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.

brownies

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.

xx

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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.

 

music

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

Brownie Law, Promise and Motto

The Promise

I promise to do my best,

To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada.

I will take action for a better world

And respect the Brownie Law

 

Brownie Law

As a Brownie

I am honest and kind;

I help take care

Of the world around me

 

The Motto

Lend a Hand!

(on hand, through your right hand up into the air)

**

Letter to Parents

Below, I have included a sample letter to parents that I have written for the 2018/2019 guiding year. Feel free to copy and paste although you will have to edit a couple of parts (mostly the introduction of the leaders). I also created a brief 3-5 question survey on surveymonkey to judge whether parents and Brownies were interested in certain activities.

Also, we used a wordpress blog to create a Brownie website that is just for our unit. You need a password to access this site which is given to parents at the beginning of each year. This is where we upload forms and communicate with parents.

 

Welcome Brownie Parents to the 2018/2019 Guiding Year!

Whether you are the parent of an experienced guide or this is your first foray into GGC, welcome to a fresh new year. We are SUPER excited to be guiding your daughters this year and have some big plans. First off, introductions!

Brown Owl (insert real name) – brief introduction on who I am

Tawny Owl – 

Snowy Owl – 

 

E-Forms:

Along with this email, you should have received an invitation to our Brownie website/ mailing list. This is how we communicate important details such as meeting time/location changes so please subscribe to these emails. We promise not to bombard you. You should have also received an invitation to a survey monkey webform. Please respond ASAP. It should take about 90 seconds but will help us to plan our upcoming meetings and trips! Most forms will be electronic this year to prevent unit money being spent on printing.

 

Important Details:

The first meeting will be held on (insert date). Meetings will normally be from 6:30-8:00. This could occasionally change for special events and we will notify you the week of in these cases. You must walk your daughter to our meeting place AND pick up her. We will NOT send her out unless you are in the building, for safety. Also, if someone else is picking her up, please inform us during the drop-off.

Meetings will be held at (insert name of building and street address), in the gymnasium. Parking is limited so we encourage families to carpool once they get to know each other. There is no water fountain at the church and we have found the girls always ask for water. Please send your daughter with a water bottle and indoor shoes (if rainy and in winter).

 

Changes to Girl Guides of Canada Curriculum:

You may have noticed that GGC has changed their logo and curriculum for this year, based on feedback over the past several years. We are excited about these changes, but there are a few differences that parents might notice. In particular, the Brownie book has changed. If you prefer to keep last year’s this is fine, but we are going to place a bulk order of new books, to save on shipping costs. Please send the attached form and cash or cheque made out to (INSERT NAME) with your daughter to the first meeting as we will be ordering these ASAP. Any badges and keys your daughter has earned in previous years are still valued and honoured and should remain on her sash.

If you haven’t found the uniform ordering page yet, it can be found here.

 

Cookies!

Cookie time is nigh upon us. Autumn cookies are the popular mint/chocolate kind and we ordered them for our unit back in August. The proceeds from our cookie sales benefit our unit and help us to do fun activities. When we raise enough, we even use the funds to help subsidize the costs of overnight trips! Please be prepared for the cookie campaign to start at just about the same time as unit meetings.

 

New Brownies and Anxiety:

A lot of kids struggle with anxiety, particularly in a new setting. We are totally aware of this and the first meeting is going to be all about ice breakers and meeting new friends. If you have a particular concern, please speak to one of the Owls and we would be happy to work with you to ensure your daughter has a strong start in our unit.

It might be helpful if your daughter knows what to expect in her very first meeting as a Brownie so here is a quick run-down of the songs we will be singing and the Brownie Promise/ Law.

 

Opening Song:

We’re the Brownies, here’s our aim,

Lend a hand and play the game.

We’re the Brownies, here’s our aim,

Lend a hand and play the game.

 

Promise / Law:

I Promise to do my best,

To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada.

I will take action for a better world

And respect the Brownie Law.

 

As a Brownie I am honest and kind.

I help to take care of the world around me.

Lend a hand!

 

Closing Song:

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!

 

Hope this helps any new leaders to start their year off right!

xx

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)

xx

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 …

Name:

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!

xx

Opening a Meeting

At the beginning of every Brownie meeting, girls and leaders stand in a large circle around the Brownie toadstool and flag. We begin by singing the opening song together:

Opening Song:

We’re the Brownies, here’s our aim,

Lend a hand and play the game.

We’re the Brownies, here’s our aim,

Lend a hand and play the game.

Then the girls skip around the centre set-up while singing their Circle songs (Fairies, then Pixies, etc). *songs at end of post if you need them

When every circle has taken their turn, everyone recites the Brownie Promise, Law and Motto together. This opening ceremony is something that the girls should all be striving to memorize.

The Promise

I promise to do my best,

To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada.

I will take action for a better world

And respect the Brownie Law

 

Brownie Law

As a Brownie

I am honest and kind;

I help take care

Of the world around me

 

The Motto

Lend a Hand! 

(on hand, through your right hand up into the air)

Circle Songs:

Fairies:

We’re the fairies shining bright,

Trying hard to do what’s right.

Sprites:

Sprightly sprites we’re on our way

Play and laugh and help today.

Leprechauns:

Happy leprechauns are we,

Helping friends and family.

Gnomes:

Here you see the laughing Gnomes,

Helping others in their homes.

Elves:

This is what we do as elves,

Think of others not ourselves.

Kelpies:

We’re the happy, friendly kelpies,

Smart and quick and ready helpers.

Dryads:

Playful Dryads strong and true,

Nature’s friend in all we do.

Lares:

Now you watch the Lares working,

Playful, singing, never shirking.

Nymphs:

Nymphs love water bright and blue,

Smiling, playing, helping too.

Pixies:

Look! We are the jolly pixies,

Helping others when in fixes.

xx