I find that some new Guide Guiders feel overwhelmed by figuring out how to lay out their year. So I thought I’d outline how I approach this. There is no one “right” way to do this. This is just my approach.
Have you ever read the stories about setting priorities where they talk about trying to fit big rocks and bunch of sand into a jar. If you put the sand in first, you’ll never get the rocks to fit. But if you put the rocks in first the sand fills in the gaps. You don’t need to know all your pebbles and sand at the beginning of the year but you should know what your biggest rocks are well ahead of time.
The Biggest Rocks
When will you hold your first meeting?
This may depend on when your meeting place is available. But normally you want to start a week or two after school start for the year.
When will you hold Enrollment?
I normally schedule enrollment 5-7 weeks after my first meeting. Girls must attend at least 3 meetings before they are enrolled. But not everyone can make every meeting. In addition, many parents wait until the beginning of the year to order uniforms (some units will put in a single group order) and it is nice to make sure everyone has had time to get their uniforms. Note: you don’t have to hold enrollment on a meeting night. If you have a fall camp or another special event planned, you can hold it then, but, at least for Guide age and below, you should invite the parents.
What overnight events would you like to do this year?
Each year in our unit we choose two over night adventures. This is normally one camp and one sleepover. But you unit might have easier access to camping and want to go camping more often. Having a fall camp can be a great experience for the girls. It will help bind them together as a unit and help the leaders get to know them all.
Are there events you are planning with other units?
Bridging events tend to take more time to organize. If you are planning joint events for Thinking Day or Advancement or just to get to know each other, talk to the leaders of the other units in your area and pick out a date and location well in advance. Provincial Rally’s or other regional events should also fit in this category.
When will you break for the Winter Holidays and at the End of the Year?
We normally break for a week on either side of the school winter holidays. We’ve tried ending the Guiding year at the end of June but got a lot of push back from parents as summer sports were causing conflicts so this year we will end at the end of May.
What are the girls goals for the year?
Some girls are driven to earn a lot of badges. Some really want to finish their Lady BP challenge. Some just want to go with the flow and have fun at Guides. There is no right answer but what your girls (and their parents) are looking to get out of Guides will determine what you do.
When are you fundraising?
There are cookie sales in the fall and spring. I like to allocate at least one meeting before each sale for Cookie Rising activities. We also organize 2-3 group selling activities per year.
If your unit is planning additional fundraising when and where will you be doing that.
Are you planning any weekend day trips?
Trips to the museum, day hikes at a conservation area, district picnics etc.
What do your Guides like best?
Some units are more crafty, other love STEM, others just want to run around in the woods. While you should offer some of everything, there is nothing wrong with emphasizing the things your girls like best.
What program work do you need to cover this year?
I always start by looking at those girls in their last year of Guides. What do they need to finish to complete their program. Some units run a three year rotation on You and Others, Discovering You and Beyond You, while doing bits of You in Guiding each year. While I can see merit in that, I’ve never found it worked very well for me. So I tend to do a little bit of everything each year. That does however mean that girl in my unit don’t get their big squares until near the end of their final year.
What badges will you work on as a unit?
I try and make sure that the badges we do as a unit (whether at a meeting, at a day trip or an overnight) come from a variety of themes. Then even if a Guide never does a badge on her own, she should still have one from each theme when it comes time to complete her Lady BP challenge.
Are there Provincial/National/WAGGGS challenges you want to work on?
I love to include a few challenges in each years program. Many times I can find ones that correspond to program work we wanted to cover anyways. Challenges can shake things up and provide you with new ideas. They can also be an easy source of ideas for activities.
How do you want to present your program?
Are there meeting outings, special guests, instant meetings etc that you can use to help you go though the program with your girls?
Once you have all your rocks in order, it is time to pack them into the jar. I’ll cover that in part 2.