keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Close with a campfire

A lovely final night of term this evening, as we had a campfire (sadly switched to indoor with candles due to weather), toasted marshmallows (not quite as good with candles, but still tasty!), and Promise Ceremonies for three new Guides.

We started out with the ‘campfire’, which was quite nice. We had about 7 candles lit in the middle of the circle, and all the lights off, so it was quite atmospheric, even in the hall. We started, of course, with ‘Campfire’s Burning’, and included a bunch of favourites including ‘Yogi Bear’, ‘Edelweiss’, ‘Found a Peanut’, and ‘Everywhere We Go’. We finished up with a lovely quiet and slightly introspective ‘Canadian Vespers’. There is something rather lovely about having had enough of the unit be with us long enough (and for the various songs to be repeated often enough) that we don’t need to teach all the songs each time, that they can just start singing.

We were joined by several newbies – one on ‘week three’ of coming to visit (and in uniform!), another on ‘week two’ and asking about forms, and two sisters who were apparently very keen (co-leader spoke to them), and said they’ll see us next term! Given we’re just about to lose two girls to moving house out of the area, a two-for-one replacement rate isn’t too bad :)

We finished off the term and the night with a Promise ceremony for three girls (two juniors, one senior), and one Promise renewal, for a girl moving up to Seniors. There is such a nice continuity with the ceremonies and traditions, it seems to anchor the group, and also highlights to the girls and the families that we are trying to do something more than just fun… even if that is the most important thing!

So, a two week break before we’re back to it – switching from this term’s focus on The Arts, to next term’s topic of Science and Technology :)

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Guide-directed Guiding

An easy night this week for the leaders, as the girls working towards their Junior BP and BP Award as took on the challenge of running various activities.

Firstly, a couple of girls formally presented on adventurous outdoor activities they’d done as part of a camp run by another unit in the region – one presented on canoeing, one on raft construction and (semi!) use. After the proper presentation part, the other girls who had attended the camp (7 of them – about a quarter of the group!) all jumped in with their various exciting experiences at the camp, which seems to have been a great success. I think the seven of them would have nattered about the camp all night if we’d let them!

(As an aside: how excellent are Guide leaders who are able and willing to run a camp for more than just their unit?! I’m not really an outdoor adventure camping kind of leader, so its just fantastic that my Guides can still get those experiences because others are willing to open up opportunities!!)

We then split into Juniors and Seniors, with the Juniors heading outside to do two mini wide games as designed and run by two different girls. One had a recycling theme, and the other involved hunting for pictures of a sausage dog. For nine and eight year olds respectively, the preparation and thinking they’d put into their activities were very impressive!

Meanwhile, the Seniors and I were in the hall as one of the girls ran an activity which involved both patrols using a certain mix of the contents of our sports equipment box to design a new game each, and then teach it to the other patrol. It was a reasonable activity, but could have done with a bit more pre-planning – there seemed to be quite a few elements that were added spontaneously! Ah well, as readers of this blog will recognise, I’m hardly in a position to critique people changing plans on the fly!

Next week: final night of term, which will include a ‘proper’ campfire (weather permitting!), and a Promise ceremony for our newbies, including a renewal for one of our keenest Guides to move up from Juniors to Seniors.


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Sewing peaceful guides

A lovely quiet, calm, and useful night at Guides last night, as YoungCoLeader and I taught/facilitated the Junior Guides with sewing. Most of the girls had brought along their sashes, badges, blankets or bags and so had a ‘project’ to work on. The few that didn’t have anything of their own to sew helped add to the ‘unit’ blanket I’ve started for just such a reason, and which now has our unit name in (slightly wonky) felt letters across the middle, to add to the patchwork shapes sewn on last year – an on-theme trefoil and a random rainbow striped heart!

YoungCoLeader is very patient and methodical in teaching skills like sewing, so she quickly set up in a space with girls who didn’t know what they were doing and gave them very detailed instructions on how to thread the needles, and how to do a basic stich. Unfortunately, being quite a proficient sewer herself, she told the girls they didn’t really need to knot the ends of their threads, which is certainly true once you know what you’re doing, but possibly isn’t the most practical of instructions for seven year olds who’ve never tried to sew before! Ah well, it did give them practice at threading the needles!

Meanwhile, I floated around, providing advice on “what to do next”, “how do I sew in the middle of my blanket?” and “uh oh I sewed together both sides of my bag…”.


After about 40 minutes, three of the girls got a bit bored and started up a game off in the corner – I would have let this go, but a running game when other people are using scissors and needles isn’t a great plan! So I made the three of them sit down, each with a different age handbook, and said “I haven’t had a chance to look through these properly, could you all please have a look and see if there is a fun game we could play?” which, amazingly, they got right into! After a few minutes, I headed back over and asked if they’d found anything, only to be informed “there’s no games!!” “oh, drat… well, are there any cool activities that might be fun?” “Yes!!” and they proceeded to show me instructions on making a plaited friendship bracelet, a little keyring with beads, and instructions on knotting. Interesting! So I immediately said, well, we don’t have those type of beads at the moment, but we have a box of wool in the cupboard, would you like to try the plaiting or the knotting? “YES LETS DO PLAITS!”, and so they very happily settled down with the wool box, and got stuck in, eventually being joined by a couple of other girls who had finished up with their badge sewing. It was a really nice little moment, re-directing their boredom towards something that was at least sort of on-topic, but via their own choice. Also an excellent justification for the sheer volume of STUFF we have on hand for guiding!!

Meanwhile, AwesomeCoLeader was in the kitchen with the senior guides, doing a superhuman job of wrangling 12 girls plus four lots of cooking. While the kitchen in our hall is very well equipped, like most kitchens it only has a single stove, which can make cooking quite challenging given you don’t want a crowd around it. But during the week AwesomeCoLeader had a bit of a brainwave, and decided that we should get out our little butane camping stoves, and set up two of those on the other side of the kitchen, so that she could have multiple cooking stations around the space, and apparently this worked really well! She was able to split up the girls into four groups of three (two using the main stove, which is quite large, and two using the camping stoves), and basically give them their recipes (one for cheese sauce, one for chocolate sauce) and tell them to go for it. As she said later, “cooking is an equipment game”, so if we can figure a way to give the girls enough of the essential items (enough chopping boards, sharp knives, measuring cups etc) then we can scale up activities much easier, and they won’t get frustrated and bored.

So, all in all, a good night. Also exciting was two newbies (both prospective Juniors), who both seemed to have fun, so that could be good – we’ve got  few girls moving up to Seniors soon, so a couple of littlies is could be handy :)


Weave it!

Guides this week focused on weaving, and it (mostly!) went really well.

We don’t tend to do much craft in our group – I think because although I love crafty things, I tend to like the sorts of crafts where you come up with your own design and ‘play’ a bit, and that doesn’t tend to scale well to a group of 25ish kids aged 6-12.

I do, however, find that the nights that we do crafts with a base structure that then let the girls be creative with their own twist on top to be very satisfying, and this week was one of these.

Both Juniors and Seniors did weaving, but the Juniors made their ‘looms’ out of polystyrene trays (cutting notches into the edges to run wool through for the ‘weft’), while the Seniors made their looms out of wood and nails.

I worked with the Seniors, and it was a great activity – very few of them had ever used hammers and nails before, so they were all very engaged in the activity and found it rather exciting… although I do sometimes wonder how much they find the activity exciting, and how much they find doing something more complex than the juniors exciting! This was actually quite a good one in terms of the overall task being the same for both age groups, while clearly showing a difference in complexity, and drawing out the different expectations we have of each age group.

Hammers and nails are certainly something that we’ll be keeping for older girls, mind you, given the number of hammered fingers we ended up with! I can’t imagine the 6 year olds getting through without major meltdowns. Luckily at the older age group, they’re pretty able to cope with minor injuries, and didn’t complain much – and we didn’t end up breaking any skin, so there should only be a few bruises in the aftermath!

It was interesting to see the diversity in skill level between all the girls – for something none of them had tried before, it was clear that for some it just clicked, while for others, it was a huge struggle. Two girls in particular I think ended up with only 5 minutes worth of weaving at the end, as their nailing had taken so long – and even then included a couple of sneaky leader assists. However, both of these girls are usually more at the “competent” end of things, so I think it was probably good for them to find that they’re not going to naturally pick up everything easily, but that with a bit of persistence, they can get something servicable at the end. On the opposite end of the scale, one of the older Juniors took to her weaving with such immediate skill and interest that we ended up giving her a brief chance to also do the Senior’s activity, enough to get her started and to take the rest home to complete there – she was super excited and just glowing at having found something that suited so well and that she’d never tried before :)

So, definately an activity to keep on the longer term program list, and repeat in three years or so once the current crop have all moved up a section or two!

Wooden looms under construction:
weaving board

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A night of drama at Guides and Rangers this week, in a number of senses of the word!

Firstly, the theme for the night was ‘skits and plays’, with patrols working together to come up with a short play which aimed to “show off Guides”. We ended up with both seniors patrols showing off first aid skills (decidedly dubious first aid skills in one case – I certainly wouldn’t want them treating my broken leg!!), two juniors patrols doing some general ‘games and being friends’ sort of stories, and one juniors patrol ‘teaching new kids to build a fire’.

Most of the patrols worked really well together, but one was unfortunately very dysfunctional. The group includes our newest and youngest Guide, (who honestly is probably too young for the group, and who unfortunately has “whine to the leaders” as her go-to problem solving mode), as well as two friends who we had previously separated but who had begged to be in a patrol together, and who unfortunately are proving the wisdom of our prior separation (in other words – they are both having a marvellous time together, but making life very difficult for everyone else), and a patrol leader who is really trying to do the right thing but is overwhelmed by the diverse needs of the patrol, resulting in tears of frustration! Oh, and one poor kid trying to mediate! Oh dear!

So that one patrol ended up taking about 90% of the available leader attention, as we tried to assist without being too directive and reinforcing the idea that they didn’t need to sort themselves out… no idea if we succeeded, but on the upside, all this drama did turn out well with their skit ending up probably the most cohesive and structured out of all of them! Funny how that sometimes happens, but then I guess if they all have enough capacity for drama to have flouncing, yelling, and crying during rehearsals then they might just have a naturally dramatic bent!

After Guides, I joined with the Rangers, who were (reasonably successfully) planning the rest of the year. RangersCoLeader was directing these discussions really well, so I’m sure the program she’ll pop together on the back of it will be great :)

In some bad news, one of the girls said she was planning to leave, as the group was too small (irony alert!). No idea what to do about that. Attracting new girls at the older age group is incredibly tricky, and the oldest bunch of girls from the senior guides won’t realistically be ready for Rangers until probably mid next year, and Sister Unit only has one old enough currently (but who wants to wait until the start of next year), and possibly one more mid-next year. Older groups are always difficult – there are just so many competing demands once kids are in high school. Guess we’ll just do what we can. Even if it all falls over, we’ve at least given the current crop of Rangers a few extra terms of guiding!

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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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