The torch of remembrance and the desire for peace burns bright for girls in Canada

Remembrance of wars past. Fear of conflict today. These simple but powerful concepts are on the minds of girls across Canada as we mark Remembrance Day 2018. Somehow, we often forget that war and violent conflict – whether 100 years ago or today – affects and involves young people. Yet teens aren’t often asked about their opinions on these topics.

At Girl Guides of Canada, we believe it’s important to understand the issues facing girls and to amplify their voices. This fall, we commissioned a nationwide survey that involved talking to more than 500 girls in Canada aged 14-17 about their feelings on Remembrance Day, war, and peace. What girls told us is that to them, Remembrance Day is about reflecting on the past while thinking about the very real impact of the global conflicts happening today.

Shining a light on the fear of war and the hope for peace

In this research, girls shared that they see Remembrance Day as an important time to honour the sacrifices of those who’ve served their country, whether as soldiers or on the home front. They also believe Remembrance Day is about honouring peace builders and thinking of those currently affected by war around the world. After all, girls today often have a personal connection to the impact of war beyond the lessons of their history classroom. Many girls in Canada have welcomed those fleeing global conflicts to their communities, classrooms, and Girl Guide units – or may even themselves have experienced conflict firsthand. Some have neighbours or family members who’ve been deployed overseas.

How girls are fostering peace in their daily lives

Teen girls are also telling us that a majority (63%) are concerned that they might experience war in their lifetime. Concern is significantly higher among girls who’ve met someone with firsthand experience of war, such as those who have met a refugee or a veteran.  How we can we support girls who have these concerns?  We start by providing a safe space for girls to discuss what matters to them and how, together, we can build a better world by girls. Through actions big and small every day, girls themselves are fostering peace through their own leadership, community service and building connections with their peers.

During the First and Second World Wars, Canadian Girl Guides supported the nation’s war effort and helped children affected by war. They made surgical dressings, knitted socks for soldiers, and sewed clothing for children who were victims of bombings. Today, Girl Guides continue to connect with members of Canada’s military as well as welcome newcomers and refugees in their communities.

On November 11, many Girl Guides will proudly participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies. They will honour those who have served and acknowledge their responsibility to work for the peace they fought to accomplish.

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Our new Girls First Guiding program calls for a BIG celebration

The launch of Guiding’s brand new Girls First program is a pretty big deal. Innovative science and tech activities. Outdoor adventures. The chance for girls to talk about what really matters to them. And. So. Much. More. The new Girl Guide program was totally designed to fit with what girls really want. That’s why we  had to celebrate our new program in a really big way – and did we ever.

Across the country, girls led the way in planning and running Girls First Launch Parties. Pathfinders and Rangers served as Launch Leaders, designing events that allowed girls in Guiding to test drive activities in the new program and discover their favourites. Along the way, our launch leaders picked up some resume-ready skills like event planning, public speaking, and more.

“Girls got to discover new things about themselves and try exciting activities,” said Caitriona, a Girl Guide Launch Leader and member of our National Youth Council. “It was cool to be part of a group of people and make new friends while feeling the welcoming sisterhood of Guiding! This is such an important and positive change in the program and it is important to spread the word and get girls talking about it and sharing it with their units. The option to bring a friend got everyone involved and learning about how positive Guiding is in young girls’ lives.”



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How girls in Guiding are going full STEAM ahead as they experiment, design and create

Guiding has always been a place where girls can experiment, design, create and imagine as they explore the infinite possibilities of science and technology. (After all, Aeronautics was one of the first badges ever in Canadian Guiding.) Now, Guiding’s new Girls First program takes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration to a whole new level.

As a civil design technologist by day and Girl Guide volunteer by night, I’m a huge fan of Guiding’s new Experiment and Create program area that’s part of the new Girls First program. It really lets girls explore not only science, technology, engineering and math, but also the world of design. This pulls the program in alignment with the new acronym of STEAM – an acronym that integrates the importance of art and design in STEM careers, whether in the form of prototyping, modelling, programming, and conceptual sketching. It can also involve using 3D printers, laser cutters, computer coding like Sketch, or plain-old paper and pencils to learn how to create new inventions or improve existing ones.

Through activities in the Science Lab and Design Space themes, girls will discover how engineering can now be so much more than marshmallow bridges, and math can be so much more than a Pi day party. Instead, units might explore robotics or digital arts at local makerspaces. They might tour local science-based employers like technology companies, composting facilities, research institutions, smelters, pulp mills or farming operations, and do related experiments and activities in the unit. Or, they might use Skype a Scientist to learn about something they’ve never imagined. It’s totally open to girls to explore what the Design Space and Science Lab themes mean to them.

Not every Girl Guide exposed to STEAM will pursue a related career, but that exposure can be invaluable to members who discover the STEAM career that is perfect for them. I was in Grade 11 when I googled “who builds bridges” and discovered civil engineering. Even then, I struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence that, as a woman, I could pursue such a career. The Girls First program’s exposure to STEAM at every age will help girls discover and hone their interests, and help them see that they can be biologists, mathematicians, geoscientists, or get a job in a field that may not even exist yet (lunar engineer, anyone?). Regardless of a girl’s chosen path, a solid introduction to STEAM will give her a foundation to solve world problems and make a difference in shaping her world.

Guest post by Anne Simonen, a Guider with the 1st Nelson Guides in B.C. and Kootenay Area PR Adviser.

Do you have a story about how your unit is enjoying the new Girls First program? Share it on the blog! Email us: 

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Meet the Girl Guide who’s unstoppable when it comes to inclusion of all girls

Oct 17 Alexis Holmgren
Alexis Holmgren is a Girl Guide who’s a total goal-getter when it comes to advocating for what she believes in. And what she believes in is making sure all girls and women feel welcome in Guiding. As someone who lives with multiple rare medical conditions, Alexis has been a strong voice in speaking up for inclusion. She’s a total powerhouse with big ideas who’s taken on many leadership roles in Guiding, including running a diversity and inclusion session for Girl Guides in Alberta. She also recently joined the Girl Guides national Diversity and Inclusivity action team, providing input on how Guiding can attract and retain diverse members from communities and populations who are currently not well-represented in Guiding. Looking ahead to her future, Alexis aspires to go into the field of genetics so she can help others suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

This year, Alexis was awarded a Fortitude Award from Girl Guides of Canada in recognition of her perseverance, dedication and unstoppable passion for Guiding and inclusion. As her award commendation notes, Alexis has the ‘bright spirit of a unicorn and the courage of a lioness’. Here’s what Alexis has to say about how Guiding helped her turn her ambition into positive action:

“When I think of the 11 years I have been a member of Girl Guides, the words that come to mind are friendship, advocacy, leadership, opportunity, growth, skills, and of course fun. Guiding has truly shaped the person I am today, enabling me to become a better leader, build confidence, and discover what I am passionate about.

“From starting as a Brownie at the age of 8 to serving on the Alberta Council Youth Forum, and becoming a Link member this fall, Guiding has always been there to help me grow. Through Girl Guides, I found my inspiration to seek change and advocate for diversity and inclusion after I was diagnosed with a rare, genetic heart condition called Long QT Syndrome at the age of 12. By continuing my involvement in Guiding after my diagnosis, I was able to prove to myself and others that there are many things I am still capable of doing as a person with differences. Guiding also taught me to emphasize and use my strengths.

“While I might not be able to run, I have discovered my talents for organization, planning, and earning badges. Now that I’ve ‘graduated’ as a girl member, I am excited to continue my involvement as an adult Link member to give back after all that I have been given in Guiding. Guiding is still that place where I can continue to participate in opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have. Guiding is how I want to continue my advocacy efforts. I can’t imagine my life without being a Girl Guide.”



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Why Girl Guide cookies are the ULTIMATE Canadian treat

We’re interrupting your day to bring you this important announcement: Girl Guide cookies are here. And they are the ULTIMATE in everything.

Girl Guides sell some 6 million boxes of cookies every year. That’s a lot of tasty goodness. And this weekend Girl Guides will be in your neighbourhood with cookies at the ready for Cookie Days in Canada.

But our cookies are more than just a cookie. So. Much. More. Find out why Girl Guide cookies are the ULTIMATE treat.

Girl Guide cookies power amazing experiences for girls – which we’re putting front and centre on our brand new box designs. Whether it’s going on her first canoe trip, conquering a rock wall or participating in a science and engineering workshop, Girl Guide cookie sales help fund life-changing experiences for girls in your community. This fall, you can buy one of eight new chocolotey mint cookie boxes showcasing the range of activities and friendships that are part of the Guiding experience.



Be sure to get a box or two or five before they’re all gobbled up…

Cookies are a passport to adventure.
From Quebec City to the Yukon, India to Peru and everywhere in between, Girl Guide cookie sales raise funds for travel experiences that help girls see the world – and themselves – in a brand new way.

cookies mountainscape

Girls also develop some pretty sweet skills through cookie sales. 
Goal setting. Project planning. Money management. Teamwork. Cookie selling gives girls an edge with the kinds of marketable skills that pay off when they’re applying for their first job, an internship or a post-secondary opportunity.