Niagara Falls


** I have made few notes about badges throughout this post. I will update it when all the new badges and program materials have been released.

I went on a trip to Niagara Falls, Canada a few weeks ago and had an amazing time! It may be one of the biggest tourist destinations in our country, but it is one I always love to return to.

I went with another leader … and we had such a good time that we started wondering, what if we brought our Brownies here next spring for our big end of year trip ….

Something that makes Niagara Falls such a perfect experience, IMHO, is that it is a great blend of educational, adventure and nature tourism. A perfect combination for an organization like Girl Guides of Canada!

Based on my experiences, and a little bit of research, I am putting together a sample trip below. This will be my cheatsheet for next year if we decide to bring our unit, or it can form the basis for your unit’s trip. You can modify it based on your length of stay, unit age / interest, or fund-raising goals.

First off, I would HIGHLY recommend making this either a mother and daughter trip or at least having one adult to every 3-4 girls. This makes it easier for hotels (one adult and 3-4 girls per room) when you sleep over and fills a charter bus if you decide to take one down. Alternately, you could keep those same room assignments and have them double as car assignments.

Disclaimer: I have attempted to incorporate Safeguide levels within my description of each activity but I have not done this trip yet or verified anything with GGC, so you must do your own research to make sure everything you are doing is appropriate! If you charter a bus, that is green level, but if you decide to have the girls drive in cars and carpool, this is yellow! Overall, this is a yellow level trip, as long as it is less than 72 hours in length.

Day One:

For your first full day in Niagara Falls, I would recommend doing all of the “traditional” activities that normally highlight your trip. I would definitely recommend purchasing either the Classic Pass (for a shorter trip) or the Adventure Pass Plus (if you’re staying 2+ days). It saves you money, and you can book specific times for each attraction, which is important when in a large group. ** With the Classic Pass, you can opt to add-on 1-2 attractions for an additional cost. I would do this, choosing the Butterfly Conservatory and the Whirlpool Aero Car.

I recommend booking your first appointment for the White Water Walk. Book the Whirlpool Aero Car for one hour after this and the Butterfly Conservatory for another hour later. After a break for lunch, hit up some of the local gardens and let the girls either take a rest in the park, or play some great group games to keep them entertained during your “rest period”. If you prepare a nature scavenger hunt ahead of time for the gardens, this is a great opportunity to bring it out. There is a great gift shop a 5 minute walk from the White Water Walk, if you have extra time. You can also purchase snacks and drinks here and use washrooms.

In the afternoon: book the Journey Behind the Falls attraction for about three hours after the Butterfly Conservatory to allow for travel time and your lunch break, and an hour later schedule the Niagara’s Fury ride. This is both fun and educational! An hour afterwards, book your boat trip on Hornblower Niagara Cruises (formerly, the Maid of the Mist). Niagara’s Fury isn’t that long but there is a short walk between these two attractions. If you have the Adventure Pass, you can use the Incline Railway to get back to the top of Clifton Hill for supper. It saves you trying to drag a group of tired girls up a steep hill to get to restaurants and/or your hotel. Plus, there is a great view and it is a unique experience for many of them!

Sample Timeline:

10 am: White Water Walk (green level activity)

11 am: Whirlpool Aero Car (green level activity)

12 pm: Butterfly Conservatory (green level activity)

1pm: lunch and then explore the Floral Showhouse, and Garden Clock (green level activity)

3 pm: Journey Behind the Falls (green level activity)

4 pm: Niagara’s Fury (green level activity)

5 pm: Maid of the Mist / Hornblower Cruises (TPSP)

** Optional 5:45 pm: Falls Incline Railway (green level activity)

6 pm: Supper break and rest time

If you have time and energy before bedtime, the girls would probably love to do one of the following activities on Clifton Hill: Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Golf, Niagara Skywheel, or Ripley’s Museum (all green level activities).

Day 2:

This is more of a historical / cultural day than yesterday. It also really makes use of the Adventure Pass, so if your unit opted for a less expensive one, you might want to skip this part of the itinerary or just choose one or two things to do.

This route requires taking the WEGO bus all the way to the end of the line at Queenston Heights Park. Transfer to the Niagara-on-the-Lake busline and travel three more stops to historical McFarland House, where you will take a guided tour from costumed staff. Take the bus back towards the Falls for one stop, where you will get off at the Laura Secord Homestead. Costumed guides will give you a tour of her home and tell you about her life. This is a great opportunity to make a connection to Girls First programming and girl empowerment. You can purchase ice cream and souvenirs here, making it a great place for a small rest and snack.

The Mackenzie Printery is located at the next bus stop and it is a historical landmark, containing Canada’s oldest printing press, the Louis Roy Press. This is one of just seven wooden printing presses remaining in the entire world! It was used to print Canada’s first newspaper and some of our first laws, dating back to the 1700s. Girls will have an opportunity for hands-on learning with a couple of types of presses.

Brock’s Monument and Laura Secord’s Monument are located inside the Queenston Heights Park. The Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial is also found in the park. At the top of the Niagara Escarpment, the scenery from this location is beautiful. The Park also has numerous gardens, a playground and a splashpad. If you are able to pack picnic lunches, this is a fantastic place to relax, eat and play for a couple of hours. There are also a snack bar and washrooms at this location.

10 am: McFarland House (green level activity)

11 am: Laura Secord Homestead (green level activity)

12 pm: Mackenzie Printery (green level activity)

1 pm: Queenston Heights and Brock Monument (green level activity)

Afternoon Option 1:

Take a charter bus to Old Fort Erie, a short drive away. Here, your unit will take a guided tour around the historic fort that was so pivotal during the War of 1812. Along the way, you will run across costumed staff portraying British, American and First Nation soldiers and see an exciting musket demonstration. Girls will see what life was like during this time period. In the on-site welcome centre, girls will view a short film introducing the sights of Old Fort Erie and visit an interactive exhibit. Washrooms and snacks are available at this location. Admission is included in the Adventure Pass Plus. (green level activity)

Afternoon Option 2:

Take a walk to the Fallsview Indoor Water Park, within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls. Girls can spend a fun afternoon playing in the wave pool and riding a variety of water slides. Washrooms (including public showers), change-rooms and a restaurant are on-site and towels are provided. This water park has been TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award Winner for two years. The park also provides customized educational programming included with the admission, if you make arrangements at booking. Admission to the water park is not included in any of the Niagara passes I’ve mentioned above. (I think this is a green level activity [facility lifeguards present] but girls may NOT access the rooftop pool which has no lifeguards). *All swimmers must have passed the swim test.

6:30 pm: Supper break and rest time

If you have time and energy before bedtime, the girls would probably love to do one of the following activities on Clifton Hill: Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Golf, Niagara Skywheel, or Ripley’s Museum. (all green level activities)

Day 3:

Last day!

Start with an early morning visit to the Cham Shan Buddhist Temple. You will need to take the WEGO bus to this stop, but it is a short ride. There is an impressive collection of statues and architecture both inside and out. This is a functioning Buddhist monastery where tourists are welcome to join in worship services. During weekends, volunteers provide guided tours of the building, and share beliefs and practices involved in Buddhism.

Next, hop back on the bus and continue to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre and Trails. This is a fantastic opportunity to go back to guiding roots and take a gorgeous hike on trails that roughly follow the Niagara River. Guided tours can be arranged, where staff will happily educate your unit on the geological and biological history of the area. After watching the Niagara’s Fury film on day one, it should be easy for girls to understand and envision the world their tour guide paints. If possible, bring packed lunches and enjoy a picnic or hit up a restaurant on the way to the next destination.

After lunch, visit the Whirlpool Adventure Course, appropriate for ages 6+. You will climb high above the Niagara whirlpool to have fun on a series of ziplines, and climbing and jumping courses. No where else will you be able to experience this with such an epic backdrop. Afterwards, visit the Bird Kingdom, the world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary. You will travel through this indoor rainforest to meet exotic animals and it is a rare chance to take amazing photos of different species. This is another fantastic opportunity for a nature scavenger hunt in your unit. The aviary is within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls.

Finish your trip by visiting Crock A Doodle pottery centre. Visit their studio for hands-on fun that can be arranged to match your itinerary or upcoming badge goals. This is a fun way to wind down the excitement of an adventurous trip and give all the girls a little something to remember their trip by. Who doesn’t love a good craft?! Especially when the guider doesn’t have to source materials or deal with the mess!!! Crock A Doodle is within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls. This attraction is not included in any of the passes.

From here, catch your vehicles or charter bus back home, eating supper on the bus. I find it is super convenient to pre-arrange kids meals with a local subway or pizza joint. Parents can indicate their child’s meal /drink preference during the trip planning process and leaders call it in the day before to the chosen restaurant, and indicate the time they are picking it up. Super easy way to get through the meal, get on the bus and have everyone happily munching for the first part of the drive!

9 am: Cham Shan Buddhist Temple (green level activity)

10 am: Niagara Glen (green level activity)

12 pm: Lunch break!

1 pm: Whirlpool Adventure Course (TPSP)

3 pm: Bird Kingdom (green level activity)

5 pm: Crock A Doodle  (green level activity)

This is the last day! Time to head home.



Question: Why should you book passes?

Answer: You save a lot of money, they will help you plan out and book your attraction times and they very helpfully put your pass on a lanyard around your neck. This helps make sure passes don’t get lost, and you can use your one card for the bus and all the attractions you book. With a large group, this is super helpful!

When you purchase a pass you can ride the WEGO buses for 2 days. With a large group of children or adults, this is another huge benefit, plus you don’t end up having to pay for parking everywhere. The buses run regularly and we used them the whole time we were there. With the Adventure Pass, you also can ride the Niagara-on-the-Lake bus system, which is used in day two of my proposed itinerary.

Question: What Safeguide forms do we need?

Answer: IR.1, SG.1, SG.2, SG.3, SG.4, SG.5, SG.7, H.1, WA.1 third party’s waver (if required by third party), a list of all adults in attendance. H.3 is required if any girl will require medication to be administered during a trip. A Home Contact Person must be set up. Girls must be paired up in a buddy system. H.2 is required for adults.

Question: In addition to Safeguide forms, what other information should we provide parents?

Answer: Information on transportation, personal kit list, clothing for outdoor activities, contact information, location, meeting times, etc, details of activities taking place, cost.

Comment below if there is anything that I have missed or you think is inaccurate about the forms! I am new to that aspect of guiding 🙂



Planning a Guiding Year (1)

I’m am going to try to write a series of posts that are geared towards planning your guiding year. I have already written a couple, such as a sample letter to parents that can be found here, and tips on setting up your Brownie/Spark circles which can be found here.

I try to plan my guiding year around the seven main themes that are in guiding and major holidays, plus the seasons. For example, the beginning and end of the year have most of our outdoor activities because it just isn’t that fun to take a group of little girls outside in -30C weather. We still do the odd outdoor activity like tobogganing, but mostly try to schedule indoor activities when its cold outside.

My first unit meeting this year is Tuesday, September 11th. I have roughly charted out our first 3-5 meetings…

Week One:

The first meeting can be a rough one on kids, especially first year Brownies. Many are shy, some didn’t do Sparks, and it has been a long time since their last meeting in the spring. We mostly play icebreakers and review the Brownie Law, Promise and Motto. I encourage the girls to practice this at home so that they know it before the enrolment ceremony.

We have a group discussion on how a Brownie conducts herself… the purpose of this is to set out expectations of behaviour from the outset by having the girls share the qualities that they expect of themselves and their fellow Brownies. We play up being a good friend and teammate, respecting personal boundaries and limitations, listening when the Owls are speaking or a guest is visiting, and lending a hand.

I also have an activity I found online that I love to do at the beginning of the year. I’ll insert a photo below, but it basically encourages the girls to share their hopes and expectations of the year. They can draw a picture or write down what they want to say.


We are doing TWO crafts this week … something we may not do again this year!

The first craft is a canvas bag that they can decorate. At our location, there is no water fountain so we encourage water bottles and most of the year, they need a change of footwear as well. In addition, we usually send them home with a craft or something so making these in the first week is fun for children and a big help to leaders / parents.

The second craft is specifically for the first years. One of the leaders will do a game with the second years in another room while our littler ones make an invitation for their parents to their enrolment ceremony! Again, I want them to be able to guide the year so as leaders, we will come up with 3 or so themes that we like and feel are manageable and then let the girls vote on which one they would prefer.

Week Two:

I am hoping that we can go to one of the local baseball diamonds this week to play soccer baseball. I definitely feel that kids should be active, and there is limited opportunity for entertaining that many kids in a gymnasium when you don’t have a ton of equipment like schools do. Plus, I want to promote getting outside, being active, and using the resources in your community!

There are a few of these diamonds in my town that have playground equipment next door. So we will start our meeting with the traditional opening ceremony, playing up the Promise, Motto and Law to help the new Brownies practice it a bit, then do our main activity. Likely, it will be necessary to review being a good winner and a good loser.

After the game, snacks and water will be shared (provided by leaders) and then we can sing some songs, or go straight to the playground equipment for free play, depending on how much time is left. I will bring some of the (limited) play equipment we have with me to encourage them to be imaginative and play. We have a few balls and skipping ropes and hula hoops to share.

When we do a local activity like this, we have their parents pick up and drop off at our temporary location to keep it a green level activity. If you are concerned about it getting dark before the end of the meeting, pick up a few packages of glow stick bracelets and let the girls wear them.

Although the timing isn’t necessary perfect to do this on the second week, between weather restrictions, cookies, the enrolment ceremony, Thanksgiving and then Remembrance Day and the Santa Claus parade in November, it is one of the only chances we have to take the unit outside and play in the Autumn.

Week Three:

Week three is going to be CRAZY!!

This is enrolment ceremony week. Lots of extra work for leaders.

We will open as usual and practice saying the Promise, Motto and Law a bunch of times. Then we will review how we show respect to our guests (the parents) and our fellow Brownies by not talking during the ceremony, offering dessert to the parents first, etc.

We will do a dry-run of the enrolment ceremony as well (usually parents come 30 minutes early to pick up their kids to watch the ceremony but the first hour they are not there, as usual).

anticipate that cookies will be delivered by this time, so we will try to deal with parents and cookies at the same time, which is actually kinda convenient although chaotic. If we can find the time before the enrolment ceremony, the girls LOVED doing skits last year modelling good and bad behaviour when selling cookies (how to be polite, practising their spiel, memorizing the price, etc). This is sure to bring out lots of giggles but is also really useful and practical for them in learning these saleswoman’s skills.

Week Four:

This is our last meeting before Thanksgiving. I don’t know exactly what the plan is yet, but it will be related to the holiday. I would love to get the girls involved in something benefiting the food bank, whether we take 30 minutes to go door to door in groups surrounding the church we meet in, or just ask each family to bring a donation. Or both. I know our craft will be related to this as well, probably something that they can display on the Thanksgiving table.

This will be the first week that we give “homework” as well. IMHO, this meeting is a perfect time to bring up a badge that involves families a little bit, since most families gather together at this time. I am currently thinking of the women through the ages badge. I think it would be awesome to encourage our girls to talk to an older woman in their family or community and find out what her life was like growing up, and ask old family stories. It is also a great opportunity for girls to learn more about their ancestors.

Week Five (ish):

We live in Ontario and this year, October 22nd is municipal voting day. I have reached out to my local municipal offices to request an after-hours tour of the building, and have someone talk to us about what local government does, and how someone like a Mayor is elected. I have provided three dates leading up to and immediately after voting day and I am hoping they will accommodate us on one of those.

I want to tie this into empowering our kids in the local community and teaching them to recognize needs in the community and learning how they can address issues they feel are important. This can be tied into other badges throughout the year, such as encouraging them to write a letter to council on an issue that they identify, if our inquiries lead us in this direction.

Of course, it is entirely possible that nothing will come of it and our visit turns into a one-off, but I am hoping they will see something – for example, the fact that our local playgrounds don’t have any trees to provide shade – that they want to change and we can support them on their quest! We also have a grant next year to play trees in the spring, so this ties into my example well and would be something we have the finances to carry through if the township agrees to let us.

Whew! That was a lot … I kinda wonder if anyone even read this far. I will cover each week in a dedicated, more detailed post as we go, but hopefully this is helpful to some new leader to start the year strong with a framework in mind.


Camp Fire Song List

Does anyone know other great campfire songs that I could teach to my Brownies? I want to try to learn 3 new songs a month with them because I think that music is so important. It helps create a bond between the girls and memories that will last forever. When I think back on my camp trips, songs are the part I remember most clearly.



And from a leader perspective, the more songs the girls know the better. It means you have more options to pull out of thin air to amuse everyone and keep them focused when you have 10 minutes to fill, or on a long hike or drive.

Brownies Song List

  1. Taps
  2. Fire’s burning
  3. On top of spaghetti
  4. I met a bear
  5. Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
  6. Land of the silver birch
  7. Home, home on the range
  8. Ging gang goolie
  9. Found a peanut
  10. Oh my darlin’ Clementine
  11. Black Socks
  12. Canada in my pocket
  13. This land is your land (Canadian)
  14. I’se the b’ye
  15. The more we get together
  16. The ants go marching
  17. There’s a hole at the bottom of the sea
  18. There’s a hole in my bucket
  19. Doin’ the Newfie stomp
  20. The cat came back
  21. Magdalena Hagdalena
  22. We’re all together again
  23. Oh! Susanna
  24. John Brown’s body
  25. Boogie woogie washing woman
  26. Thorn Rosa

Closing a Meeting

Here’s a tip for any new leaders!

When you close a meeting, you go through a closing ceremony.

It varies slightly between the different types of units (Sparks, Brownies, etc) but in general, you gather everyone in the unit around in a circle. The brownie ring (toadstool, flag, etc) should be at the centre, or whatever is sacred to your unit.

This is a great time to recap the night and ask the girls questions to help the evening’s activity or lesson to have a deeper meaning. You can talk about what is coming up in the next meeting or talk about reminders for upcoming trips, cookies, etc. If you have extra time, sing some songs! You can check out the start of my awesome song list here!

Finally, you sing the closing song.

For Brownies it is:

Oh Lord our God,

Thy children call.

Grant us Thy peace.

And bless us all.

Good niiiiigggghhhhhtttt.

Now run along home and jump into bed,

Say your prayers and don’t cover your head.

The very same thing I say unto you

Is you dream of me and I’ll dream of you.

Goodnight Brownies, EVERYWHERE! 

(Shout the last word and throw both hands up in to the air.) Other actions at end of post.

The other units sing a different song. I’m not too sure why Brownie units evolved to have their own special closing song that is unique to them. Maybe some of the more experienced guiders can fill us in on this? I have always heard this song referred to as “Taps”. Here are the lyrics.

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh.

Please remember, this is how we sing the songs where I am. I know that there are lots of slight (and sometimes significant) variations in other regions, so if things look slightly different from what you are used to, that is likely the reason.

Finally, at the very end of the meeting, we join hands with our arms crossed in front of us (Rhand on Lside and vice versa) and sing:

The squeeze is going around

The squeeze is going around

Let’s think of a good turn we can do

The squeeze is going around

During this, one leader starts the “squeeze” by squeezing one of the hands she holds. It keeps going around in a circle. We repeat this song as many times as necessary for it to go around once. Then a pre-selected leader (or Brownie!) yells stop once it starts the second pass. The girls are always super exited to be the one who is “it” at the end of the night. This person gets to do an extra good turn (our term for a good deed) and in our unit, we have them flush the toilets (because the girls always forget), check that the bathroom faucets are off, and turn off the lights in the bathroom.

And you’re done!

Don’t forget to monitor the girls leaving. It is your responsibility as a leader to make sure the right girls go home with the right parents!

*Actions for Closing Song*

Oh Lord our God, (no action)

Thy children call. (no action)

Grant us Thy peace. (no action)

And bless us all. (no action)

Good niiiiigggghhhhhtttt. (no action)

Now run along home and jump into bed, (run in place)

Say your prayers and don’t cover your head. (prayer sign with hands, then pull hood overhead)

The very same thing i say unto you (shake finger like someone is naughty)

Is you dream of me (put hands by one ear and tilt head like going to sleep)

and i’ll dream of you. (point with finger and do a circle around you to indicate you are talking to everyone)

Goodnight Brownies, EVERYWHERE! (shout last word and throw both hands in the air)


What I Would Like to do at Brownies

Girls are supposed to have opportunities to help plan and run meetings in Girl Guides of Canada. The amount of responsibility starts very small, maybe 5% for Sparks, and increases to about 25-80% for Pathfinders but at any age, girls should have some say in the unit. This provides girls with the opportunity to actively participate, show leadership, and gain organization and planning skills. It also helps them to learn to set and reach personal and group goals.

With very young girls, such as Sparks or Brownies, the easiest ways to have them participate in the planning is to give them a little worksheet to fill out, and to offer them an A-B choice (we can do this or that).

I have included here a worksheet that I plan to give out to the girls in their Circle Groups at our very first meeting. This gives leaders feedback on what the girls liked in previous years and what they want to do in the future. It would also be a great idea to do again at the first meeting after Christmas break. It will help inform your program choices for the coming months!

What would I like to do at Brownies …


Somewhere I would like to go …

A badge I would like to earn …

A country I would like to know more about …

Something I would like to cook or bake …

Something I would like to know more about …

My favourite thing I have done at Brownies or Sparks …

I think I have attached this document to this post. Please feel free to download it and use in your own unit!