE

Age 18 and Up

We offer a variety of workshops and programs for adults throughout the year. Some are one-time offerings that are chosen to meet the immediate needs of our congregation, while others you can count on returning in a predictable cycle. Annual offerings include UU History and World Religions offered by Reverend Jill McAllister, and Coming of Age and OWL offered by the RE Team.

This year, our adult religious exploration programs are aimed at helping participants connect with our spiritual center and fine-tune the skills we already possess to help each of us confidently engage with the work of building a new way. We offer programs and events across the year, and we support participants in transforming their skills into learning opportunities for our wider community. Have an offering? Let’s chat!

You can find all of our workshop series, as well as one-time events, in the main Fellowship calendar linked in the “Calendars” tab at the top of this site. We very much appreciate you taking the time to pre-register so that we can arrive well-prepared to provide you with the best RE experience possible.

A few upcoming offerings for adults include:

Spiritual Practices, Part 2

UUA Common Read

Elevator Speeches Workshop

For a sense of our flavor or Religious Exploration for adults, you can check out our past RE event listings here!

Every other year, we alternate between our two core programs that we believe every adult should take at least once. These are the Coming of Age Program and OWL (Our Whole Lives, comprehensive sexuality education) for adults. We are currently in a Coming of Age year. To be added to the mailing list for when we offer OWL again, email Skyla King-Christison at dre@uucorvallis.org.

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MORE OFFERINGS

Wheel of the Year Celebrations

Family Faith Formation Toolkit

Young Adult Pizza Hour

Soulful Home Family Pancake Breakfast

Grandfolks Squad

RELIGIOUS EXPLORATION COUNCIL

The role of the Religious Exploration Council is to provide support, guidance, and coordination of RE programs.  The RE Council works closely with the Director of RE  to monitor learning needs across the lifespan of our congregation and develop materials and structures to help address those needs through classes, workshops, events, and volunteer mobilization. 

The primary tasks of the RE Council include:

~Developing and promoting programs that deepen our community’s capacity for spiritual and faithful living;

~Assessing unmet congregational needs for learning and communicating those with staff;

~Identifying potential volunteers and connecting them with the opportunities best suited to their skills and interests.

Our Mission

Explore. Love. Act.

We gather as an inclusive religious community to search for meaning, build deep connections, and inspire action toward a better world for all.

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