Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Camp Songs for the 21st Century

Well, as we've already shown, we're not ones to stick by tradition for tradition's sake alone. So what happened when a teachable moment presented itself in the form of a camp song?

As many of you will know, there's a little camp song well loved by many called "Yogi Bear." It goes like this:

(Sung to the tune of Camptown Races)
I know someone you don’t know, Yogi, Yogi,
I know someone you don’t know, Yogi, Yogi Bear.
Yogi, Yogi Bear, Yogi Yogi Bear,
I know someone you don’t know, Yogi, Yogi Bear.

Yogi has a little friend, Boo-boo, Boo-boo,
Yogi has a little friend, Boo-boo, Boo-boo Bear.
Boo-boo, Boo-boo Bear, Boo-boo, Boo-boo Bear,
Yogi has a little friend, Boo-boo, Boo-boo Bear.

Yogi has a girlfriend too, Cindy, Cindy,
Yogi has a girlfriend too, Cindy, Cindy Bear.
Cindy, Cindy Bear, Cindy, Cindy Bear,
Yogi has a girlfriend too, Cindy, Cindy Bear.

They all have an enemy, Ranger, Ranger,
They all have an enemy, Ranger, Ranger Smith. (POW!)
Ranger, Ranger Smith (POW!), Ranger, Ranger Smith, (POW!)
They all have an enemy, Ranger, Ranger Smith. (POW!)

They all live in Jellystone, Jelly, Jelly,
They all live in Jellystone, Jelly, Jellystone.
Jelly, Jellystone, Jelly, Jellystone,
They all live in Jellystone, Jelly, Jellystone.
And each verse has actions. Traditionally, you make bear ears on Yogi, flick your bottom lip when you say "Boo-boo," swish your hair over your shoulder for Cindy, mock pointing a rifle for Ranger, and jiggle your whole body up and down for Jellystone.

Two things happened that night. First, we realized that Cindy's action was ridiculous. The hair flip seemed a bit vapid for our tastes. Instead of a hair flip our girls now flex their muscles to show off their proud Cindy Bears! When we sing this song with girls from other units, our leaders exchange smiles to see our girls show their strength for Cindy! We've already claimed the title of feminists on our blog, so why not bring Cindy along for the ride?

The second thing that happened surprised us. One of the girls started into a verse a few seconds before the rest of us (try synchronizing 25 Brownies, I dare you), but started with: "Yogi has a boyfriend too..." I have no idea if that was a slip of the tongue, she genuinely thought that was the next line, or she thought she was being funny going off book. Either way, that was a moment where we had to make a decision.

Option 1: move along, singing the song the way it has always been sung
Option 2: sing it, sister.

So, of course, we went with option 2. Here's the new verse of Yogi Bear that is sung after the Cindy Bear verse every time we sing this song.
Yogi has a boyfriend too, Charlie, Charlie,
Yogi has a boyfriend too, Charlie, Charlie Bear.
Charlie, Charlie Bear, Charlie, Charlie Bear,
Yogi has a boyfriend too, Charlie, Charlie Bear
Put on the spot as we were, Charlie's action is perhaps lackluster. He puts his hands on his hips and grins. (You can't win 'em all, right?) 


While we could have moved along, even perhaps acknowledging that there is nothing wrong with a Charlie Bear, the best thing we could do was to keep calm and sing along. We sung about it, and we moved on. We didn't laugh it off. (It's not a joke.) We didn't have a conversation about it. We just let it happen.

Here's why that was the right choice.

In that moment, we accepted the notion of a boyfriend for Yogi Bear as a normal and real possibility.   In this world of non-nuclear families, increasing acceptance for difference, gay-straight alliances more and more common in schools, and GGC's resource on supporting trans members, burying or ignoring this moment would have been wrong. We are not going to pretend that the Charlie Bears of the world don't exist. We're not going to turn them into a joke. But we are going to make space for them in our song.

Do the girls think of Charlie Bear as a boyfriend or a boy friend? I don't know! But I do know that we're not going to be the ones telling them it's not okay to have either. So now we have a Charlie bear (sorry purists, I know he wasn't in the cartoon) and a strong and confident Cindy. 

Our Bear Clan is ready to take on the world.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Storytelling, Brownies, and Beyond

A Brownie Story

I'm going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a Brownie. She was a clever Brownie, and she looked at the world with a sharp set of eyes. One day, at a Brownie meeting much like many others, her leaders read aloud the Brownie story, as probably many leaders have done before. The girls loved the story! They listened entranced to the stories of Brooke, Cindy, grandma, the wise old owl, and the Brownies. All but the one Brownie. She listened. Hard. The Brownie was upset. When the story had ended, she said: "Why do the girls always have to cook and clean? Why do girls have to stay quiet? Why are girls expected to help around the house? Why can't girls have adventures like boys?" 

This Brownie's leaders were surprised and pleased and perhaps a little bit embarrassed that they had not asked these questions themselves. This Brownie had made a good point. So what could they do?

A Reflection

Last year a very astute Brownie drew our attention to some of the sexist undertones in the Brownie story. No, she did not call them that. No, they were not intended to be there. No, they are not obvious and in-your-face. But yes, she had a point. There are places and spaces in the story that reinforce some of the roles we as Guiders are constantly encouraging girls to break.

Subtle sexism gently rears its head in the spaces in between.

In the end, Brooke and Cindy wash the dishes, bake cookies, and tend to the garden. The story stresses the point that "they lend a hand when no one is around," and "no one ever sees Brownies." Our astute Brownie saw these things and recognized something we had missed. The girls in this story are relegated to the domestic sphere. They help around the home. And most of all, as Brownies [and as girls], they are unheard and unseen.

We are Girl Guides! We are feminists and unafraid to say so. We do not want our girls to be constrained by stereotypes. We want them to dream big! We want them to dream loud! We want them to live their lives in full view of the world. Girls should not take a backseat simply because of their gender.

So what to do?

Re-write the story, of course!

The Brownie Story, As Time Goes By

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we want to comment on the Brownie story. As many of you may know, the Brownie story originated with Juliana Horatia Ewing's 1870 story. Her version is much longer than the version we read, and features a boy named Tommy. This story was adapted into a version featuring two children (Tommy and Betty), and then re-adapted into a girls-only version as we know it today. You can read the original 1870s story here, if you're excited about history!

Today's story isn't awful by any means! There were many things we liked!
  • We liked that the story is all about girls! That makes sense for Guiding! 
  • We liked the moral! Help others? Do so without expecting reward? We're all for it!
  • We like the Owl, and the Brownie magic! The more magic the better, we say!
  • We liked the tradition! In traditional folklore, Brownies inhabit houses and help with household chores. They don't like to be seen, and will typically work at night in exchange for small gifts of food. The Brownie story does a good job of implementing this folklore, and retaining the traditional elements of the original Brownie story like the pond, toadstool, and wise old owl. The phrase "Twist me, and turn me and show me an Elf, I look in the water, and I see..." appears nearly word-for-word in the 1870 version!
But we also recognized that the critiques of our astute Brownie were well-met. We recognize that there is nothing wrong with "women's work," but when it is the only work we see, we run the risk of girls being unable to dream themselves into alternate realities. Put simply, you can't be what you can't see. This continues to be true. When asked if they aspire to be President, an equal number of seven year old girls and boys say "YES!" When asked the same question at 15, there is a massive gap that emerges (see Miss Representation for more on this). It's the same reason that girls stop participating in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities, and there is a disproportionate amount of women CEOs, politicians, and world leaders. We want our Brownies to dream themselves into every reality imaginable!

Brownies by Design

In recent days we have started to emphasize the notion of "random acts of kindness" with our Brownies. This feels in keeping with the Brownie tradition, while emphasizing ways to support our community, "take action for a better world," "lend a hand," and learn to do good without expectation of reward. It's a current buzzword, and we like it. It asks the girls to be humble and honest and kind for the good of it. In our revised story, we have retained the notion of goodness without reward, but we have also tried to emphasize the fun the Brownies can have while doing good deeds, and the fun they have together. We have tried to tone down the domesticity and turn up the sense of adventure.

We recognize that some people will not approve of us having re-written the story. We would respectfully say that everyone adds their own touches to the Girl Guide program, and that's what makes it special. There is nothing like meeting another group and finding you sing the same opening, but you know a different verse to "Make New Friends"! Brownies has changed a lot from its first iteration as Rosebuds (goodbye, Housekeeper badge!), and will continue to change and grow as our girls and the world we live in change and grow. We encourage creativity among the girls, and should do so in our programming too. After all, the more we can do to help girls achieve their best and happiest selves, the better.

And so we re-wrote the story. Admittedly, we may have gone a bit overboard. It has a lot of personal flourishes that were definitely unnecessary, but much enjoyed by our team of leaders. There is probably, in fact certainly, a great deal of room for improvement. But it is certainly a start. We encourage others to continue modifying the story to support different lived experiences and to defy entrenched notions of gender.

We have tried to add adventure. We have tried to add magic. We have tried to add relatable experiences and rich language and alternate realities. 

We hope you like it.

Taylor and her cousin Samantha were on their way to visit their cool Aunt Cathy. Aunt Cathy lived with her dog Peggy and her corn snake Smiley. Peggy loved liver cookies and Smiley loved birthdays. They lived in a small house with vegetable gardens, rain barrels, and chickens that laid fresh eggs every day. The girls loved eating tomatoes fresh from the garden, and collecting the eggs the chickens laid.

Taylor and Sam loved visiting Aunt Cathy. In the fall, they went camping in the nearby forest and spent lots of time hiking, climbing trees, and roasting marshmallows on the fire. In the winter, they snowshoed and skated on the frozen pond and flew down the hills on their toboggans. In the spring they splashed in the puddles, hunted for frogs, and made mud pies. And in the summer, they went to the beach, rode their bikes, and caught fireflies in the moonlight.

One night while camping, the girls and their Aunt sat around the campfire. They asked Aunt Cathy to tell them a story. She thought for a moment, then started to talk. She told the girls about all the magical creatures who lived nearby, but best of all, she told the girls the most wonderful stories about Brownies. Aunt Cathy said Brownies were magical creatures who loved to dance, play, and have fun. Above all else, Brownies loved to help the other creatures around them!

“Have you ever seen a Brownie?” asked Taylor.

“Goodness no!” cried Aunt Cathy in alarm! “Brownies love to have fun and help others, but their favourite thing to do is to do good deeds for others when no one is watching!” She told the girls how fun it was for the Brownies to do something nice, hide away, and watch the surprise and glee when people discovered the treats the Brownies had left!

Taylor and Samantha desperately wanted to find a Brownie!

“Where can we find one?” asked Samantha.

“Brownies can be anywhere!” said Aunt Cathy. “They can be around the house, in the garden, at the park, at the movies! The girls giggled at the thought of a little Brownie hiding at the movie theatre, picking popcorn up off the floor!

Aunt Cathy continued: “Most people never get the chance to see a Brownie. Only the wisest, oldest owl knows how to find them, and she only appears when the moon is blue!”

The girls spent the rest of the night cheerfully by the campfire, roasting marshmallows, and talking about Brownies, the owl, and staring at the moon, hoping to see it change colour before their eyes.

“If I met a Brownie,” said Taylor, “I would ask it to clean my room and help me with my homework!”

“If I met a Brownie,” said Samantha, “I would ask it to organize our garage and take our dog for a walk!”

The girls fell asleep quickly, snuggled down in their sleeping bags, and both had dreams filled with dancing Elves, Dryads, Leprechauns, Sprites, and Fairies. They had dreams of owls and moons and tiny creatures hidden in the shadows!

In the middle of the night, the girls awoke with a start! Their tent was brightly lit by the moon. Suddenly the girls’ eyes grew wide as they realized the moon was blue! They raced out of their sleeping bags and and ran outside. They couldn’t believe it!

Suddenly, from down the forest path, they heard a sound.

“Whooo, whooo!”

Taylor looked at Samantha. Sam looked at Taylor.

“Do you think--?” started Sam.

“Could it be--?” began Taylor.
Without a second thought, the girls started down the path towards the sound they had heard. Before long, they came to a grove of trees, growing beside a pond. Beside the pond was a single toadstool! Suddenly the girls heard a flap-flap-flapping, and before their eyes a beautiful owl came fluttering down from the trees and landed beside the toadstool. 

“Are you the wise old owl?” asked Taylor.

The old owl slowly and thoughtfully nodded her head.

“Are Brownies real? Do you know how we can find them?” asked Sam.

The owl regarded the girls for a few moments, then ruffled her feathers and began to speak:

          I am the old owl, that much is true.
          Brownies are real, and there’s much that they do.
          The Brownies in fact can be found all around,
          They’re at your house, in your yard, and all through your town.
          They do many good deeds and when they are done,
          Home they run home they run to have lots of fun.
          But Brownies are near and so close at hand,
          Look to the pond, and not to the land.
          Peer into the water, then turn ‘round three times,
          Speak loud and speak clear and remember the rhymes.

“What rhymes?” asked Taylor.

The owl blinked her shining yellow eyes then said:

          Twist me and turn me and show me an elf,       
          I look in the water and I see...

Sam and Taylor ran to the water’s edge. Sam stepped forward. She turned three times, and spoke aloud: “Twist me and turn me and show me an elf, I look in the water and I see..” But all she could see was her own reflection. She turned back to the owl. “All I can see is myself!”
The owl’s eyes twinkled in the moonlight:

          Now you’ve looked in the pond and you’ve seen what is true,       
          The truth is that really, a Brownie is you.

“I’m not a Brownie!” laughed Sam. Taylor broke into a fit of giggles beside her.

The owl sat up straight:

          Can you sing and dance and laugh and have fun?
          Can you do things for others and play in the sun?       
          Can you help all your family, and all of your friends?       
          And those you don’t know? And when the day ends,       
          Can you smile and share and promise and grow?       
          Can you be kind and be nice to all that you know?

“Well I can do those things!” cried Sam.

“Me too!” said Taylor, not to be left out. 

The owl spread her wings wide:

          Then you are a Brownie deep down at heart,
          Now waste no more time, hurry and start!

And with that, the owl beat her wide, feathery wings and took flight. The girls watched her fly away until she was just a small speck in the starry night sky.

The next thing the girls remembered was waking up to the sun streaming into their tent. They woke up suddenly, and looked at each other. Had it been a dream? For a second both girls thought they had imagined their entire midnight adventure, when suddenly Taylor exclaimed “look!” She pointed to the door of the tent where a single, brown feather lay softly on the floor. The girls couldn’t believe it!

“Sam!” said Taylor. “Let’s be Brownies!”

“Yes!” cried Sam.

They ran out to breakfast, hungry for the chocolate chip pancakes their Aunt was busy cooking on the camp stove. After breakfast the girls helped do the dishes and pack the car. The three headed home. After helping their Aunt to unload the car, the girls set off for the park. On the way, they picked up all the litter they could find! They spent the morning having fun on the swings and the jungle gym, laughing about their first good deeds as Brownies.

They went home for lunch, and after a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, the girls noticed their Aunt’s neighbour, Mr. Murphy, leaving in his car. Mr. Murphy was an elderly man, and it was getting more and more difficult for him to move and take care of his home the way he used to. His lawn was covered in leaves from the huge maple trees that stood on his lawn. The girls plotted for a few moments, then ran to his yard and raked all the leaves! They packed them into big brown bags, and left them at the curb. They hid behind the bushes when he pulled up, and laughed out loud to see the surprise on his face when he realized all his yard work had been done!

That night the girls were tired from their day’s adventures but happy remembering the fun they had had and the good deeds they had done. They couldn’t wait to keep being Brownies tomorrow!


We thank our astute Brownie for challenging us to think, helping us continue to grow, and making sure we are always re-evaluting ourselves, our work as Brownie leaders, and our thoughts as women and feminists in the big, bad, beautiful world we call home. We welcome thoughtful and respectful comments and discourse below. We note that the words written here are ours alone and do not represent the Girl Guides of Canada.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Ramping Up...!

Well someway, somehow, we've transitioned into August! How the heck did that happen? Well, it's here now, and so is BROWNIE PLANNING DAYS! Your leaders are hard at work putting together epic plans for the new Brownie year.

What's on the agenda so far?

  • A fall day trip! 
  • A fall camp in Guelph!
  • A winter camp at Camp Wyoka!
  • A spring camp in tents!
  • A year end trip!
  • Community service projects!
  • Crafts, games, songs, badges, and fun!
  • Did we mention fun?

This year our programming will focus on three key areas:

Key to Me: look forward to activities on self-esteem, personal likes and dislikes, confidence, and friendship

Key to Active Living: look forward to lots of MOVEMENT! games, yoga, sports, healthy eating, cooking, baking, and more!

Key to the Living World: look forward to learning lots about the great outdoors, native and invasive species, and our natural world with hikes, crafts, and time outside

In addition to these core areas, new girls will earn their Key to Brownies by participating in enrolment; learning the Brownie opening, promise, law, and handshake; and by joining their circle groups!

Brownies who advance at the end of the year will earn the Key to Girl Guides, and may earn the Key to My Community and the Key to Camping.

To find out more about we're planning for the first few months of Brownies, check out the calendar tab!

We're excited, are you?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

2015-2016 Registration!

Even though it's only March, plans are already underway for 2015-2016 registration!

The online registration system is currently shut down, and will remain shut down until until Monday, March 30.

For all our first year girls (currently in grade 2), you will be able to register on March 30th at 10:00AM (EDT). The system will be open ONLY to girls returning to their same unit. *

For girls returning to Guiding, but switching units or switching branches, you will be able to register as of Wednesday, April 29th. This includes all our second year girls (grade 3) who will be moving up to Guides, and any first year girls who are changing units. (Girls returning to their units will continue to be able to register.)

Finally, the system will open to all new girls on May 28th. (Girls returning to their units and girls already in Guiding will continue to be able to register.)

We highly encourage everyone to register as soon as possible! Last year our unit filled up on the first day registration opened to girls already in Guiding. By age, 17 of our current Brownies will be returning next year. To secure your space, please ensure you register between March 30th and April 28th. If you do not register, and our unit fills up, we will be unable to open any additional spaces.

*Please note that these dates and times are Ontario specific. If you happen to be on this blog from another province, do note that your registration date will be different than the above.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Calming the Camp Nerves

We at Brownies know how stressful a first camp can be! Nerves and anxiety everywhere. To help, I've made a list of my top ways parents and Guiders can help to calm homesick and anxious campers.

For Parents:
  • Don't transfer your own anxieties onto your Brownie! Sometimes our own nerves come across pretty clearly. A girl who might not have been nervous might become nervous when she sees your own anxieties! Give her a smile and be reassuring leading up to camp. If she expresses her own nerves, talk through them together.
  • Help her pack... but don't pack for her. Part of the camp experience is gaining a sense of responsibility and independence... and it starts at home! When a Brownie packs her own things, she knows what she brought and where it is. She can take control of herself and will feel more prepared for camp than if you were to simply drop her off with a bag of mystery things lovingly packed by mom. 
  • Don't linger at drop-off! The longer you wait around, the harder it becomes for your girl to imagine her new home (for two nights!) without you. See her over to her bunk, give her a hug and kiss, and tell her you'll see her on Sunday! Then scoot! (She can show you all those things she's excited about just as easily on Sunday morning!)
  • Talk to your Guiders. If your Brownie has expressed some nerves, please tell us. We'll be on the lookout during camp to make sure she stays as happy as can be. 
  • Know limits. It's possible your Brownie really isn't ready for camp. Only you, together with your Brownie, can make that call! If she really isn't ready, that's okay too. We'll look forward to working with you and with her to get her to that point.

For Guiders:
  • Watch for isolation. If a Brownie starts to feel excluded and left out, homesickness may start to set in. If you know a girl is susceptible to homesickness, keep an extra special eye on her to make sure she is having fun with the other girls.
  • Prepare for bedtime. We all know that the hardest time for a homesick Brownie is bedtime. Talk to the girls a week or two before camp about their bedtime routines. What do they need to fall asleep? Special stuffie? Special blanket? Do they need to have a story read to them or quiet time to read by themselves? Do they listen to music before bed? These are all easy things we can recreate at our camps if we know about them! 
  • In the moment. When homesickness happens, deal with it calmly. Don't dismiss her feelings. Listen to anything the girl wants to share, but if she's not feeling particularly chatty, change the subject. Ask her questions about her stuffie friend, her day at school, or her latest family vacation. The more she talks, the more she will calm down.
  • Strategies for stress management. Bring extra stuffies. Our homesick girls get to snuggle with a special friend (the owl from our toadstool, or even a leader's stuffie!). The extra friend reminds her that she is not alone! Another activity that can work well is to give the girl a sheet of paper and some markers or crayons. Ask her to draw a picture about how she is feeling, or to write a letter to her parents telling them how she feels. Tell her she can keep the drawing under her pillow and give it to mom and dad on Sunday morning when they pick her up. 
  • Know limits. Sometimes girls really aren't ready. Know when you can work through a moment of stress, and when you need to call home.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Holy Moly Guacamole, Enrollment Time Already!?

Wow! The first four weeks of Brownies have FLOWN by! Next week (October 8th) will be our official Brownie enrollment. If you've never been a Brownie before, this might be a new concept. Here are a few handy tips to get you ready...

What is enrollment? Enrollment is our annual ceremony used to officially induct all our new girls as Brownies. Until now, they have been attending our meetings as honorary Brownies, learning all the ins and outs. Four weeks later, our girls have learned their Brownie promise, law, motto, and handshake; they have learned the Brownie circle song; and they have joined a Brownie circle! With these new experiences under their belts they are ready to make the Brownie promise in front of an audience!

Why is enrollment important? Enrollment is important because it is a chance for our new girls to show what they have learned so far, and a chance for our older girls to take on a leadership role. This ceremony is a serious milestone at every level of Guiding, and our families are welcome to attend and to celebrate this special moment.

How should we prepare? Girls should prepare by practicing their promise, practicing their handshake, and coming to the meeting dressed in full uniform (t-shirt, sash, and scarf). Our new girls will get pinned at the enrollment ceremony, and have their Brownie scarves tied on by a leader.

We're excited to welcome all our new Brownies this week, and look forward to seeing everyone at the ceremony!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

What's Happening at Brownies?

Well, we have one week to go before the first meeting!

There are lots of new brownies joining our unit and we're excited to meet everyone! If you've never been a brownie before, you might not know what to expect. What are brownies? What do they do? What if I don't know anyone?

Don't worry! We made you a cartoon to explain what happens...