keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Everything is more fun with flames

Fun night at Guides this week, as we did a bit of outdoor cooking over the fire – and because everything is better when you get to play with flames, all the girls had a great time :)

We split the girls up into Juniors and Seniors, although on reflection, I think we ended up with groups that were a bit large for the task – perhaps patrols would have been more effective.

Still, it worked well. We asked all the girls to bring some kindling (and about a third of them did, which given our very urban setting is not too bad), and we also decided to “throw money at the problem” (my favourite personal problem-solving strategy, although not one I use at Guides very often!), and called into our local hardware superstore to pick up one bag of ‘kindling’ (which was more like small wood than true kindling, but oh well), and one bag of reasonably sized logs. AwesomeCoLeader also raided her work stash of old newspapers and managed to bring A LOT of old papers which made things much much easier!!

It was also a night which showed the benefits of having enough equipment, and the right mix of equipment. We had oodles of boxes of matches, which meant that the Juniors could ALL sit together and have a box of matches to practice with, while we made the older girls negotiate to share two boxes between them.

In recent times, we’ve come up with a practical way to build safe, contained, and easily clean-up-able fires in our broader hall area. Most of the space we have access to is concreted or paved, and isn’t “ours” (its a church hall and grounds, not a Guides specific facility), so we need to not leave a mess. And yet, cooking on fires is inevitably messy, so what to do? Our strategy has been to invest in some heavy duty foil roasting trays (about A3 size), and set the fires in these. We’ve also added some ‘feet’ in the form of cheap pavers which elevate the fire off the ground/pavement, reducing the chance of scorching, and also improving airflow to the fire. The roasting trays generally will last 2-3 fires before they need to be thrown out. They’re not as solid as if we had a half-drum to cook in, but they’re a lot easier to store and transport!

For the Senior Guides, we added the complexity of the grill tray we purchased a while ago (one of these:, which meant that they had to ensure their fire was going sufficiently to be able to heat the grill, and keep heating the grill for the full cooking time, without easily being able to stoke the fire (due to the tight angles and tricky access once the grill is over the top of the fires).

All the girls cooked chocolate in bananas, which was perfect in terms of being something that even if it didn’t cook through it would still taste good, it was easy to make (even for the 6 year olds), and it would actually have a fighting chance of cooking in the time we had available – after all, an hour and a half to discuss, set fires, get them to cooking stage and properly lit, cook food, tidy up… it was always going to be a stretch! 

So, all in all, it was a good night. The girls all got to have a proper go with the fires, and almost all of them enjoyed the bananas. Even one of our fussy Guides was overheard telling one of the other girls “just try it, you might like it, it tastes BETTER cooked on the fire!”. More amusingly, one of our newbies (all of 3 weeks in) said THIS IS THE BEST NIGHT AT GUIDES EVER, which is very sweet, although possibly not the most data-grounded claim in history :)

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Visitors! (And some music)

Exciting times this week, as our little tiny Rangers unit was visited by a group of Canadian Rangers! World Guiding come to life, right in our little hall… or at least, in the kitchen where most of the action was!

But back to the beginning, and usual Guides -

As part of our Arts Explore-A-Challenge badge the girls worked in patrols to make musical instruments out of recycled materials (brought from home by those who remembered) (so not many!), plus a bunch of ‘stuff’ from the stash (pipe cleaners, wooden skewers, plastic straws…), and some dried lentils which proved to be a right pest as of course they ended up everywhere!

During the week, AwesomeCoLeader and I had both ended up watching Life at 9, which included a focus on how some kids struggle with creativity, as so many activities are so structured that they don’t get the chance to practice thinking widely. Not sure our little night of kid-directed creation of instruments would have made a huge difference to their total creativity quotient, but hey, it can’t have hurt! It was also a good opportunity to get in some patrol time, particularly helpful given we have a couple of newbies – all three new kids this term have decided to join, so its great to get them settled :)

Anyhoo, I had to leave my very capable co-leaders and duck out early to join our extended Rangers meeting, which included our visitors from Canada! I’d responded to a little blurb in the local leader’s newsletter looking to connect, and two weeks later, TA DA! International Guiding, on our doorstep!

To give a little structure to the evening – and to show what our Rangers girls usually do – we had all the girls – local and visitors – pile into the kitchen and make ANZAC biscuits and simple lamingtons, which worked really well. It gave the girls something to do, which meant then that conversation flowed freely and easily… as well as having the sideline benefit of introducing the Canadian girls to two delicious Australian treats :)

We also had the younger Guides put on a performance using their recycled instruments for the visitors, so the younger girls also got ‘proof’ that there was indeed Guides from far away ‘right there’ – which apparently they were rather unconvinced about ;)

Overall, it was a brilliant night, with lots of gossip, lots of swapping of badges, and sharing of what is similar and different about Australian and Canadian Guiding. I hope the visiting girls had as great a time as our girls did :)

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Make new friends…

As one of my favourite campfire songs goes:

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold. A circle is round. It has no end. That’s how long I want to be your friend.

So in honour of the ‘International Day Of Friendship’ (which was apparently today), we had a ‘friendship’ themed night, which mainly focused on getting the girls to learn a bit more about each other, and particularly, get to know a bit more about someone they don’t usually spend much time with.

We started out with a game of musical chairs (I’m sure when we did the program that had a particular purpose, but for the life of me I could not remember what it was tonight so… we just played musical chairs. It did work nicely as an icebreaker!), and then had a game of ‘stacks’, where everyone has a chair in a circle, and as certain things are called out, if you fit the criteria, you have to move the assigned number of seats, and if someone is already sitting there, just sit on top of them! So ‘criteria’ were things like “if you have a brother, move five spots to the right”, “if you like spaghetti bolognaise, move 3 spots to the left”, “if you are a Junior Guide, move 2 spots left” etc etc. Our tallest stack was five kids deep at one point, which caused much hilarity :)

Next we had the girls all choose a partner – with the stipulation that it had to be someone they didn’t know well, didn’t see outside of Guides, didn’t go to school with, and preferably was from the other section (i.e. prefer Juniors paired with Seniors, rather than two Juniors in a pair). The pairs then had three minutes to find three things they had in common, and then share one of those things with the group as a whole.

Those pairs then became part of the next game, which had the smaller of the two pair members in an inner circle, and the taller in an outer circle, each going in a different direction when instructed, before having to suddenly find each other and have the little one sit on the bigger one’s knee, with the last pair to find each other being eliminated. Again, not a lot of *point*, but a lot of fun, and it did get them out of their usual cosy pairs of “besties”.

Finally, we had a little craft/experiment activity, which AwesomeCoLeader had found online, where the girls each had a little flower template to cut out (about five cms across in total), and wrote in the centre one quality that makes a good friend. The petals were then decorated, and folded in, before all being dropped into a dish of water, to, we hoped, open up gently to reveal their words of wisdom. And score, it actually worked! Which had the girls all very excited, as they tried to read what each other had written, and then made a few extra suggestions of words that should be on the list.

So, a good night. We even had two newbies join us who seemed to have a lovely time – one an older sister of a current Guide (unusual, we often get little sisters joining, but big sisters are usually far too cool to want to do their baby sister’s activity!), and one a friend of TinyGuide, who joined in even though TinyGuide was away sick, and was super keen to come back next week and order uniform!

Floating friendship flowers:




Faith and service: exploring the serious side of Guiding

A fantastic day out yesterday, helping around 12 Guides to give service and explore their understanding of faith, and explore the serious side of Guiding in a fun way.

We started the day with an hour and a half of helping out at National Tree Day in a local park, digging holes (with a cool pogo-stick-esq digger) and planting some native grasses along a river bed. The girls all got really into the activity, and luckily the weather was on our side, all bright blue skies which always makes things easier!

The girls really worked well together, with groups of three working on the digging (the digger really needed two to hold steady and one to jump), and being a bit creative in their problem solving around how to get the stakes into the ground (thump it with a stray rock being vastly more efficient than other possibly less injury-prone strategies) (no fingers were harmed in the thumping of stakes!).

After our time planting, we had a mini-change of the guard, with three girls heading off, and two others joining us for the second part of the day, which was exploring places of faith.

Following much wrangling of public transport (train stations are ALWAYS further on foot than they appear on a map!) (especially with 8 year olds busy gossiping rather than moving quick smart!) we made it up to the inner northern suburb of Coburg, where we visited a local mosque, and were given a tour and a brief overview of Islam by some of the mosque’s volunteers, who were all so lovely to the girls – just delighted to show off their mosque and de-mystify their faith. The girls were all facinated by the beautifully decorated Qurans, and were decidedly taken by the lovely dense carpet (many patterns were drawn on the thick pile while listening!). But of course, the thing that really caught their eye? The fact that the mosque had a table tennis table set up in the community room! Heh.

We then had a short break for lunch at  Lebanese restaurant, where the girls feasted on pita bread, dips, salads, and meat. Even FussyEaterGuide managed to find things she enjoyed (pita, hummous, chicken), and for all her fussy eater status, she did have a tiny try of everything, and even agreed that tabouli was “not tooooo bad”. Success! A few more years in Guides and she may even branch out into non-white-food options!

After lunch, we headed back to the city to visit a synagogue. In what turned out to be a stroke of luck, we missed the opening hours of the synagogue by five minutes, but the door was still open. So I went in and apologised profusely for our tardiness and wondered if the girls might have a quick two minute look and then head off? Well, it turned out the Rabbi was still around, and was DELIGHTED to give the girls a private tour and talk (and even show off blowing the new year’s horn), so rather than be in a big group with other people for the open day, they had all their questions answered and tailored attention! Super lucky!

Finally, we had half an hour to check out Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral, which despite being only a five minute walk from my work I’d never been inside – well, it was beautiful, all soaring vaults and stained glass, just gorgeous.

So all in all, we had a great day, giving the girls a wider understanding of faiths in their city, and hopefully giving them a chance to see that there are people of good will and friendliness from many backgrounds. If only we’d had time to fit in a visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples as well to really broaden the experience… perhaps that can be on the agenda for next year!

Overall, I think the day helped our girls meet their Australian Girl Guides Promise to “serve my community and Australia” and “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”… and tick off a couple of clauses in a few badges as well!


Ahh, THAT’S better!

Week two back in our old hall and several times last night I just looked around with a contented grin.

The kids were running about in happy chaos to begin, with impromptu games of tiggy and skipping and soccer, as well as little gossipy groups forming and re-forming as new people joined, or as others got distracted and joined in the games. A really happy sight, after months of being cooped up in the teeny space where we couldn’t get out the balls and skipping ropes, and running around wasn’t really an option.

I find that a few minutes of this unstructured fun seems to open up the friendship groups a little, as the girls come in to the hall in dribs and drabs, and join in as the wish, the older ones (who are “too cool” to skip) getting talked into playing by the littlies, and loving it.

The activities for the night were to be run by girls working on their JBP or BP Awards (or other badges if they wished), and several of them had indeed been organised enough to have a clear idea of what activity they wanted to run, and had brought along the right equipment, and had clear instructions (not always the case on these evenings!!). So we had a lovely night of girl-led Guiding, which included the older girls practicing and performing skits, all the girls learning a game called ‘High Five’ (a Canadian Guide game), and a morse code activity using a torch to signal the dots and dashes. The girls were almost all really well behaved during the activities, and responded well when the leaders said “right, [kid A] is running this activity, so you need to listen to her”.

We also had a quick game of Kim’s Game (with separate challenges for the Juniors and Seniors), and AwesomeCoLeader and I had a bit of a chat to the new crop of Juniors Patrol Leaders and Seconders about Appropriate Behaviour as PLs and PS’s. Our new seconders were all SUPER EXCITED to have been chosen, and it will be interesting to see if they rise to the challenge… two of the three new seconders are our more… hmm… ‘exuberant’ group members, and it will be interesting to see if this new responsiblity will help settle them!

Finally, after Guides, I had the first Rangers night for the term. During the “cross over”, I had them do the craft activity which was originally meant to be part of ‘Christmas in June’ late last term (making teeny christmas trees), and discuss what to do for the rest of the term. When I joined them later, we then put some time into plotting out options for our next meeting in particular, as we are being visited by some Canadian Rangers, which is pretty exciting!  

So, all in all, a really lovely evening.

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Back to it!

And we’re back for term three.

A mixed first night – we were back in our old hall, which has a GORGEOUS new floor, and we can finally use ALL the space again (which we have not had for nearly a year), so the temptation just to run around in glee was pretty strong!

This term we’ll have both Juniors and Seniors working on The Arts Explore-A-Challenge badge, and to start that off we had a night focused on ‘storytelling and singing’. Activities included sharing stories of the holidays (with the introduction “Once Upon A Time, In The Holidays, I…”), followed by some campfire songs with a ‘story’ theme – firstly The Bear, which is a ‘repeat after me’ type song, and then ‘Quartermaster’s Store’, using the variation where you sing a kid’s name, e.g. “There was Jessie, Jessie, being very Messy in the Store, in the Store…” – we asked the kid being sung about to get up and ‘do the action’, which… kinda worked. Unfortunately it all went on too long as I forgot to say “we won’t get to everyone”, so when I tried to wrap it up when they were getting fidgetty, the kids who had not yet been mentioned were all HEY WHAT ABOUT ME?!, so it dragged on well beyond the tolerance point of most. And finally we tried out another ‘story’ song, a variation on ‘Found a Peanut’, where the girls call out variations and the song develops gradually – this time we all ended up dead from the peanut.

Our plans to play ‘fortunately/unfortunately’ (a short story telling game) were waylaid by their getting fidgetty, so a quick change of plans and embracing of the lovely big hall meant games of ‘Fruit Salad’, gang tiggy, and scarecrow tiggy.

Finally, we gave the girls all the program for the term, and explained about the various excursions and camps on offer.

So, we’re back. Not the most AH-MAY-ZING first night ever, but turn up was good, the kids were happy to see us, and our hall is back to its lovely giant old self :)

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Catching up

Well, this has been a poor neglected little blog these last few weeks. Suffice to say life has been a bit full of late with both work and personal life a little busy, and guiding and the blog has had to take a back seat!

So, lets catch up the last few weeks.

Firstly, we had a ‘codetastic’ sleepover with 14 kids from our unit, and 7 from sister unit. It was awful cold and rainy day which made things a bit of a challenge – the intended plan of having each of four patrols light fires to cook their afternoon tea didn’t happen! But we did manage to get one fire going, although it took so long (it really had rained hard, and the wood was soaked through!), that we ended up having the ‘apple crisps’ as dessert instead of afternoon tea!

The wide game for the sleepover was unfortunately not as successful as previous ones, mainly as the slightly more free-form concept of ‘do the activities in any order’ seemed to confuse the girls – they couldn’t keep up with what they were up to. I think if I did that kind of strategy again, I would add a checklist for them to tick off as they went, so they could keep track. The activities themselves seemed quite successful – they included making a shelter, following compass instructions, decoding some fairly complicated codes, and doing puzzles.

Overall, it was reasonably successful (despite the rain), and the girls all seemed to have fun – it was also great to see the girls from both our unit and sister unit blending together so well – by the end, they’d all meshed in together :) Also realised that one of the girls from Sister Unit is old enough for Rangers (although wants to wait until next year), so that is exciting.

Back to normal Guides – last week I (and three lovely mums who responded to our pleas for extra adults!) took the Senior Guides to the local supermarket on the tram to purchase ingredients for the final night’s cooking. It was part of the Lifeskills badge, with the girls having planned the recipes the week before (including budgeting), and then travelling via public transport to get the groceries, and then this week cooking the food.

The girls were all pretty good, although I suspect a bit more cheeky than they would usually be if their mums were not around!!

Finally, this week (final night of term), the Junior Guides had a ‘bathroom’ night as part of their Homes badge, which included a towel turban relay (quite hilarious!), and a bathroom themed version of The Chocolate Game, which had the girls dressing up in a bathrobe and shower cap when they rolled a six.

The Seniors, meanwhile, did their planned cooking – chocolate balls for one patrol, and chocolate cake for the other (bit of a chocolate theme for the last night of term!). Unfortunately for the chocolate cake girls, the oven was broken – the pilot light was out, and we could not get it restarted! So we attempted a bit of alternative cooking methodology, doing some in cupcake cases in the microwave (which looked like it worked, but actually resulted in burnt cupcakes), and some in a slice tray floating in a larger tray full of water, which we boiled on the stove, bain-marie style. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, and it didn’t quite cook, but I think given an extra 30 minutes or so it would have worked, perhaps with a bit of foil over the top to seal in the steam and cook from above as well as below. It was rather fun though, trying to figure out emergency cooking alternatives!

Finally to close out the term we had a Promise ceremony for two girls who joined us towards the end of first term, and a Promise renewal for three girls moving up to Senior Guides, which is always lovely. One of the girls moving up has been with us for more than three years in Juniors, and has been a really fabulous an enthusiastic Guide right from the start – it will be fantastic to have her in Seniors, although it does make me feel old!

And finally finally we had Rangers – four of the five girls came along for ‘Christmas in June’ which was meant to be both crafts and cooking but ended up all cooking as they futzed about and ran out of time! Still, the ginger cookies (which had to be emergency ‘baked’ on the bbq due to the same oven issues the Senior Guides had) turned out edible (although much more like ‘ginger crumbles’ than ‘ginger cookies’), and the non-alcoholic mulled wine was a great success. They all had fun, and seemed keen to be back next term, so all is well.

Non-alcoholic mulled wine:

1 litre orange juice

1 bottle sparkling grape juice

2 cinnamon sticks

5-10 cloves

1 cup of sugar

peel of one orange

flesh of one orange cut finely


Put all ingredients in a large pot or kettle, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain and serve into glasses or mugs. Enjoy!


IKEA’ing it up

Just a quick recap of this week’s adventures – an evening spent with the rangers group, doing a scavenger hunt at our local ikea!

Super easy night for the leaders – hand over the instructions, and let the girls go! They had to find a bunch of things, and come up with a couple of ideas – like “something to use as a mascot for rangers” – which if they’d really got into something I would have bought, but given they did a half hearted choosing of a smiling cloud stuffed toy with the half-hearted explanation of “oh it seemed… happy?”, I figured we wouldn’t waste our money at this point!

More successful was “find the quirkiest object” (winner was an odd-shaped trivet), find at least 10 things with product names starting with ‘R’, and find 3 things that were exactly 180cms wide/tall/long (all Besta in the end… to my chagrin, I failed to include “must be from different series” in the instructions, but I suppose part of the fun is finding the loopholes!). They also found the three objects that I’d given product names for, although it came out after a couple of giggles and guilty looks that one of them had whipped out her phone to help them identify what they were looking for!

All in all, a fun night out, and quite nice to have an evening just with the ‘old’ girls :)

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Team guiding

Quiet night for me last night, as my two excellent co-leaders ran the main activities without me. Its lovely to occasionally take a back step :)

We also had two very excellent helpers – a Mum who offered to stick around and help out (and who is also happy to help next week when we’ll be down on numbers, yay!), and one of our Rangers who emailed me late in the day to ask if she could come and help, even though it wasn’t a Rangers night! Excellent stuff, looks like we may have a junior leader on our hands.

Awesome CoLeader took the Juniors upstairs for a night of “tv skits”, for the ‘lounge room’ portion of the Homes badge. Apparently the girls had a marvellous time playing with the dress ups several of them brought along, although I gather the intended ‘world guiding’ theme didn’t *quite* come through. Perhaps the younger ones just aren’t quite there in terms of their ‘world view’ yet – some of them seem to struggle even with the concept that there are other Guides in our district, never mind further afield! Ah well, a project for another day :)

Meanwhile, YoungCoLeader had the Seniors re-learning tracking signs, using glow sticks to make trails for each other to followin the dark. It worked brilliantly, and the girls had a great time, I think in a weird way enhanced by the fact that it was raining a little, so there was a slight element of  ‘ooh I don’t usually get to be out in the dark in the rain’ added to the activity.

While each of the patrols was laying trails, I chatted to the ‘other’ patrol about possible options for next term, and had a bit of a look through the badge books for things that interested them. Seems like the badge best aligned to their interests is the Explore A Challenge: The Arts, so I guess us leaders will need to take a closer look at that one in the next few weeks and see if its viable.

Finally, to round out the night we had an extra Promise ceremony for our teeniest Guide, who was ill at the start of term when she was due to make her Promise, and will be at a school event at our next scheduled ceremony! She’s such a littlie that to pin on her badge and shake hands properly, I had to kneel down :)

Next week – I’m not going to usual Guides, as I’m having a night focused on the Rangers, doing a wide game at our local IKEA – should be fun!

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Less chaotic girl-led guiding!

An easy night for leaders this week, as a night focused on JBP award activities meant a night of girl-led activities – but thankfully, with less chaos than our last attempt!

This time, the main activity was a wide game entirely organised by one of the Senior guides. She had specifically asked last term for “about half a night” to run her game, and then arranged last week to arrive 30 minutes early this week to set up, which she did with an assist from her little sister, and a tiny bit of a “okay, so what needs to go where? Right, so lets gather those bits and place them first” type direction from me, but really, it was 99.95% her. Not bad for a kid barely 11!

And it all worked brilliantly! I can’t fault her organisation, it was very impressive – she had organised ‘patrols’ (different to our usuals), thinking about what might be a useful mix of ages and abilities, and had come up with a clever story for the game – the recycling bin had been misplaced, so the girls had to do a series of challenges to collect and sort the recycling items she’d left all around, and using them in a series of activities, including ‘getting across the river’ and ‘building an animal’. She also had put together individual clues and packs for each of the patrols… all in all, a fabulous mini wide game, and a total credit to her :)

So what is the lesson from all that? Girl-led guiding CAN work really well, but perhaps it works best when you have only a few girls trying to share their vision, rather than patrols and units worth of kids all trying to get their time to shine at once!

After that, we had a short presentation from one of the other girls working towards her JBP – less interactive, but another good job done – looks like we’re on track to have several girls getting their awards by the end of the year!

Finally, AwesomeCoLeader pulled “the postbox game” out of her box of tricks, which involved having three girls moving around and hiding, one holding paper, another ‘stamps’, and another the ‘mailbox’ – the other girls had to find the paper, stamp, and mailbox in the right order – kept everyone happily occupied for 25 minutes, and could have gone longer. Would be a great one for on camp with a larger area, and perhaps a few more steps involved!

To round out the night, I took the Rangers girls – unfortunately only two of them due to several late drop outs – but we had fun. Used an idea I spotted online a while ago on one of the Canadian guide blogs about using bleach to ‘paint’ designs on dark tshirts… (was it you? Please let me know so I can give proper credit!). Anyway, they both bought a cheap tshirt along, and the bleach worked brilliantly! Interestingly, on the navy blue tee, the bleach resulted in pink patterns, while on the black tee, the bleach came out as various shades of orange. One of the girls suggested that we should use the same technique to make a Rangers flag – sounds like a great idea for next term :)




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