Membership in organizations and clubs often teach kids just as much as official school activities
When we think about learning, we may think about classrooms. But just as much of the childhood learning experience happens outside those four walls as inside. We spoke with representatives of popular organizations to give you the lowdown on what they’re about, what’s involved, and what your children could learn from being a part of them.
Girl Guides of Canada
What it is A leader in providing the widest range of activities for girls, Girl Guides is an all-access pass that lets girls try it all, with the kinds of enriching experiences and activities that will stay with them for a lifetime. The program has eight areas, and each one is split into three themes.
Who Age ranges for each branch are as follows: Sparks, 5-6; Brownies, 7-8; Guides, 9-12; Pathfinders, 12-14; and Rangers,15-17. In the Ottawa area, 2,530 were registered for the 2020-2021 guiding year. “If she likes to try new activities, learn from her successes and failures, build new skills, and experience the thrill of figuring things out herself, she should try Girl Guides,” says Lisa Nicholas, provincial commissioner with Girl Guides of Canada. “In a girls-only, pro-girl environment, she’s ready to take the kinds of safe, age-appropriate risks that parents are comfortable with, and that build confident girls.”
There’s plenty of evidence that girls shine in a girls-only, girl-friendly and girl-driven space such as Girl Guides, says Melissa Martin, provincial commissioner with Girl Guides of Canada. “Girls in Girl Guides get access to a supportive, safe space where they can try new things, figure out their leadership style, bond with other girls and just be themselves, all with the support of positive female role models. It’s an environment where girls feel free to talk openly about their experiences, thoughts and feelings—knowing they won’t be judged and don’t have to hold back. In Girl Guides, she’ll be encouraged to develop the kind of leadership skills that make it easier for her to speak up in class and advocate for herself and others in the world. She’ll also bond with other girls her age and develop healthy relationship skills that can help her excel in every area of her life, including at home and at school.”
Activities From science and technology to arts and culture, outdoor adventures, community service and so much more, the hands-on experience girls have in Girl Guides spark their interest in self-discovery and in the greater world, giving girls the confidence to become everything she wants to be, says Nicholas. “Girls have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of topics under each of the eight program areas. After they’ve identified their interests, they can start getting hands-on in experiments, games, arts and crafts, leadership exercises and more.”
Skills taught They’ll discover the great outdoors and the impact they can have on the environment; explore science and technology; make their community a better place; learn life skills such as financial literacy and healthy relationships in a fun and engaging way; and develop an understanding of the issues that impact girls and women around the world. “As girls explore, experiment, design and create through the wide variety of activities they do in Girl Guides, she’ll develop the kinds of 21st century skills that can help her to succeed in the industries of tomorrow,” says Martin.
Time commitment Meetings run once a week for 1-2 hours, depending on the age of the group.
Cost Membership fees vary across the country. In Ontario, the annual membership fee is $175. Some units collect weekly dues to cover incidental costs of running the unit. The uniform consists of a short sleeve t-shirt ($21.95) or long sleeve tunic ($25.95), an optional badge sash ($9.95) and optional tie ($10.95).
PULLQUOTE “Girl Guides can help your daughter form real, meaningful friendships with other girls her own age, based on shared experiences and achievements… and in a judgement-free, all-girl space like Girl Guides, girls develop the kind of peer network that helps them soar in whatever path they choose.” – Lisa Nicholas
What it is The Cadet Program is a youth organization for 12 to 18-year-olds who want to experience challenges in a safe and healthy environment while having the opportunity to make friends. Through unique and meaningful activities, youth will develop in a peer-led program and become leaders and active citizens in their community.
Who The Cadet Program is open to all youth between the ages of 12 and 18. In the Ottawa and St. Lawrence area, there are 22 corps and squadrons (nine Army Cadet Corps, four Sea Cadet Corps, and nine Air Cadet Squadrons) that include close to 2,000 cadets from all elements. Across Canada, the Cadet Program hosts close to 46,000 cadets from nearly 1,100 corps and squadrons located in over 800 communities. “The Cadet Program allows youth to develop and improve their interpersonal skills,” says Capt. Lissa Rivet, public affairs officer, regional cadet support unit (eastern) of the Canadian Armed Forces. “Through activities and mentoring, these youth come out of their shells and become accomplished young leaders.”
Activities Cadets of all elements will be introduced to leadership, community activities, sports and Canadian Armed Forces familiarization activities (such as military drill and activities related to CAF members). There are also opportunities for youth to learn music, biathlon and marksmanship. In addition to these activities offered to all element, each element will provide the youth with the opportunity to develop specific skills.
Sea Cadets will discover sailing and have opportunities at sea with internships on ships, learning about navigation and learning about various maritime activities such as seamanship and radio communication.
Army Cadets will develop leadership skills through the various expedition opportunities, which include hiking, mountain biking and canoeing.
Air Cadets will develop their knowledge in the field of aviation and aerospace. Youth will have the opportunity to live familiarization flights in gliders and airplanes and will be introduced to airport operations and aircraft maintenance. They will also learn about space highlights, Canadian contributions to space, survival in the wilderness and develop the skills necessary to build shelters, makeshift items and more.
Skills taught Through principle of youth leading youth, cadets learn leadership, teamwork, responsibility and communication skills. “As cadets progress in the Cadet Program, they gain confidence in their roles and will eventually be able to not only lead a group, but also plan activities and become responsible for projects within their corps or squadron,” says Rivet. “Cadets will also become active members of the community with their volunteer activities. Many develop a sense of civic responsibility and understand the importance of giving back as a result of participating in the Cadet Program.” Cadets will also develop more hands-on skills depending on the activities they develop in, Rivet adds. “Some will earn their pilot wings, others will have sailing qualifications certified by Sailing Canada, some will become accomplished musicians. The skills developed within the program are numerous and many are transferable to everyday life.”
Cost There is no cost to parents or cadets to participate in regional, national or summer camp activities. There is no charge for the uniform, but cadets are responsible for its care.
The rest of the Cadet Program activities are funded by the Department of National Defence in partnership with the Navy League of Canada, the Army Cadet League of Canada, the Air Cadet League of Canada, which are civilian organizations.
Social @cadetsca, @OntCadets and @QuebecCadets
“My closest friends in the world were members of my squadron with me. I even met my spouse through one of them. It was 20 years last November that I joined 872 and that means that it has been 20 years that I have been lucky enough to call myself a friend of some very successful people in the public service, the military, and the private sector.” – Captain James Woods, Commanding Officer of 872 Kiwanis Kanata Squadron
Navy League Cadets
What it is The Navy League of Canada provides most of its services through its 260 local branches, promoting Maritime Affairs by supporting Canada’s youth through maritime-themed programs. “The Navy League is a civilian organization that aims to help young Canadians learn life skills including citizenship, teamwork and self-discipline,” says Marc Viau, director at large, Navy League of Canada-Ontario Division and director of communications, Ottawa Branch.
Who There are two separate programs: the Navy League Cadets, for youth aged 9 to 12, and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet program, for youth aged 12 to 18, which is delivered in partnership with the Department of National Defence. There are more than 3,000 Navy League Cadets active in over 100 communities across Canada, and 54 cadets on the roll for NLCC Vice Admiral Kingsmill (Ottawa’s Navy League Cadet Corps for youth aged 9 to 12), says Viau. “We take many kids at many ages who all have different interests, but the courses we offer are designed to appeal to all youth of all backgrounds. Our aim is to foster diversity where and whenever possible.”
Activities Typical activities would include sailing, camping, swimming, music, sports, parades, first-aid, water safety, communications, and trips. During the summer months, cadets also take part in on-the-water training aboard our flagship, the Navy League Vessel Howard.
Skills taught Cadets are taught life skills, including leadership, communication, cooperation, problem-solving, as well as skills people typically associate with being a cadet: boating, signals, sailing, etc. “Cadets walk away with a sense of accomplishment, learning something new every single week,” says Viau. “What youth take away from our programs is not necessarily the skills themselves, but rather the overall discipline, leadership, confidence, and citizenship that come along with them. Cadets are encouraged to stick with the programs from an early age into young adulthood—that is not matched anywhere.”
Time commitment One evening a week; however, should they elect to participate in extracurricular activities within the programs, they may meet several times a week, says Viau.
Cost The Navy League of Canada funds the Navy League Cadet program, which means there is zero cost associated.
The Navy League of Canada https://navyleague.ca/
The Navy League of Canada, Ottawa Branch https://www.ottawanavyleague.org/
NLCC Vice Admiral Kingsmill https://www.kingsmillcadets.org/
PULLQUOTE “We teach our youth the skills needed to succeed in any career imaginable… The leadership and confidence that make our cadets better citizens will also serve them in competition for any job in any field. We nurture these qualities in our cadets so they can find success in whatever they choose to do.” – Marc Viau
What it is Junior Achievement (JA) is world’s largest not-for-profit organization that equips young people to make better financial choices, start a business and chart a career path. Affiliated with JA Canada, Junior Achievement (JA) Ottawa was established in 2012 and operates through the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE), a non-profit charitable organization that collaborates with community partners and works side-by-side with educators to bring innovative and essential programs into schools to address critical issues, provide students from kindergarten to Grade 12 with the additional support they need to succeed, and prepare them for post-secondary studies and fulfilling careers.
Who JA Ottawa reached 9,713 students, year to date, through a variety of programs and events, says Albert Wong, director of JA Ottawa. The virtual program has allowed for more students to be reached. In Winter 2021, 110 high school students, from more than 30 high schools, created 11 businesses with the guidance from over 30 volunteer mentors from the business community.
Skills taught JA Ottawa teaches financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills to youth through various programs and events, says Wong. Volunteers from Ottawa’s business community and post-secondary institutions lead interactive learning activities for students in Grades 7 to 12, teaching entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and work readiness skills by giving students real-world tasks like goal setting, building a personal budget, exploring interests and career pathways, and working with a team to start a small business.
Activities JA Ottawa’s programs are targeted to youth from grades 7 to 12. Day programs include Dollars with Sense (Grade 7), which teaches personal money management skills, financial and money management concepts and about protecting money, fraud and investments; Economics for Success (Grade 8), which teaches critical thinking, problem solving and independent living skills; and Personal Finance (Grades 9 to 12), which teaches personal money management skills like spending wisely, budgeting, saving, and using credit.
Events include World of Choices, an experiential learning opportunity that connects students to the world of work by engaging with employers directly.
JA Company is a 12-to-16-week program that supports high school students in starting their own business. Volunteers from the local business community work with students to launch and run a small enterprise. This gives students the real-world skills and experience that they need to achieve their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs.
JA also has digital programs on a readily accessible, easy-to-use learning management platform which uses slides, videos, online activities, and games to teaches students from Grades 3 to 12 about financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Online JA programs can be self-directed or facilitated by a teacher or parent.
Cost Both in-class and online programs are free, thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors and community partners.