Host a Literacy Tent in 5 Easy Steps

Valois- Dorval District organized a reading tent over March Break and read to 32 visitors! Literacy Agent, Esther Szeben has the low down on how to make this a successful PR event for your district while earning the Words in Action crest.

What you will need:

Camping tent, a colorful rug, stuffed animals, craft materials, stringed lights, Free Meeting cards, a clip board, pen and paper, a flashlight, GGC swag (bookmarks, tattoos, stickers)

  1. Partner with a community organization. We asked the Dorval Library if we could animate a reading tent one morning during March Break. They were happy to offer us some space in the children’s section and the librarians preselected the English and French books for the girls to read. They even gave the girls and informative summary of what qualities to look for when selecting story time books for a group.
  2. Advertise. Use social media, posters, and word of mouth. We invited local preschools and daycares as the library story time shares the same goals as the NSP of promoting literacy.
  3. Arrive early. The library opens to the public at 10 but we arranged to set up at 9:30 giving ample time. A colorful rug and some stuffed animals make the tent inviting. White tree lights were strung on top of the tent to give the effect of reading/camping under the stars. A flashlight helps shed light on the pages for the readers and gives the guests a simulated camping experience!
  4. Enlist girls from all levels to help. Sparks helped distribute “marketing material” i.e. GGC meeting cards and GGC book marks, Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders read out loud and assisted with the craft. Give a girl a clip board and ask her to approach all the guests to take “statistics” or register children for the activity. We used a simple tally system of check marks and gave each guest a sticker. Have enough Guiders to ensure Safe Guide standards and to support the girls as they lead this activity. Ask the girls how they want to help and assign roles to girls within their comfort level and ability. Rotate as much as possible to give everyone a chance to read. Anticipate that some guests don’t want to read in the tent. Our girls spread out in the kids section and read one-on-one with guests.
  5. Prepare as much of the craft in advance. Bring supplies from your unit and precut anything to make the craft easy for little hands. We stuck to the literacy theme and combined the novelty of camping and owls to the bookmarks that the children made with the help of our girls.

Log your activities on the NSP website. We invited some girls from the North Shore district. Their Guiders will enter their girls’ numbers in the NSP database, not to be duplicated with the hosting districts numbers.

Words in Action is running until August 2016 so there are many opportunities your district may want to consider: National volunteer week, St Jean Baptist or Canada Day celebrations at a community park. Is your town hosting a soccer tournament?  Sumer day camps, Library summer programs, Freedom to Read Week, TD Canadian Children’s Book Week and Family Literacy Day.  The possibilities are endless. But it takes time, so best to start planning well in advance.

Esther Szeben is one of the Québec Literacy Agents for the Words in Action NSP. You can contact her at

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Québec Snow Trails 2015 – A Two Weekend Event! (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of the Snow Trails Weekend here!

A week later on February 21-22, the second Snow Trails event, the “Quinzee Sleepout”, was held in Saint Lazare on Lydia Berryman’s property.  This was a much smaller event attended by 5 Pathfinders, 3 Ranger, 6 TREX and 6 Guiders.  A camp site had been tentatively booked but since we were only 20 participants, Lydia decided to hold the camp on her property.

We were very fortunate that the weather warmed up a bit and we had perfect weather to be outside building quinzees.  The girls broke up into small groups of 3-4 girls and worked very hard to build their quinzees.  The Guiders who planned to sleep outside worked on a quinzee of their own.

Once the piles of snow were made, they were left to sinter (harden) for just over an hour while we had a leisurely lunch break.  It was such a pleasant day that we were able to cook and eat our lunch outside.

After lunch the groups started to hollow out their pile of snow.  All the groups did well except the Guiders whose quinzee came crashing down on them!  The snow was very fluffy and it hadn’t had quite enough time to sinter.

Once it was established that no one was injured, it was decision time… do they start building a new quinzee OR do they pack it in and sleep inside.  It did not take them long to decide… these Guiders had come with the intention to sleep in quinzee and they were determined to do it!  And that they did, even though it took them until almost 9:00pm to finish hollowing out their quinzee.  There was not enough room for all the Guiders to sleep in the quinzee so one Guider slept in a tent.

While a few girls came inside for bathroom breaks during the night, everyone made it through the night in their quinzee.  In two of the quinzees, the girls slept so well that they had to be woken up at 9:30 am!

This format of a winter outdoor sleepover will hopefully become a yearly event for 3rd year Pathfinders, Rangers, TREX and any Guiders that would like the challenge of sleeping outside in the winter in a quinzee, tent or igloo.  A special “Quebec winter sleepout” challenge crest is even being considered and could be earned at any Pathfinder, Ranger or TREX winter camp, not just at Snow Trails.

All in all, both camps were a success.  We are now waiting to hear back from the girls and Guiders to know if they preferred this new format of two separate camps.

Thank you to the many Guiders who were a part of the planning team for the Winter Lodge camp… without your input and assistance, this camp would not have been as special as it was.

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By Patricia Tellis, Deputy Provincial Camping Adviser

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Quebec Snow Trails 2015 – A Two Weekend Event! (Part 1)

Snow Trails is a Provincial winter camp that brings together Pathfinders, Rangers, TREX and Guiders from all over Québec.  It is a camping event that takes place every second of year.  The main featured activity of the weekend is to build a quinzee and sleep in it.  A quinzee is a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of settled snow.

This year the planning committee decided to change things up based on comments from girls and Guiders who participated in Snow Trails 2013.  For 2015, it was decided to hold two separate camping events, a winter camp with many choices of outdoor activities open to all Pathfinders, Rangers and TREX and a second camp with the sole purpose of sleeping outside for one night in a quinzee for 3rd year Pathfinders, Rangers and TREX.

The first Snow Trails “Winter Lodge” camp took place February 13-15 at Base de Plein Air Saint Lazare.  There were a total of 38 participants: 16 Pathfinders, 5 Rangers, 2 TREX and 15 Guiders.

The planning committee came up with ways the girls could plan their weekend.  On Saturday, the girls had a choice of 5 outdoor activities (cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, skating, tubing and igloo making) which they had to fit into 4-1 hour time slots.  For duties, duty patrols were not assigned, rather girls signed up for duties, the only requirement that they could not do the same duty all weekend… at some point everyone has to clean the toilets!  Even for most of our meals, there were a variety of food options to choose from.

Despite the -25°C weather, the girls were warmly dressed and were able to spend most of the day outdoors.  While most girls had been skating, snow shoeing and tubing before, for many girls, it was their first time cross-country skiing.  And it was a first for everyone to try and build an igloo.

Saturday evening we did murder mystery dinner with a ski lodge theme.  It was a lot of fun!  Saturday ended with an outdoor campfire to make the requisite S’mores.

Sunday was a much more relaxed day with snow shoes games and some more tubing.  We cooked lunch outside with a special technique using waxed burlap.  Camp ended with a short Guides Own planned by the girls and voting on the crest design for this camp.  One of the challenges for the Winter Lodge camp was to design the event crest.  The girls will receive this crest along with the BC Winter Camping Challenge which they earned.

Read Part 2- Québec Quinzee Sleepout Here!

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Photos by Lisa Labelle


By Patricia Tellis, Deputy Provincial Camping Adviser


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My three weeks at Sangam

In February, I had the chance to travel to Sangam for two incredible sessions. During my first week I represented Canada at this year’s Juliette Low Seminar (JLS) and then I took part in a two week World Thinking Day program.  jls participants

The JLS was a unique experience where I was able to meet 48 girls from 45 countries all over the world. It was so much fun to be surrounded by such a diverse group of young women! All the activities I took part in during this session revolved around the theme of Dream, Dare & Do. My existing leadership skills were first tested during a scavenger hunt around Pune, the city in which Sangam is located. I then dared myself to repel down the water tower, which ended up being so much fun! Finally, I used everything I had learned in the week when I went to visit a private English school with some other girls and taught the kids some fun Canadian Girl guiding songs!

at english medium schoolI learned so much about myself, WAGGGS and Girl Guiding around the world during this seminar, and I am so thankful that I was selected to go.

The World Thinking Day progtara mobile crecheram was much more community based. We visited two organizations which support women in need and children of the streets. We were able to see the crafts that the women had learned to make, and visit the rooms in which they lived. There was an amazing fun day held at Sangam for children of Tara Mobile Creche, an organization which educates children living on construction sites where their parents work. This fun day allowed the kids to learn new songs and games, do some crafts and play in Sangam’s playground.

thinking day with scouts and guides


I also visited the Bharat Scouts & Guides (India’s branch of WAGGGS) for a Thinking Day celebration with many of the local scout and guide troops. Along with the standard ceremonial speeches and songs, we had time to share some songs and games with the kids and they showed us different kinds of Indian dancing! Finally I had the amazing opportunity of planning the Thinking Day ceremony at Sangam on the 22nd, where we focused on partnerships and sharing our Guiding light.

Overall, my three weeks at Sangam were absolutely unbelievable, and I was so sad to have to leave. India was much more spectacular than I ever imagined, and my memories could definitely not be recreated anywhere else in the world!

To anyone considering visiting Sangam, I highly encourage you to go! You will not regret it!


By Alison Van Der Wee. Alison is a 23 year old Pathfinder Guider in Lakeshore District, who has been a member of GGC for 14 years. It has been a 7 year dream of hers to visit Sangam. 


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Can Brownies Plan and Cook?

At the end of last year I attended the Girl Engagement training session for Training week. I was left with lots of ideas I wished to put into action, so come start of January we opened up the New Year with a girls-own planning session. We got three big boards and wrote three themes down (Badges, Subject/topic ideas, and Activities). The girl’s responses were brilliant- they loved the fact that they were going to be part of the planning process. My aim was to take these ideas and see how I could work them into my goals for the rest of the Guiding year.

On every single board was cooking, and since we are doing the Key to Active Living, I thought this would be perfect. On the 21st January I brought in two children’s cookbooks (these are actually my daughters’ and have so many easy but healthy and interesting recipes in them). I gave them 15 minutes to look through them for healthy lunch ideas and to put tabs in on recipes they liked the look of. I was so impressed with the girls’ choices, they understood the idea of a healthy lunch and were discussing [what makes] particular meals healthy. We then went through each recipe they highlighted and voted on them. By the end we had all agreed to make Disney’s Bug Life Salad, Dora the Explorers Pirate Pizza Coins and Dora’s Backpack Trail Mix.

Now the girls had taken the lead in the unit by telling me they wanted to cook and exactly what they wanted to cook. With this in mind I then went shopping to get everything they had told me to get!

When I asked for help on our cooking day, me and Sunny Owl were joined by our District Ranger Alex and a Brownie Mom. Since we were cooking three items we set up three stations. I set everything up and washed all the vegetables before the session but I had my daughter’s special child safe plastic salad knife. The girls came in and helped prepare the surfaces while talking about germs, we then washed hands and spilt into three groups. We rotated around each station every 15 minutes. The girls worked as teams chopping vegetables and figuring out that they needed to share the ingredients and make sure there was enough for everyone else.

I was so impressed with them. They did everything themselves. They loved it. They were able to customize each recipe to what they wanted (to satisfy picky eaters). All the girls by the end of it were so excited that they had made their school lunch for the next day. They were all able to learn about healthy foods by actually planning a healthy meal and they were able to for the first time take the lead in cooking. They all discovered their potential in the kitchen!

The girls at the end even washed up all the dishes, cleaned the tables and swept the floor. What a perfect evening! A perfect Quebec Spin! Plus, a perfect way to start my new plans of getting the girls more engaged and involved with the planning!

Can 13 Brownies plan and cook together? Why, yes they can!

By Brown Owl, Jo Povall, 1st Northern Lights Brownies

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Winter skating, sledding and smiles!

On the 14th of January we braved the cold and went outside for “Parent and Brownie Winter Fun Night”. Both Brownies and parents earned badges! Our aim was to complete part of our Key to Active Living,  and earn the Swim! Skate! badge and the Winter is Great! badge. We decided that both parents and Brownies attending should earn a Winter Time fun patch, for dedication to their Brownie daughters, and being willing to brave the cold (-21°C)! We met at Parc Charbonneau, and after looking at the weather forecast I asked if people could bring Hot Chocolate to share!

Click on the photo to see a larger version. 

Each girl was given a sheet telling them to have fun, to go skating and tobogganing, plus they were given the task to help show an Owl, a parent or another Brownie a new thing. The girls had so much fun, both the Brownies and the parents were sledding and skating. They even got Brown Owl on the ice attempting to skate (though no camera wanted to take a picture of it!) The Brownies all had lots of fun and everyone went home really happy. It was a great night!

The Hot Chocolate in the Cabana was very welcome at the end of the night. Rosemere was brilliant at allowing us to use their floodlight Parc faculties and they even had a dedicated attendant on location. Each and every girl went home with a smile.

The girls took their sheets home to finish the badges by planning their perfect skate party and getting an adult to sign that they know how to store and look after their winter equipment.

By Jo Povall, Brown Owl with the 1st Northern Lights Brownies

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“Fall Fun” So Reads the Crest

Our recent-ish Bring-a-Friend Meeting was all about preparing for an afternoon hike at Mont-Bellevue Park in the centre of Sherbrooke. As the weather was getting colder, I thought it best we discuss appropriate winter clothes right away. So we did a couple of experiments looking at different fabrics when whet then discussed what to pack for an afternoon hike. Knowing what to wear and what to bring, the girls all headed home with an information sheet and invited friends also took a sweet swag bag!

And then Saturday arrived, cold, white and bright!

Fun photo op with the city in the background lit by the setting sun.

Fun photo op with the city in the background lit by the setting sun.

These girls are Guides (and second-year Brownies), so we let them be just that, our Guides! Maps, compasses, a few explanations and helping hands, and we soon set off in a bearing that all agreed on. After encountering obstacles and following a trail around a cliff,  we set our course for the cross at the top of Mont-Bellevue. The map was all the girls needed this time and we soon reached our destination as the sun was starting to set. We took a well-deserved break, and ate some curious trail mix (dried mango was a big hit with all but one, while plantain chips were surprising!) and prepared a hot drink.

Before setting off on our hike, we split up the group equipment so that no one person had to carry everything. Now, we brought it all together to make hot spiced cider. It was wonderful to have a hot drink on that freezing day! Since we stopped walking, some fingers and toes started cooling down; again, we were prepared and broke out the hand warmers!

Our bodies satisfied (there was a bathroom break, too), we headed back into the woods to find a shelter we had found earlier, adding branches to the structure, after reviewing the clove hitch and square lashing! We had time to add few branches before it was time to head back to the parking lot to meet the parents. We took one last photo of our additions to this shelter and made our way down the hill.

Cord + branches + skilled hands = shelter.

Cord + branches + skilled hands = shelter.

After returning all the group gear, the girls received a crest for participating in this afternoon hike. It read: Fall Fun. Perhaps Winter Fun would have been more appropriate… Either way, it was a great day in the great outdoors!





By Guest Blogger Esther Keller. This post is an abridged version of an entry originally shared on the 1st Lennoxville Guides Blog by Esther Keller. 

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