Mental health awareness: it’s a huge focus in our Girl Guide unit. We have several girls with severe anxiety issues and many girls with exceptionalities and sensitivities that we always take into consideration in all we do and in how the girls interact with each other. We spend many meetings a year fostering understanding, empathy, inclusion – and stress management. We have done many fun nights surrounding mental health over the years, but Fortnite Girl Guide style was by far one of the biggest hits!
Before I continue, kudos where it’s due: this incredible night was planned entirely by our Junior Leader, Alex. I firmly believe that our teen members have some of the best ideas in how to connect with the younger girls.
The night started out with a quick chat about safe spaces and stress and ways to manage it. We then set the girls free on an incredible “choose-your-own-adventure” night that had them giggling, working cooperatively and feeling safe all night long. Here’s how the night went down:
- We asked all the girls / parents to send in
blankets and pillows and cozy things for the girls to build forts with. Leaders
also brought extras. I would advise lots of extras – the more cuddly stuff the
- Once all the girls were assembled, we introduced the night. There were a few options for the girls. They could make stress balls out of flour and balloons, make their own salt-dough and sculpt with it, decorate sea shells with sharpies, find their unicorn name and make a poster, write a story about what makes you feel safe and happy, talk about something amazing that you’ve tried or want to try, and last (but certainly not least) fort building. All the options were written on a huge Bristol board and posted for all to see. Stations were pointed out for the girls to navigate to and off they went.
There was not one girl in the unit who did not enjoy this entire night, which I count as a huge success. Since this night was all about doing whatever was in each girl’s comfort zone and creating a physically safe space for each girl individually, they all felt heard and safe and free to be themselves. We have a few girls who made individual forts and a few that we expected to build on their own that opted to join a group; not something they usually do without assistance. In those cases I learned that they felt 100% in control of their physical space so were excited to jump into the action with their peers.
After 35 years in Guiding the one thing I have learned is that you never stop learning. That night taught us some great stuff about what all out girls need to be successful this year, in ways that other meetings were not able to. It was amazing to see the smiles on all their faces throughout the night as the girls were learning about safe spaces while engaging in a timeless childhood activity: fort building!
Guest post by Theressa Audette, a Guider with the 3rd Bowmanville Guides in Ontario. She’s also a Girls First Champion.