I remember my time as a Brownie at winter camp. There is something so magical about playing outside in the cold and coming back in to a warm cabin. I've contemplated taking the girls winter camping before but it has never really come to be. This year we bit the bullet and booked one and I am SO HAPPY that we did!
We decided to do winter camp up at Ma-Kee-Wa in the site called Branches. This was an amazing space for our Brownies because it was all open and there was ample space for the girls to do crafts, play games and hang out.
The girls arrived on Friday night and we immediately jumped in to fun. Once bunks were sorted out and parents said goodbye too, we did a quick Brownie meeting. I explained the 2 challenges we were working on that weekend - BC Winter Camp Challenge and the NWT - Girls Go North Badge set. I was AMAZED at how many activities and crafts we completed at this camp. Some were for badges others we fun, overall we ended up finishing off 8 badges (3 interest, 5 challenge) with each of the girls.
The first activity we tried out was waterproofing matches. Each girl got a little package of matches and we used small coloured candles from the dollarstore to cover each match head with a little bit of wax. The girls were really interested in how this protected the matches from getting wet and being unusuable.
While some of the girls were water proofing their matches the others were working on a gardening project with Snowy Owl. Snowy Owl brought the makings of grass seed buddies, a project where the girls grew grass seed inside of washed out egg shells. This was a really interesting project to try out in the winter and the girls loved it!
Once these activities were finished we had an indoor campfire/sing along. After a bedtime snack in was into our bunks for a goodnight's rest.
Up early as the Brownies always are, we began the morning with a big waffle breakfast and patrol duties. One of the girls asked me "are we doing that chore thing again?" The answer to that, YES! At camp everyone has to help out! They grumble a bit at first but I truly think they like it. I had girls fighting over who got to clean the toilet (don't worry the toilets just got cleaned many times so they all got a turn).
After patrol duties were done we moved onto our first activity of the day which was a craft. In the NWT challenge it asks you to create a usable craft in the "Spirit of Guiding in the North".
We chose to decorate pillowcases for camp using a method called Sharpie Tie-Dye. Each girl used sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol to tie-dye the fabric. We thought that the colours looked like the northern lights that are so iconic in the North West Territories. The girls loved experimenting with different shapes, patterns and pictures. Every one of them turned out unique and beautiful!
While the Sharpie Tie-dye party was going on Tawny Owl pulled girls to come into the kitchen and make some bread. The bread making was a huge hit and throughout the day the girls got to make, knead and shape the bread which we ended up eating at dinner.
Once these indoor activities were finished we decided it was time to get outside and enjoy the winter weather.
Unfortunately we had very little snow this weekend. Our temperatures have been hovering up and down around 0 degrees for weeks so we didn't have enough to toboggan but that didn't stop us!
One activity that we prepped before going outside was a "Jello Tree". Before getting ready for this camp I had never heard of this girl guide activity but it was really really fun. Essentially you make jello and put it in small ziploc bags. You then hang the bags on the tree outside in the cold and the jello will set much like being in the refrigerator. The girls were very eager to find the perfect tree to hang their jello onto. We had to wait until later to see the results.
One of the things I really wanted to teach the girls was how to use a compass. I went to a guider training in November which taught you how to set up a "School yard compass course" so i thought i'd finally give it a try.
First we taught them the 8 main compass points and then we handed out the compasses to let them try out different bearings. The day before I set up the course using winter animals as checkpoints. We split into groups and the girls had a race to see which team could make it to their 5 checkpoints and finally the mystery animal first. They found it challenging but I think they had fun with it.
Of Course then there was some rolling down the "snowy hill"
Our last outside activity for the morning was learning how to light matches safely. At first many of the girls were scared about lighting matches themselves. We explained that matches are a tool and if used properly and safely are nothing to be afraid of. The girls worked in pairs to light their matches into metal pie plates. At the end every girl could successfully light a match and none of them we nervous about it anymore!
After these activities we headed back in to warm up. We watched a few short videos on preventing hypothermia and hyperthermia as well as what to do if you fall into frozen water. We then taught the girls about string figures and the string game cat's cradle which is historically very popular in the North West Territories.
Our original plan was to have a campfire to roast hotdogs, smore's and make cake inside of oranges for lunch. However, it was extremely windy on Saturday and we didn't think it was safe enough to light a fire in those conditions. Although the girls were a little disappointed about no fire all of those foods worked just fine indoors and we enjoyed a yummy lunch.
After lunch was some Flat Happy/Quiet time in their bunks. The girls used this time to read, relax, work on their camp book activities and some even took a nap. It was a really busy morning.
After the girls woke up we began a simple sewing project. Tawny Owl brought her sewing machine to camp and with it we taught the girls to make cloth napkins. This was part of the BC Winter Camp Challenge and I think that learning how to pin, sew, turn and french seam their fabrics was really educational for the girls. We decided to use our fancy napkins with dinner and then we'd add them to our camp cutlery sets. (Unfortunately since we were all hands on deck for this activity we didn't get any photos).
Bread making part 2! After the bread had risen the first time the girls got to knead and shape the dough. 2/3 batches of dough didn't rise that well but that didn't stop the girls from having fun shaping the dough. The loaves that did work out we baked and saved for dinner. Yum!
Once the bread was put in the oven we decided it was time to get outside for a bit. The girls were really interested in a hike to the Brownie Fairy Forest so we suited up and hit the trails.
We took some time to informally teach the girls about trail signs. Snowy Owl was bringing up the rear with one or two girls so we lay a trail for them to follow and find us - they did! We got to check out the river, test out if some of the frozen patches on the path were safe to walk on - They weren't so we didn't try, and hike be on the look out for birdsong and animal tracks.
Once we got to the Fairy Forest we just let the kids explore. There were some new things in the trees to find and of course some old favourites to check out like the golden toadstool. One Brownie found a collection of fairy stones and some others discovered some white baubles which they couldn't decide were wishes, apartments or a musical instrument.
While at the Fairy Forest we thought we would show the girls how to set up a simple shelter. I found an "Emergency Shelter" at the dollarstore when I was there a few weeks ago and thought it might be neat to set up. While I wouldn't say this was the best quality shelter i've ever seen, it showed the girls how to set one up and that something is better then nothing. The reflective material this shelter was made of would help keep in body heat and be super cozy for about two people.
Back to our cabin where Snowy Owl taught the girls to make bird feeders. Since it's winter the food supply for the birds has dwindled away. The girls worked to create many bird feeders that would set overnight and we would hang in the morning.
After making food for the birds, we had dinner and cakes baked in oranges for dessert. The girls had mixed feelings about this camp treat. Some loved it, some didn't but they all tried it which I was happy about. We had back up dessert just in case so all were happy.
After dinner was a special Evening Program called Minute to Win It. I've never run this with Brownies before but I had a feeling it would be a lot of fun. Basically the girls competed in teams to complete a series of tasks all that had to be completed in under 1 minute. These tasks ranged from stacking a pyramid out of cups to wrapping your partner up in a whole roll of toilet paper. This was a TON of fun and the kids told me over and over what a great time they had.
At first the girls we not thrilled with this idea. When we set out on the walk the girls clung to me and Snowy owl in groups of 4. We talked a lot about taking things step by step, and soon they started to relax and really take in the wonders of night time. We hiked out to a meadow that many of the girls knew from their times camping with us as sparks. We took a moment to reflect on what their favourite part of the camp was so far and then we headed back. It was a delight to see that on the way back many of the girls were skipping ahead of us in pairs, completely comfortable in the dark.
When we got back it was time for bed. Everyone was exhausted and it was literally only 10min before every girl was sound asleep.
The next morning went by pretty quickly. The girls were so sleepy that they didn't wake us up at 7:00am as per usual. Once everyone was up, fed and bags packed we ventured outside one last time to hang our bird feeders, check on the Jello Tree and have a small campfire.
Just as the fire got going all of the parents showed up. It was nice to share some time outside together before all of the girls headed home.
Winter camp was so much fun! I will never hesitate again, I think i enjoyed it more then summer camping!