How Astronomical Objects Get their Name

The IAU (International Astronomical Union) is sourcing ideas to name some newly discovered moons of Jupiter. This presents an interesting opportunity to discuss how names for new solar system objects are selected. The IAU has a whole series of rules for the naming of things. This is mostly to keep the naming professional and to prevent confusion by reusing names.

This video shows some of the challenges to naming these newly discovered moons of Jupiter.

Older girls may have fun discussion which names they would choose if they were on the IAU working group.

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World

The Lazy Person’s guide to Saving the World is a resource from the UN might be a great starting place for the Take Action program area of the Girls First program.  It is basically a list of actions ordinary people can take to make a positive impact on the world.  The actions are divided up into 4 categories: category 1: Things you can do from your couch, category 2: Things you can do at home, category 3: Things you can do outside your house and category 4: Things you can do at work (many of which would also apply to school).

It would be interesting to ask the girls which of the things they already do?  Which would be easy changes for them?  Which would be hard changes for them or their families?

This could really vary between girls, and their family circumstances.  One girl may be eating a vegetarian diet so cutting back on meat is easy, but the same girl may live out in the country where walking or taking transit is difficult.  Another girl may be a city dwelling meat lover.  It is important not to make one girls feel uncomfortable about her family choices, but to make them think about what is possible for them to change.

Review: Fort York Sleepover – Second time around

This February my Guide unit returned to Fort York for our second sleepover.  They run a great program and I can not recommend it enough.

Where: Fort York, Toronto

What: Sleepover Program

When: Winter 2019

What was Included: A full Saturday of program (starting at 10 am) and use of a two story barrack building for our sleepover.  They included a period appropriate dinner, before bed hot chocolate and breakfast.  We brought our own lunches and snacks.

Booking:  The booking process is very easy but this is a popular program that fills up quickly.  If you want to book this sleep over it is not a bad idea to be contacting them now for 2020.  They can only accommodate one group per weekend.

After the initial booking I contacted them a month before hand with the exact number of girls, dietary restrictions and our workshop selections. We paid at the fort when we arrived.

Program:  The workshops they offer fit in well with Canadian Connections.  They have a wide selection of workshops you can take.   Some might be more relevant to a school group but there were lots that were relevant to our program.  We learned about the history of the fort, baked in a historic kitchen, played instruments and learned how they were used at the fort,  learned about the different approaches to war of the British soldiers and their First Nations allies, handled some archaeological finds, learned a period dance, learned period songs and played some period games.   I was even more impressed with the facilitators this time around.  They really engaged the girls and were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and patient.

There is an hour of free time for the girls before dinner.  We bought a casual craft for them to do and the girls enjoyed that. The fort program ended at 8pm so we had an hour long campfire program before the girls settled into bed for the night.  Breakfast isn’t served until 8:30 so the girls all had a decent time to sleep.

Food:  The food the fort provided was really good.  The dinner consisted of a beef (or vegetarian) stew, bread, rice and carrots.   The cookies the girls baked in the Officers Kitchen were provided for dessert. There was plenty of everything no one left hungry.  For breakfast the girls had a choose between cold cereal or oatmeal.

Accommodations:  There were bunks on both floors of the barrack building.  (18 upstairs, 16 downstairs) There are also three large tables with benches on the main floor.  The bunks were sturdy and included a thin matrices.  The lighting cupboard was unlocked this time so we had more control over our own lights.  Around 8:30pm, the overnight guard came by and went over fire alarm practicals with the girls. There are lanterns on a dimmer switch throughout the building but it gets quite dark upstairs.  I brought some glow sticks to scatter around and that was well received by the girls.

The bathrooms are in a different building then the sleeping quarters, maybe 50 m from one door to another. This is a tad inconvenient but understandable in a 200 year old building.

The main floor was quite chilly.  We ended up moving a few matrices upstairs so all the girls could sleep on one floor.  Some of the Guiders downstairs were quite cold.  It is worth adding and extra blanket to your kit list.

Coffee and Tea are available for purchase in the fort store but only during the hours the fort is open. We brought a kettle with us this time and were happy we did so.

Crests: We were able to buy the girls a lovely crest at the fort store.  We had a choice of two designs.

For more information: email the fort at


A Silent Minute

And who are those who have helped you become the person you are? Anyone who has ever graduated from a college, anyone who has ever been able to sustain a good work, has had at least one person, and often many, who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.

A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today.  Some of them may be here right now.  Some may be far away.  Some, like my astronomy professor, may even be in heaven.  But wherever they are, if they’ve loved you, and encouraged you, and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside your self.  And I feel that you deserve quiet time, on this special occasion, to devote some thought to them.  So, let’s just take a minute, in honor of those that have cared about us all along the way.  One silent minute…

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be, that during your silent times, you remember how important they are to you.  It’s not the honors and the prizes, and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls.  It’s the knowing that we can be trusted.  That we never have to fear the truth.  That the bedrock of our lives, from which we make our choices, is very good stuff.

-Mr. Fred Rogers

World Sustainable Development Goals

If you are working on any WAGGGS generated program, I’m sure you’ve heard about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  The UN has a great set of printable resources for these goals including logos, and posters.  They are available in both North American and European paper sizes and in any of the six UN languages (English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Spanish), making this a great resource for bilingual units.

There is also a wide variety of videos available.  Including this adorable Tomas the Tank Engine video which might be a fun way to introduce Sparks to this rather daunting topic.


Thinking Day 2019

The Guides welcomed our sister Pathfinder and Ranger unit as guest this week to work on the 2019 WAGGGS Thinking Day challenge.  The Rangers ran most of the activities.  Because we have a large unit, I dislike the giant board game format as I find it leads to a lot of waiting for your teams turn.  So we set up one table with a large die.  Each patrol took turn rolling and headed off to different times based on the results.  Once they finished an activity the got a slip of paper with the leadership lesson from each card on it.   This system worked pretty well and most patrols finish at least 10 or the 12 activities we had available during the meeting time. One piece of feedback I did get was that we should have given the patrols the option to re-roll if the stations they were sent to were all full as that did lead to some waiting around.  It was nice to see the girls from 9 to 18 all working together.