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Snowy Owl and I usually drive home together on Sunday after camp. We use the time to talk about our weekend, how things went, and what we’d do differently next time. This time our conversation turned to how different our recent camps have been compared to when we started (I’ve done 14 camps and Snowy Owl has done 9). We decided that if we could tell our first-time-camp-Guider selves anything it would be to stop scheduling things so rigidly.

When we started running camps we scheduled every minute…I think we were afraid of having a blank space. But there was no way we could keep to the schedule (everything ran longer than we thought – and we either had to cut stuff off, or let it go and make the next thing late). It stressed us out when we were running behind (which was always).

Now, we plan things, we don’t schedule them. Before you stop reading, this is what I mean:

  • The main things need to be in there… breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything that needs to be done before something else (example: we need to make bread before 2:30 on Saturday so that there’s time to bake it by dinnertime).
  • Everything else should be on the list of things to do with a general idea of when you’d like to do them, and how long you think those things will take.
  • And remember that the kids won’t completely lose their minds if your next activity is “go play”. I bet your Brownies will be thrilled with some free time.

To demonstrate, here’s what we planned for our recent camp:

  • Tie Dye T-shirts (45 minutes – should be outside – prep by soaking the shirts for a bit before the craft)  Girls brought a cotton shirt or pillow slip from home.  We used a Tulip Kit from Walmart.
  • Glass Jar tea light holders (45 minutes – need clear glue, tissue paper squares, paint brushes). They need to be dry by bedtime for candle campfire.2014-04-11 23.57.10
  • Go for a long walk
  • Make a film canister first aid kit– if prepped, it should take 10 minutes.
  • Make bread for dinner (by 2:30pm Saturday). Hawk Owl uses this Simple Bread Recipe.
  • Campfire skills and Match lighting skills (before lunch so there’s a fire ready for marshmallows – 30 minutes)
  • Play Mancala (30 minutes)
  • Marshmallows around the fire (30 minutes)
  • Origami. Buy paper and get a bunch of reference books from the Library. Be on hand to help, but let them try it.

This is what happened at camp…

Friday (there isn’t a lot of spontaneity available for Friday – arrive, set up, mug up, bed):

5:30ish – Guider Arrival – Cook makes soup. Guiders get the gear in, set up their beds, put up posters, have a think on Patrol Groups, and get settled.

6:30ish – Guiders please EAT. I’m an idiot if I haven’t had food. We have home made soup on the menu for mug up – and the Cook makes it early for us Guiders to eat. It is awesome. If soup is intimidating or not practical, go with make your own subs.

7:00 Girls arrive (actually, our first girls started arriving at 6:30…we need to have a talk about not having girls arrive before we’re ready).

Girls please set up your beds. Pick a bunk. Put your stuff where you want it. Say goodbye to your parents.

7:40 Camp Opening – We use songs as transitions. We did our usual opening – then went over the rules of camp – where are the emergency exits? Wear shoes at all times (but not in bed).

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Announce Patrols. Make Patrol Banner (big sheets of paper – we had Poppies, Bluebells and Daisies this time)

8:00 Put your stuff on to go for a walk outside. Pause outside and be silent. What do you hear? (birds, geese, other camps). What don’t you hear? (traffic, horns, car alarms). Go for a walk – play a short game. (Cook stays behind and preps mug up – enjoys some quiet).

8:30 Return to cabin. Put your stuff away. Mug Up – Soup with Cheese and bread. Sing first Thank You – Shaun’s Grace (Non Denominational).

8:50 Guiders will wash dishes – Girls get ready for bed. Find your Flashlight. Make sure it is at the foot of your bed. Join us for a candle camp fire. Camps with young girls should always pack tea lights and matches. An outdoor camp fire sounds so romantic – but it isn’t practical. Dimming the lights around a pie plate of candles sets the mood – gets them ready to sleep – and then we sing some quiet songs (I’m not interested in riling them up – we did old traditional ones – Tall Trees, Black Socks, Barges and On My Honour, then Brownie Closing (Oh hear us now).

9:30 – in to bed with a Guider reading a really long story to them. We hit the library the week before and get some books for the girls to read – and some for us to read as bedtime stories. You want a long one that knocks most of the girls out for the night. Girls may read their own books with their flashlights, they can listen to my story, or they can fall asleep. No talking to each other. See the Bedtime Strategies for big groups part of this Sleepover Post.

10:15 – It took about 45 minutes for them all to fall asleep – but they all went. I’ll walk quietly around the room to prevent any talking. Walking around also gives you a chance to answer questions of anyone who is a little scared.

Then – Guiders go to bed.

Saturday

Girls will be awake early. But we tell them that they may not get up until 7AM. Read quietly. Will likely need to be enforced by Guiders.

7AM – Open curtains, turn on lights, turn on the coffee for Guiders. Good morning!

Get dressed and tidy your space.

Meal prep patrol is on duty – cutting fruit, etc. (This time I saw a chance to occupy the rest of the girls and I set them up to make film canister first aid kits).

8AM – Breakfast – We did a poll and our girls want pancakes. We tried egg sandwiches last year and they were fine – but they want pancakes. I bet your girls will want them too. We serve milk at breakfast. Water is always available. We don’t serve juice.

8:45 – Cleanup begins. Washing dishes in patrols. Housekeeping and Kitchen duties (which they complain about, but secretly love). Meal prep patrol had free time, so I worked with them to make the First Aid kits that the other girls made before breakfast.
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9:15 – start getting ready to go outside. We went for a walk. It was a gorgeous day. We always seem to be blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures when we go to camp. I’m not going to ask why, but I am thankful (even though at this camp I slipped off a small footbridge into a big pile of muddy leaves – I’m fine, but apparently have a flair for the dramatic)

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Walk till 10:30. Back to camp to teach about starting a campfire. We use the “Fire Master” model.  Fire Master controls everything around the fire – “Fire Master, may I cook a marshmallow?” The idea is to control traffic around the fire and it is best to have one person in control of that – at Brownie level, FM is a Guider.

Snack is fruit. We had apples and bananas. Girls to eat them when they were hungry.2014-04-11 23.17.05-2

How to lay a fire demo with Starry Owl… Then each of the Guiders had a box of matches and we showed the girls how to light a match. They were reminded that just because you can, doesn’t mean that you are allowed to light matches. Always ask for permission (and I emailed parents to let them know that their daughter had a new skill).

11:15 – Starry Owl stayed outside to supervise (play with) the fire. Everyone else in to the cabin. We did the Glass Jar tea light holders then girls had some independent time before lunch.

12:15 – Lunch – Grilled cheese on tortillas (kind of like a just-cheese quesadilla) with ketchup for dipping, and cut up veg with hummus.

12:45 – Cleanup then quiet time. In your own beds. No talking. Get a book. Nap if you need to.

1:45 ish – Rise and Shine – Split the group in half. One group did Origami and the other made bread. Then Swap.2014-04-12 05.49.38

2:45 – Outside for marshmallows and Tie Dye

Starry Owl is Fire Master. Everyone was sitting around the fire and we had small groups come to a prepared table to do their Tie Dye. Some were eating Marshmallows.  Some were (supposed to be) watching the fire.

3:45 – Wide Game in the field – I don’t know what they played, but they took the chickens. And the girls liked it.

5:00 Back to the cabin for dinner prep and independent activities. As I said before, we pick up a stack of books from the library for girls to read if they want. There are always colouring books, and lots of blank paper with markers and pencils etc.

6:00 – Dinner – Hawk Owl made shepherd’s pie. So yummy. With the buns the girls made and salad. Milk available to drink.

6:45 cleanup.

7:15 We were all drooping and nobody wanted to go outside, so we all got into our PJs.

8:30 – Brush your teeth and find your flashlight. Candle Campfire with the girls’ candle holders.2014-04-12 08.44.10

9:15 – in to bed. Read on your own for a bit. Story time (same rules as Friday night). The second night they’re usually out much easier. And so are we.

Sunday

Wake up when you wake up – nobody out of bed before 7. Our girls were still asleep at 7:30. We opened curtains at 7:45. Bliss.

Get up and get dressed. Start packing.

8:30 – Breakfast. Pumpkin muffins with fruit and any leftovers that are suitable for breakfast (like breakfast sausage and cheese)

9:00 – Major Housekeeping operations by girls. Wipe down beds. Sweep. Clean sinks and toilets.

9:30 – Bags go outside on the deck. Then I showed them how to play Mancala. Because this needed so little supervision, the Guiders jumped into action and we packed up our stuff. Cars and all.

10:15 – Get dressed and go outside. One last wide game with Starry Owl. Guiders do final cleanup and pack out.

10:45 – Camp Closing – I like Onion and Two Apples (we go around the circle and each girl can say something they didn’t like and two things they really liked. It is helpful for us – and it helps them remember the weekend). Pass out crests. Sing our Closing. Parents can take girls away as they arrive.

11:15 everything was done. We actually drove away from the campsite and passed some of our campers walking back to the parking lot on the way out. So funny.

Here are the Guiders. Brown Owl Cara, Starry Owl Chan, Snowy Owl Christine, and Hawk Owl Jen.

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Mancala is a game of sowing seeds or stones around a board.  The goal is to clear the board and get the most seeds in your store. We tried it at camp for some quiet time and the girls were completely enthralled.  We had to stop them after about 25 minutes. 

Girls play in pairs so for each pair you’ll need:

  • 1 egg carton
  • 2 stores or wells (we used coffee filters, but cereal bowls or cups would work)
  • 48 beads, stones, seeds or marbles (the bigger the better – easier to pick up.  Colour doesn’t matter).

Set up: Put four beads in each egg cup and put a well on each end.  We pre-set the first game.  The girls took it from there.

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How to play (the internet explains it better than I can):

Explaining it to Brownies:

Some of the girls already knew the game so I played with one of them to demonstrate.  Then we distributed boards and let them go.  It was so successful that we have kept our beads and egg cartons for a “just in case we run out of stuff” moment at regular meetings.

Who can play:

The game is rated for ages six and up.  I think Sparks might struggle, but it should be fun for older girls starting at Brownies but on up to Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers.

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Skit Ideas

We’re at camp as I type and the girls are making up skits (they LOVE skits).

We asked them to make up their own TV Show…here are the types of shows we suggested

  • Kid’s Show
  • Music Show
  • Cooking Show
  • Weather Report (during a storm)
  • News Broadcast where something amazing happens
  • Travel Show

I expect to be entertained and amazed in a few minutes.  And on another note, look what one of the girls had in her bag! (Remember, my name is Cara).

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I shared my Why every Brownie unit should have a rubber chicken (or two) post with the Girl Guides Can Blog today.  Thanks GGCanBlog for making Mr. and Mrs. Chicken a little bit famous.  They’re humbled.  =)

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I spent most of my childhood fascinated with Laura Ingalls and pioneers.  I read the Little House Books.  I was a little cooky for braids like Melissa Gilbert had.  I had braids in my hair, as did my Barbies, dolls and sisters (if they’d sit still long enough), and long skirts, sun bonnets and covered wagons were the best things ever (tape some paper over the handle of a fruit basket for an instant covered wagon) .  I’m sure my Mom often questioned my sanity.

So fast forward a bunch of years later to Brownie winter camp.  We had yarn out for the girls and it turns out that only a few of them knew how to braid!  Starry Owl Chan to the rescue with some duct tape and some yarn. Most of the girls took to it (although I don’t think they were nearly as nutty as I used to be which is probably a good thing).

Here is a video tutorial for How to Braid with three strands.

Teaching Brownies to Braid (Jan 2014)

Teaching Brownies to Braid (Jan 2014)

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I’ll start by saying that I’m very sensitive to noise (I hear really well) so this Harmonica Craft from Housing a Forest looks super cool, but I would probably plan it as the last craft at camp before we send girls home.

Noise sensitivity (aka, my superpower) is a good trait to have as a Brown Owl – I can hear girls conspiring to do something I don’t approve of from great distances and am able to intervene in a way that makes them think I have eyes in the back of my head (so much fun – for me).  So, while noisemaker crafts are not my thing, the girls will love these.

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If you’ve been following Brownies Meet on Facebook or been reading this site in the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that we love our chickens (have you met Mr. and Mrs. Chicken?).

Here’s why we think you should have at least one chicken in your kit too:

  1. Chicken Games are Awesome!  Thank you Becky’s Guiding Resource.chickens
  2. Chickens can often substitute for other equipment… they replace balls, flags, boundaries (“don’t go past the chicken!”) frisbees and beanbags in lots of other games. Try Capture the Chicken or Ultimate Chicken.
  3. Chickens save time… they don’t roll like balls do and if someone misses a throw, it won’t take forever to get the ball back.
  4. Chickens don’t hurt if they accidentally bop you in the nose.  They’re soft and less likely to cause injuries.
  5. Chickens store easily … they can squish in around other stuff when you’re packing up.
  6. Chickens are easy to get and not too expensive… look in the Dog Toy section at Walmart ($8) or the Dollar Store ($2).   (I suggest, for your sanity, that you perform an immediate noise maker-ectomy with some needle nose pliers )
  7. Chickens give you an instant filler activity if you have a gap in programming.  Everyone wants to play a chicken game.
  8. Chickens can help develop leadership skills … ask the girls to make up and lead their own chicken games.
  9. and…Chickens cheer you up.  At camp, an unhappy Brownie may find comfort with a hug from a chicken (it works!!).

Have we convinced you?

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