We stood by the Centennial Flame in the harsh wind counting the Brownies. The last one ran up the sidewalk. “Woah! Are we going there?” she asked, gesturing with her pink mitten to the Peace Tower. “Yes, we’re going on a tour. That’s Parliament,” another responded. “I hope it is an inside tour. It is so cold out here,” a third chimed in. With everyone accounted for, puffy jackets, sashes and all, we headed up the steps and through the doors for our “inside tour” of Parliament.
Thirty sets of little footsteps quickened ahead of me, the girls pointing to carved wooden doors, asking which Prime Minister was in that portrait, tracing fossils in the limestone walls with their fingers.
They found Queen Victoria in the Library and in the Senate. They saw Ottawa from up above in the Peace Tower and learned about the Speaker (“who is like the referee in my soccer games,” one Brownie told me, “except referees don’t wear robes”).
They asked some good questions, too: “What happens when there is a tie in the vote?”, “Who chooses the Prime Minister?”, and “What can you do if you don’t end up liking the person you voted for?”
In Ottawa, we are lucky to be able to take the girls inside Parliament to see where decisions are made and legislation is passed. But no matter where you are, we can get girls thinking about these kinds of questions. Even in our regular meeting spaces, we can help girls understand what the political process is, why it matters and how they can participate.
A few days after our tour, at our weekly Brownie meeting, the girls registered to vote in the first 5th Ottawa Brownies general election. We talked about why you need to put an x on the ballot, not a check mark or a happy face, and then the voting began. When the results were announced, deciding which issue we would debate, the Brownie versions of the House of Commons and Senate were teeming with energy. Parliament was in session and the debates were about to start!
As they developed arguments, asked questions and presented their cases, the girls were getting more and more excited: excited about having a choice, excited about sharing their thoughts, excited about the big green room with the carpet, excited about politics.
I’m really excited about politics. But I’m even more excited about sharing this interest with a group of seven- and eight-year-old girls who are learning what it means to debate, to vote, to participate.
No matter where you are, you can bring Parliament and political participation to your Unit. Here are some activities you might try:
- Hold a mock election with your Unit.
- Debate and pass a bill with your Unit.
- Go on your own tour of Parliament at your meeting place. Have Guiders spread out around three locations in your meeting place (one location each representing the House of Commons, Library of Parliament and Senate). Girls rotate around the stations, learning about each part of Parliament through visuals and activities as they go.
- Learn about jurisdiction by organizing place names into cities/municipalities, provinces and countries. Try to match up each jurisdiction with some of its responsibilities.
By guest blogger Melissa. Melissa is a Queen’s University student and a Guider with the 5th Ottawa Brownies, 17th Kingston Guides, 17th Kingston Pathfinders. Melissa has also written previous posts for Girl Guides of Canada’s blog: A Silent Meeting, Using Children’s Books in Meetings, It’s Not a Box!, One Plus One Equals Brownie Math, The World Girls Want for the(ir) Future, Young Women’s World Forum 2011: Wrap-up from Switzerland. She has also reviewed several books from our adult book club: Persuasion, Everything We Ever Wanted, and Flight Behaviour.