Sunday, 13 August 2017

Introducing the Brownie Binder

So i'm always coming up with these crazy ideas. Things that I think will make Brownies run smoother, better and more organized. It first started with our Brownie notebooks, then last year the Brownie Hiking backpacks. This year its binders.

A few years ago I took a look at how the girls earn interest badges. I was finding that the girls all wanted more badges but had a hard time understanding how to complete them on their own. We introduced the Brownie notebook and that helped a lot but I still found the girls didn't know which ones they've already completed and which ones they have left to do. Introducing the Brownie binder - used in conjunction with the girls notebook hopefully it will help the girls keep track of everything. And of course it will live in their Brownie backpack, coming back and forth to meetings with the girls.

The first page of the binder has the girls badge record. This is a list of all of the interest badges with a square beside it to add a date and sticker when it is completed. We used to just check off the badge in their notebook when it was completed but some girls found this confusing. Now they will be able to see at a glance which badges they have done and which they could still do.

You can download these pages Here!

I'm not going to lie, this next bit took a while. When I first started the notebooks I wrote up all of the interest badge requirements on these little slips. I find it works really well when the girls attach one of these slips to ther notebook page and then do the badge work below. We stress to the girls that badge work can be drawings, photographs, writing or making something to bring it. However, we do ask that any badge work that is in paper form get glued into the book. That way things dont get lost.

For the girls binders I printed out and cut up a set of interest badge slips for each girl. I only have 13 girls this year so it didn't take too long to print, cut and sort them all but I would definitly ask for more leader/parent help if i had a bigger group. All of these slips went into a bag and then got put into the zipper pouch at the back of the binder. This little zipper pouch will also be amazing to transport permission forms and cookie money back and forth between Brownies and home. 

The last thing I did was find a way to attach the notebooks into the binders. Since we print pages that are then glued into their notebooks the holes usually used to clip the notebooks in are unusable. Armed with some shower rings I found that if you clip 2 rings along the top and bottom edge of the notebook it can easily be clipped into the binder. Perfect! Once the girls get their binders they will also clip in their program books. 

EDIT* Some people were wondering what my Brownie Notebooks Looked Like. Please see the linked page Here to view them (you have to scroll down towards the bottom of the page)

So what do you think? Would you give Brownie Binders a Try?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Brownie Summer Projects - Volume 2

So after camp I took my annual "Break from all things Girl Guide". I get to a point in the year where I am burnt out and don't want to think about another camp, fairy circle, craft or toadstool. I think its important to take this time away - its a way to step back and let yourself get to a point where you miss GGC and want to get back to it.

As always after about 6 weeks of doing nothing Girl Guide related I jump right into project mode and work on some new fun things for the year ahead. Last year it was some things got our fairy circles as well as my Girl Guide Peg People. This year i had some other things in mind

Twist Me, Turn Me and Show Me an Elf....

Enrollment is always a big deal for us. I have a soft spot for tradition and all things to do with Brownie fairies, toadstools and wise old owls. We typically stick to an enchanted forest theme for enrollment but I feel like our decorating often falls flat. In the past we've just had a mirror on the floor for a magic pool, last year i got fancy and put out a big emergency blanket. Neither option i was particularly happy about. They didn't really capture the magic I was going for and they looked oh-so-crappy in pictures.

So introducing the Brownie Magic Pond!

Made out of felt and a shaped emergency blanket this little pond i think will add to the atmosphere of the enrollment ceremony in the fall. There is a little stone path for the girls to walk up and the emergency blanket provides a shimmery reflection. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

SWAPS Banner

The second project I wanted to work on this summer was a place to keep all of my SWAPS crafts. I have a backpack and a camp hat that i keep most of my SWAPS on but they are getting so full that things are starting. I decided I wanted a central place to keep all of my SWAPS that could show them off but also take them on and off easily. This is what i came up with.

Made out of felt its a pretty simple design. I just took a rectangular piece of felt and sewed the end to a point. Then I folded over the top of the fabric and sewed it to make a sort of sleeve. I ran a dowel through this sleeve and attached a ribbon to act as a hanger. Then you just fill it with all of your SWAPS. Easy, simple and pretty - a great project for a weekend.

Brownie/Sparks Cupboard Clean Out

We are very lucky to have a crafts cupboard at our meeting space. Unfortunately as the year goes by it gets very, very messy. Things don't get put away properly and craft stuff gets out of control. This year I got together with our Sparks leader (who happens to be my mother in law) and spent the afternoon sorting, purging and reorganizing everything. The final result was awesome. We were both able to clean out some GGC supplies from our own houses and fit it into the cupboard and overall it looks much cleaner then it did before. I just wish i had remembered to take a "Before" picture!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Brownies Cross Canada Camp!

While we are Brownie group that likes to camp, I will admit that I’ve never actually fully committed to taking the girls out in tents. We’ve done camps in buildings, sleepovers at different establishments and camping at sites where some of the girls chose to sleep in a cabin and some in tents just outside. I think I just worry a lot when the girls tent camp – will they be cold, what if it rains, what is the girls are scared, what about bathrooms, what about keeping everyone fed and happy.

This year my co-leaders and I spent a lot of time taking OAL trainings (both tent and residential). I had all my questions answered and we decided to book a campsite for mid-June at camp Adamac – Rainbow Ridge site. This is a great site for Brownies. It has an indoor kitchen facility, dining and an indoor shelter in case of bad weather. The tents are all in a row with a big field to run in and a nearby comfort station with indoor toilets.

We had planned a Cross Canada themed camp for the girls as we are celebrating the Canada 150th celebration this year. Since we never do anything small at camp we decided that we would complete the entire Cross Canada Challenge – all 6 badges in one weekend.

The girls arrived Friday night FULL of energy. We went over fire drill, buddy system and came together for a campfire before bed. The girls were excited to sleep in tents but 90% of them had never done it before so there was some nervousness as well.

In the morning we discovered that the girls all woke up with the sun (at 4:30am) so we started activities right away. First was a pirate scavenger hunt around Nova Scotia. The girls worked in teams to decipher clues and then going to a Nova Scotia landmark they thought matched. At the end of the treasure hunt the girls dug up a cache of pirate gold swaps that they added to their camp hats.

Next up was breakfast and then patrol duties. This year we taught the girls how to do a proper flag raising – luckily Rainbow Ridge has a flagpole! It always amazes me how much the girls like cleaning toilets and washing dishes.

After the patrol duties were done we kept making our way along the Canada tour. We taught the girls a traditional dance from Newfoundland, which we then set to several Great Big Sea tunes. The girls really enjoyed these circle dances – dancing with a partner and then as a whole group. We then moved onto Ontario and PEI creating two more crafts for the girls hats – an Ontario trillium and a PEI Brownie Spud.

Unfortunately the elements were not on our side this camp. The weather was threatening rain and thunderstorms and the bugs continued to be terrible. No matter we were going to have fun anyways. After the crafts and dancing we decided to get in a hike to the fairy forest. Camp Ademac has my favourite fairy forest complete with a hiking story called the Wiskin’s Way trail. The girls absolutely LOVE doing this hike and we took turns reading the story signs and looking for fairies. Don't you just love the hiking backpacks!

After we got back we had some lunch and celebrated all of our girls with upcoming summer birthdays with a cake. Following cake the girls had some rest time in their tents to relax and recharge.

Following lunch we had planned on doing some more active activities but that’s when the sky decided to open and bring out the rain. No matter we all bundled into the rain shelter and worked together to make horses for the upcoming Calgary stampede. Using pool noodles and some other craft supplies the girls all created hobby horses. They were all very unique and once the rain cleared away we decided to have a Calgary stampede barrel race.

Once all the horses were finished the rain still hadn’t cleared – Boo. So we decided to play a game from New Brunswick called Washers! Being from New Brunswick I know this game very well. We have a tournament of Washers every year at my family summer party. The game is pretty simple. Teams of 2 complete, one member of each team is at each box. Two wooden boxes are placed a distance away from each other. The boxes are square and they have a tube in the middle of them. Teams take turns throwing a set of washers towards the other box. If the washer lands next to the box you get 1 point, in the box 2 points and in the tube 3 points. Usually you play until 21 points but with the girls we just played until ten. I was amazed at how into this game the girls were considering the small space and that only one group could play at a time due to space constraints in the shelter. It was a great activity.

FINALLY the skies cleared and the girls were able to go outside. While I ran a t-shirt tye-dye with some of the girls the other leaders were running the Calgary stampede and working on dinner prep. These activities were a great way to spend the late afternoon, super relaxed and fun – the way camp should be.

After dinner the weather started to take a turn for the worst. As we were cleaning up many people started showing up in the parking lot, we soon found out other tent sites were evacuating due to the weather. We took a look at the reports and it turned out that there were bad electrical storms coming our way and warnings of tornados passing by as well. We have some girls that are very sensitive to noise- thunder particularly and a few not feeling very well (VERY tired & bug bite riddled). As the weather got worse and worse it became clear that we would unfortunately have to send the girls home early.

The girls weren’t all that happy about going home but they did understand the reasons. I think its important to show the girls that in dangerous weather the best thing to do is to make sure everyone is safe. With a few tents that were leaky and the threat of a possible evacuation at 3am (we would be required to evacuate to the basement of the building on site if the weather reached a certain level which would have been in the early morning) we decided it was best to call parents.

But what to do now? It had briefly stopped raining so one leader supervised the girls packing up all of their stuff and bringing it to the emergency shelter. While they did this our other two leaders rigged up a giant white tarp in the shelter and with the laptop and projector I happened to have in my car we rigged a Brownie drive in movie theatre! Content with a movie and snacks the girls awaited their parents to pick them up. As the girls enjoyed the film us leaders were running around the site pulling down tents and securing things from the wind. Our brownie parents were so understanding. They were really happy that we called them for pick up rather then try and stick it out with unhappy, sick girls.

The leaders and their girls ended up staying overnight and witnessed a WICKED electrical storm. It was SO LOUD in that emergency shelter and the flashes of light were intense. While we probably could have squished all 20 of us in the tiny building it was probably for the best that the girls were picked up.

This camp definitely had its challenges. The bugs were TERRIBLE - all the kids went home looking like they had chicken pox (despite being doused in bug spray).  Cruddy weather: rain, thunder, lightening added to the difficult situation. These conditions, in addition to their excitement about camp led to a sleepless night for many of the girls which made it hard.

However, despite all this we had great spirits and a fantastic time. All the girls said that they had fun and that they would come to camp again! I feel like this experience showed me that even when things don’t go as planned the event can still be fun. I think all my worries about tent camping with Brownies proved to have some truth to them. That said I’m still so, so glad that we took the girls. I now know that the girls can have a great time, no matter what happens and can definitely handle anything that comes their way. Brownies going tent camping – Yes We Can!

P.S. We got these for the girls and mailed them out after camp. Certinatly was a "Mosquito Camp" If ever I saw one. The girls earned It!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Brownies 2017 Advancement!

The year is coming to a close and that means Advancement. We had a VERY busy year full of all sort of amazing things. Weekly meetings, challenges, outings, camps - you name it we did it.

I'm always looking for new ideas for our Advancement Ceremony. I've never been great at putting together those elaborate themed ceremonies I always see on facebook. We usually go for simple, short and classic. The girls each get their moment on stage, we do some of our songs and traditions and then we all eat cake. Its a great system. This year we also added a slideshow of the year which was a huge hit. They get awarded their remaining badges from the year and the second year girls go home with a special gift. 

The second years in our unit are awarded their "Key to Brownies" necklace when they leave us to head off to guides. This is something I remember my Brown Owl doing when I was a girl. The girls love it and the first years are always so excited to get their necklaces at the next advancement when they are in second year. 

My wonderful Brownies - Brave, smart, confident girls. I am so proud of them and all of their accomplishments this year! Thanks for an amazing 2016-2017!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sparks Sleepover at Reptilia!

We love our weekly Sparks meetings but we wanted to give them some sort of overnight experience as an end of the year event. Since we took them to the Ontario Science Centre last year we decided to try a sleepover at Reptilia. 

Reptilia is a fairly local education centre/indoor zoo that focuses on reptiles. They have alligators, snakes, turtles, lizards, all sorts of fun creatures. These people were AMAZING to work with. We ended up having the place to ourselves for the night and their staff was wonderful 

When we got there the girls got settled in and did a craft (alligators of course). After that they got a private show with 6 live animals. The animal keeper answered all of their questions and the girls got to touch all the animals too. After that we got a guided flashlight tour of the facility to check out all the other cool creatures. 

One the flashlight tour was over we had an evening snack and set up our beds for the night. The coolest part? You got to pick an animal to sleep beside! I chose this guy over here. 

Overall an amazing experience. We are already planning to go back next year with the Brownies!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Unicorn Challenge from the UK!

So this past summer I was in England visiting family and I got to see what Guiding is like across the pond. Spoiler its awesome! One thing I LOVE about the UK guiding model is that groups create challenges/challenge badges as fundraisers. This results in a huge amount of things you can do with your kids and some amazing badges. While I was over there I picked up some adorable Unicorn Challenge Badges to do back home with the Sparks. 

First up was a craft. The Sparks were given various pieces of felt, some stuffing and a headband and sewed their own unicorn horn and ears. We used rainbow thread so they all came out sparkly and unique. We made these first so the girls ended up wearing them for the entire meeting. It was adorable. 

After the craft was a unicorn game. It was a little bit like what time is it Mr. Wolfe but "What time is it Mrs. Unicorn"

And of course what is a unicorn party without some sugar? Our leader Jellybean happily taught the girls how to make rainbow cupcakes. They had blue icing for the sky and then fruit roll up for the rainbow and mini marshmallows for the clouds. Super cute!

Here are our lovely unicorns. I think this was one of the best meetings of the year!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cooking Selling at the Eaton's Centre!

This year we set a pretty big cookie selling goal. Our unit of 15 girls was determined to sell 60 cases altogether to help pay for camp and a bunch of challenge badges the girls wanted to do.

Out of the blue i got a call from my ACL asking if we wanted to take part in a cookie selling opportunity outside of the Gap at the Eaton's centre. Of course we did! Together with three eager girls we sold just over 10 cases of cookies in 2 hours. It was a ton of fun!

A huge thank you goes out the Gap and the Eaton's Centre for having us!