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Archive for the ‘Tours & Visits’ Category

Last night Brownies visited a local senior’s residence – partly for Art in the Community (they have a super art gallery and it is close to us) and partly because the people we visited really miss having little kids around and they get such a kick out of seeing the girls.

Our visit was coordinated by a Recreational Therapist at the residence and she organized a great plan for the evening (are you surprised that I admire a fellow planner??).  This was very helpful as the girls are often very shy and need time to warm up to unfamiliar places.  Especially ones where they’re going to be asked to interact with strangers.  Here’s what Cassy set up for us:

  • 6:15 begin arrival – gather and deal with coats and boots etc.  Girls got name tags too.
  • 6:30 Visit the art gallery – My rule for visiting places where “no touching” is allowed is to have your hands clasped behind your back.  We had a chat about the different pieces, then we signed the guest book and moved on to their pottery studio.  Very neat.
  • 7:00 ish – Interacting with the residents…Our next stop was a multipurpose room where a number of residents waited for us around card tables.  The girls and Guiders spread out to empty spaces around tables (worked out to be approx 2 residents to 2 girls per table).  Cassy explained that together we would be making buttons (she had a button maker ready to go).  The craft appealed to the girls and the residents (the older gentleman with a heart button on his shirt was neat).  It was a good mingling activity.
  • Around 7:40ish the girls and Guiders sang campfire songs – we started with some quieter ones – but the real hits were the loud fun ones – Penguin Song, Yogi Bear and a few others.
  • Then it was 8PM and we were done!  A nice evening that didn’t drag and was almost too short.

My Thoughts:

  • Older people are generally very hard of hearing – and younger people are generally very quiet.  Not a great combination.  Encourage girls to use big voices.
  • Remind girls about manners – they are always appreciated, but the older generation takes manners very seriously.
  • Wear full uniform.  They really liked to see all the badges.
  • Prepare the girls for what they might see – one of the Brownies said she had fun – but found it funny that one of the older gentlemen fell asleep in his chair right beside her.
  • The residents really preferred the loud and boisterous songs – probably because they could hear us… next time I would do one quick gathering song – then more Yogi Bear and Littlest Worm.
  • Find out what to call the place… I was calling it a “Facility”, but was corrected.  “This is our house.”  Very true!
  • I didn’t take pictures because of privacy for both us and the residents.  Always ask.
  • Have a plan – other visits have usually been done willy nilly – under the guise “visit with the residents of a senior’s home” but it was a well thought out evening.
  • Go in the “off season”.  We were going to go before Christmas… but it was really booked up.  And they pointed out that the residents get lots of visitors around major holidays, but not as much in January and February.

Next week we’re going to have an Ice Cream Meeting…. Super fun!

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Tomorrow night we’ll be helping out at the Ottawa Food Bank.  We’ve done this a couple of times before and it is a good way to let kids make a direct impact on our neighbourhood.

Things to think about:

  • Food Bank visits are pretty popular around big holidays.  Think about doing a food drive/or Unit visit when the food need is still great, but the helpers are fewer.
  • Because of the popularity, book a fall food bank visit early.
  • Make sure your girls wear clothes they can get dirty.
  • And, if there is enough room (check with your Food Bank) invite the parents along (it takes a lot of muscle to move a lot of food — the more the merrier).  And it is fun to see your kids working with their parents.

What you’ll do:

  • It is always good to have the girls show up with a non perishable food item – or a toiletry item of some kind.  That’s the point, after all.
  • Depending on the facility you’re visiting, you may get to see a food sorting operation, a big fridge (I don’t know why, but kids like big fridges), and lots of food.
  • The representative will probably talk to you about what the Food Bank does, where they get food, and they’ll talk about what the Food Bank needs.  And what it doesn’t.
  • And then you’ll probably sort food into categories so it can be distributed properly.

And that’s it.  A fairly simple meeting that has a big punch of meaning.  Book it early, and give it a try.

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The girls love sleepovers.  They get to go someplace neat and see it in an unusual way.  Suggestions: Church Hall (try setting up a tenting site!), Museums, Cosmic Adventures (Guider Sara from Ottawa tells me that the girls can sleep anywhere in the play structure except the ball pit and at the top or bottom of a slide… super cool!)

For Guiders, sleepovers are pretty neat too.  We get to see how the girls react to being away from their parents without being too far away from a pickup if necessary.  It is a nice safety net that can prep us for camp.  We also like to schedule the sleepover on Friday night.  Yes, you work all day on Friday, then have a restless sleep overnight, but by 8AM on Saturday morning, you’ve still got your entire weekend ahead of you.

My goal for these things is that it is fun for the girls, but that we’re not up all night in sleepless chaos.

Last night we slept over in the train room at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (Ottawa) and followed the Puzzle Hunt program.  There are other programs – we’ve done the Astronomy Night before, and Sparks did Scavenger Hunt.  We LOVED the Puzzle Hunt program.  The girls were active and busy the whole night.  In fact, they were so pooped by the end that they were mostly asleep by 10:15!  Huge Success!

Things to think about:

  • Cost – when you’re planning this sort of thing, don’t forget to account for cost of admission for the Guiders. You’re a volunteer.  You should not pay for admission.
  • It isn’t cheap.  Plan to figure on about $40 per girl for the night we just had.  Don’t forget tax in your calculations!  You can fundraise, use cookie proceeds, or get parents to pay for it.  Or some combination of all three.
  • Planning – It is usually a Yellow Level Safe Guide event, but pretty easy to get permission for if you’ve got enough supervision.
  • Sleeping in buildings that aren’t usually occupied – In Ottawa we’re required to advise the Ottawa Fire Service  of the fact that girls are sleeping in a building that isn’t usually occupied overnight.  The idea is that they will prioritize rescue differently for a building with nobody in it than they will if they know there are children inside.
  • Options – For younger groups, think about doing a Mom and Me.  But the cost of extra adults is pretty big (extra adults at Science and Tech is $15 each)so that might be better suited for a church hall.  The neat thing is that supervision is covered and younger girls get to try things with the security of a trusted adult on hand.
  • Bedtime strategies for putting big groups to bed.  You parents (I am not a parent) already know how important it is to handle bedtime properly.  I’m not saying  this is the only way, but here is an amalgamation of all the strategies I’ve learned to help the girls (who usually don’t share a room with lots of other people) to sleep.
    • The girls are going to giggle, whisper, and maybe worry.  Reassure them.  Have a Q&A so they can get things out.
    • The Museum offered us the option of a movie before bed.  We declined.  The girls were drooping anyway, and TV tends to energize some of them.
    • Let them know the rules… boundaries, how to handle bathroom trips in the night (the rules change from place to place), when and how they can use flashlights (no beaming people in the face), etc.
    • Start using quiet voices.  Require them to do the same.  Everyone into PJs, teeth brushed, and into bed.
    • Have a quiet song campfire.  (Make New Friends, Land of the Silver Birch, Barges).  Finish with Brownie Closing (Oh hear us now)
    • Read a couple of stories (NOT ones they’re familiar with – look for a legend or something that they wouldn’t have heard before – I have a copy of Campfire Activities (GGC 1993) that always comes with me to this sort of event and last night I read Lee Piddle Thrigs and Why we have day and night) .  Rules during stories… you may listen to my stories, you may read your own book with your flashlight, and you may fall asleep.  You may not talk to each other.  When my stories are done it is time for lights out.
    • Then you have to supervise the whispering.  A sharp but quiet PSST usually stops a whisperer … and if they need to ask you a question, they can do that too.  It usually works.  (Note, this only works until girls are about 8.  After that they can wait you out.)
    • Lastly…  pick the most no-nonesense of the Owls to make this happen.  The bedtime owl needs to be compassionate, but they also need to have the ability to be stern to shut down silliness.

Sleepovers are great ways to have a pre-camp preview of how your girls are going to handle being away from home.  They can be pretty expensive… but there are ways to do it on a budget.  Just make it fun.

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Every year we try to fit in a Brownies Splash meeting – this is a past program idea from GGC Ontario Council that I think deserves a lot more attention that it gets.

Go Swimming!  It is Easy!  If you go to a supervised pool it is a GREEN level event (as of May 2011 – make sure you check for yourself when you go).  Don’t be afraid to take your girls swimming.  I know Safe Guide has a reputation for being all about paperwork – but swimming in a public pool with lifeguards is so much easier to arrange than you’d expect. DO IT!

The full program is quite intensive (they give you three full meetings to do) and we don’t have the time available in our schedule.  So, as there is no challenge/crest associated with it, we just cherry pick the best ideas from the three meetings and what ends up is a modified version of Part 2 – Swim to Survive.

Pre-event prep (these are my notes that compliment the Spash program’s more comprehensive prep notes)

  • Find a pool – we’re lucky because our local pool has a supervised public swim during our meeting time in May.
  • Advise the pool that you’re coming.  You may qualify for a group rate, and the pool may need to staff correctly.
  • Ask permission from pool staff – the pool may have rules about unqualified swim teachers teaching swim skills in their pool.  ASK.  (e.g. Tuck and Roll into the pool isn’t usually allowed in public swim, but we got permission.)
  • Advise Parents – Our big thing (aside from Permision forms, of course) is that public swim in our local pool is only 60 minutes and our meetings are 90 minutes.  It is very important that girls arrive dressed to swim so that we can take full advantage of the timing.
  • Prepare the Girls: Talk about rules in the pool during the meeting before the swim meeting.  In our case, the pool requires life jackets for girls who can’t pass a swim test.  No running on the pool deck.  Swim with a buddy.  Stay near an adult. etc.
  • Prepare the Guiders: Make sure you’ve got enough Guiders for supervision.  Someone is to be with the girls at all times – if that means that we wait for a bit in the change room until we’re ready to leave as a group, that’s what it means.

Meeting Plan

  • Arrive dressed and ready to go at 6:30 sharp.  Girls check in and into the shower for doors open at 6:30.
  • Girl Swim Test: Who is doing a swim test?  Those girls go with lifeguards and a Guider.
  • Life Jackets (provided by the facility) for the rest – and into the pool.
  • 6:40 ish – Brownie opening in the pool.  (This is FUN!)
  • 6:45 ish – break into three groups for skills challenges.  (Guiders lead each group – we made arrangements for a lifeguard to help with the tuck and roll one).
    1. Tuck and Roll into the pool.
    2. Treading water and HELP Position
    3. 50 M swim and then putting a life jacket on in the water (tougher than you’d think).
  • 7:15 ish – free swim.
  • 7:25 – Brownie closing (in the pool – again, this is fun).  Try Grand Howl too!
  • 7:30 – Whistle blows and then we have 30 minutes to get changed.  (Most years we go outside for the last 10 minutes after everyone is dressed, but May 17 was cold and rainy so we stretched out the getting our hair dry thing).

Even without a crest, this is a great program.   The girls have fun.  They get to show off their skills or learn some new ones.    And it is an easy one for the adults.

P.S. Hasn’t Safe Guide really got their act together in Ontario? =)

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We all know that kids are sponges.  What they see us do, love, hate, dislike, or get grossed out by is what they will do, love, hate, dislike or get grossed out by.  I have taken it on as a personal challenge that the girls will remember me as a Brown Owl that encouraged them to be brave.  I will always try to be positive and to refrain from passing on my own personal freak outs.

To me, Girl Guides are strong women who don’t fall back on the “ew, bugs” excuse.  Or who faint at the sight of snakes.  They will learn to light their own fires, pitch their own tents, thread their own needles, stand up for what is right, and just generally approach life with an open, can-do attitude. 

That said, I am someone who, upon seeing a harmless garter snake or field mouse in the grass is suddenly (inexplicably!) propelled (levitated!) to the highest non-snakey position.  (I am also completely grossed out by Bananas.  And Ballet performances make me cringe.  But that’s another story).

How does someone subvert her natural instincts?  Sometimes we can’t.  And in that case, avoidance is our friend.   I love Guiding and am willing to do a lot for the kids I work with, but there is no way on God’s green earth that I’m going anywhere near a snake, rat  or Ray’s Reptiles with my girls.  I can’t talk from experience (obviously), but Ray’s Reptiles apparently has a fantastic program and everyone I’ve ever met who has gone with their kids was really impressed.    You should go.  Without me.

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When you book a tour of a museum, you wonder a couple of things…

  1. Will the tour guides be able to keep the attention of twelve wiggly Brownies ? And
  2. Will the girls pay attention and give the respect to our hosts that is deserved?

The answer to both of these questions (when related to a visit to Ottawa Guide House at least) is a resounding YES!

Our hosts (Nancy and Charlotte) were absolutely fantastic.  They spoke just to the girls’ level and asked good questions of the kids.  “History of Guiding” was framed as a story (and Brownies love stories).  The tour was quick enough to keep us moving, but paced well to accommodate the questions of the girls (7 – 8 year olds have LOTS of questions).

Some highlights:

  • Famous faces – This was the first intro of Lord and Lady BP to many of the girls.  We also learned that Roberta Bondar (first female Canadian astronaut) was also a member of Guiding and took GGC cookies into space.
  • The girls were impressed by the warehouse …  it is often full of GGC cookies, but it is also the staging area for many service projects (pop can tabs and used stamp collecting).  I’m betting that we’ll be collecting things soon.
  • Then it was upstairs to the lounge – where we learned that we, as members of Guiding, OWN a part of the four world centres.  There was some excitement at that news!
  • We saw the paper crane spider.  It seems that members of Guiding from Japan came to Ottawa and brought a gift of 1000 paper cranes.  Beautiful!

  • The old store area is set up as a camp training space – there was a box oven, a neat tripod setup and a tent.  Girls were FACINATED.
  • Then we saw the archive which includes old Guiding uniforms, lots of pins, photos and other artifacts.
  • Comments included: “that’s the uniform my Mom wore”, and a few, “HEY, I’m a Fairy too”s.  It was also revealed that the Royal Family – including Kate Middleton – were also members of Guiding in the UK.   Pretty cool.  Also, an Ottawa Brownie greeted The Queen on Canada Day 2010.

  

Review: this is a fantastic, well paced tour that definitely suits Brownie age girls.   We had a small group – there might be a little more wiggling with more people, but that’s the struggle with a bigger group anyway.  Our tour was 90 minutes.  It was just the right amount of time.  NOTE: Guide House is not a place to run around in – and you should know that no touching is allowed in the archive.

We really appreciate that our hosts took the time to show us this great resource.  Go if you can.

The Girl Guide Archive isn’t usually open to the public.  And the whole thing is so much better if offered as a guided tour anyway.  For more information, including how to book, contact Guide House directly: Girl Guides of Canada – Ontario Council 453 Parkdale Ave. Ottawa, ONT K1Y 1H4  613- 722-5523 ext 6129; fax 613- 761-1265 1-877-323-4545 ext 6129

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