Welcome to a new Guiding year!

6 Sep

I have been very busy this summer!

I got married.
Kaarina and Bryanna
My Spark (and now Brownie!) and I at my wedding

I finished my job working for three paediatricians.

And I started the Education program at the University of Northern British Columbia to become an elementary school teacher!
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I am very excited! I am also excited to be starting a Brownie unit this year, as 17 out of 19 Sparks last year were moving up to the Brownie level. Our unit is already full and we haven’t even started yet! Here are a few of my tips for a new Guiding year:

1. Plan ahead: Plan your meetings until Christmas. Have one or two meeting plans as a back up in case things don’t work out. Some of my favourite resource websites are:
-Guiding with Jewels http://guidingjewels.ca/
-The BC Girl Guides Website http://bc-girlguides.org/BC/Volunteers/Guider_Resources/Program_Resources/Unit_Guider_Resources/BC/Volunteers/Guider_Resources/Program_Resources/Unit_Guider_Resources.aspx?hkey=b45febb6-0190-4d5d-ae58-9511dd9c7053

2. Remember to ask for help: Don’t do everything yourself. Delegate. Believe me, I hate giving up control of anything. I sent out an e-mail in June asking for a parent (or aunt, or grandma, or family friend) to volunteer to do our finances for our unit. I had an overwhelming response and have a parent doing it for us. This way us leaders can spend time on what we love, being with the kids. Get a mom to sign up to help at each meeting. That way if someone can’t make the meeting, you aren’t short any extra hands.

3. Bridge often: Contact another unit who meets the same night as you or another unit on a different night and agree to meet up twice together before Christmas and twice after Christmas. If you each plan 1 meeting, then there are less meetings overall for you to plan. The girls love bridging with each other. Try to bridge with a unit from each branch by the end of the year. This is great for new Sparks leaders. Find a Guide or Pathfinder unit to bridge with. The older girls will start to learn to take on a leadership role with the little girls.

4. Remind the parents you are a volunteer: Have a parent meeting at the beginning of the year to set expectations and boundaries. I am one who doesn’t like the parents texting me.  Or calling me before 8am as I don’t have kids.  I tell them that from the beginning.  If you set out the rules, the parents will respect you. Remind them that you are a person too and Guiding is not the only thing you have going on. Do this early in the Guiding year to avoid frustration.

5. Take time for yourself! Cancel a meeting or two!: A wise friend and Guider, Melanie, set a limit for her Guiding time. She limits herself to one Guiding activity a week (this means a unit meeting OR a district meeting OR or a district event) and only one Guiding weekend activity a month (this means a sleepover/camp OR a cookie selling blitz). I try to do this too, although it is sometimes difficult when you wear other hats, such as being a District Commissioner or on Provincial Council. Cancel your December meetings! December is a crazy month for everyone. Take time for yourself and remember, you are a volunteer.

How about you?  Do you have any great tips for the beginning of the year?  I would love to hear them!  

Here’s to a great Guiding year!

Sparks make playdough….and do the dishes too!

14 Mar

Tonight at Sparks we had a great time making playdough as we are working towards our Exploring and Experimenting Keeper.  Our meetings are 1 hour 15 minutes and this activity filled up the entire meeting!  The girls had so much fun…even while doing the dishes!

Special thanks to my co-Guider Holly aka Marshmallow for coming up with this fun meeting!

Here’s what you need:

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The above makes enough playdough for 2 girls.  (Note it should say “hot water”)

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You will also need one mixing bowl per pair, one tablespoon per pair, measuring cups, and access to a stove or kettle to boil the water.  Ziplocks are handy for them to take their playdough home in.

Get each girl to partner up.  Explain the recipe.  Get the girls to measure out the appropriate quantities of the flour and salt.  Add the oil and mix together.  Mix kool aid and hot water together, and then add to your flour, salt, and oil mixture.  Stir really well.

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Your playdough is ready to play!  And smells yummy too!

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But wait!  We need to do our dishes!  Don’t worry about the mess, let each pair decide who is going to wash, and who is going to dry.  If they can’t decide themselves, have them play a simple game of rock, paper, scissors, and the winner can choose whether they are washing or drying.

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Getting the girls doing dishes during meeting activities is a great way for them to learn so when they go to camp, they know exactly what is expected of them.  After all that hard dish work, we can now play with our playdough!

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Sometimes we get a little silly!

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And sometimes, they make things like this, which make me smile.

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Clay Cutlery

10 Jan

Have you ever gone camping and after the dishes are done you have no idea whose cutlery it all is?  It is very hard to label cutlery that lasts though all that washing, so here is another great idea that I borrowed from my friend, Guide leader Tamara: Clay Cutlery

What you need (for 20 girls):

-20 knives, 20 forks, and 20 spoons – I found mine at Walmart, there were packs of 4 for $1, so I spent $15 on this (75 cents per girl).  You could also ask parents to bring randoms from home that they don’t need anymore.
-7 packages of different colours of modelling clay to bake such as Sculpey or Fimo – I found mine at Michaels which were $3.49 a package, but if you wait until they are on sale, or use 40% off coupons, they can be much cheaper! (depending on your price can be 75 cents to $1.25  per girl)

Total cost of craft = $1.50 to $2 per girl

Total time for craft = 5 minutes prep, 15 to 30 minutes with the girls, 15 minutes to bake

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1. Cut your clay into small pieces.  You should be able to get at least 12 pieces per package.  A little goes a long way!   We allowed the girls to choose 2 pieces of different colours per utensil.

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2. Warm the clay up in your hands.  Once it is warm enough, you should be able to mold it around the bottom of your utensil and make unique designs.  I prefer the Sculpey brand to use with the Sparks, as it warmed up quickly in their hands (I found Femo takes longer to warm up).

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3. Place cutlery on a cookie sheet.  Bake according to directions.  Mine said 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Don’t have an oven at your meeting place?  Take scraps of paper with girls names and elastic band their utensils and names together and bake when you get home.

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4. Let cool and with a permanent marker, on the back of each utensil, write the girls initials.  Most of my girls used pink and purple clay so they all look very similar.

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5. Enjoy your new cutlery at your next sleepover or camp!

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Watch for a post within the next couple of weeks as my co-Guider Holly found a great craft on Pinterest for plates, mugs, and bowls!  Our girls are going to have great sets of dishes for camping!

Sparks Support Sick Kids

30 Nov

I recently read an article (I can’t remember if it was Pipeline, Canadian Guider, or maybe the GirlGuidesCANBlog) where a unit regularly visited their local hospital once a month and did crafts with some of the kids who were in the hospital.  I absolutely LOVED the idea.  Since I work for two pediatricians here in Northern BC, I see the kids who go through our local Pediatric Ward here, and how some kids are constantly in and out of the hospital.  It can be a scary place for kids to be.

However, I was reluctant to bring our girls to do crafts with the kids in the hospital, as we have a very large unit, and our hospital often has kids with infectious illnesses, and we would not want to expose our girls to their germs and vice versa.  Luckily, with a few Girl Guide brains put together (R., L. and L. and myself from BC Council) we came up with the idea to make craft kits that the kids at the hospital can do themselves.

And from there the idea grew.   I contacted the hospital and asked them if they thought the kits would be a good idea and if the kids there would like them.  They just LOVED the idea too!  I also asked if the kids there have access to scissors and glue, and was told that the Pediatric Ward often runs out of craft glue so we went and bought a bunch to include with our kits.

Holly, my co-Guider, and I planned a meeting where our Sparks would put together 6 different craft kits, 20 of each (as I have 19 Sparks they each made one), so there are 120 craft kits.  Each kit contains instructions and a picture of how to make the craft, as well as all of the necessary items needed to complete the craft. As it is close to Christmas time, some of the crafts are Christmas themed, and they range in age for difficulty level.  The kits also contain some Girl Guide PR material, as we want the kids and their families to know who made the kits and about all of the fun things we do in Girl Guides.  Who knows, maybe some of the girls who are admitted to hospital, will enjoy her craft so much she will want to join all the fun we have in Girl Guides.

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Our craft bin with all of the kits, glue, and PR material

Our Sparks at the meeting discussed where the kits were going and most of the girls had known someone who had been in the hospital before.  Some of our girls have also been admitted to hospital themselves, and can know what a difficult place it can be.  They were all excited to be a part of helping other kids, and could relate to what we were doing.  I was proud that when we put together the kits, that not one girl asked if she could make one for herself, as she understood the importance of sharing these with the kids who could use them more than herself.  Not only a valuable service project, the meeting also covered topics that relate to the Being Healthy Keeper.

At the next day off of school the girls had, we took a few of our Sparks to the hospital to drop off our hard work for the kids at the hospital who could enjoy them.  The kits were in a small rubbermaid container marked on the outside that it was Girl Guides who donated the kit.

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Five of our Sparks came to the Pediatric Ward at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia to donate our crafts.  They met a little boy, who was 3, and was admitted to hospital.  They gave him one of our fishing kits.  There were 4 fish to decorate, put paper clips on the nose, and then a stick with magnets to attach for the fishing rod.  The local paper, The Free Press, and the local TV station, CKPG TV showed up as well.  While we were visiting the little boy, the girls introduced themselves to him and said they were Sparks.  Aaliyah said, “We are Sparks and we Promise to Share and Be A Friend”.  And that’s exactly what we were doing with our service project.  We shared crafts to our friends at the Pediatric Ward.

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From left to right: Emily, Sara, Aaliyah, Bryanna, and Eileen.  The girls were so excited because they were going to be in the newspaper and on TV.  They were “famous” for all their hard work making up the craft kits.

Edit: November 30 1:35pm – Don’t have a local Pediatric Ward in your community?  You can donate are your local shelter.  The Pediatric Ward also mentioned that they often run out of things like toothbrushes, hair brushes, etc.   If someone (not only a child) is hurt and is rushed to the hospital from another community, they may not have the time to grab all of the necessities.   Another service project could be to collect and donate those items to your local hospital.

Baby Wipes…and the things I have learned about them

19 Oct

Baby wipes aren’t just for babies bottoms.  I have been using baby wipes for awhile now in a variety of situations: home, Sparks, camping, etc.

My obsession with baby wipes began with scrapbooking.  I enjoy scrapbooking and the PG Scrapbook Zone taught us that baby wipes are a great way to clean your stamps or other messy scrapbooking supplies.  When you take a class at PG Scrapbook Zone there are always some baby wipes handy to clean the stamps.  So I started keeping baby wipes at home to clean my scrapbook messes.

Two years ago I was invited to go to SOAR as a co-Guider with the Guide unit.  We had two SOAR pre-camps in spring 2011 and Guide leader Tamara, with her knowledge of camping, had everything ready to go for our pre-camps.  One of the items in our patrol equipment was baby wipes.  Baby wipes are awesome for camping as you can use them to clean dirty surfaces, or wipe your hands before or after cooking food.  I had never thought of using baby wipes for camping, but they really are a great “tool” when camping.

I can’t even stand camping without baby wipes now.  I don’t use a full package (or even ½) on a camping trip, but they are very nice to have in outdoorsy situations.  I’m pretty sure my Vancouver friends thought I was crazy for buying baby wipes for our camping trip in August 2012, but then after I would pull them out in certain situations, I think they too realized how handy they can be.  I’ve also started buying baby wipes for our Sparks unit events.  They come in very handy for events or field trips where there is no access to running water.  We go cookie selling door-to-door in the spring and fall and often the girls get hot chocolate and a cookie afterwards.  This can get messy, but I have it all covered with a stash of baby wipes in my car.

Tamara and I, along with some other Girl Guide leader friends, quite often go camping on our “off time” from Girl Guides.  One of the items we never forget, are baby wipes.  On our most recent camping trip on the Labour Day Long Weekend September 2012, one of my items for our potluck dinner, was prawns cooked in garlic butter….delicious, and very messy.  No worries about the mess and lack of water because I had baby wipes with me to wipe our hands up afterwards.

I bought some when I was going on a boat trip with my sister and her friends for her bachelorette party in July.  She thought it was a fantastic idea, after you put sunscreen on, having something to wipe the grease off your hands with.

Baby wipes aren’t expensive either.  You could probably even get them at the dollar store.  Brand names are usually under $5 and come in a plastic container so you just buy refill packs (this is what the Guide Unit has).  No-name brands are even cheaper.  Wherever you buy them, there are usually some on sale as well.

I prefer the plastic packaging with the hard plastic top (as shown below).  They are light and easy to compact into a bag when going camping.  There are even smaller packages.  They are found in the “baby” section of your local store.  So when sending your significant other to the store and you have baby wipes on the list, make sure they know where they are in the store.  The smaller packages (ie: travel size) might also be found in the “travel” section of the store, usually near the toothbrush aisle.

Yes! Sparks Can Camp Too! – Part 2 “The Fun Stuff, Camp Itself”

13 Sep

At camp, there is absolutely no reason that you should have to do everything for your girls.  Five and six year olds can do pretty much everything that the older girls can do and this includes and is not limited to: setting up tents, doing dishes, hauling water, taking out the garbage, taking out the grey water, and so on.  At our camp, there were 9 Sparks and 2 leaders.  Out of our 9 Sparks, 2 were 2nd year age.  I quickly found that if I said “I need a volunteer” I would have 9 hands up in the air and 9 voices saying “pick me, pick me, pick me!”

I will admit, dishes on the first morning was pretty painful.  Some of the girls had never washed dishes, and had to physically be shown how to hold the cloth in one hand, and the dish in the other, and wash it.  That being said, once they get the hang of it, Sparks can be excellent dish washers!  I didn’t wash one of my own dishes the entire time.  Each Spark was responsible for her own dishes, as well as one or two of the communal dishes each meal, and those dishes were always spotless.  They love washing dishes.

They also love hauling water.  I gave them a big pot with a handle on either side.  Two Sparks would be responsible for holding the pot, and a third was responsible for turning the tap on and off.  The tap Spark would turn it on, and the other two would tell her when it was heavy enough to turn off.  Sometimes I didn’t get more than ¼ of the pot filled.  However I would pour it into my bigger pot and eventually after a few trips my big pot would be full.  They love hauling water.

They are also fascinated with grey water.  We showed them how to brush their teeth on the first night, and what the purpose of those blue j-cloths on top were.  Our grey water bucket had a handle on either side of it, so when it was full enough, we would get the Sparks to go dump it.  They were all eager to get rid of that grey water. 

It was helpful that girls were willing to help with everything, from dishes, to hauling water, to taking out the garbage.  If they weren’t sure what to do, they could always ask for help.  I’m really looking forward to our next tenting adventure with our newly experienced campers!

Yes! Sparks Can Camp Too! – Part 1 “Be Prepared”

14 Jul

Before I begin, I want to give a big shout out to Lorrine for planning our “Livin Out Loud” Rivers North area camp.  Lorrine put on a fantastic event and gave me all the help I needed as a leader to “Be Prepared” for camp.  I had tons of fun, and I know our Sparks did too.  Unfortunately I could not stay for the entire camp as I had previous personal  commitments.  It was very hard to leave camp and I wished I could have stayed for the entire time.   The sign of an excellent camp is when you don’t want to go home, and I certainly didn’t want to go home.  Thank you Lorrine for your time, hard work, and dedication to our area camp.

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Our motto in Girl Guides is to Be Prepared.  For our Sparks unit, we try and encourage our girls to participate in all of our District and Area activities.  Just because Sparks are 5 and 6, doesn’t mean they can’t do things.  Yes!  Sparks can camp too!  Yes!  In a tent!

If you prepare your Sparks for what to expect, and they show up to camp prepared, they will be able to have a great experience, and hopefully want to continue being involved with Girl Guides as they get older.  Camp can be a lot of fun when you have a good time.

Our area recently held a 4 day, 3 night camp at a Provincial Park approximately 1 hour away from our town.  Sparks were encouraged to attend, and attend for the entire weekend.  I had 9 out of 20 Sparks sign up to go, and we would have probably had more if people didn’t already have previous commitments that weekend.  Here are some of my ways I helped my Sparks “Be Prepared” for camp:

1. Yes! You do need EVERYTHING on the kit list!

All 9 of my girls had previously attended the CN Centre Sleepover and were familiar with how to make bedrolls (see blog from January 26, 2012 – Yes!  Sparks Can Make Bedrolls Too!).   However, since our camp was going to be an hour away from home, and many had not been tenting before, we held a parent/daughter meeting prior to camp.  Some of the girls were anxious about going, however at this time we addressed any questions they may have had such as: is there going to be enough room for everyone in the tent?  At this meeting, the parents were given the kit list and we went over it item by item.  We explained to parents that there were things on the kit list that may seem weird (such as: hammer), but we don’t put things on the kit list for no reason.  Obviously hammer was on the kit list because the girls would need it.  The girls were to have every single item on the kit list, and then they would be prepared for camp.  I even used this phrase with the parents “Be Prepared” and explained that the more prepared the girls are for camp, the more of a positive experience they will have.  If a girl did not have an item, I encouraged them to borrow the item or e-mail me and I would make arrangements for the item to be borrowed.

This may seem over the top, however, I have been involved in camps with girls who did not show up with dishes, warm clothes, etc.  Obviously we put plate, fork, etc on the list because we need utensils to eat with.  Even with it being on the kit list, for whatever reason, parents (or girls) neglect to include crucial items such as dishes, or even a toque.  Be up front and communicate with your parents, and girls, that they should include everything.  Including the girls in these meetings are important because sometimes it’s the girl who should take some responsibility.

2. Share Your Tips and Tricks

Since I have been involved in Girl Guides for 20 years, I have a few tricks up my sleeve as far as camping goes.  As for clothes, I have found it helpful to pack a days worth of clothes in a big ziplock bag: pants, shirt, socks, and underwear.  That way, when you wake up in the morning you just pull out a ziplock and it’s all there for you.  You don’t have to search in your bag for a pair of socks etc.  Then, at the end of the day, you put all your dirty clothes in this ziplock and you don’t risk having random dirty clothes lying around your tent.  Share your tips and tricks with your parents and girls, and they will appreciate it.

3. Yes! Sparks can pack their clothes themselves!

I encouraged parents to get their daughter to help with the packing process.  If the Sparks pack their stuff themselves (with some parental help of course), when I see a random hat that unfortunately did not get labelled, a Spark will recognize that hat as her own.  I quickly learned at the beginning of the year, that if the Spark doesn’t help pack, she doesn’t know what items are hers.  Perhaps mom bought her a new hoodie for camp.  The Spark has never seen it before.  If she hasn’t seen it, how is she supposed to know it’s hers?  Having the Spark help pack will help her know what items are hers.  But more importantly, if parents get their daughters to start packing themselves at a young age, by the time they are Guide and Pathfinder age, they should be able to pack themselves.  They will become a master packer!

Now that we are prepared to go to camp, check back soon for Part 2 “The Fun Stuff: Camp Itself”.