My Year as a Spark Guider

I have been a Guide Guider for 10 years now, and have also worked with Pathfinders during that time.  I love working with the Guide and Pathfinder age groups, the girls are keen and capable, they have a developing world view and are not afraid to voice their opinions.  It’s awesome to watch them grow from shy Brownies into confident young women ready to take on the world.  They teeter between trying to be serious and grown up to downright silly.  And I find it endearing that no matter how mature they can be, one of their favourite games to play is Duck, Duck, Goose.

This past fall my daughter’s Spark unit had a waiting list and they desperately needed more Guiders to allow them to clear it.  I volunteered to help them out and jumped into Sparks with both feet.  What an experience it has been!

Sparks Winter Camp

The 257th Toronto Sparks slide into some fun at winter camp.

Despite having a Spark at home, working with the Spark unit was a huge adjustment for me.  I learned about the Spark program, how the Keepers work, and all of the Spark songs.  Check!  I also learned the hard way that playing the Dutch Shoe Game will result in spending the rest of the meeting tying the girls’ shoes, as most of them can’t tie their laces yet.  Since all branches of Guiding share the same Provincial and National challenges, I thought that those at least would be a breeze.  Wrong!  The first time I presented an activity to the girls I realized from their bored expressions that I was talking over their heads.  I needed to simplify my explanations and take my cue from the girls’ questions instead.  Since their fine motor skills are still developing, a lot of the craft projects in my Guider bag of tricks were too frustrating for little hands to tackle.  I needed new ideas fast!  So I indulged in my Pinterest addiction and searched for age appropriate craft and program ideas.

While there are a lot of differences between the girls in each branch, I found that there were also strong similarities.  Sparks and Pathfinders need a lot of sleep and food to function properly.  This is especially evident at camp.  Both groups get moody when they don’t have enough sleep, and both need healthy snacks at regular intervals to keep up their energy and good cheer.  Sparks, like the Guides, love to help others.  They want to be involved in community service, help set up for games or crafts and they will cheerfully tidy everything up at the end of the meeting.  They love to explore and experiment and have a lot of questions.  And both Sparks and Guides love to tell their stories.

One of the most amazing and unexpected aspects of Sparks is the magic.  The girls believe that anything is possible.  You can have the most amazing fun when you let your imagination run wild and sprinkle a little magic into each meeting.  Last week we visited the Brownies and the Sparks learned about a new kind of magic.  The kind that is woven around a pond and a toadstool by Kelpies, Elves and wise old Owls.  As I looked around the Brownie circle I realized that the year has flown by.  The Sparks are now ready for their next adventure, and I will really miss them.   I’m looking forward to catching up with them again in a few years when they’re ready for Guides.  Until then, I’ll be sprinkling some magic into my Guide meetings and hoping like crazy that Brown Owl teaches them all how to tie their shoelaces.

By guest blogger Karen Cross, a Guider with the 146th Toronto Guides and the 257th Toronto Sparks.  She was a member of the 13th Chateauguay Girl Guide Company as a girl.

 

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How I spent my summer working at national office

Sarah Biggs started in Guiding as a Spark. Since then she’s transitioned through all the branches to achieve her Canada Cord, received a national scholarship, joined Link and has recently spent the summer working for Girl Guides of Canada as a Social Media Assistant. As someone so entrenched in Guiding, she was perfect for the job! Before Sarah heads back to university, we had the chance to ask her about her experience.

What has kept you involved in Guiding?

Aug26_SarahBiggsI stayed in Guiding because it was worth it. I was having fun, hanging out with friends that I didn’t meet in school and gaining experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to otherwise, like going tree-top trekking and doing a Ranger exchange with another unit from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. I was also so busy earning my Canada Cord, Chief Commissioner’s awards – along with many others –  I never had time to consider quitting. I was always learning something new or improving the skills I already had. (For example, I’m now a master packer!) After being a part of something for so long it didn’t make sense for me to quit. I love that next year I will be able to say I have been a member for 15 years!

How did it feel to receive a national scholarship?

I will always remember the moment I found out. I read the email and I think I went into a little bit of shock. I didn’t believe it! I was just a girl who loved Guiding and for me to receive a scholarship meant that I was worthwhile to the organization. I was good enough to invest in and I was doing something right. I will forever be thankful to Girl Guides of Canada and The Humber Glenn Trefoil Guild, who sponsored the scholarship.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned working on GGC’s social media platforms this summer?

Before working here I never really considered what goes on at the national and provincial level. But now I know. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see how hard everyone works to make Girl Guides great. How we couldn’t be what we are without all the amazing volunteers. But, we also wouldn’t be the same without all the wonderful people who work hard at the national office. National really isn’t this big mysterious thing. But one thing’s for certain; I will always wear my uniform from now on! One of the many reasons they want everyone to wear their uniform is because it helps promote Guiding and that in turn makes the organization stronger.

You’ve already accomplished so much in Guiding, so what are your next steps with the organization?

One of my long-time goals has always been to visit all the World Centres. I’ve already visited Pax Lodge, so that’s one down and three to go. Yay! I plan on continuing to volunteer as a Guider so hopefully I can inspire other girls to stay in Guiding and work hard to earn as many awards as they can! As well as,  I’d like to see  how high my membership pin can get – after next year I’ll be looking forward to my 20 year pin.

What has been your most favourite moment in Guiding?

I would definitely have to say the night of my “graduation” from Rangers. My dad came with the camera; my mum was unfortunately in Spain for her birthday, but I was surrounded by my friends. My Guider, Amy, gave me all my awards I worked hard to earn. The Sparks Unit I was a Girl Assistant with was there, and I helped advance the second years. After that, to my utter surprise Lesley Skelly, a dedicated Guider in the community and a family friend, called me up to present me with a Gold Thanks pin. I thought those pins were for Guiders only! At the end of the ceremony a lot of people told me they were surprised/ impressed by how much I had accomplished and done during my 12 years. That night I felt really proud of myself and special.

What would you say to a parent thinking of enrolling their daughter in Guiding?

Do it. No hesitation. As a Girl Guide, you learn and grow so much it’s ridiculous! I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Girl Guides. If your daughter is shy, she’ll make friends. I joined with one of my friends from school then a few more of my school friends joined then everyone dropped out but me. I think I liked it better after they all left because it kept school and Guiding separate. There’s no competition in Guiding so if something’s not great at school there’s no relevance to it when you go to your meeting. Just remember that meetings are run by volunteers; they can have good days and bad days. If you don’t like the unit your daughter is in, try a different one or become a volunteer yourself.

Thank you Sarah for your continued membership and fantastic social media skills this summer! We’ll chat on Twitter!

 

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Opening the Vaults: Retro camp pics

Who needs Instagram to give their camp photos that nostalgic vibe? At Girl Guides of Canada, we’ve got lots of classic camp photos with that great hazy look that can only come from the 1970s and 1980s.

Our archives sometimes receives donations of photographs with very little accompanying information , so put our detective skills to work to determine the date of a photograph.

The Cabbage Patch kid and K-Way jacket in this photo point to the 1980s.

GGC National Archives APH 2213

GGC National Archives APH 2213

While this picture could almost have been taken this summer, the style of back pack and trefoil on one Ranger’s shirt provide us with a clue that this photo was taken in the early 1980s.

GGC National Archives APH 2431

GGC National Archives APH 2431

 

The gingham camp uniform shirt peeking out from under the jacket on the left helps us to place this photo in the 1970s.

GGC National Archives APH 2444

GGC National Archives APH 2444

 

If you look closely you can see a 60th anniversary patch on the camp hat in this picture, placing it in the early 1970s.

GGC National Archives APH 2436

GGC National Archives APH 2436

 

When we zoom in on the camp hats in this picture one of the patches has the year 1979.

GGC National Archives APH 2440

GGC National Archives APH 2440

 

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Camp packing tips

64th brownies
1. Girls should know their stuff.

If you really need to ‘help,’ choose the clothing and items to pack, lay them out and have the camper pack them. This gives her the opportunity to know what she has packed. More often than not, the items in the Lost & Found belong to a girl who did

To “teach” your daughter to pack, have her pull out each item on the kit list. Once she has it all out, discuss what was a good choice and what was a bad choice. Then put together outfits for each day and bag them in zip lock bags. The next camp, give her the list and have her let you know when it is all assembled so you can check it.

eg.
Bad choice = tank top; good choice = tshirt.
Bad choice = baseball cap; good choice = bucket/brimmed hat.
Bad choice = sandals; good choice = runners.

anecdote from an Ottawa Guide Unit:
“One year, there was this absolutely gorgeous souvenir-type T-shirt no one claimed. Finally one girl said that her sister had one just like that last year. So I suggested she pack it to take it home and they could give it back if it didn’t belong to them … it was theirs. “

2. Use zip lock bags.

Pack for each day ie: 1 ziplock = socks/undies/pants/shirt and label the bag with sharpie markers

3. Remember the importance of having the name on everything.

anecdote from a New Brunswick Guide Unit:
“It’s amazing how many pairs of underwear and socks go to camp alone. I have a visual image of all these panties and socks walking down the lane eager to go to camp. Yet at the end of camp they are too tired to go home and just end up in the garbage because no one claims them. Poor little things.”

4. Choose a bag the GIRL can carry.

The bag should NOT be too big for the girl to carry by herself. Girls are expected to carry their own bags and gear from the vehicle drop-off area to the camp site.

anecdote from Ottawa summer camp volunteer:
“Too many times we’ve seen Brownies arrive with a hockey bag with all their clothes and bedroll in it, and the bag is at least a foot longer than the Brownie is tall.”

5. Helpful tip – order of packing inside the bag.

One thing you might find handy is to have the bag packed so that the Friday night stuff is on top (jammies, toiletries). Under that should be the bag for dirty clothes. Then what they expect to be able to wear when they get up in the morning (barring weather complications). Basically, the bag should be packed so that they just work their way down it. And bad weather gear would be better to try and fit it along the side of the bag so they don’t have to dig out everything to find it.

Re-posted with permission from the 64th Brownies in London’s unit blog.

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Why every Brownie should have a camp blanket

On this edition of Throwback Thursday, we’re revisiting a blog post on favourite topic – camp blankets!

Camp Blanket. Guider Sarah L Dartmouth NS

Camp Blanket. Guider Sarah L Dartmouth NS

When I became a Brownie leader, right before we went to camp, I always brought my camp blanket to a meeting. This was a great way to start a conversation with the girls about camp, WAGGGS (I have several international crests and scarves on my blanket) and to get them excited about moving up to Guides, Pathfinders, Rangers and hopefully into being a Brown Owl one day. It was a great tool because the girls could see and feel things; it wasn’t just me talking to them about it.

After a year or two of noticing that the girls (and parents) didn’t totally understand the difference between a program badge and a crest, I started to bring the blanket out earlier in the year. And then I decided that the girls should have their own camp blankets to bring to camp that year.

I did what every good, young leader does – I enlisted my mom! She was never a Girl Guide or a leader, and truthfully my weekly Unit meetings were as much a break for me as they were for her! But she has always helped out whenever I’ve asked, enjoying her time with my Unit. My mom is super crafty, a gene that I can say is not hereditary. And I’m guessing since it wasn’t an activity that involved making me a FOURTH camp blanket, she was on board.

As the parents dropped off their girls for the first night, I had my blanket out, and my plan hatched. I explained that we would be doing this, working on it throughout the year, and the approximate costs. (What I lack in arts and crafts DNA, I more than make up for in bargain hunting.) In the end, it was no more than $10 per girl for their blanket.

We opted for a micro-fleece material because it’s lightweight, and we didn’t need to finish the edge. We cut a hole in the middle to make it into a poncho, and generally cut it to the size the girls could grow into and take onto Guides.

There are several ways that you can turn a camp blanket into program work:

  • Arrange to have a meeting at the fabric store
  • Have a ‘learn to sew’ night once the blankets are ready
  • Do any number of the challenges on the Girl Guides of Canada website to earn a new crest for their blanket

I hope this helps you create camp blankets with your girls. As many commentators said on the last post, our blankets are very important to us – let’s make sure the next wave of girls feel the same way!

By guest blogger Guider Sarah of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog Sarah Smells the Roses. 

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Let them sing!

One of the highlights of Guiding for me as a youth was the feeling I got singing at a campfire.  Community or campfire singing lifts our emotions; it encourages a sense of inclusion and group spirit.

I wanted to provide an opportunity for girls to have this experience.  I found that the repertoire of the local girls was decreasing.  How could they enjoy all the benefits of campfire singing if they did not know the songs first?   Some Guiders were hesitant to sing either saying they did not know the songs or did not sing well enough.

Thus the idea for the Singing and Leadership Guiding Unit was born.  I would (with other leaders) teach the girls songs and how to lead them. They would then take the songs back to their units. I am clear, we are not a choir.  I am not musically trained or gifted. But I do love to sing.

Members of the Singing and Leadership Guiding Unit in Mississauga.

Members of the Singing and Leadership Guiding Unit in Mississauga.

In the past five years we have had a varied attendance from 10-20 girls and there is always room for more. Membership includes girls from all branches. Participating Guiders are also welcome.  We meet weekly, now in our Mississauga Guiding Centre.

We teach a wide variety of songs; Guiding, folk, silly, rounds, international and teach all the verses to all the songs.   Songs tell a story so if we sing only the first verse we loose what we can gain from the songs message.  The girls receive lyrics of the songs.

This unit now hosts visiting units with the girls leading and teaching the songs, its leaders are willing to visit other units to encourage singing.  We host a campfire programme for parents and friends each year, with the girls taking the lead, of course!

Leading a campfire encourages girls to speak up, to speak clearly to a group, to give instructions so others can follow, and to hold a group together.  They learn how to make sure all are included through their choice of songs and how they lead them.   This all helps the girls gain the confidence which will remain with them in other situations.  Girl Assistants who can lead singing well are always an asset!

Regular singing in the units is an effective way we can help the girls feel included, learn about Guiding, learn to lead, develop confidence, challenge themselves and best of all have an experience that will last a lifetime!

By guest blogger Heather Nutbeem, a Guider in Mississauga, ON.

 

 

 

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: The Benefits of Camping without Parents

If you’re involved in Guiding, you know how amazing the camp experience is. For girls, it may be their first exciting taste of freedom as they head out into the world without mom and dad. Here’s a Throwback Thursday post on going to camp sans parents.

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girls_orienteering_webEvery year, our Brownie unit takes a spring weekend camping trip. As I enter my seventh year as a Brownie leader, I have been reflecting on what I have learned about planning these camp weekends. There are some obvious things, like better food purchasing estimates (we had SO much leftover that first year!) and knowing what types of activities work best at which times of day, but one thing I did not expect was the realization that girls have very different experiences when they camp with or without their moms.

Each year we send out an email in March, asking parents if their daughter will be coming to camp. The first couple of years, we extended the invitation to parents to volunteer, either for the day or overnight. We reasoned that the more hands the better; but an interesting trend emerged throughout these camping trips: it became clear that the girls who had parents present behaved very differently from those who did not. For example, a girl who didn’t have her mother at camp was more likely to search for her own pajamas in her bag (instead of asking mom to find them), to eat what was given to her for meals, finish her own craft, carry her own water bottle on a hike, or even play with the other kids at free time without constantly coming back to “check-in”.  Each small act is a boost to independence and a willingness to take on new things—not just in camping, but in their wider lives.

These might not sound like big things—especially if the parent is good at allowing her daughter to complete activities with the other campers—but they really do have an impact. Camping without mom is a very big psychological step for a 7- or 8-year-old. They are used to home routines, bedtime stories, etc., and most are not pushing the boundaries towards independence quite yet. When they come to camp, out of necessity, they are challenged to do things for themselves. We leaders, while we help when needed, cannot come into their tents and search for 15 pairs of pjs, toothbrushes, etc. Each small act that they accomplish for themselves shows them they CAN do things alone. These mini-confidence boosts help them to feel more secure that they are capable of camping (and more)!

This is not to say that there is no value in mom-daughter camping trips, especially since those camps are set up in a different way that includes both parties in activities (also, they are usually for younger groups like Sparks). The effect is not as pronounced when the mom is a regular leader in the unit, since she is then familiar with all of the girls, and not as focused only on her own child’s needs. In our unit, and in GGC as a whole, I think we are primarily about each girl’s personal development and independence, so we like to focus on kid-only camping (even if it is a bit more work for leaders). So, for our troop’s spring camping trips, we will continue to try our best to take the girls without moms, and introduce them to new experiences and new skills that they don’t even know they have.

By guest blogger Guider Kristy (Tawny Owl), 25th Ottawa Brownies. Kristy has been working with the 25th Ottawa Brownies for six years. She works for a company that creates educational websites and games for cultural institutions, and loves to extend this into writing stories, plays and planning interactive activities for her unit. Read her previous post on GirlGuidesCANBlog: The Value of Chaos, Seasonal Party IdeaThis Guider Asks,Guides and Scouts: Awesome in their Own Ways.

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Guiding North

What are you doing this summer? For eight girls and two Guiders, the answer to that question is: Why, going on a Guiding adventure to Churchill, Manitoba, of course! These trekking Girl Guides of Canada members are part of one of our awesome national travel experiences this summer. Their ten-day journey involves participating in a scientific research project, spotting polar bears, watching beluga whales, visiting a local aboriginal community, and – well, isn’t that enough!?

 As their trip wraps up, we thought we’d give you a taste of their adventure through snapshots from their Twitter feed, @GGCArctic14.

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Every trip involves a bit of waiting – and playing cards!

Churchill1

Churchill2

 

It wouldn’t be Guiding without some crafting! This time, the girls are also learning about traditional cultures. 

churchill3

churchill4

 

Here’s something you wouldn’t experience hanging out at the mall…

churchill5

 

What a way to end the journey….

churchill6

 

 

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Making the global Guiding connection

Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) took to Hong Kong this past week to attend the 35th World Conference of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). The conference is held every three years and is the primary decision-making session for the member organizations (MOs) within WAGGGS. Here’s what one of our Canadian delegates has to say about the experience.

I’ll admit, I did not know much about WAGGGS prior to applying for the conference. I had learned a bit about it while a girl member, but it always seemed so distant from what I was doing as a Guider with Sparks. However, after having spent the week surrounded by Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from more than 100 different countries, I now realize how relevant it can be to my Sparks and all GGC members.

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One of the big ideas that I took away from the conference was about the impact Guiding has as  non-formal education. It doesn’t matter whether you are from Canada or a developing country like Ghana, the skills in leadership, advocacy and service that WAGGGS aims to develop through the work of the MOs is still applicable. Examples include the “Ban Bossy” campaign by Girl Scouts of the USA, “Stop the Violence” movement with the Girl Guides Association of Cambodia or GGC’s tree planting program. They all help to develop these skills. As conference speaker Baroness Valerie Amos noted, “Even if we’re good, we should know that we can be even better,” which describes how we need to keep moving forward with what we do.

This experience has been eye-opening to the idea of global Guiding. It has been humbling in acknowledging how lucky we are to be a part of GGC and to be Canadian. It has been empowering to see how we, as girls and women, can make real changes in the world. It has been inspiring to be in the presence of so many change-makers and influencers. GGC offers the opportunity to all members to apply and be involved in these unique international experiences. Why not take them up on it?

By guest blogger Lauren Patrick, a mechanical engineer and recent graduate from the University of Guelph. She has spent the last five years between the 1st Guelph Sparks, 2nd Guelph Sparks and 14th Vancouver Sparks. She loves how you can always stay involved in Guiding, regardless of where you are living.

 Look for more international Guiding experiences to be posted on girlguides.ca early this fall.

 

 

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The stars are bright on the Guiding Walk of Fame!

What happens when a Guider sees a photo on Facebook of a Hollywood birthday party theme? She turns it into a Guiding advancement ceremony, of course!

Since we all know that every girl in Guiding is a star, we decided to celebrate this fact at our multi-unit advancement ceremony. We created our own Girl Guide “Hollywood Boulevard” with each of our girls’ names and hand prints at the end of our red carpet. On top of our regular Girl Guide uniforms we also donned feather boas in colours to match our units and some pretty funky movie star sunglasses.

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We celebrated our musical stars by opening with a song and ending with one as well. We opened with the Girl Guide favourite “One Voice” and ended with an adaption of “Do you wanna build a snowman” (Frozen) called “Do you wanna build a campfire” which was written by our very own Guides.

Each Girl Guide leader was handed an envelope that contained the advancing girls’ names. Who wouldn’t enjoy saying “And the girls advancing to Pathfinders are…” Even if you know the names already it’s still an exciting moment! After being called up each girl then changed her boa to match her new unit.

After all the awards were handed out, parents headed to the refreshment tables and the girls headed to our photo area. The paparazzi were ready to take photos and our Girl Guide stars even posed for them. As you can imagine the girls needed some refreshments themselves after all this excitement and were treated with Shirley Temples and a “Walk of Fame through Guiding” cake.

It was a great celebration of our “Star” Girl Guides. The leaders had just about as much fun planning it as the girls had doing it!

By guest blogger Debbie Cohoe, a Guider with the 1st Lancaster Park Brownies, which meets at the Edmonton Garrison base. Debbie is a baker at heart and created the cake for the advancement ceremony.

To meet more Guiding stars, check out our 2014 Girl Greatness Award recipients


							
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Girl Greatness Awards – Put Yourself Out There

I’ve been in Girl Guides of Canada for about four years. So far, it’s been an amazing experience. This was my first time applying for a Girl Greatness Award. I was not expecting to win as I thought that so many girls would be nominated and have a better submission than me. Receiving the award has made me proud about myself and encouraged me to be more involved in Guiding. I am planning on becoming a Junior Leader to one of the younger Guides’ groups, and continuing to give back to Girl Guides even when I’m done with the program.

I think that every girl should go for the opportunities they are presented with, because I believe that everything happens for a reason. You see a volunteering opportunity? Go for it. You never know what could lead you to something better. Maybe while volunteering, you’ll get offered a job? This is what I think of Girl Greatness Awards. I think it’s a way to put yourself out there and celebrate your characteristics. It’s an opportunity to let others know of how unique you are. And this opportunity can lead to another perhaps by reviewing the nominations? Next time you see an email relating to the awards, just go for it and nominate yourself or your fellow Guides, because you never know what a small nomination can lead to. Remember, you got the email for a reason (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Always appreciate and be generous. What others have done for you is their way of telling you that they care. So, you should appreciate and give back to them. If you are a Spark, Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder or Ranger, always remember to give back to your leaders and let them know that you care. Help out whenever you can and be cooperative. I usually ask my Rangers leader if she needs any help with organising events or with badgework. Also, I love to volunteer with Guiding events, because they are so much fun! In the future, I know for sure that I want to continue to be part of something awesome.

 

By Serena, a Ranger who is transitioning into a Junior Leader. Serena is the recipient of a 2014 Girl Greatness Award in the Confidence category.

Serena-S

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Now my family understands why I’m a Guider

There we were…pouring rain, middle of May chill in the air (not quite spring, not quite winter), camping 100 km from anything –  running water, power and even cell phone service. What was I going to do with 14 cold and wet souls? Our fire area was covered and it was the gathering area for everyone, as it is in most camps, and we were all sitting there; cold, grumbling, and bored.

Inspiration hit.

I know you’re picturing 14 souls with trefoils on their T-shirts, but think again. This was a family camping trip in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta with a handful of cowboys (and cowgirls!) who were so disappointed not to be heading out on our planned trail ride.

I leaned over to my son, and whispered into his little ear “Poppa has a big cowboy hat, pass it on.” He looked at me like I was from Mars, and I nodded at his aunt sitting beside him, and his eyes lit up! He leaned over and whispered to his aunt…and our very first family telephone game had begun!

From  protecting your feet on hikes and becoming a campfire pro to doing 'badge work', Guiding skills always come in handy!

From protecting your feet on hikes and becoming a campfire pro to doing ‘badge work’, Guiding skills always come in handy!

Unbeknownst to them, that cowboy family of mine, ages 2-66, essentially spent the day enjoying a ‘Girl Guide’ campfire, singing “Who Stole the Cookie” and playing “I Packed My Bag and In It I Put…” We also managed to coax Poppa to do some camping badge work with our Brownie…but he had to put the blowtorch away and teach her how to light a fire “old school,” that wise old Poppa Owl.

Doing what I do with girls…

On that rainy afternoon the light bulb finally went off in my husband’s head: “THIS is why she does what she does!” and I might have even heard “That was awesome” at some point from more than one brother Brownie or Spark spouse.

We had FUN! We had a perfectly wonderful rainy camp day, Girl Guides style.

By guest blogger Jodi Paulgaard, cowgirl extraordinaire Guider for the 5th Airdrie Sparks in Airdrie, Alberta. Check out her previous blog post, Sparks can Snowshoe!

 

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Rain, Rain Go Away – or maybe not!

Why bad weather is a good thing in the run-up to a major camp 

Preparing eight girls and two Guiders for a week-long summer camp is not an easy task.  There are the group dynamics to decipher, patrol gear to purchase and borrow and personal gear to figure out. Throw in a weekend of West Coast late spring rain and it is make it or break it time.

soar-sidebar-logo2Mackenzie Heights District is sending three patrols to Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous, aka SOAR, a camp hosted by Girl Guides British Columbia  every three years that attracts participants from around the province, the country and from around the world.  The setting this year is Enderby, a town along the Shuswap River, between Kamloops, Kelowna and Revelstoke.  SOAR, which will be held July 19-26, bills itself as a ‘back to basics’ camp because participants sleep in tents and cook their own meals in patrols on campsites roughly 500 – 600 square feet.

Patrol KA17 from Mackenzie Heights District includes girls from three different Pathfinder and Guide units so an indoor sleepover in late April was arranged as a meet and greet. This was followed by a rain soaked weekend camp at Porteau Cove, a BC Parks campsite, in early May. Hanging out with four other patrols, the girls got comfortable with patrol cooking, participated in a skills round robin (including storm lashing), worked on their patrol banner and generally got to know one another.

The pelting late West Coast spring rain was a good thing for KA17. Huddling under the patrol shelter while cooking and eating together provided some wonderful bonding moments, lots of belly laughs and the group already has one or two inside jokes.  Sleeping together in a large eight-person tent while the rain came down and several very long cargo trains trudged along less than 20 feet away also helped the girls figure out how they work as a team and how much personal space they each need. The pouring rain’s greatest benefit though was testing whether or not the patrol shelter and the tent were leak proof and how well the girls’ wet weather gear, when worn, kept them warm and dry.

Much to the girls’ chagrin the palace sized tent with three doors and numerous nooks and crannies did not keep the rain out.  It has now been replaced with two brand new Eureka four-person tents, with impressive vestibules and great air flow for the warm Enderby summer nights, which the girls learnt to set-up at a half day skills practice event in early June at a local Vancouver park.  A backpack or two has also been exchanged to better fit the girl wearing it and some other personal gear has been, or will soon be, replaced.

Preparing for SOAR is not an overnight affair but for KA17 it has been a fun-filled, weather challenged adventure. Hopefully, the trials and tribulations of a weekend of West Coast late spring rain will make the six to seven-hour school bus trip from Vancouver to Enderby tolerable and the week-long SOAR experience memorable.

By guest blogger Fiona McFarlane.

 

Posted in Camping & Outdoors | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Girl Guide Camp Blanket vs. Camp Poncho

For today’s Flahsback Friday installment, we’re re-posting one of our most viewed blog posts of all time. 

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poncho_girl2In today’s post, we’re entering into some pretty turbulent waters, opening up a seriously contentious debate, if you will. No, I’m not talking about chocolatey mint vs. chocolate and vanilla classic cookies. And I’m not talking about ‘Fire’s Burning’ vs. ‘Taps’ as best ever campfire closing (man, that would be a good debate). No, I’m talking about what is the ULTIMATE crest storage device. Yes, it’s camp blank vs. camp poncho. Let the debate begin!

My daughter Ella is a super proud member of the 5th Kanata Brownies in Ottawa. In her four years as a Girl Guide, she’s had some amazing leaders who’ve organized week after week of fun activities. And in this time, Ella has amassed quite the collection of crests. She’s earned crests ranging from 2nd Year Spark, Crazy for Camping, Camp Woolsey 100 Steps Forward, Sing Ontario, Sing, Daughter of the World’s Best Mom, etc. (Okay, that last one I’m making up…)

Now, as the world’s best mom of the world’s awesomest Brownie, I’m trying to decide what to do with all the crests. Because, well, jamming them all into a ziplock bag labeled ‘Sew these somewhere someday’  just isn’t cutting it anymore. And, it seems, I have two choices for crest storage device – camp blanket or camp poncho. Each has its merits.

Camp blank:

  • It’s very blanket-y (i.e. it keeps you warm)
  • Works both at camp and while cuddling on the sofa at home
  • Blankets will always be in style

Camp poncho:

  • It’s very poncho-ey (i.e. you can wear it around the campfire, while debating whether to sing ‘ Fire’s Burning’  or ‘Taps’)
  • Works both as a poncho and – with a quick unfolding – as a blanket
  • Ponchos will also always be in style – at Girl Guide camp

Hmm, so it seems I haven’t really solved my dilemma. Dear bloggy friends, please help me – which should I order on the girlguidestore.ca – the camp blanket or the camp poncho?

By Mary, GGC staff

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Love our blog? Pitch us your idea! Prepare and submit a short paragraph explaining the main idea that you will present in your guest blog post. It could be about an ‘a ha!’ moment you’ve had as a member, a one-of-a-kind Guiding activity, a great tip or resource you want to share, or just what Guiding means to you. (Please do not send in a completed article before receiving approval for your pitch!)

Email us! GGCblog (at) girlguides.ca

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Doing it all – and then some – at camp

What can you do at camp? Pretty much anything. Our friends at Caddy Lake Camp in Manitoba outline just some of the amazing experiences campers can expect this summer. When can we start packing?!

June18_badges
Did you know going to camp is a simple and fun way to earn Guiding badges? Campers are encouraged to take on challenges that they may not have the opportunity to do in the city. At each session the staff and the campers will come up with one or two badges to work on during their stay at camp. Here’s how it works:

June18_birdcraftBird watching
At camp, you will be outside nearly all day with lots of time to observe rare wildlife that you may not spot in your busy city life.

  • We’ll be able to learn about different types of birds, what they eat, how they nest – and see them in action!
  • We’ll be making classic milk carton bird feeders for the girls to take home.
  • There will be lots of birds to observe, draw, and describe on our hikes.

Forestry
In the city, there is not much of an opportunity to see trees and shrubs of all sizes and types in their natural habitat. Caddy Lake has thriving plant life. The camp is covered in various tree species. As it’s getting harder and harder to find forests that aren’t mono-culture, this spot is extra special.

  • June18_forestLearning about the forests of Canada should be easy when we’re living in one! We’ll talk about forests and parklands and why they are so important.
  • As a craft we will create beautiful travel brochures for the Forest of Caddy Lake, bringing in facts about trees (like the different kinds of trees and forests and what their enemies are) and why we like particular kinds.
  • We’ll go over conservation of trees, the goods produced by them, and how forest management and conservation are linked.

 Outdoor adventure
All summer, we`ll be lucky enough to be on one big outdoor adventure! Camp is excellent practice for planning and going on unit hikes and other adventures.

  • June18_outdoorcookingWe’ll be having plenty of outdoor cooking sessions where campers will participate in planning meals perfect for hikes and camping like grilled cheese, kabobs, pita pizza, bannock, and spider dogs.
  • Whenever we go on field trips, hikes, or bike rides we always have a first aid kit. The girls will learn how to put together a first aid kit and what each part is used for by a qualified nurse or first aider. At camp we know safety is one of the most important parts of an outdoor adventure.
  • We’ll have Manitoba Conservation come in to present bear safety and RCMP coming to do a ‘Hug a Tree’ presentation about what campers should do if they ever get lost.

Astronomy
Being out of the city brings on a beautiful view of the stars. Caddy Lake Camp is a great place to start a love of stargazing, and with our knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff it is also a place to increase your knowledge of astronomy.

  • We’ll learn about planets, comets, meteors, meteorites, stars, and the milky way.
  • We’ll be demonstrating different parts of astronomy through fun crafts like creating mini models of planets. Once we’ve seen the real thing in the sky, we will be creating our own mini flashlight constellations.

Guest post by the team at Caddy Lake Camp, a Girl Guides of Canada camp enjoyed by girls in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. This is an edited version of the blog post Guiding Badges at Camp.  

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How the cookie crumbles

It seems Canadians just can’t get enough Girl Guide cookies! This spring, Canadians gobbled up some 61 million chocolate and vanilla cookies. And what’s even sweeter is the countless local Guiding activities these cookies helped fund.

As we wrap-up the Guiding year, check out how our cookie numbers stacked up this spring:

Cookie-Info-Graphic-700

 

 

If you’ve still got cookies left to sell, why not get in on all the action at hopping summer fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets. Share your selling events on social media, especially Twitter (reference @girlguidecookie for re-Tweeting).

And don’t forget to add any sales events to the Cookie Finder Map especially at this time of year when there is not as many events but people are still looking for cookies

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Hammers + nails = awesome Spark bird houses

It may have been our noisiest meeting night ever, but it was likely the most fun for each of the Sparks. Eight dads and one mom were on hand as helpers for building our bird houses. A couple of dads purchased special smaller hammers for their daughters to use. They hammered the nails and not their fingers. They each followed their parent’s instruction, after Grandpa Teddy (the father of one of our Guiders) gave out the kits and the instructions.

June10_birdhouseSparks

All the Sparks were very excited to try their hand at using a hammer and building something special and useful. And, we met a number of requirements for our Spark Keepers – Going Outside and Exploring and Experimenting.

Our unit plans a Dad (or male alternate) and Daughter Meeting Night each year. An invitation from their daughter is given so they can plan to attend. The dads want to be involved and look forward to doing something special with their daughter. The bird house building idea came from co-Spark Leader Kristine Kries (Ruby) and it was her dad, Grandpa Teddy, who volunteered to do all the cutting of recycled wood material he had on hand.

Grandpa Teddy did an awesome job in cutting and putting the kits together. The pieces even had small drilled holes for where the nails should be positioned. Each Spark took home their bird house with pride that night to paint and find a special spot to hang.

NSP crestWe logged this activity on the National Service Project: Operation Earth Action website under Trash to Treasure and Animal Habitats.  With this great project the Sparks learnt about the outdoors, and connecting with nature when they decided where to hang their bird house.  Each Spark gained knowledge about building, did their best and we recognized each of them for participating in the National Service Project. They each received their Operation Earth Action Crest and also a special birdhouse building crest.

By guest blogger Alice Gaveronski (Sparkle), a Spark Guider for many years with Spark #8, Regina, SK, who is also the Saskatchewan PR Adviser and a member of the Trefoil Adventure Guild.

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Celebrating 90 years of service – a first for GGC!

This year’s Québec Council Annual General Meeting was a momentous occasion – we presented 99-year-old Honorary Life Member Daphne Sebag-Montefiore with Girl Guides of Canada’s very first 90-year service pin. Indeed, national office had to have the pin specially minted for her! What made the evening extra special was that eight of her former Rangers were by her side as she was honoured for nine decades of dedication to Guiding.

June6_90yrpin

“Guide House was the official headquarters in Québec, but Daphne’s Sainte Adele homes were the real hub of activity,” recalls one of her former Rangers, Beryl Ball. With two homes in the Laurentians, Daphne would open her doors to Guides, Cadets, and Rangers, who often stayed over, even camping on the grounds in the winter. She would also often host provincial and inter-provincial Trainers weekends. Daphne held prominent roles as a Trainer, having held the ‘Blue Cord’ diploma – the highest level of Trainer in the country.

Daphne was not only active in local Guiding, but she was a great traveller who led national patrols abroad including the Canadian Contingent of Rangers who attended the Swedish Tent Camp in 1954.

From the Sherbrooke Telegram – March 25, 1954:

Sherbrooke-Telegram-Mar-25-1954-GGC off to Sweden

Upon her return, Daphne would share stories from her travels. Guiders from around the province, as far away as the Saguenay, Harricana, Quebec City and Noranda divisions, gathered for an annual training project in North Hatley, QC:

The international aspect is the drawing card for a large number attending as Miss Norma Ostler, who has just returned from South Africa and Miss Daphne Montefiore, who was in charge of the Canadian Contingent of Rangers who attended the Swedish Tent Camp, will show their films and movies and speak at the supper hour Saturday. (Montreal Gazette – September 23, 1954)

Outside of Guiding, Daphne gave back to her community in many ways, as commandant of the Transport Section of the Montreal Red Cross Corps and as a long time volunteer with Tel-Aide, a crisis phone line, often working the overnight shift.

Daphne’s energy and commitment to Guiding (she was an active Guider well into her seventies) has inspired countless members in Quebec and beyond.  As Beryl Ball puts it, “Daphne befriended everyone and it exemplified our Promise and Laws.”

By guest blogger Rebecca Purver, Communications and PR Coordinator, Quebec Council, with help from Beryl Ball and Ellen Gauthier, members of the West Island Trefoil Guild.

 

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Opening the vaults – When camp was ‘jolly’

We had such great feedback on our last post from inside the vaults of the Girl Guides of Canada archives, that we’re giving you another peek at some of our treasures.

Among the most coveted items in our archives are log books where companies (or units) recorded their activities. One log book in our collection is from 1927, and it was donated along with a photo album from the same unit. It’s so revealing to be able to read the girls’ own accounts of their camping trip and to see the images they captured.

Here are some quotes and accompanying photographs from the “The Swallow Patrol Log Book” Camp Notes 1927.

“The Guide Camp was held from July 12 to 28. Marjorie, Helen and Jo went from the Swallows and they all stayed two weeks.”

OurTent

(Our Tent ‘Joe’ Marj M, Helen, Peg. from GGC National Archives A2011.2)

“We had the most jolly times. We swam, had hikes, treasure hunts and midnight feasts.  Peggy passed her swimming and Jo her fire and tracking.”

The Water Bugs005

(The Water Bugs from GGC National Archives A2011.2)

“We came first when Mrs. Long, the Scout Commissioner inspected us.  This was a stitch because we had not been ready, and everything was ‘under pillows’.”

Tent historic collage

(Our Tent before and after Inspection! From GGC National Archives A2011.2)

“We all went home wishing that it was next year.  It was the jolliest camp on record; everyone had a good time and the leaders were liked by all”

Guiders008

(Guiders from GGC National Archives A2011.2)

What are your favourite retro camp memories? What do you prefer about camping in 2014?

  

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Brownie Book Club

What do Brownies like to do for fun? READ! That’s what we found out at our Annual Brownie Book Club meeting this year. We invited a special guest, retired librarian Dayle Cushen, to discuss her career and thoughts about books with us and enjoy a cup of tea!

pierrefonds-brownie-book-club

Each Brownie was asked to bring a book that they wanted to share with the group.  We began our meeting with welcoming our guest and asking Dayle about her job as a librarian. Dayle then spoke about her FAVOURITE book, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingles Wilder. The Brownies then shared about their book and why they enjoyed reading it. Dayle brought all sorts of books from her local library. There were graphic novels, comics, travel, non-fiction books, how-to  crafting books, and more.

Dayle’s message was “If you don’t like reading, you just haven’t found the right book yet!”  She encouraged the girls to try different varieties of books and not to waste time on ones you don’t like. Just move on to the next book on your list!

pierrefonds-brownie-book-club-group

We then had a small snack and some “tea” and browsed through all the books that the girls brought to share. They then got a list to take home of recommendations from Dayle. Another tip: Don’t stick to the age listed on the book; often even adults can enjoy a picture book now and then! We read together The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers and the girls and leaders loved it!

Thanks so much for sharing your love of reading with us Dayle.

By guest blogger Sharon Lamb, Guider Tawny Owl with the 7th Ste. Genevieve Brownies in Quebec.

 

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Saying Thank You

We’d had a pretty wild meeting.  The weather outside was crazy as there was a strong front coming in.  We were down one Guider because she had a family event to attend.  We had cookie money, rally day money and permission forms for two spring events coming in from the parents.  The girls were super energetic and we’d planned skits which are often a bit disorganized.  There were moments I felt like I was loosing my mind.

At the end of the evening, one of the mothers took a moment to thank me for all the hard work we were doing putting together activities for the girls.  Suddenly it was all worth while.  It made my whole evening and it cost her 10 seconds to do.

Sometimes, however, bigger acts of recognition are needed.  For the girls there are the Girl Greatness Awards.  These recognize girls who accomplish big things. For the adult members there are a variety of awards including The Gold Thanks pin, The Unit Guider Award and Commissioner/ACL Award.  The process for applying for these awards is a little different in each province, so check with your provincial council website for details.  There are even Silver Thanks pins and certificates of appreciation that can be given to non-members or organizations that help Guiding (again check with your provincial office).

So take a moment today to think about whether there is someone in your Guiding community who deserves some extra recognition.

Originally posted to Heartfruit’s own blog, Girl Guide Adventures. Heartfruit has been a Girl Guide since she was 7. As and adult she’s been a Brownie Guider, a Pathfinder Guider and she is currently a Guide Guider.  She has a Guide age daughter and lives in Ontario.

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Home is where I do Guiding

I have lived in three countries –  the U.K., the United States, and now Canada – and there is one thing I have learned and that is to get my priorities straight. To me Guiding/Scouting is up there with finding a house! I used to be in Guides but left like many girls do when you grow up and go to college. But after a while, I returned to Guides as a leader in the U.K. It made me feel part of something and part of the community.

I have celebrated three different Guide and Scout centenaries. Crazy, really makes me sound like I am 300 not 30!  I celebrated with the U.K. Scout Association in 2007 and then I celebrated as a Girl Guiding U.K. leader 2010. The best part was we all renewed our Promise together across the country at 20:10 on October 20, 2010.

Guiding was so much fun but then I moved to the United States. I felt like I was missing something, that thing that made it feel like home. I reasoned we are all sisters of the same organization so why not contact Girl Scouts and continue. The girls were great and the cookie season was crazy but fun, plus I celebrated my third centenary!

Making Guiding friends: A Girl Guiding UK bear snuggles up with some Sparks dolls.

Making Guiding friends: A Girl Guiding UK bear snuggles up with some Sparks dolls.

So, when in February I moved again – this time to Canada – the first thing I did to make it feel like home was to contact Girl Guides of Canada and get involved. I was in contact with a unit before we even had our plane tickets booked! When I went to my first Spark session as a leader, I hadn’t even been in the country for 24 hours and had just done a trans-Atlantic flight! My French on that day didn’t go beyond bonjour, but the unit felt like home.

I have discovered what is important to me – being a Girl Guide leader is like saying “this is my home, I am here to stay.” I enjoy helping the girls and sharing my experiences with them. I have learned so much had so much fun and done so much. Why stop Guiding? When you move, we are all sisters.

By guest blogger Jo Povall, a Guider with the 1st Northern Lights Sparks on Montreal’s North Shore. She’s proud to note that she’s slowly learning French. 

 

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Can urban living and a love of nature go hand-in-hand?

Girls_natureSince I was a child, I have had an insatiable curiosity about nature. I grew up hiking and camping outdoors, and my mom, who had once worked at a greenhouse and had a garden, taught me about the beauty of plants and growing your own food. Despite my love of nature, as I got older the allure of the city was like a gravitational pull, and so six years ago I moved to Toronto to pursue my Master’s degree in Women’s Studies at York University. For a long time I had trouble reconciling this paradox: how can someone who loves nature so much also have a deep seated attraction to urban life?

After having spent some time in Toronto, I started to realize that this wasn’t really a paradox. Nature, I learned, inhabits the city in so many interesting ways – through our parks and green spaces, in and along our watersheds, in gardens, in the potted plants in our homes… I started to ask myself, what is nature, anyway? Who defines what nature is? How do people engage with urbanized nature?

My background in Women’s Studies taught me about the ways in which inequities based on race, class, gender and ability are embedded in the fabric of our society; thinking about nature in this way and living in Toronto allowed me to consider how these inequalities also affect our relationship to nature, environmentalism, and natural spaces. Recognizing that nature has complex social and political dimensions is what piqued my interest in urban groups for girls that are engaged in shaping their community environments and promoting green living.

My research with girls’ groups is currently in full swing. My dissertation project involves working closely with a few groups for girls in urban areas that have an environmental focus, and my aim is to explore how the groups are connecting girls with nature and the environment. I am currently still looking for Guiding units residing in the cities of Toronto, Hamilton, or Vancouver to participate in this study. If you live in one of these cities, are passionate about girls’ environments, and are interested in participating, drop me a line!

To find out how you can participate in the study, click here

By guest blogger Leyna Lowe, who is a PhD Candidate in Women’s Studies at York University. In her spare time, Leyna also paints, cycles the city, and is helping to establish a green corridor in Toronto through the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park.

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National Day of Honour

National Day of HonourMay 9, 2014, is the National Day of Honour, a day to honour the sacrifices of all who served in Afghanistan. Over the years, members of Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada have shown their support and appreciation for our Canadian troops in many ways. Here are some wonderful photos that highlight these activities.

 

“Day of Honor for Canadian Veterans;  a great initiative dedicated to those who are serving or have served Canada as member of the Forces.  I consider my service humble compared to those who have actually left their families behind for longer periods of time, and had to return to their home country with injuries and maybe emotional pain, or did not return at all. 

I am a Clerk by trade, and have great respect for fellow CF members that have actually put their life on the line, and did not think twice about doing what was asked of them and their families.  As an individual and soldier I can only strive to follow their lead.”

Master Corporal Irene A. Randell
CTCHQ Gagetown



Girl Guides om New Brunswick have had many Girl Guide cookie campaigns to raise awareness about our troops overseas, and enable cookie lovers to buy cookies to be sent in care packages for soldiers. (Source: Canadian Guider)

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Canadian soldiers stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan received a sweet surprise to start off the New Year when cases of Chocolatey Mint cookies arrived in January, 2004.

The cookies had been donated through the efforts of North Pinewoods District, based in Woodbridge, OntaSoldiers with Girl Guide Cookies sent to Kabulrio. During their fall cookie blitz, the Woodbridge Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers asked customers if they would like to donate money to purchase cookies for the soldiers in Kabul. Many units made posters advertising the initiative and the younger girls decorated the cookie cartons before they were shipped to Afghanistan. (Source: Canadian Guider)


And from Guiding’s history….

 

Girl Guides Contribute to Buy Two 2 Air Ambulances. 1940. Photo: GGC Archives

Girl Guides Contribute to Buy Two 2 Air Ambulances. 1940. Photo: GGC Archives

Photo description: In 1940, Guides from all parts of the British Empire contributed donations towards the purchase of two air ambulances and a motor lifeboat.  This photo shows one of the air ambulances and with Guides and Brownies on the day of its presentation.


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As a way to honour and support this day, here is a list of related girl programming that you can use with your unit:

Sparks
The World Around me Keeper

Brownies
Key to Me -My Hero Interest Badge
Key to My Community – Proud to be Canadian

Guides
Discovering You – Being a Good Citizen
Beyond You – Community

Pathfinders
Be a Model Citizen Module
Citizenship Certificate

Rangers
Community Connections
-Challenge 13 – Canadiana
-Challenge 25 –  Oral history
-Challenge 31 – Your Interests

Explore Your Creativity
-Challenge 13 – Photo Essay

Global Awareness
-Challenge 29 – The Power of One

Leadership and Management
-Challenge 3 – Role Models

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Designing T-shirts

It’s finally – finally! – almost T-shirt weather across Canada. And while we know that nothing beats the Girl Guide uniform T or your favourite camp shirt, there’s something pretty awesome about girls designing their own T-shirts. As we head into the weekend and get ready to don short-sleeves for some outdoor fun, GirlGuidesCANBlog shares these fashionable notes from girl members who set to work on designing their own threads.

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Earlier this Guiding year, the 2nd Kanata Guides from Ottawa decided to have a T-shirt designing contest. We did this as part of the Canadian Guiding Badge. All girls in the unit were able to express their ideas, understandings and opinions about Canadian Guiding. Everyone had a chance to participate in the contest.

Tshirt_Collage

Everybody designed their own T-shirt on a piece of paper. We used a variety of pencils, markers, and colour pencils. The T-shirts showcased colourful and creative pictures of all the things we do in Guiding. We had an amazing time and can`t wait to do other exciting activities like this!

By guest bloggers Isabelle Dault, Hannah McCormick, Divya Menon and Katherine Fitze, members of the 2nd Kanata Guides.

Do you have an idea for a blog post? Send us a pitch! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Throwback Thursday: The Right Stuff

Sometimes it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Work commitments, family commitments, time for yourself, time for your community – it’s tricky to squeeze it all in. Here’s a guest post on the invigorating power of working with girls in Guiding.

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How hectic
 is your life?  If you are an urban dweller you are likely finding life busy, crowded, expensive and often tiring.  If you live in a rural area, your life is also likely busy, expensive and often tiring.  For the most part we all have the same complaints.

We come home tired every night and our weekends are sacred times for sleep, family and catching up on everything we didn’t complete last weekend.

Then, isn’t it remarkable that Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada has thousands of women, right across the county, who willing give a group of girls a few hours a week?  These same women also commit to using a couple of weekends a year to engage these girls in a simple event that might be a craft day or weekend camp that quickly turns into a fabulous time for everyone.

When I became a Guide Leader I wasn’t sure how I could do it.  What would I have to give up?  More importantly what did I have to offer a group of girls?  What I found out was that I had the right stuff!  I could engage with, and be engaged by, a dynamic group of tomorrow’s women. And I didn’t have to give up anything.

We did individual environmental goals for our lunches; we danced the Macarena; we did a mid-winter walk to find all the colours in pack of crayons (found them all); we danced the Macarena; we had a geologist drop in; we danced the Macarena; we played with feral kittens at an animal shelter (some got adopted); we danced the Macarena; we sold cookies to everyone we saw by creating the ‘Five Great Reasons to Buy Girl Guide Cookies’ campaign; we held a carnival for the Districts Brownies; we camped; we went to a play; we had a health nurse visit to talk about the perils of smoking; we did badge work;  built a snowmen;  we sang ‘Black Socks’ on the subway and got smiles out everyone, and did I mention we danced the Macarena?

At times, I might have dragged myself into a Unit meeting, but I always came home invigorated.  The dynamic of girls can charge you.  As a parent, I learned a great deal about interaction with kids, their parents and how a group can stay positive and supportive by using simple tools such as your ears for always listening and good words.

Girl Guides of Canada is always looking for new Guiders. Women with the ‘right stuff.’  Women from all walks of life, education levels and knowledge can participate with girls in a safe environment to enable girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.

What are you waiting for?

By guest blogger Virginia, former “Happy Guider”

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Guiding Underwater

Sitting around the dining room table at one of our weekly meetings before the end of summer last year, our Pathfinders were discussing all the things we wanted to do the following year. To me as a leader we had fallen into somewhat of a slump with activities and what we needed was something new and adventurous!

I began to think, what adventures had I tried? What was something I could share with the girls that would be new, exciting and grab the interest of Pathfinder and Ranger aged girls?

I knew what it was – SCUBA! I myself first got my open water scuba diving certification shortly after  I was a Ranger and thought it would be great for something new to try with the girls.

We continued our discussion of adventures in September at our first meeting. That is where I brought up scuba. At first I thought there would be hesitation but as soon as I suggested it all the girls immediately jumped at the idea.

The night came when we all headed to Midhurst, Ontario for our  scuba lesson. On one of the coldest days of winter, in the warmth of the heated indoor pool, the girls were introduced to the equipment, hand signals and safety requirements they would need to know before suiting up and getting into the pool with the instructors.

ScubaPolaroid_Apr25

The girls were so excited to get their vest, flippers, mask and tanks on.  It was great to see how they helped each other making sure vests were tight enough and hair was out of the mask for a good seal.

I watched as each of the girls one by one took their first steps into the world of scuba by slowly lowering themselves to the bottom of the pool. When the last girl had reached the bottom, I too lowered myself down slowly and joined them. At the bottom of the pool, we juggled golf balls, played with rockets and weighted rings, as well as practised using our equipment. We even had time for a group photo. At the end of the session, I asked all the girls if they would do it again and all said yes, it had been the best adventure we had done as a group in a long time.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed scuba diving and being able to introduce it to my girls made it even more enjoyable.

By guest blogger Amanda Benny, who is currently a Guider with the 1st Beaverton Pathfinders and 1st Beaverton White Water Rangers. This fall , she will be starting a
a multi-branch unit of Sparks, Brownies and Guides.

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Say cheese! Setting up a Girl Guide photo booth

I often forget to take pictures at Guiding events. At our recent Olympic sleepover we chose the scrapbook option in the Quebec Spin Challenge and I set up a photo booth to make sure some pictures were taken. I’ve seen photo booths at Guiding events before, but they were always super creative and I became overwhelmed with the prospect. I wanted something quick, simple and cheap. Here is my list of three things needed for an easy photo booth at your next event.

Picture - Photo Booth
1) A backdrop!

The 2012 Olympics was in London, so I taped my Union Jack on the wall. Alternatively, hang up a blanket, beach towel or plastic table cloth. If taping the backdrop to the wall isn’t an option, it can be pinned to a bulletin board or hung from a curtain rod. For a more elaborate backdrop, add lights, balloons or streamers. Having a set backdrop encouraged the girls to keep the camera and props in one area of the meeting space.

2) Props !

Props can be really fun. I provided a bag to keep the props contained when they were not being used. Here are four ideas for props:

  • Something to put around your neck (scarf, necklace, feather boa).
  • Something to put on your head (hat, tiara, fascinator). For a fast fascinator, twist and sculpt a few pipe cleaners onto a headband.
  • A mask or sunglasses. To make a quick mask, print a picture out (we used the Olympic Rings), glue to cardboard, cut out shape/eye holes, and tape onto a stock to hold.
  • Something to hold (I bought a small Canadian flag).

3) A camera!

I’d recommend that two cameras be brought in case there is a problem with one. Assigning one person as the photographer can provide consistency and order.

That’s it. Three steps, one photo booth, lots of amazing pictures.
By guest blogger Jill Ainsworth, who has been a Girl Guide leader for more than 10 years and currently works with Sparks and Brownies in Westmount, Quebec. When she’s not in uniform, she is pursuing a PhD in Biostatistics at McGill University. You can read her Thinking Day post on the Quebec Girl Guides blog.

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Should girls bring tech to camp?

It started when a Brownie asked if she could bring her iPod Touch to camp. Our packing list says no electronic devices at camp. Cameras are optional. The Brownie (and her parents) understood, but she explained that her iPod is her camera. She added that her parents didn’t want to buy a camera when she already had the iPod. She also said one of her favourite things to do at camp was to “make movies” with the other Brownies. (I can attest to this – they do love recording performances, and watching them in playback.) Camp was five days away. What to do…

My first instinct was to say no. I imaged the tension that having an iPod at camp might cause. Would others perceive it as unfair – why would an iPod be OK, but not a DS? Would the leaders have to intervene to ensure that the iPod was only being used as a camera? I didn’t answer right away. I thought I should consider the question from a range of perspectives. I am in multi-branch unit, from Sparks to Pathfinders, and we camp together. I knew I needed to consider that, too. I promised to answer the Brownie’s family in time to pack.

I asked the other leaders. Opinions ranged. We could:

  • Stick with the original policy – it works
  • Make an exception, and say that the iPod must be used only as a camera
  • Allow the iPod and collect it, and all the cameras to control their use

We chose to stick with the original policy. I emailed the family with the full explanation, and asked that it be shared with the Brownie. I also offered the use of my camera. I am glad that I did. Her mom replied right away, saying how much she appreciated our respectful approach.

WinterCamp

Camp was a blast. Cameras were used to take traditional memory-making pictures, (me: “why are you taking a picture of that s’more?” Brownie: “I want to remember how awesome it tasted!!”) and for very silly performance movies. We laughed a lot.

But this isn’t over. We’re travelling to the Girl Guides of Canada Ontario and Nunavut One Voice Rally Day soon. Five hours in a bus. A Spark wants to bring her LeapPad. The Rally Day information included “a camera or a smartphone to take pictures” in the “what to bring” section. I sent our families a survey to ask their opinions. We’ll be asking all the girls what they think, too. To be continued…

By guest blogger Kathryn Lyons, a Guider with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Unit.

 

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“Loom-y” for Girl Guide Cookies!

A lot of the kids I know are caught up in the loom bracelet craze. My daughter, her friends, the girls in our unit – all of them love making and trading them. So I thought:  “Why not combine two of the girls’ favourite things – Girl Guide cookies and bracelets – for a fun unit meeting?”

I came up with a design, based on Made by Mommy’s Girl Scout Cookie bracelet, to showcase our own Girl Guide cookies. So, with thanks to Made by Mommy for permission to adapt her design, here’s what you need to make a loom cookie bracelet:

-23 dark brown rubber bands (for the chocolatey mint cookie)

-23 white or light tan rubber bands (for the classic vanilla sandwich cookie)

-23 light brown or dark tan rubber bands (for the classic chocolate sandwich cookie)

-15-30 blue rubber bands (for the bracelet band)

-1 C-clip

-1 loom

-1 loom hook

-Girl Guide Cookie Bracelet pattern

Bracelet_pattern3

First, place your bands on the loom:

Picture 1

Next, create the first side of the bracelet by making a single chain with your blue bands. I used the bands doubled – 2 at a time – and used about 16 per side to make an adult-sized bracelet. You can adjust this to fit your own wrist. Once your chain is long enough, attach it to your loom (this will act as your cap band at one end).

Picture 2

Once your chain is attached, you can begin hooking your bracelet.  (For detailed instructions, you can watch the Girl Scout Cookie bracelet tutorial).

Picture 3

When the whole bracelet has been hooked, slide your hook through the centre of the last peg (where you finished hooking) and pull two blue bands up through the centre peg. Loop the blue bands over the hook again (so the end of the bracelet is not attached to your hook). You are now ready to remove the cookie bracelet from the loom!

Picture 4

After removing the bracelet, use the remaining blue bands to make a single chain band, matching the length to the first chain you created. When you are happy with the length, attach a C-clip, remove from the hook, and attach the C-clip to the other side of the bracelet.

Congratulations, your Girl Guide cookie bracelet is complete!

Picture 5

Feel free to modify the colours to suit your style. How about an all-chocolate or all-vanilla bracelet? Or, attach several bracelets together and make a Girl Guide cookie necklace! It’s a great way to get girls excited about selling cookies, and a wonderful conversation starter to assist your cookie sales.

If your unit really enjoys looming, there are other ways to incorporate it into your meeting. How about these Girl Guide figures?

Picture 6

You could also make these Trefoil bracelets, posted on the Ontario Girl Guides Facebook page.

Why not challenge your girls to come up with their own designs? Oh, and a word of warning…don’t be surprised if YOU leave the meeting wearing a whole armful of the girls’ creations as well…because sharing is the best part of creating, don’t you think?

By guest blogger and Guider ‘Glowie’, a.k.a. Megan Gilchrist. Megan is the Contact Guider for the 7th St. Catharines Guiding (multi-branch) Unit. Read Megan’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANBlog: Girlfriends Through Time: Bridging the Distance Between Guiding Generations,  Swinging along the Road…Inspiration to GuidingI Bee-Lieve in CampGeo-What??? Or How to Hunt for Treasure in Your own BackyardHands-on HistoryEvery Penny Counts, and “Multi-Branch” Means More Fun!

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Opening the vaults: Inside the Girl Guides of Canada archives

The archives at the national office is a treasure trove of records and insignia from the last 100 years of Canadian Guiding.  We have uniforms, badges, publications, minutes and photographs. Here’s a snapshot of just a few of the items in our collection.

eye mask005

This eye shade was given to Miss Gertrude Currie by Lady Baden-Powell sometime in the 1960s when Miss Currie was the Camp Commissioner for Ontario Council.  The accompanying note from Lady Baden- Powell says, “a small souvenir of our sharing the jolly little hut at Doe Lake together! And affectionate thoughts and thanks for everything!” The other tag identifies the mask as being “Made by handicapped Girl Guides.”

 

whistle

Along with donations of badges and uniforms we have received many lanyards and whistles. The bosun’s whistle on the left is very unique.  In order to pass her Ordinary Sea Ranger test, a Sea Ranger had to be able to use the bosun’s whistle to pipe the ‘still’, ‘carry on’ and ‘pipe the side.’

log book1927

A favourite item of researchers are log books, where companies (or units) recorded their activities.  Log books created by girls are especially coveted by our researchers as they allow us to hear the voices of past members and know their real experiences.

If you have anything you think the archives might be interested in you can email us at archives@girlguides.ca. We are especially interested in unique items, log books and photographs. Please note that we are not in need of uniforms post-1950 or published materials such as program books or back issues of Canadian Guider.

April 7 to 13, 2014 is Archives Awareness Week.

 

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What I learned at Sangam

Sangam Volutneers

Melissa Moor (second from the right) and her fellow Sangam volunteers.

“How was India?”

 “What did you do there?”

 “Did you like the food?”

 It has been almost two months since I arrived home from volunteering at Sangam. I had my answers all figured out:

India? It was spectacular. Challenging. Captivating. Dynamic.

I did all kinds of exciting things: led sessions on WAGGGS projects, bartered for bangles, rode a camel.

And the food? Delicious. Tasty, not spicy, just like the Sangam staff told me it would be.

I knew what to say, how to answer those questions. And then someone asked me a different one: “What did you learn at Sangam?”

I didn’t have a good answer. I still don’t. I blundered through something superficial and the conversation moved on, but I didn’t. I’m still trying to answer this question deliberately and honestly.

I learned so many things at Sangam.

Laxmi SangamSome of the things I learned were practical. I learned how to cross the road without traffic lights, how to take a rickshaw to the market and how to bargain for custard apples once I got there. I found out the hard way that snacks you leave in your backpack become snacks for the ants. I learned how to give a tour of Sangam and how to eat with my hands.

Some of the things I learned were about communities and culture. At Sangam, I thought about privilege and the way we relate to each other. I learned about celebration and ritual. I pushed myself to examine my own assumptions. I learned how to live in an intercultural environment.

And in this intercultural environment, I learned about Guiding. I learned about WAGGGS campaigns and explored WAGGGS’ new online learning platform, GLOW. I attended a local Guide meeting. I spoke to Guiders from Australia and Rwanda, from Nepal and Brazil. I learned what Guiding means, what it looks like and where it happens all over the world.

I joined Guiding as a Brownie in small-town Ontario. We met in the local school gym,30 girls in twirly brown dresses chasing each other across the blue and red lines marked on the floor.

Nearly 20 years later, I scuttled down Sangam’s twisted stairs in my purple Punjabi with the other volunteers. We rushed towards the campsite, scampered through the field and stopped. Still. Right in front of an elephant. Towering, astonishing, come to sleep here, at Sangam, for the night. Silently, we watched the elephant lower first her trainer, then each piece of her saddle down to the ground. She turned, lumbered towards the grass and sank down to sleep.

 Together, we walked back into Sangam, my friends from Argentina and Mexico, India and the United States and me. I learned so many things at Sangam. Guiding happens in our school gyms and in church basements, in community centres and at the park down the road. I knew this. But, I learned, Guiding also happens here, out behind Sangam standing beside an old elephant in the balmy night air, stars piercing the blanket sky above.

 Learn about volunteer opportunities at Sangam

By guest blogger you Melissa Moor, a Guider with the 5th Ottawa Brownies. Melissa volunteered at Sangam World Centre from September to December 2013. Check out Melissa’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANBlog:  Healthy Friendship RecipesBrownies on IceGuiding Parliament, A Silent MeetingUsing Children’s Books in MeetingsIt’s Not a Box!One Plus One Equals Brownie Math,  The World Girls Want for the(ir) FutureYoung Women’s World Forum 2011: Wrap-up from Switzerland. 

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Why every Brownie unit should have a rubber chicken (or two)

Rubber chickensHave you met our unit’s pals,  Mr. and Mrs. Chicken?

 

Here’s why we think you should have at least one rubber chicken in your unit kit, too:

  1. Chicken Games are Awesome!  Thank you Becky’s Guiding Resource.
  2.  Chickens can often substitute for other equipment… They replace balls, flags, boundaries (“don’t go past the chicken!”) and beanbags in many games. Our girls played Capture the Chicken at camp.  Guider Nicole suggests Ultimate Chicken (instead of Ultimate Frisbee).
  3. Chickens save time… They don’t roll like balls do and if someone misses a throw, it won’t take forever to get the ball back.
  4. Chickens don’t hurt if they accidentally bop you in the nose…  They’re soft and less likely to cause injuries.
  5. Chickens store easily … They can squish in around other stuff when you’re packing up.
  6. Chickens are easy to get and not too expensive… Look in the dog toy section at Walmart ($8) or the dollar store ($2).   I suggest, for your sanity, that you perform an immediate noise maker-ectomy with some needle nose pliers.
  7. Chickens give you an instant filler activity if you have a gap in programming.  Everyone wants to play a chicken game.
  8. Chickens can help develop leadership skills … Ask the girls to make up and lead their own chicken games.
  9. Chickens cheer you up…  At camp, an unhappy Brownie may find comfort with a hug from a chicken (it works!).

Originally posted to Cara’s own blog Brownie Meeting Ideas, February 6, 2014.

By guest blogger Cara Hicks, Brown Owl for the 119th Ottawa Brownies.

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How engineering could take you to Mars

March is National Engineering Month (NEM), which shines a spotlight on the role of engineering in society and (hopefully!) inspires future engineers to pursue engineering as a career path.

As a soon-to-be mechanical engineering graduate at the University of Guelph, I use Guiding as a way to share my experiences in engineering with girls and young women. Engineering is a field in which women are severely underrepresented, with women comprising approximately 20% of engineering students at Canadian universities1 and less than 10% of licensed professional engineers in Canada2.. This makes it so critical that we inform girls and young women about the exciting opportunities available in engineering.

National Engineering Month BadgeWhat can you do to celebrate NEM 2014? In Toronto and the GTA, engineers (and engineering students) are running Mission to Mars meetings with Guiding units. I had the chance to facilitate one of these events during the first week of March and had an amazing time!

The highlight of my night was when one of the Girl Guides in the unit asked me what the solution was to making her Mars rover work. I explained to her that there was not just one correct answer, but that engineers often come up with many workable solutions to solve a problem. She loved that engineering was about creating things that did not yet exist and making them work!

Even if an engineer will not be visiting your unit, you can find out about the activities on the Mission to Mars – NEM 2014 YouTube channel, so you can run the activities in your own meetings. You can also check out the National Engineering Month website to find out about all of the events running in your area and learn more about careers in engineering.

Engineering is a field with endless opportunities and many careers in engineering are about applying creativity towards helping people. Maybe you will help solve global warming or be involved in manufacturing the latest fashion trend. Maybe you will ensure that our buildings are sturdy or that factory workers will not get hurt on the job. Maybe you will create a great new video game or pioneer new ways to resolve toxic waste spills. Maybe you will make cars safer by improving airbags and bumpers or create the next medical innovation and save a life. Maybe you will change the world. Engineering is definitely something to consider as a fun, rewarding and exciting career!

Profile Photo - Lauren Patrick

Lauren Patrick

By guest blogger Lauren Patrick, who is a final-year mechanical engineering co-op student at the University of Guelph.  She has spent the last five years between the 1st Guelph Sparks, 2nd Guelph Sparks and 14th Vancouver Sparks. She loves how you can always stay involved in Guiding, regardless of where you are living.

 Are you a Girl Guide Member who will be enrolled in a science, technology, engineering or math post-secondary program next academic year? Then apply for one of our Girl Guides of Canada scholarships, some of which are specifically for students in these fields. Hurry – applications close April 1!

 

1 Women in Science and Engineering in Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Ontario

2 Women in science and engineering, Statistics Canada

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Beauty on a budget

For the past two years, the leaders of the 3rd Bowmanville Guide Unit have been teaching girls all about natural beauty on a budget. It’s important to us because our own children have gone away to college and one has just finished. We know what it is like to have kids on a very tight budget, and the importance of having the knowledge to do things for yourself that are fun and very inexpensive. We wanted to guide the girls in our unit to learn how to cut costs on things they enjoy but may not be able to afford, especially as they get older.

The great thing is we do it in a fun way: First we teach the girls about face masks by mixing plain yogurt with oatmeal and honey in a blender, then spreading it on their faces and placing cucumber slices on their eyes. Then we show them how to soften their hands with a little bit of baby oil or cooking oil. Next it’s using a teaspoon of sugar and rubbing it in to help remove dead skin from their hands. This is very economical and environmentally safe.

Finally, we make homemade lip palm with Vaseline and Kool Aid packs and place it in small containers from the dollar store. We use the unsweetened kind so that it tastes like sour candy. All three crafts cost very little money and are very natural and easy to do at home on a budget – and also fun when having friends over for a sleepover party!

We like to teach the girls the importance of finding creative and inexpensive ways to do things on a budget so that when they go away to university and money is tight, they can do little things to boost their spirits and not break the bank.

By guest blogger Laurie Palmer, a.k.a. Guider Beans of the 3rd Bowmanville Guides.  

NSP crest

Note: Making your own beauty products counts as one of the two activities required for girls to earn their National Service Project: Operation Earth Action crest. Check out all of the Operation Earth Action activities and be sure to log your actions! 

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Sparks CAN Snowshoe!

SnowshoesThree years ago at my first monthly District Guider meeting, one of our (amazing!) 50+ year Guiders advised our group that the district had a huge cache of snowshoes at our disposal. It was my first year as a Guider and I was seriously intimidated at the thought of organizing snowshoeing for my Sparks – it was never going to happen.

Fast forward to two weeks ago…  Alberta has been hammered with snow this year and out of the clear blue (okay snowy and overcast) sky it hit me – I’M TAKING MY GIRLS SNOWSHOEING! I finally felt confident enough in my Guiding skills to take my 21 girls out for some winter fun. And hot chocolate. Sparks MUST have hot chocolate.

It came together very quickly, we were at the beginning of a huge Chinook and I only had a few days to plan. I live on an acreage near our city so location was a no-brainer: my garage and yard. I advised all my parents via email on the Sunday before our Wednesday meeting with a map and a “what to wear” list attached. I had a huge positive response from my parents and had a full compliment of volunteers to help us that night.

Wednesday afternoon I cleaned out the garage, put together some makeshift benches, picked up some hot chocolate, and gathered the snowshoes from storage. I spent an hour with my own two kids making a track for my Sparks to follow through the yard, weaving through trees and over hedges. The drifts were up to five feet tall!

The girls arrived and after a quick rundown of rules and instruction, we were into our shoes and off! It was a full moon that night, the wind was calm and the temperature was only about 0°C. We had 24 kids (including Girl Assistants) in a train, wearing glow stick rings, snowshoeing through my yard by the light of the moon.

It was by far my best Guiding moment. I’d accomplished something that I had considered out of the question just three years ago, and it’s given me the inspiration to strive for another awesome Guiding experience. I just need to consider what I think is “too hard” right now and plan on doing it in another year or two! (The Brownie Guiders are trying to convince me that a sleepover is a great decision…)

By guest blogger Jodi Paulgaard, a stay-at-home mom and the Guider for the 5th Airdrie Sparks in Airdrie, Alberta. “This is my third year leading Sparks – my daughter went to Brownies this year and wouldn’t take me, so here I am, up to my elbows in white glue and pom poms, having fun with Sparks!”

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Reflections from the UN Commission on the Status of Women

Saffina Jinnah, a Guider from Vancouver, is attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women, being held from March 10 to 21 at the UN headquarters in New York City

selfMy Brownie unit is the reason I wanted to attend the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). I want them to live in a world that invests in girls and empowers girls.  I want them to know their worth and maximize their potential.  As a youth delegate last year, I knew I could contribute my experiences and knowledge this year as a Coordinator.  Guiding has provided me the leadership skills I need to assist the WAGGGS delegation.

The life of a delegate essentially consists of early mornings and late nights (and extra shots of espresso)!  As I write this at 2:00 a.m., I am reflecting on the day of advocating and lobbying.  Who did I meet with?  Which government and/or United Nations official delegate did I share WAGGGS’ key messages with?  Did we have a connection? Every day, we try to reach these influential people and have the voices of 10 million girls of 145 countries heard, and it is no easy task!  Some nights end in frustration, some in success…but you always have your fellow delegates who are awesome and supportive!  Even if you reach one person, you know you have made a difference in the life of a girl.

The CSW is a great place to foster friends, learn about yourself, and challenge yourself.   Furthermore, CSW offers youth an incredible opportunity to practice developing policy, advocating effectively, and utilizing social and oral skills in various settings – all  of which I did!  By attending various sessions with inspiring speakers and panelists, I also broadened my knowledge and networks.

Perhaps one of the best moments of CSW was hearing the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speak: “Gender equality is not a women’s issue – it is an issue for us all.”  Amazing.  We all want a world where women and girls are respected, valued, and equal in all aspects of life and at every stage of life.  This is our chance to make change and be heard!

I am so grateful to be a part of the Guiding Movement!   

By guest blogger Saffina Jinnah

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How to Explain the Beauty of Winter Camping

Why would anyone do that!?”

That was the reply when I told a dinner companion that in 10 hours I’d be heading to the mountains of Manning Park, British Columbia, to go winter tent camping in record low temperatures, along with my long-time co-Guider Cindy, three very experienced Rangers and four very new Pathfinders.

Girls in snow2I don’t expect people to understand why we do it, those of us who choose to bundle up, pre-cook meals and snacks, make multi-layered sleeping bags and bedding, purchase extra sets of long underwear, and head to the snow to spend a weekend outdoors. I can’t possibly explain that snow camps are truly the best camps ever, because there’s no mucky mud or rain to clean up, only dry snow to brush off tents and tarps, and no bugs or critters to crawl inside either. Because pre-made food and eating from a Ziploc bag means there are virtually no dishes to do. There are no bathrooms to clean. The chore list for the girls is much smaller, or even non-existent. That snowshoeing across a frozen lake that the girls were paddling a canoe on less than six months earlier leaves girls and adults alike filled with awe at the beauty of nature. And that snowshoeing in general is a whole lot more fun than walking.

I can’t explain how listening to the whoosh of a raven’s wings as it flies by in the morning and the shush that follows of the snow sliding off your tent from that force of air, is just the most beautiful sound you can hear. Because walking in the dark with a headlamp along a cross-country trail, and throwing oneself into nearby snow banks is surprisingly relaxing and freeing. And watching a group of inexperienced Pathfinders try to create a snow shelter they can sleep in using three tarps and rope alongside a giant tree stump and a few built-up walls of snow for four straight hours really shows their determination, teamwork, and spirit of creating something for themselves – even if they did choose to sleep in the conventional tent for the second night.

girls snowshoeing

Not many people will be able to understand why we would choose to have an Easter egg hunt in the snow. Neither would they see how sitting around a campfire with a group of teenagers and listening to them talk about anything and everything because it’s a safe and non-judgmental environment is empowering them to be confident.

I could have said all these things and more to my dinner companion, but I don’t think it would really have done much to change her mind. I’ve received similar comments from others as well. All I know for sure is that winter camps really are amazing –  only those who have been can relate – and that Cindy and I are already looking forward to next year’s return trip.

-     By guest blogger Robyn McDonald, a Pathfinder and Ranger Guider in Telegraph Trail District, Fraser Skies Area, British Columbia. Check out Robyn’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANblog: Ideas Worth Sharing, From Frustration to Compassion: A Guider’s Journey

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Girlfriends Through Time: Bridging the Distance between Guiding Generations

This year, our unit was looking at new ways for doing things. As a multi-branch unit, some of our Guiders  have been with the unit (and in Guiding!) for many years, as have  a number of our girls.  After a discussion with a co-worker about multi-generational programming, we came up with the idea of pairing the “Girlfriends Through Time” Brownie badge with a visit from our local Trefoil Guild.  The Guild members would be invited to a meeting to share the way things were done when they were young and some of their favourite Guiding activities.  We had hosted Trefoil Guild members in the past, and were always pleased to see how receptive the girls were to our special guests.  The twist to this visit was that we would invite the Trefoil members back for a second meeting – the following week, the girls in our unit would showcase their favourite Guiding activities and experiences.

We planned a basic outline with the Trefoil Guild by email, and worked out the general flow of the meetings. Our first meeting in January was spent planning with our girls – we talked with each level (Sparks, Brownies and Guides) about their favourite Guiding activities, and the girls suggested crafts, songs and games that they would like to share.  We talked to the girls about what the Trefoil Guild was, and also made sure that they were aware of anything that might impact the planning of their meeting (such as the mobility challenges faced by a few of the Guild members).  The girls were thrilled to be planning a meeting, and came up with fantastic ideas that allowed everyone to participate.  It was girl-led programming in action!

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The next week, we hosted the first meeting.  The Trefoil members joined us for a snack, and then shared how meetings were opened when they were young.  The girls loved trying the horseshoe formation, and were intrigued by the idea of inspections!  The horseshoe included the marching of the colours, and the girls had the opportunity to try out the knots used to hoist a flag.  Next we had some fun with a dress-up relay game, and the Guild members led us in a campfire of songs they sang as girls or Leaders.  The meeting finished with closing songs and Promises (old and new), and much excitement for the following week.

We were proud of how well our girls did sharing their ideas at the next meeting, and they took pride in sharing the activities they had planned.  We started off with a snack, and the Trefoil Guild showed great Guiding fortitude in trying “goldfish in the sea.”  We then shared our opening circle and songs, then divided up into small groups to make twisted yarn friendship bracelets.  The craft was a huge hit, and some of the Trefoil ladies left with several bracelets, as all of the girls wanted to make one for their new friends!  The girls had decided on “Telephone” for their game, as everyone could play (even those who were not able to get around easily), and there was much giggling as the messages became jumbled as they went around the circle.  We finished off with a campfire of the girls’ favourites, and discovered that some Guiding songs never grow old!

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This was a great experience all around – the Trefoil Guild members expressed how much they enjoyed the experience, and our girls have asked every week since when they will be coming back!  As Guiders, we loved watching our girls take on the challenge of planning a meeting for others, and everyone, from our youngest Spark up to our oldest Guide, contributed something to make the visit special.  We can’t wait for our next chance to share in the sisterhood of Guiding with our Trefoil friends!

By guest blogger and Guider ‘Glowie’, a.k.a. Megan Gilchrist. Megan is the Contact Guider for the 7th St. Catharines Guiding (multi-branch) Unit. Read Megan’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANBlog: Swinging along the Road…Inspiration to GuidingI Bee-Lieve in CampGeo-What??? Or How to Hunt for Treasure in Your own BackyardHands-on HistoryEvery Penny Counts, and “Multi-Branch” Means More Fun!

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Where will Guiding take you?

Stuck in the never ending cycle of Canadian winter weather, leaving on a jet plane for a far flung corner of the world seems like a pretty good idea right about now. As we celebrate World Thinking Day on February 22, it’s the perfect time to consider the opportunities we have in Guiding to see the world – and ourselves – in a whole new way.

Each year on World Thinking Day, girls participate in activities and projects with global themes to honor their sister Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in other countries. This year’s World Thinking Day theme focuses on girls’ education, and Canadian Guiding has always focused on sparking girls’ interest in the greater world and educating girls on global issues that will inspire them to take action.

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It’s almost impossible to put into words the transformative effects of an international Guiding experience. For both girls and Guiders alike, it’s about more than just going somewhere new and doing something different. The beautiful thing about international Guiding is that you’ll get that amazing feeling of being part of something inspiring, supportive and powerful. The journey is about so much more than just getting from point A to point B. It’s about who you were before you left, and who you become by the time the trip is over.

When I was a Brownie in Lethbridge, Alberta, I never would’ve imagined the amazing places Guiding would take me. I have been so fortunate to meet so many amazing Guiding sisters on my travels to Mexico, Peru, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Along the way, I discovered the distinct magic of each country and discovered that through Guiding, we are all truly part of something bigger. We are all working towards supporting a world where girls have unlimited opportunities to learn and to make their mark.

And when you come back from a trip? Often, the journey continues. You have the chance to put the ‘new’ you into action, to keep the momentum going and apply what you learned about yourself right now and into the future.

Being a member of Girl Guides of Canada and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) can truly take you anywhere. Where will Guiding take you?

By guest blogger Chris Burton

Chris Burton, from Lethbridge, Alberta, is Girl Guides of Canada’s International Commissioner, and was Chief Commissioner from 2009-2012.

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Touching Hearts – Valentines for Vets

Veterans Affairs Canada’s Valentines for Vets program distributes personal notes of thanks in valentines to veterans in long-term care facilities. Here’s how one group of Sparks made the activity their own.

Valentine_collage
Veterans Affairs Canada started it, Canadian Guider promoted it in the Winter 2014 edition, our Guiders implemented it but the 1st  Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks made it the heart-warming and popular project that it became. I’m talking about Valentines for Vets. It started when Remembrance Day fell on our meeting day this year. Our newest Guider, Jan McFarland, led the girls in discussions and crafts related to:

  • Making a poppy
  • The significance of the poppy
  • Ways in which we can make the world a better place
  • What peace means
  • The song “Peace Peace”
  • Decorating a peace dove
  • Completing the written sentence – “I will make the world better by….”  and putting it in their Sparks memory books

The girls earned the Remembrance Day crest for their participation in this meeting.

This background prepared the girls to make valentines for vets and understand the significance of thanking them. (Although they needed a quick reminder that this was for “soldiers” and not animal doctors.) The first week, we used every bit of crafting material we could lay our hands on and we still had the occasional request for that special piece of ribbon or sought-after sticker. As requested by Veterans Affairs, we avoided glitter. I can only imagine the distress of long-term care workers who would have been sweeping glitter from beds and chairs. Our Sparks do love their bling! We were asked NOT to put on too many things that might come off but really, asking a six-year-old girl not to use decorations is like asking a new puppy not to bark. Sparks love to accessorize! The girls enjoyed the project so much that when asked, they decided to do more the following week so we brought out the paint and brushes.

I hope the vets can read phonetically as one Spark wrote (all on her own) “Thank you for prutectshon” (protection). My other favourites: “To Vet Be Mine” and “You Can Keep This.” I noticed that each card had an H and then a 5/6 on it? I started to ask the Sparks what that meant and then realized I said, “Don’t forget to put your age on it. Age 5 or 6 for example.” What they heard was, “ H 5/6”. I added a couple of yellow stickies to help clarify for the recipients.

1st Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks_Valentines for VetsEach of the beautifully decorated cards touched our hearts so I know they will touch the hearts of our much valued veterans. This has been a terrific project that the girls really enjoyed. I thank Veterans Affairs for affording us this opportunity and Canadian Guider for bringing it to my attention. This is truly a cross-generational project of very deserving recipients and loving, spontaneous Sparks. I hope it becomes a tradition for our unit.

By guest blogger Leslie Kennedy, 1st Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks, Ontario on behalf of all our Sparks Guiders, Aileen Van t’riet, Pat Fryer and Jan McFarland

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We Can Make a Difference

A year and a half ago 1st Red Wing TREX signed up to take a humanitarian trip in 2014 through Me to We, an organization committed to social justice and empowering youth. Each month a different member of our unit chooses a service project according to their interests. So far this year we have exercised dogs for the SPCA, served the homeless Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and made quilts for the women’s shelter.

This fall we were very honoured to be invited guest s at We Day’s Evening of Champions in Saskatoon.  This special event honored 120 youth for their involvement in community, both locally and globally. It provided an opportunity to network and to hear from several of the We Day speakers.

Craig Kielburger, co-founder Free the Children, with Becky, Kaylee, Kendall, Megan and Jamie.  1st Red Wing TREX UNIT, Prince Albert SK. Photo courtesy Brenda Lee.

Craig Kielburger, co-founder Free the Children, with Becky, Kaylee, Kendall, Megan and Jamie. 1st Red Wing TREX UNIT, Prince Albert SK. Photo courtesy Brenda Lee.

The next day we attended We Day, a celebration of the year-long commitment of youth to community service. Each of the 15,000 in attendance earned their ticket through service. These events are held across Canada, as well as in the United States and soon to be held in the U.K. Each event includes music, We Day speakers and local heroes.  Saskatchewan’s guests included Martin Luther King III, Magic Johnson, Kenyan Boys Choir, Spencer West, Shawn Desman and many others.  It was a very exciting event and the energy in the building was equal only to the noise level! All our girls left inspired and encouraged to make a difference.

Photo courtesy Brenda Lee.

Photo courtesy Brenda Lee.

Photo courtesy Brenda Lee

Photo courtesy Brenda Lee

We will continue our monthly service projects and in June we will land in Accra, Ghana, to spend two weeks immersed in the culture and working alongside community members to build a school, learn about water projects, women’s rights and volunteer with local school children. We will take part in Me to We’s leadership program and each girl will come home with their own plan of how they can continue to make a difference.

We CAN make a difference!

By guest blogger Brenda Lee,  1st Red Wing TREX, Saskatchewan.

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Check Your Problems at the Door

It’s not easy for me to admit, but I’ve been going through some bad times lately. I am lucky to have a few good friends who I feel comfortable sharing my very personal issues with. I am also lucky to have amazing Guiders who work with me in my Spark group. These are women who I get along with really well, who I know always have my back. I’ve only been a leader for just over a year now, but it has had such a positive impact on my life.

Mississauga Santa Claus Parade. Photo courtesy Chelsea

Mississauga Santa Claus Parade. Photo courtesy Chelsea

Last year my co-Guider and I took our Sparks to a vet clinic. After the girls had all left with their parents, we were thanking the veterinarian for his time when he expressed his surprise that neither of us had daughters, that we were just volunteers. My co-Guider and I did a similar sort of shrug and tried to explain what we get out of it. She did a better job than I did, and told him about a week when she was having the worst day and then came to Sparks and instantly felt better. I remember being impressed by this statement, since I couldn’t remember ever seeing her in a bad mood, and it’s stuck with me since. She was right – there  was something almost cleansing about coming through the doors of our meeting space and seeing those girls in uniform. They run up to greet us and suddenly you are no longer Chelsea, but their leader, Twinkle. You are instantly transported into a different role.

Up until last month, I never had a problem coming to Sparks and being their cheerful Guider. Then things started happening in my life and there was one week in particular when I actually questioned going to Sparks. I am so glad I did decide to go.

I was having the worst day. I was having the kind of a day where one bad thing just seemed to lead to another. I forgot part of the craft we were doing that night and had to go back to my house. I arrived late to Sparks in a really foul mood. I apologized to my fellow Guiders for being late and was just in the middle of telling them “I’ve had the worst day” when one of the Sparks came running up to me. She asked me about the craft we were making and without thinking I immediately went into my Sparks persona. I dropped the harsh tone in my voice, I smiled and remembered patience.

Before I had walked through that door, I had only thought of getting through the next hour without crying (honestly, that’s what kind of day it was). However, those girls, my 16 Sparks and my co-Guiders needed me to be Twinkle. They didn’t know what was going on in my life and they didn’t need to know. They come to Sparks to have a fun time and to learn new things. I checked my bad attitude at the door and forgot about my troubles, if only for an hour. And you know what? It felt so good to not think about my life for a bit. Sparks ended up being the best part of my day because for the first time all day I was able to focus on something other than my life.

Mississauga Santa Claus Parade. Photo courtesy Chelsea

Mississauga Santa Claus Parade. Photo courtesy Chelsea

I’m sure if you asked my girls about me, they couldn’t tell you much about my life and I think that is how it should be. I have people in my life who I can talk to about my personal issues, I have really good friends who I can trust. But Girl Guides is not the place for those conversations. Those girls deserve leaders who are positive and focused on the experience, and that is who I strive to be. When I arrive for Sparks I put my whole attention on the meeting and leave my problems at the door.

Guest blogger Chelsea

Guest blogger Chelsea

By guest blogger Chelsea Kennedy. Chelsea lives in Mississauga and works at the Girl Guides of Canada Ontario Council office in Toronto. She rediscovered her love of Guiding last year and is happy to once again be part of the sisterhood. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, reading and geocaching. She credits her love of volunteering with her time at the University of Guelph, where she earned a BAH in History and learned the joy of helping others. Read her GirlGuidesCANBlog post The Right Answer.

Were you inspired by Chelsea’s story? Why not share your Guiding story with us on GirlGuidesCANBlog? We’d love to hear all about it!

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We CAN Sing Challenge and Community Service Event

Being in Girl Guides allows us to work together as a team while planning a project that will bring about awareness for those who are less fortunate. Our We CAN Sing project was one of the ways that we as Pathfinders took action to help our community. It was great to see how our actions helped others and made a positive difference.  The project brought about awareness as we got our picture in the Liberal and SNAP so whoever read it would be able to see that we were contributing to our community. Hopefully this will bring about more awareness to encourage people to donate to the food bank.

This is what SNAP Richmond Hill said about our event:

“The 1st Oak Ridges Pathfinders were proud to organize the 8th annual all-unit campfire for Girl Guiding in Oak Ridges. More than 100 Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and leaders joined together at the Windham Ridge PS gym in Oak Ridges to celebrate the We CAN Sing Ontario Challenge. In addition to singing a selection of great campfire songs, participants were asked to provide a donation to the Aurora Pantry food bank. In the photo the Pathfinders display the generous donations which they will bring to the Aurora Pantry next week and help sort.”

Photo by Mike Barrett Back row (L to R): Megan, Courtney, Kyrie, Robyn, Stephanie, Charlotte Middle Row (L to R): Megan, Andrea, Cori Front Row: Julia Missing: Vivien, Nina, Imaan, Pearl, Alyssa

Photo by Mike Barrett.
Back row (L to R): Megan, Courtney, Kyrie, Robyn, Stephanie, Charlotte
Middle Row (L to R): Megan, Andrea, Cori
Front Row: Julia
Missing: Vivien, Nina, Imaan, Pearl, Alyssa

We wanted to do the project to make an active difference in the community by helping others who are less fortunate.  We also thought that this was a good way to take action for a better community as we got all the other Oak Ridges Girl Guide units together so everyone could contribute to this cause. We faced some challenges like phoning people you don’t know and having to talk to them about the event. But I made a script and kept phoning people until I got more comfortable and left messages if they weren’t home.

Our Guiders were really impressed when we organized ourselves into three teams:

  1.  Communications Team – prepared an invitation for the event, contacted unit Guiders and newspapers
  2. Food Bank Team – made all arrangements with the local food bank (delivery, sorting, etc.)
  3. Song Team – selected songs to accomplish the We CAN Sing challenge and led the entire evening.

It was great how a lot of people at the We CAN Sing campfire brought food to help make it a successful event and help us achieve our goal. I think that we were all successful as a team to make a positive difference in our community. This project made me realize how fortunate we are and that [food bank recipients] only get a very small amount of food compared to what we have and it has to last them a month.

By Stephanie, a first-year 1st Oak Ridges Pathfinder, with contributions from Guider Chickadee (Katherine), Coco (Kristi) and Ookpik (Carolyn), along with content from the original SNAP press release.

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Your Role Model – Your Choice

Between YouTube videos, commercials, TV shows, books and movies, we are shown a lot of different ways to act in the world – some good and some bad. It’s okay to enjoy a variety of media, even some of the lower quality stuff, as long as we do it with our brains turned on.

The media often presents famous people as role models for us all, but if their fame is the only notable thing about them, they may not be a good choice. Most famous people never intended to hold themselves up as an ideal, and they may not always behave as maturely as we would like.

We need to think carefully about whom we look up to, and choose role models who accomplish things through their own hard work and who behave in ways that we respect and admire. That may include famous people, but it may not. Choosing someone as a role model just because they happen to be famous is sure to leave you disappointed.

When you watch videos or commercials, keep your brain on by asking yourself what message is being sent. Are they telling you that girls are strong, valuable, and good, or are they giving the opposite message? What examples are they giving about relationships with peers, parents, teachers and dates? Do they match what you understand about how the real world works? Do you agree with the messages being given? Is this a role model that you would consciously choose?

Even if the answers are all no, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the music of a given artist or the books of a given writer, or the shows of a given actor, but you should consider what supporting their work means. By buying their work, are you endorsing their values? Is that something you want to do?

A good role model should inspire you to be your best self, whether that is a public figure, your Guider, someone in school or in your community, one of your friends, or a member of your family. They show us some new things that can be achieved, and how they were done and, hopefully, that they were done by someone who is like us in some way.*

Potential role models are everywhere but it is better if we choose them ourselves and choose them consciously, based on our goals, rather than just following whoever comes along.  Instead of letting the media choose our role models, we can choose our own based on our values.

Your first step, then, in choosing a role model, is to determine what your values are. What is most important to you? What kinds of things do you want to achieve? Where would you find the types of people who have those same values or have achieved similar things?

If you know your own values and goals, and you watch, listen and read with your brain turned on, you will find plenty of inspiring role models out there. And as you achieve your goals, and act in ways that reflect your values, then you can become a role model for others.

How did your role models earn their place in your life? How have they helped you?

*That’s part of the reason that it is so important to have diversity of race, gender, and sexual orientation represented in the media, because not only does in more accurately reflect the world we live in, but it gives everyone role models to inspire them.

Some books of great female role models from A Mighty Girl: http://www.amightygirl.com/books/mighty-girls-women/role-models

A good discussion and tips for parents on role models in the media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/celebrity-role-models

A list of good TV role models for girls: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-lists/positive-role-model-tv-girls

By guest blogger Christine Hennebury. Christine is a writer, storyteller and life coach who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. Helping people feel a little better right now is one of her favourite things to do. Read her previous posts on GirlGuidesCANBlog: Pretty Powerful Princesses, Don’t Forget to Breathe, and Figuring Out Your Feelings.

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Taking the Reins: My First Experience being In Charge

This Guiding year I got a promotion! My two co-Guiders of four years decided to move on to other things and suddenly I became the one “in charge” of our unit. It was a bit of a scary moment knowing that it would be me and one other Guider who had been with us for the latter half of the previous year trying to make this unit work.

It isn’t that I knew nothing, just that I felt like I did. We had, in the past, all had our job to do. My jobs were cookies and badges. I knew very little of Safe Guide, parental contact issues, camping and myriad other things that were taken care of by others. Thankfully my former co-Guiders were a great resource to help me land on my feet, as well as my Community Guider and the other returning Guider in the unit.

It wasn’t easy, suddenly having some very big shoes to fill, but I think the key to making “my unit” work was to think of it as “our unit” instead. Yes, if anything happens I’m usually the one that parents come to first. But delegation is a wonderful thing! Cookie questions? Not my thing, go ask over there. Camp forms? That’s me. Badge testing? Head on over and talk to the other Guider.  The key to our delegated responsibilities is that we all know what’s happening with each other, without having to be involved. A quick FYI session each week keeps us up to date and we created a unit email account that we can all access so we can keep up with online conversations with parents.

We can all agree that communication within the team is key, and without us having an open forum to ask questions, get advice and ensure that we are all involved, this unit would never work. The other key is efficiency. Although we are all friends and love to chat we try to have a work hard/play hard mentality. Since we all live in the corporate world our planning meetings resemble something in a boardroom versus a living room with minutes, notes, and tables. You just have to find something that works for you and the personalities of your fellow Guiders.

I’m only half way through my first year as the head Guider but, if I may, here is some advice that I think can help any unit – those  just starting out, those with a change of leadership, or even units needing to streamline their processes.

- Delegate. Giving each person a job makes things easier on you and easier on parents since they know who is responsible for what

- BUT…be sure everyone knows what’s happening and how to do each job, because a change is always around the corner and it is easiest when everyone is up to date.

- Set up a communal email address. Parents find it easy to identify what is from the Guiders and everything is in one place for all to access. We sign the email author’s name first, followed by the other Guiders when appropriate.

- Get organized. Keep copies or scans of your documents in one place. Make a binder for resources. Take time to update the girls’ records and identify what needs to be kept and what can be changed.

- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your co-Guiders, Community Guiders, Unit Admins and other Guiders in the area have likely already tackled whatever challenge you are faced with. Use their wisdom, take their advice and ask for help when needed.

- Take a deep breath. Change is scary but also a great chance to spice things up. Use this as an opportunity to be sure that what you’re doing is working for you, as well as for the girls. No matter how you feel you can do it.

The final piece of advice I have for every Guider in any unit across the country is this: sometimes good enough is good enough. Do your best, smile, and enjoy the ride!

By guest blogger and Guider Michelle Parsons, 154th Ottawa Guides. Michelle is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa in Biochemistry. She likes to exercise and bike in the summer, and is learning to cook (slowly). Michelle tries to put as much STEM into her programming as possible. She also enjoys getting crafty and is occasionally known to join in a game of tag or wink murderer with the girls.  Read her past contribution to GirlGuidesCANBlog: The Power of an Expert.

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New Guider: New Fun

I have never been involved in Guiding. I was never a Girl Guide when I was young. I have never sold a box of cookies. Yet, on November 7, 2013, I found myself as a new Guider with the 12th Toronto Brownie Unit, where my Brownies formally inducted me, giving me my new leader name, Lollipop.

Photo Courtesy Alison

Photo Courtesy Alison

Before I became a Guider, I worked in an adult education centre for four years. It was my job to understand a wide-range of adult education principles and the skills that learners could attain through well-delivered training. So when I joined Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) as a volunteer, I understood how important it was for me to attend GGC’s New Guider and Safe Guide training. As somebody who has had no experience in Guiding, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was amazed with what I was presented.

What do you mean training can be ‘fun’? I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging, creative and participatory the activities were. In one of the activities, we were asked to pair up with another Guider and sit back-to-back. One Guider was given some shapes cut out from coloured paper and the other Guider was given a picture. The Guider with the picture had to describe it to her partner, who had to assemble the shapes in the way she’s told. What did this teach us? How to listen. How to provide direction. How to receive direction. How to communicate. How different people’s minds work.

Seriously, it was kind of intimidating. Some of the trainers in our session have been Guiders for more than 20 years. They are an incredible resource for new and experienced Guiders alike, teaching us everything from Guiding songs to the ceremonial protocols of hoisting and folding a flag!

At the end of the session, we were broken up into smaller groups based on the branches we were all working with. It was very helpful for me to have a trainer that taught me about the age-appropriate activities that were specific to my branch. It was also great to be in a smaller, more intimate group and meet my fellow sisters in Guiding. We shared stories, information and ideas on how to plan our next meeting.

As a new Guider, it is amazing to see the vast array of training modules provided by GGC’s Training and Enrichment for Adult Members (TEAM). Contact your provincial council to see what upcoming trainings are available in the new year and see what interests you. Challenge yourself, meet other Guiders, and gain new skills to lead our girls to GIRL GREATNESS!

Alison “Lollipop”, 12th Toronto Brownie Unit

Alison is the Coordinator, Unit Guider Support for Girl Guides of Canada. She is a member of the Programming Department and acts as a support for Guiders nationally. Please feel free to contact her at chana@girlguides.ca.

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Our Guiding Tradition

Guides love crafts! So for their Christmas party, we decided to make a cute elf of felt and cardboard rolls.  I was new to this unit and checked that we had glue guns, but didn’t realize we were really short on electrical outlets!  The Unit Guider assured me that the “tradition” part of the evening wouldn’t take that long, and we’d have time for all 30 girls to make the craft, which was my job.

Chaos and disgruntlement ensued. I was annoyed that the “tradition” took most of the evening; less than half the girls had time to make the craft at the limited glue-gun stations. I tried to put on a happy face but I was frustrated and felt the girls were disappointed. Focused on my labours helping the crafting girls, I had barely glanced across the room where the “tradition” was being performed.

After that Christmas meeting a couple of years ago, I often heard the girls talking about the “tradition”. It’s one of their very favorite things about Guides! They ask to do it on other occasions (but it’s only for Christmas). I started to see that they were bonding over the “tradition” far more than they would over a craft or most other activities.

Ok, ok. The TRADITION consists of eating donuts hanging from a string without using your hands. In our meeting space, they are hung by a string from a rope tied between two posts. We hang five or six donuts at a time and they come forward as a patrol and master the art of eating a donut-on-a-string. (We tarp the floor below the rope to deal with any mess.)

Donut tradition

Donut tradition

Why do they love it? I don’t know but they feel great when they do it and own the bragging rights. Last year a few weeks before the Christmas party we slightly teased the first-years by talking in secretive tones about the TRADITION. I actually heard myself saying “You thought you became a Girl Guide at Enrolment, but you’ll really become Girl Guides when you do the TRADITION!”

So last Christmas I carefully prepared for the other activity, decorating cookies for the local outreach program, while fully recognizing that the TRADITION was the focus of the evening. The cookies did get decorated, too.

After a couple of years running one unit with a large group of 30 girls, we added another unit to our location (and now have two units of about 20 each). Some of our girls transferred to the new unit. By the second meeting, they were already asking the leader if they could do the TRADITION, too.

This year at our Christmas meeting, it’ll be just the TRADITION and board games. I don’t think we need to accomplish anything but having fun.

PS: If you do this with your Guides, don’t allow it to become a race. There is a risk of choking when people try to eat as fast as possible.

 By guest blogger Linda, a Guider with 2nd Dartmouth in NS.

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From Girl Guides to Girl Scouts

This summer my family and I moved from Vancouver, British Columbia to Hanover, New Hampshire. I was fortunate enough to go on the Arctic Adventure trip to Churchill, Manitoba with Girl Guides of Canada over the summer, and I was looking forward to going back to my unit as a third-year Ranger and as a Girl Assistant in a Sparks unit.

I had just come back from the Arctic Adventure trip and couldn’t stop talking about my trip. Shortly after getting back my parents told me that we would be moving. I was not surprised because it had been talked about for years; I was just hoping something would fall apart and we would end up staying. I did not want to leave the district where I had spent the first 10 years of my Guiding life.

I spent the few weeks between coming back from the Arctic Adventure and moving searching for a Girl Scout unit where we were moving. Luckily, I was able to find a unit and register for Girl Scouts. Saying goodbye was the one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Because there are not as many units in the Vermont/New Hampshire area, the unit I am in is a mixed unit. The youngest girl is a Daisy (same as a Spark) and the oldest in a Senior Ambassador (same as a Ranger). It felt weird being in a mixed unit, with girls of all ages instead of just one age group. I was not sure how things would work with different ages and when I went into the room for my first Girl Scout meeting I was not sure what to expect. I was worried people would think I was weird and would stay away from me, but I was wrong. Everyone wanted to get to know me, and everyone wanted to hear about what Girl Guides is like in Canada.

One of the hardest things I had to do was trying not to compare my new unit with my old one. In the beginning I was definitely comparing the two. I had to realize that there would not be another unit like the one I left and I would have to make the best of it.

I will never forget my amazing adventures with West Point Grey District and Girl Guides of Canada. I was fortunate enough to attend two SOAR camps and a national trip as well as many summer camps and weekend camps. I am looking forward to all the adventures that I will have as a Girl Scout.

By guest blogger and former Girl Guide turned Girl Scout Dena

Photo courtesy Dena (in the middle)

Photo courtesy Dena (in the middle)

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Guinness World Record Holders!

Bridging Friends ForeverIn August, members of Girl Guides New Brunswick-PEI gathered at Snider Mountain Ranch for Bridging Friends Forever 2013, a provincial all-ages camp. With a theme like Bridging Friends Forever, it seemed fitting to make an attempt to set the record for world’s longest friendship bracelet.

Since we always have a goal to have a service project at camp, we decided to have a combination event. Our Guinness World Record attempt allowed us the unique opportunity of offering girls a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of something world-renowned while also creating a service project for Sangam, the Guiding World Centre in India.

If you haven’t heard, Sangam has been putting out a call for friendship bracelets for a number of years to sell in their shop to raise money for organizations that help stop violence against girls.

Girls spent months making bracelets in anticipation of our record attempt. In early May we received the shocking news that the record we were working toward (5,000 bracelets) had been broken. We gathered ourselves together and upped our goal to 8,000 bracelets!

Bracelets started arriving and kept coming right up until we began the record attempt. Girls could attend program sessions during the week to make more bracelets and I witnessed many girls making bracelets in their spare time at camp, as was evident in my bulging pockets at the end of each day!

Our two witnesses, Tom McNulty and Tom Turnbull, and eight bracelet counters, began verifying our bracelet count at 3:00 PM on August 16, 2013.

Once 100 bracelets were counted and verified they were handed off to waiting leaders who dispersed them. As girls received bracelets they began linking them together. Once a girl was finished with her bracelets she raised her hand to indicate she was ready for more!

As girls’ chains became longer and longer they began to arrange them out into the center of our circle so our official measurer, Jean Boudreau, could begin estimating the length.

As we got closer to the end of verifying the total bracelet count, one Girl Guide leader, Roxanne McKnight, stood at the top of the circle and held the official beginning of the bracelet. From there we gathered links and began joining them together, working our way around the circle a total of 9 ½ times!

Our camp mascot, Bridgit, arrived to help make the announcement to the over 500 very good and patient girls and women who had just spent over three hours joining the links of bracelets together and watching our friendship bracelet grow.

I heard many comments of “Wow” and “It’s so colourful” and “It’s huge” and occasionally “I think I made this one.” They all very respectfully repeated after their leaders “Walk around the bracelet, don’t step on the bracelet!” And every single one listened intently to our final amazing count, 19,953 bracelets to measure 1829.29 metres.

But everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knew we had two agonizing tasks ahead of us:

  1. Wait patiently for the OFFICIAL word to come from Guinness
  2. Untie all our bracelet chains to prepare them to ship off to Sangam

I was so very proud to open my email earlier this month to see a message from Guinness stating “We are delighted to confirm that you have successfully achieved a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for ’Longest chain of bracelets’. We would like to congratulate you on your record-breaking achievement. You are OFFICIALLY AMAZING.” Of course, as Girl Guides, we already knew that.

What an amazing experience this has been. I know I can speak for all involved when I say that we are truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to not only break the record, but to exceed it in true Girl Guides of Canada – Guides du Canada style!

Friends, leaders, girls, and family have been working away at untying the bracelets and they’ve been trickling back to me so I expect we’ll be able to send them off in the new year. Get ready Sangam!

Yours in Guiding,

Heidi Quinn, Special Events Coordinator – BFF 2013

Heidi Quinn is a Guider with the 4th Quispamsis Girl Guides in New Brunswick and an editor of the Provincial Newsletter, The Ebb & Flow. Heidi has been involved in Guiding since she joined (a few short years ago) at the age of 9 in Newfoundland & Labrador and is better known around the campfire as Blackie.

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