Review: Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak

What:  A guided canoe trip around the Toronto Islands in a voyager canoe.  The afternoon stared with instructions for the girls on safe life jacket use, paddling technique and how to enter the canoe.  As we paddled the guide told us stories about the islands and pointed out wildlife.

It was great having the most of the unit in one canoe and a great way to introduce girls to paddling.

The guide was a veteran of the Harbourfront summer camp program so he was great with the age group of our Guides.

When: We went at the very end of September.  They open again for tours in the spring.

Cost:  We paid $25/girl plus $100 extra for the guide and canoe to meet us on the islands to comply with Safe Guide regulations regarding distance from shore for Guide age paddlers.  Older girls could start and finish at Harbourfront.

Booking: We booked though http://paddletoronto.com/.  They were really great about communication both at booking time and in a the few days leading up to our event.

 

 

 

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Review: Ontario Science Center Sleepover

Where: Ontario Science Center

What: Sleepover

When: Spring 2015

What was Included: We arrived just as the Science Center was closing to the public.   We had an evening of activities including the normal Science Center exhibits plus activity centers set up around the room. Then there was a dance party and the girls slept.

Booking:  Booking was easy but we had to pay the full price at the time of booking.  They can take several hundred girls each sleepover so there isn’t too much worry they will sell out before you can arrange your places.

Program:  The Science Center has a different theme each year.  The year we were there it was Physics.  Between the exhibits and the activity stations the girls finished their Physics badge.

Food: In the evening each girl was give a pizza slice snack.  In the morning there was a box breakfast with fruit, yogurt, cold cereal, milk and juice.  Some of our girls felt the portion sizes were small.  Be sure to eat dinner before arrival as the snack is just a snack.   There was a tea and coffee station all night for the adults.

Accommodations:  Each unit was assigned a sleeping location.  We slept in and among the exhibits.  It can be a long way down the escalators to your sleeping location so it is important to make sure each girl can carry her own belongings.  You will definitely want some sort of sleeping mat as you are on the floor.

Impressions:  The Science Center has been running these big sleepovers for years and have it down to fine art.  Even for my Guides though it was a very late night.  The dance party ends at midnight but the lights in our sleeping room weren’t turned off until 1 am.  They also didn’t give us enough crests for the leaders which seemed cheep, especially since the leaders pay the same entrance fee as the girls.

Review: Black Creek Pioneer Village Girl Guide Day

Where: Black Creek Pioneer Village

What: Girl Guide Day

When: Spring 2015

What was Included: We had a schedule of activities the whole day.  We got to pick four workshops.  They were spaced out such that there was time between each one to visit houses in the village or do self directed activities.  We also had a scheduled time in a shaded location to eat our lunch.  There was a scheduled Guides Own at the end of the day but it was really just a closing ceremony.

Booking:  Booking was straight forward but I had some issues booking the workshops because it required me to click on a very subtle link on the booking receipt.  The staff at the Village were very sympathetic and we were still able to get all our first choice workshops.

Once we arrived they had a check in table that lead directly to the payment desk.   This was the first year they held Girl Guide day but it didn’t show.  Everything was very well organized.

Program:  We choose to do workshops on games, baking and homemaking, quilting and the print shop. In the games workshop the girls made thaumatrope.  In the baking and homemaking session they made spice cookies, turned butter, carried water from the well with a yoke and dusted with a duck wing.  The quilting workshop involved the girls contributing to a button quilt that was made by many hands over the course of the day.  In the print shop two of the girls were invited back to try the printing press while the staff answered questions.  The programs offered all worked well with the Provincial Heritage badge.  We brought some information on the Provincial Coat of Arms and the origins of some local place names with us and covered that with the girls sitting under a big tree.  I would recommend bringing sit-upons.

Food:  There was no food provided and the girls brought packed lunches.  There is a place you can buy food though which the leaders used for coffee and tea.

Crest:  A nice crest was included in the price and was handed out during the closing ceremony.

For more information: http://blackcreek.ca/v2/learn/girl-guide-day.dot

Review: Fort York Sleepover

Where: Fort York, Toronto

What: Sleepover Program

When: Winter 2016

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 a couple of snacks.

Booking:  Booking was fairly painless.  I completed the whole process by e-mail.  I contacted them June 2015 and at that point they only had 4 weekends left.  So you clearly need to book this event well in advance.  They can only accommodate one group per weekend.  Then a month before our sleepover I had to send them some documents including the number of girls and leaders, dietary restrictions and workshop selections.  We paid at the fort when we arrived.

We did have to promise a minimum of 25 girls.  The first two leaders were complementary and the others were very inexpensive (I’m sure they were just covering food costs).

Program:  We completed the Heritage badge at the fort and part of the Folklore badge.  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, tried on uniforms, played instruments and learned how they were used at the fort,  tried signalling with semaphore, learned a period dance, learned period songs and heard some stories that were a little bit spooky.    All the facilitators were fantastic.

Food:  The food the fort provided was really good.  The dinner consisted of a beef (or vegetarian) stew, bread, rice and carrots.  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.  There are also three large tables with benches on the main floor.  The bunks were sturdy and included a matrices.  They didn’t have guardrails so I’m not sure I’d want to sleep over with younger girls.  I did wish we’d included indoor shoes/slippers on the girls kit lists and they tracked mud and goose droppings in.  The lighting situation is a little weird as the lights are operated from behind a locked door so we had to wait for the night security guard to come by and switch off the main lights.  But there are lanterns on a dimmer switch throughout the building so you can have a little bit of light during the night for any girls who might be a bit nervous.

The bathrooms are in a different building then the sleeping quarters and the fort asked us to always make sure and adult was with the girls when they were traveling to and from the bathrooms.  This was a tad inconvenient.

Coffee and Tea are available for purchase in the fort store but only during the hours the fort is open.  If Guider feel that they will need caffeine to get though the night or early morning, you might want to bring a kettle.

Crests: We were able to buy the girls a lovely crest at the fort store.  We had a choice of two designs.  The crests were on the expensive side, but we’d saved so much money compared to other sleepovers not having to pay full price for the leaders it was still quite affordable.

For more information: email the fort at fortyork@toronto.ca