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…
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.
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 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).
I 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.
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.