Sparks Design Space

The 2nd Burnaby Mountain Sparks are enjoying working with the new Girls First program. Based on evaluations of the girls’ interests and personalities during meetings earlier in the year, the unit has decided to work on the Experiment and Create program area this year. At their last meeting, the group did some activities for the Design Space theme.

Design Space is described as follows in the Girls First program:sparks-design-space-theme-badge.jpg

Innovate and create! Activities in this theme will equip you with the skills you need to tinker with machines, build robots, code programs, and re-think recycling, as you push the limits of your imagination.

Difficult to do with 5-6 year old Sparks? The group didn’t think so! Using a combination of activities from the Girls First online platform plus activities their crafty Guiders came up with themselves (and then submitted for consideration to the National program team!) the girls had a great meeting.

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The group had a great discussion about robots including household uses they were familiar with like roombas and Siri. Then they got creative and design their own robots using recycled materials and leftover craft supplies. Each girl designed a tin can robot and talked about its functions and personality.

Then they made a circuit track on the floor using painters tape and figured out how to guide their blindfolded Guider through the track — first by physically manipulating her, and then using voice commands only (“Walk forwards”, “Turn left” etc). Then the girls took turns leading each other through using these coding commands. We discussed that this is how you give directions to robots.

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They also made I-Spy Bottles, an activity from the online platform. This quiet activity involves using investigative skills to find small items in a bottle filled with rice. Another great opportunity to upcycle!

Finally, the girls took their fully dried robots to play on the robot circuit course, or took time to play with their I-Spy bottle — whichever they preferred.

It was a great day of robotics, coding, and recycling, fitting perfectly with the Design Space theme. They’re looking forward to doing more design space activities at their next meeting so that they can earn the theme badge. Way to go girls!

District Spark/Brownie Sleepover

This past weekend, girls from all five Spark and Brownie units in Burnaby Mountain District gathered at Camp Capilano in North Vancouver for a really fun sleepover.

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One highlight of the sleepover was the special guests for the Vancouver Aquarium. Staff from their mobile outreach program turned Camp Capilano into an AquaZone, including live inter-tidal animals and other interactive display items.

The aquarium staff were super engaging and the girls learned a lot about marine life. They also chatted with the girls about the importance of protecting our oceans and some things we can all do to help keep our waters safe and clean for aquatic life.

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The mobile outreach program was a great way to let our girls learn about the ocean in a program specifically designed to work well for them. Older girls in the district can look forward to having their own way to connect with the Vancouver Aquarium later this year — stay tuned!

Sparks and Brownies also got the chance to tap into their artistic side by decorating masks. The leaders were really impressed by their efforts! Girls did such a great job using the paints, jewels, feathers, and other decorations to create awesome masks. They turned out so well.

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Masks are fun at all time of year, but especially with Halloween coming up it seemed like a great time to embrace pretend play.

A sleepover is a great way to start introducing camp skills, and these girls loved the chance to have a real campfire (with s’mores!) outside. Camp food was also a big hit.

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Also very impressive is how well all of the girls did at this sleepover. There were no tears, and no problems getting to bed or packing up in the morning. You’d never have guessed that this was the very first sleepover for many of these girls. Great job!

Thank you to all the adults who made this happen, especially the amazing Vancouver Aquarium staff!

Growing Fun with Grassy Gnomes

It is always so much fun to see the creative activities that our fantastic volunteer Unit Guiders come up with to present Girl Guides of Canada programming (on a related note, we love Pinterest!!). Especially at the Sparks and Brownies level, girls love making crafts. Finding crafts that not only encourage creativity and self expression but also promote hands on learning is a great way to have fun with program.

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At one of their weekly meetings, girls from the 24th Brownies learned a bit about plants and their life cycles. How do seeds grow? What do plants need to be healthy? They put this knowledge to work by planting and watering some grass seeds in an especially creative way. Grass is fun to work with because it doesn’t take long to grow. When the leaders brought back the gnomes the following week they were already growing some pretty rad hair.

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The finished grassy gnomes are adorable! Want to know how to make them yourself? Check out some instructions here. At this regular weekly meeting, STEM + crafts = Girl Guides of Canada fun.

Sun Printing at Brownies

We love the summertime sunshine, don’t you? The girls in the 24th Burnaby Mountain Brownies did a cool science-related craft using 100% natural sunlight at one of their meetings earlier this year.

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The process is called Sun Printing. It uses special sun-sensitive (cyanotype) fabric to change colour. First, they laid out a design with various items items on the cyanotype cotton squares. They used a mix of natural materials like plants, and non-natural materials like foam craft shapes to make a design.

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After leaving them outside for about 20 minutes, the items which had blocked the UV rays from causing a reaction on the cotton left a negative print.

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The girls then rinsed the cotton squares in cold running water and then spritzed them with rubbing alcohol to quickly change the background to a lovely shade of blue. They then arranged the squares on pillowcases, carefully pinned them in place, and one of the leaders brought them home to sew them on.

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The finished products show each girl’s unique design, made with a super awesome sun-powered printing process.

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What a unique way to combine science and art in Girl Guides of Canada programming. This is just another example of what girls get up to at regular unit meetings.

Guides Look to the Stars

Earlier this month, for one of their regular weekly meetings the girls from our 56th Burnaby Mountain Guides went on an outing to the Trottier Observatory at Simon Fraser University.

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This was a great opportunity to see some first rate astronomy equipment and learn all about the stars from a very knowledgeable tour guide. The observatory features a six-meter-diameter dome housing a 0.7-metre diameter reflector telescope that is capable of tracking distant galaxies billions of years old. Unfortunately, the girls were not able to look through the telescope due to cloud cover and high chance of rain — the very fancy telescope cannot get wet.

One highlight of the tour was when they got to press the button to turn the closed dome around – it was very cool! The tour guide showed them many images on the monitor that had been captured using the telescope – stars, planets, galaxies, nebulas. Some of these images captured by the telescope can be viewed on the observatory’s website, here.

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Other awesome things to enjoy at the observatory include the beautiful outdoor light displays of seasonal sky maps and the ROYGBIV light spectrum. The Guides were really interested in this event and had non-stop questions. Everyone learned a lot! It was an excellent hands-on STEM activity that tied directly into Guide program.

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Burnaby Mountain District is very lucky to have this world class university right on our doorstep. Many of our leaders are SFU students or alumni and are keen to share these opportunities with the girls. SFU also holds star parties that are open to the public — the Guides highly recommend this activity to anyone interested in learning more about the night sky. Check out the observatory website for more info.

Sparks Making Friends with Critters

Last night the 1st Burnaby Mountain Sparks got to practice the part of their promise that tells them to “be a friend” — with awesome animals! The group welcomed a special guest, Mike (from Mike’s Critters), who brought with him lots of critters for the girls to touch, hold, and learn about.

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The first animal was a chinchilla, which is the world’s softest animal. Her fur was soooo soft to touch! Everyone got the chance to touch her, and some even got to hold her. It was a very exciting start to the presentation.

Other animal guests included a chameleon, a turtle, a hedgehog, and a bunny. There were even some kind of scary animals: a tarantula and a snake! But every animal was very friendly and safe to be around. Mike did a great job of teaching the girls cool things about every single animal that he presented. They learned what kinds of food the animals eat, what kind of environment they live in, how they stay safe from predators, and other interesting facts.

The girls also showed great interest and critical thinking skills when they asked some really good questions. One girl asked why the chameleon has a big ridge on his head (answer: to collect morning dew so it can flow into his mouth) and another wanted to know why the chinchilla had whiskers (answer: so it it can tell if a hole in a cave or tree is big enough to climb into safely).

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It was a really fun day and everyone — even the leaders! — learned a lot. Thank you, Mike, for bringing your awesome critters to our Sparks meeting.

Awesome Science Guest Speakers

In Burnaby Mountain District we are lucky enough to have access to lots of great guest speakers who are available to come in to speak to our girls about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). With close access to universities, museums, and other programs, we are fortunate enough to have lots of ways to expose our girls to these exciting subjects.

Recently the girls in the 24th Brownies applied to a Science World’s program where they send a professional scientist to your group. They had a chemist named Allyssa, who develops colours and formulas for gel nail polish for a living, volunteer to do a presentation on polymers for the girls.

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She started off with a bang, lighting some powders on fire. Next she did a trick where she poured some water into one of three cups, moved them around and had the girls tell her which one the water was in. When they were sure, she dumped the cup over her head, and nothing came out – and tried this with all three. Of course, she hadn’t disclosed that there was a polymer in the cup with the water, which absorbed the water and turned into into a spongy substance. Then she made fake snow, and lastly gave the girls these squishy little balls called Orbeez. Of course she briefly explained the science behind her demonstrations. The girls really enjoyed her presentation.

And this week, in the University Highlands Guiding group, the unit got a presentation from Let’s Talk Science, the same group that organized our District Science Day last year. For this unit of mixed Brownies and Guides, the SFU scientists led the girls in an activity where they got to extract DNA from strawberries! The hands-on learning was a great way to show the girls the science that exists around us every single day.

An important part of our programming STEM is always a hit with our girls. Stay tuned throughout the year for more examples of how girls learn all about the world around them and how this knowledge and these skills can be applied in on-going passions and careers.

 

Skulls on Tour visits Highlands

This week, the girls in the University Highlands Guiding Unit were thrilled to welcome a very special guest speaker to their meeting. The presenter’s name is Yvonne and her program is called Skulls on Tour. She has a large collection of natural science specimens including… you guessed it: skulls!

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In addition to the scientific learning opportunity the specimens provide, she talked about what it’s like to have a serious collection/hobby, and spoke about the community of other collectors that she’s become a part of. The girls and leaders found it informative on several levels.

The girls were very interested in checking out Yvonne’s collection. They got to get pretty close and even handle some of the specimens. It was a really neat chance to learn about animal physiology.

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Bones, horns, teeth, and fur were all included in the display. There was so much to look at, touch, and feel. Girls were very engaged and asked lots of questions. It was fascinating! Guest speakers are such a fun way to bring something new to a regular unit meeting.

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Yvonne is a Sparks leader in Vancouver and can customize her talk for any age group. For more information, or to inquire about booking Skulls on Tour for your own unit, check out her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/skullsandoddities/.

District Science Day at SFU

Last weekend Burnaby Mountain District partnered with SFU Let’s Talk Science to hold an all-ages interactive Science Day at Simon Fraser University!

Enthusiastic university volunteers led the girls through a variety of activities and demonstrations touching on several disciplines within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Girls got to work together to try hands on science activities and had a lot of fun.

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Sparks learned about good bacteria and bad bacteria and got to to design their own cute bacteria buddies. They also learned about weather and clouds.

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Brownies enjoyed dissecting owl pellets to reassemble whole rodent skeletons — they thought it was a little bit gross, but really cool! They also explored physics by designing bottle-propelled rockets that they got to launch for an audience of Sparks.

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Guides and older girls tackled environmental science, considering problems like how oil spills and water pollution can be safely cleaned. They also rocked out with a variety of lasers, using problem solving skills to power high tech gadgets.

Over all it was a really educational and entertaining day. Girl Guides prides itself on being able to offer girls the chance to try new things, especially by helping them develop interest in areas like STEM where women are underrepresented in the professional fields. Thank you to Let’s Talk Science for hosting us!   We in Burnaby Mountain are very lucky to have SFU situated conveniently in our district. Many of our Guiders are SFU students and it is always great to take advantage of the opportunities that having a world class university in our district has to offer!

Brownies tackle STEM

One of the most popular program areas with our girls is STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Getting the chance to explore these fascinating disciplines with hands-on activities in a really fun and girl-centred environment is a real a treat.

This year, the 54th Brownies have been going crazy with STEM. The girls just can’t get enough. Back in January, the unit had a blast at the West Coast Area Science World Sleepover.

They have also spent a bunch of time over a selection of meetings this winter and spring, exploring STEM topics to earn their Provincial STEM challenge crests. Check out these images from some of those meetings.

Some of the activities that they have tried include discovering ways to check whether an egg is raw or hard boiled, making music with water in stemware, studying fizzy water vs regular water under black light and then making their own Sparkling lemonade! Yum!! They have also learned about cyber safety, taken cellphones apart to get a look at the inside and made their own computers. And exploring engineering has given them the chance to build tall towers and to design shelters to keep their favourite stuffed critters safe from the elements.

Believe it or not, they’re not done yet! The 54th Brownies look forward to joining all the rest of the Burnaby Mountain girls at our next big district event: Science Day at SFU! At the end of April, girls of all branches will get a chance to explore science in real science labs with real science students. As you can imagine, these girls in particular are really excited about it!