On the scale from wholesome to miniskirts, Brownies is definitely on the rainbows and granola side. 100 years after its founding, it’s still one of the most exciting, safe, and fun activities girls can do.
Now before you think I am making some weird racial/color club, for those of you that don’t know, Brownies is like Girl Guides or Girl Scouts. In Canada, kindergarten and grade 1 girls can go to Sparks, grade 2 and 3 to Brownies, 4 and 5 to Girl Guides, and then there is Pathfinders, Rangers, etc.
Our family has a long history with Girl Guides and Boy Scouts; my great-grandmother was in the first Girl Guide troop ever. Each generation since, my grandmother, parents, siblings and now my daughters have all been involved.
Things have changed with the times though, since my Gran Cotton was in Agnes Baden-Powell’s group.
In my opinion, Boy Scouts have lost a bit of relevance in today’s society, and have become fragmented in what they stand for. There are still some amazing things about Scouts, as I’ll highlight in a minute. But there are some issues too. First, they incorporated girls, which I don’t know was an entirely good decision. I think it was great for girls who wanted an alternative to Guides… but boys do need to be boys by themselves sometimes. In Canada, Boy Scouts remain an organization with a “spirituality” mandate (aka belief in God), which is fine for some people of faith, but somewhat limiting to who it includes in our multicultural and multi religious society. And lastly, Boy Scouts of America has made headlines with their biggoted anti-gay policies, which I personally find reprehensible. (Note that Scouts Canada has no such policies. Thank goodness! And neither do the Girl Scouts of the USA, for the record.) But it does seem like Scouts have a bit of trouble keeping up with the times as a movement.
Girl Guides of Canada has morphed differently, and seemingly more cohesively with its international peers.
Some years back, the Canadian organization moved away from its Christian roots and now embraces girls of all heritages. You can still get your Religion in Life badge… But it can be in any religion that you either participate in, or want to study. Including no religion at all. I love that all girls of all families and backgrounds are welcome.
Girl Guides is wonderfully socially forward thinking! And places a huge emphasis on the environment and on science. I really love that there are more science badges available to my girls than for crafting! Doilies, move over for wildlife ecology.
Community service, camping, and camaraderie continue to be incorporated in both Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. These are all timeless, wonderful values to teach to our children. And they are the things I love most about both of the organizations.
Back to our family: The girls have been going to Sparks, and now Brownies, for three years. They just loved it. They have always had other girls of color in their group, which is no small feat in our local heterogeneous population. We have been blessed with leaders that have wanted to camp and take the girls on field trips… This year they have been painting fish on sewer drains, making art the gallery, showing off their pets at the meeting place, and camping in both winter and spring. Fabulous.
This weekend the girls are off at a weekend camp with their friends. You can see the enthusiasm on their faces and their excitement at the Hawaiian theme!
Even though Girl Guides have changed since my time, and certainly since my great grandmother’s time, some things remain the same. I can tell you that it does my heart good to tick off sit-apons, camp blankets, and flashlights on their camp kit lists. Rolling up sleeping bags gives me overwhelming feelings of nostalgia. And all the traditions of singing songs, walking around toadstools, and even doing up camp dishes remind me of the wonderful times I had in Brownies when I was their age.
Maybe my grandchildren will be involved in Girl Guides or Boy Scouts when they get older, too.
But who knows then what some of the badges will be? Teleportation? Design for 3-D printers? Or grinding your own grains?