The Owning Up curriculum is a tool to teach young people the skills to be socially competent, thoughtful, and empathetic in the difficult yet common social conflicts they experience.

It incorporates cultural definitions of gender, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and other forms of “isms” that affect young people’s beliefs and decision making around self-esteem, friendships, group dynamics, and social and physical aggression.

Owning Up is founded on these principles:

  • We are in partnership with the young people we work with and they are often our best teachers.

  • “Soft skills” or the ability to work with others, negotiate conflict, and understand and respect the needs of others in balance with one’s own needs, is a difficult skill set to achieve and requires constant and graduated practice.

  • Academic and social competencies are interconnected skills.

  • The science of young people’s physical development through adolescence constantly improves our insight into best learning practices.

  •  To be credible and effective educators, adults must self reflect about how they interact with young people. A culture of dignity is impossible if the adults don’t hold themselves to the same standards they demand of their students.

  • No community is immune from abuse of power. But any community can effectively address even the worst of situations and transform them into cultures of dignity.

Implementing Owning Up, or any program like it, is is challenging. Young people are rightfully sceptical. They have endured unrealistic assemblies or character building programs, and heard too many superficial slogans that don’t reflect the complexity of the issues they face or include them as an essential part of the process to create solutions. Worse, they’ve interacted with adults who demand their obedience and respect yet don’t treat them with the dignity any person regardless of age deserves.

In spite of the risk we are asking young people to take, we have seen time and time again that if adults listen to young people before we give them advice and engage in meaningful dialogue, they will take the leap of faith with us. That is also what Owning Up is about; a collaboration between educators and young people to create honest discussion about the issues most challenging to young people and then help young people find the courage, passion, and ability to create the world they want to live in.

About the Sessions

Owning Up is designed so that educators can rely on the teaching strategies they feel most comfortable with while having the support to push themselves to teach outside their own comfort zone.

Owning Up provides sessions that can be taught in a coed or single sex settings. You will see the option of exercises throughout that are specific for single sex groups. Make the program your own to best fit the needs of your students. The ideal group size is between 10 and 25 students. Each session generally ranges from 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes.


Owning Up covers:

-Identify and discuss behaviors and attitudes associated with groups, popularity, trust, exclusion, and bullying.
-Understand the impact of how one expresses anger and learn strategies to effectively communicate when anxious or in conflict.
-Develop a plan of action when a friend or group demeans them or someone else.
-Recognize the influence of culture on individuals’ behavior and decision-making from friendships to academic engagement.
-Develop an understanding of how culture defines gender and race and how that can affect self-concept, self-expression, and interactions with others.
-Identify and strengthen support networks and personal standards in relationships.
-Promote understanding of the differences between healthy and unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Session Tools

The sessions include a wide variety of interactive activities and games, role plays, writing opportunities, question-and- answer sessions, and discussions.  Sessions include scenarios for practice, but students are always encouraged to provide real-life situations instead. In some cases, sample dialogue is provided to illustrate how a role play might go.

SEAL Strategy

Get It Out

Three Corners

Checking Your Baggage

Wrap It Up

Carry It With You

Using Art


Which Session Should I Use?

The Owning Up curriculum can be taught on its own or integrated into a pre-existing program.

Stand alone:

When it’s taught on its own, as in a social studies or health class, it’s usually taught at least once per week.


If it’s taught in an advisory capacity, one session can cover multiple advisories. Owning Up can and should be organized around what is best for your situation.

Integrated: (into existing classes)

Owning up has been integrated into a wide variety of classes social studies, public speaking, history, ethics classes, religious studies classes in parochial schools.