Starting our the Guiding year, I am always excited and energized, thinking about ways we can implement our program for our Brownies in new and interesting ways. We brainstorm about activities, ask the girls what they want to do during the year, and find new online resources for games and skill-building activities. Personally, I think we have lots of fun and the girls respond well!
So, this begs the question, why, when I talk to some parents, do they assume that putting their daughter into Guiding is a less desirable option than Scouts?
I have asked people “What is different?” and they say “Oh…um well, they will learn more skills in Scouts, do more outdoorsy and adventurous stuff.” Some start with “When I was in Scouts, we got to plan camping trips and make our own campfires and cook our own meals”. My response is, “But we do that!”
In our Unit, we focus on independence. The girls learn how to put up their tents, how to prepare meals at camp, and they do all the prep work. We teach them skills like how to sew a button (a skill I feel everyone should learn, boys and girls!), conduct science experiments (hurricane in a bottle, anyone?) and go on nature hikes and scavenger hunts. One year we went to an indoor fun park where the girls could go rock climbing. Another year we went to a trampoline gym and learned how to do fun jumps and tricks!
We are somewhat limited in the more adventurous activities by the age of the girls – they are 7 and 8, after all – but I also doubt that kids in Beavers and Cubs are paddling their own canoes in rapids or portaging carrying a pocketknife.
We seem to be at an impasse, where many parents remember an older Guiding program that some (not all) found a little “boring” – focused on making too many macaroni art pictures. Maybe we need to get out in the community in our uniforms more often doing interesting activities to change these perceptions. Sometimes, a parent bringing a new girl to our Unit will tell me that their child wanted to join because she saw Brownies or Guides out doing something, and she wanted to join in. Adding more technology-focused elements to the program is okay, and so is updating every so often to keep up with changing pedagogical models. But in the end, I strongly feel it’s the individual Units that will make the difference in enrollment numbers by being active in the community.
By Guest Blogger, Guider Kristy Martin (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 the troop. Read her previous post on GirlGuidesCANBlog: This Guider Asks