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Religious Education

RE-Flections: Explicit and Implicit Curricula

“Unitarian Universalist religious education is neither book nor guru centered. It is not adult or even child centered. It is congregation centered, wherein all ages cooperatively engage in what Starr Williams called ‘a cycle of

nurturing.’’   -Rev. Tom Owen Towle

Early in my career as a religious educator, I learned about explicit and implicit curricula in our church RE programs. As you might know, the explicit curriculum consists of what is consciously and intentionally presented in our classrooms: a basic lesson plan taught by our teachers, programming such as the “Black People Matters” lessons that were taught in K5-12 grade Sunday School classes last month, or the chosen UUA curriculum that is presented for a year at a time with each grade grouping. The implicit curriculum, on the other hand, includes lessons which derive from the norms and values of the surrounding society, the setting in which the learning takes place, the attitudes and actions of the people in the community.

Although I am exceptionally happy with what we do in our Sunday School classes, I believe that the explicit curriculum that we offer is just a small part of what it takes to raise our young people as Unitarian Universalists. I often tell our teachers that the relationships we build in the classrooms, the care that is offered in our listening and our sharing, is more important than any lesson plan. Likewise, the implicit curriculum outside the classroom is critical to our children’s sense of identity within our church community.

The social environment of the coffee hour, the increased visibility of social justice opportunities, support for children and youth’s initiatives and multigenerational activities, intentional inclusion in our services – these components teach our young people positive lessons about being Unitarian Universalists and what it means to be a member of the community at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee.

[quote]I encourage us all to speak gently, listen compassionately, and act with caring, especially when in the presence of our young people.[/quote]

Get in touch with your own Unitarian Universalist identity by asking yourself what actions you take that represent your UU values. Be intentional about being a Unitarian Universalist. Our children are paying attention. If WE don’t teach them what it means to be a religious person, some other group will be more than happy to step in and do so.


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