Overnight Trip – Jungle Cat World

We are going to Jungle Cat World for our second (and final) overnight trip of the year!

This will be in April so we haven’t done too much work for it yet. We are keeping it a surprise from the girls until February or so. 

Jungle Cat World will hopefully be a great experience. It is a small zoo with big cats (surprise, surprise) as well as plenty of other animals. It is only about 30 minutes from home and was a cheap $50.00 per person. You can’t really beat that price! 

What is included?

Indoor, dormitory-style sleeping quarters

Supper the night we arrive

Private, after-hours tour of the zoo 

Watching the animals’ evening feeding

Bonfire (we will provide s’mores for the girls)

Classroom lesson on conservation and endangered species 

What’s NOT included?

Transportation (parents to arrange)

* Breakfast the next morning (guiders to provide)

We do have access to a full kitchen to prepare and serve breakfast to the girls.

Our group is able to stay at the zoo for the entire next day without paying another admission. We are going to have the girls picked up at 1:00 so that we don’t also have to organize and provide lunch. We will definitely let parents know ahead of time though, that if they want to bring their other children and spend the day, their Brownie won’t have to pay again.

For this trip, we prepared these forms: SG.1, SG.2, H.2. We already have IR.1 and H.1 for each girl. These forms are available on the GGC website, but you will need to login to view them.

We also prepared a Kit List for each family to know what to pack. Our trip is in early April, and we have to provide the forms in February so we basically told them to pack everything with a little “* weather dependent” note beside half of the items. Depending on the year, it could still be snowing or 20C!

I will post the Kit List in a separate post later today.

Pro Tip: After you print all the sheets and staple them together for each girl, write her name on the top of each packet. Then you know exactly who hasn’t received theirs yet when it is still sitting with your guiding things!

The badges we expect to earn this visit are:

  • Saving Plants and Animals
  • Cookout (for those who missed that meeting)
  • Help our planet

xx

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Winter Camping Kit List

This is the Kit List that we provided to parents for our weekend long trip to Lake St. George in February. I always remind parents to label everything and provide the list with the initial forms, on our unit website (which is private) and send to parents via email.

Outerwear

  • snow suit
  • warm hat
  • scarf
  • 2 pairs mittens
  • snow boots
  • plastic bag to separate wet items from dry items
  • sunglasses

Clothing

  • warm PJs
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 5 pairs socks (I’m assuming most of us will end up with wet socks at least once)
  • 2-3 pairs pants (again, wet pant legs from outdoor play)
  • 2-3 warm, long-sleeved shirts
  • Brownie shirt
  • sweater or hoodie
  • 1 pair of indoor shoes

Personal Items

  • stuffie (if desired)
  • ear plugs (if desired)
  • toiletries (toothbrush/paste; wash cloth; towel; hair brush and elastics; soap; kleenex; sunscreen; lip balm)
  • There are shower facilities at this location. You may send your child with shower shoes; towel; shampoo/conditioner if desired
  • medications (clearly labelled with child’s name and instructions for leaders)
  • reusable water bottle
  • pillow
  • warm sleeping bag
  • extra blanket
  • bedroll (if desired)
  • book (if desired)
  • personal mini first aid kit (made in unit meeting)

All of our food and mess items are provided at the location we are visiting so parents are not required to send these items with their daughters. Post in the comments if you notice anything that I have missed!

Lake St George Trip

We booked an Outdoor Experiences Trip for February 2019, at Lake St. George. We arrive on Friday evening, and parents pickup around lunchtime on Sunday. I wrote broadly about the Outdoor Experiences program in a recent post, but this one is more about our actual trip.

This camp weekend is for Sparks, Brownies and Guides so there may be other units there as well, although the ages won’t be too drastically different since my girls are the middle age group 🙂

Activities Included:

  • Tubing
  • Broomball
  • Evening Hike
  • Mini-Olympics
  • Dry Print Art
  • Astronomy

Assuming that all these activities go ahead, my girls will earn the following badges for attending:

  • Winter Outside
  • Winter is Great
  • Team Together
  • Which Way (possibly)
  • Be Aware (possibly)

What’s Included?

  • Friday night snack
  • 3 meals on Saturday + snacks
  • Sunday breakfast
  • All equipment rental (example: tubes and art supplies)
  • Daytime facility staff who will lead activities
  • heated, dormitory-style sleeping quarters

What’s Not Included?

  • Transportation to and from

We prepared a Kit List to share with parents on this trip. I will upload this in a separate blog post this week since there is a lot of content.

In addition, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, the registration process provides you with the necessary SafeGuide forms, so I just needed to print out copies for each of my families and collect the completed forms and money!

The badges we expect our girls to earn from this trip are:0

I am a little nervous about this camp but also super excited. It should be lots of fun!!

Any tips to share?

xx

Ontario Outdoor Experiences

New this guiding year, Ontario created a series of overnight weekends called Ontario Outdoor Experiences. This is a new way for leaders to bring their girls outdoors and work towards different badges, without the guiders have to arrange as much as they would during independent camping trips. girls All we have to do is register, fill out the normal paperwork, and show up with the girls to supervise!

The provincial council has partnered with third party outdoor experience providers to arrange dedicated GGC weekends, with each weekend being dedicated to a specific branch.

We have booked our first outdoor experience for February 2019. This is a pretty big trip for us – two nights – which is the most I would feel comfortable arranging at the Brownie level.

While searching for a camp to book, our main requirements were less than 1 hour’s distance from home (one-way) and the correct branch on a weekend Guiders were free. So that pretty well narrowed it down to the camp we are doing!

The benefits to booking this type of trip:

  1. With Outdoor Experiences, you have to cover 10% of the total cost for the unit in the deposit. Leaders are free within the Safeguide Ratios. We were able to cover this, so that is the amount that we are subsidizing for our unit. The remainder, the parents are expected to pay for. The province automatically transfers the deposit amount from our account to the providers, so I didn’t have to deal with credit card limits and submitting receipts!! As treasurer, I definitely appreciated this!
  2. Every girl member in your unit is automatically applied for a campership (subsidy), based off the information parents submit when they register their child each year. This means that the province will subsidize a portion of that girl’s cost due to financial hardship. The lead guider for the trip and the parent are both notified by email. In our unit, two girls qualified and the Province deposited the amount of each girl’s campership subsidy directly into our account within one week.
  3. When you register your unit, the process prompts you along and tells you exactly which forms you need to prepare for SafeGuide. More, it actually fills out most of the form for you! For me, the margins weren’t lining up properly so I printed blank forms and wrote it out anyway, but I was able to copy out their answers directly which still made the process easier!
  4. Girl receive a special crest for participating in this type of program.

The main drawbacks to these programs that I have discovered so far are:

  1. The unit has to be able to afford the 10% deposit before collecting money from parents for the trip to book it. In the fall, our unit couldn’t afford this and so missed out on the opportunity to do a fall overnight trip.
  2. When you are booking, you have to upload each person’s information, including name, IMIS number, medical concerns and food allergies to be able to submit the form. For a large unit like mine, this meant that registering took about 90 minutes. It also means you have to input everyone’s information since you don’t know yet who isn’t attending.
  3. The cost. The amount our girls are paying is ~$140.00. This isn’t extreme considering that it is two nights, all our meals are included and so is equipment rental. But for some families, that is a lot to shell out. I really hope that the trip proves worth the expense!

I am going to write a separate post about our actual trip later this week 🙂

xx

Niagara Falls

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** 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.

 

FAQs:

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 🙂

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