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October 30, 2014 | 6th Cheshvan 5775
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Middle School Curriculum

Middle School coverThe Sacred Choices middle school module encourages 6th, 7th and 8th graders to recognize that Jewish values are central to dealing with relationships. The Sacred Choices curriculum:

  • provides teens with a foundation on which they can make informed, responsible decisions about their health and behavior, including their sexuality
  • equips them with age-appropriate tools to help steer through friendships and relationships
  • offers Jewish answers to many of their questions about sexual behavior, avoiding the temptation to speak generally about values without grappling with the hard issues

For parents, the Sacred Choices middle school module:

  • offers guidance as they lead their children through this challenging time
  • builds skills necessary to effectively communicate with their teens
  • provides information about adolescent development, enabling parents to best respond to their children's needs and actions

It is our hope that Sacred Choices will help transform adolescence -- often a time of tension and confusion -- into a time of healthy communication and growth. More

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Lesson Overviews

Student Lessions

Session 1: Communication and Assertiveness
This session is designed to enhance participants’ awareness of their feelings and communicate them in a respectful way, particularly in intimate situations with peers.

Session 2: Self Worth - I Am a Gift
This session is designed to teach the message that each of us—our bodies, minds and souls—is a gift. Participants will study texts from our tradition that address the idea of both self-esteem and humility. They will engage in exercises designed to build their own self-esteem and to reinforce the need to treat others with dignity and respect.

Session 3: Self Control - Who Is A Hero?
While popular culture in North America may encourage us to indulge all of our desires and impulses, Judaism, by contrast, teaches self-control as a way to elevate our behavior. This principle can be applied to sexual behavior and to other impulses. The Jewish message in this session gives participants a chance to investigate the idea of balance, control and delayed gratification. Written under the assumption that middle school students are not psychologically mature enough to engage in a healthy sexual relationship, this Session reflects the Reform Movement’s stance that young people of this age should wait to engage in a sexual relationship.

Session 4: Friends and More than Friends
Adolescence is a time for learning to develop deeper friendships and relationships with one’s peers. This session explores the Jewish responses to friendship and how it relates to their lives, allowing participants to consider the characteristics, behaviors, and differences among their various friendships.

Session 5: Everyone’s Doing It! Peer Pressure
In this session, participants will analyze the ways they are influenced and the ways they influence others. They will learn some strategies for prioritizing the positive over the negative influences, particularly when making decisions of a personal, intimate or sexual nature.

Parent Lessions

Session 1: Responsibilities of Parents
This session is designed to introduce parents to the Sacred Choices: Adolescent Relationships and Sexual Ethics curriculum and how they can be actively involved in their children’s growth and development into adulthood. Through Jewish text study and discussion, the question, “What is a parent’s responsibility to his or her child?” will be addressed.

Session 2: Talking To Your Kids About Sex
During this session, parents will explore the importance of Jewish values and examine how they can be used as a roadmap when making difficult decisions. Parents will look at liberal Jewish views on pre-marital sex and determine how their own thoughts and feelings match up with these opinions. Finally, parents will have the opportunity to strategize conversations with their teens that promote their own expectations and values.

Session 3: The Early Adolescent - Becoming Who They Will Be 
This session seeks to inform parents about the nature of early adolescent relationships: what they look like, what we know about sexual behaviors during the middle school years and how adolescent development plays a role in the decision-making, sexual and otherwise, of young teens. This session should be facilitated by someone comfortable with the theories of adolescent development such as a teacher or a mental health professional (for example, a social worker, counselor, or psychologist). Optimally, the facilitator also will have appropriate Judaic knowledge for the session. However, if needed, the session can be team-taught by an individual knowledgeable in the Judaic component (such as congregational staff) and an adolescent development expert.

Sample Lesson

Download a sample lesson from the Middle School Module, Friends and More Than Friends.

Middle School Module Testimonials
We have been using material from the Sacred Choices curriculum with our 7th graders for the past few years. We have gotten much positive feedback from parents and students alike. Our community is grateful that the temple is using Jewish values to enable our students to navigate and confront the issues that they are facing as teenagers in the world today. Thank you, URJ, for supporting our efforts in this critical work.
– Rabbi Jeff Brown, Cardiff, CA

I have received letters and comments of thanks from several parents who participated in the discussions about their young teens' sacred choices. It is rare that parents have a chance to talk to each other about the joys and varieties of ways to rear teens with a positive view of peer relationships. The lessons inspire parents to share and compare, without judging who is the good or bad parent.
– Christopher Kraus, Cincinnati, OH

I spoke with two different parents who were at last night's Sacred Choices meeting and they loved it. Here's the best part - one of the parents said that during the car ride home they were able to talk to their child about important issues: sex, Jewish commitment, ethics, personal choice, etc. and that they had never been able to do that before.
- Katherine Schwartz, Boulder, CO
 
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