guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Edible earth and experimenting

This week at Guides I took a step back and let my very talented co-leaders run the show, as indeed they’ll be doing for the rest of the year!

We had another night focused on the Science and Technology badge, and it ended up being a good night for all.

AwesomeCoLeader worked with the Senior Guides in the kitchen, and had them modify an activity she first ran a few years ago as “edible gardens”, morphing it into “edible earth science”. The guts of the concept was to build a model of the earth, with rock layers, sub soil, top soil, grass, etc. The catch was doing this with food, including making chocolate pudding from scratch for the subsoil, crushing biscuits for the topsoil, dying coconut for the grass, etc.

They turned out fabulously, as you can see!

IMG_2119

The girls worked in groups of 3-4 to do various parts of the process, and it worked just brilliantly. Currently patrols in our Seniors group are 8 girls a piece, and they’re just too big to be properly functional, so its good to split things up a little, and it was nice to let the girls form their own groups. We’re quite lucky in that we don’t have a huge number of “out of Guides” friendship groups in our unit (we have something like 10 schools represented across 30 kids), so even when they choose their own groups, they’re not *too* ‘cliquey’.

(We haven’t bothered with splitting the patrols for this term as at the turn of terms we had 2 patrols of 7, which was borderline, and given only a few weeks left in the year, easier not to disrupt things – since then of course, we’ve had 2 newbies join, which has put us to 8 a piece but at this point, its pretty much just a job for next year, especially with another two juniors due to move up at the end of term).

Meanwhile, YoungCoLeader and a GrandparentHelper were outside with the Junior Guides – originally the plan was for the Juniors to just make volcanoes, and when we’ve done this previously (as part of our Fire badge, I think?), the leader at the time had an elaborate process including making a salt dough to go around the volcano (to make it volcano-shaped), and colouring the water red etc, to look like lava. YoungCoLeader went a different way, which better fitted with the science and technology bent, focusing on the chemistry and process of creating the mixture, and then following up with two further experiments – one using milk and cola (I can’t remember to do what with!!), and the other using cola to clean dirty coins. My usual reaction to the coin-cleaning properties of cola is “eew, that must be doing bad stuff to my insides if it can clean coins!”, but apparently the main reaction from the Junior Guides was “awesome, and do we get to drink the cola?!?”. Different priorities I guess!!

Finally, the most of the girls (barring one small group of Seniors who were finishing off their creations) went out to play camouflage, AGAIN. Oh well, at least its not Not Fruit Salad!!

And now the little blog will be on a wee hiatus for a while as I’ll be away from Guides awaiting the hopefully imminent arrival of a little one, and then we’ll have the long summer holidays. Barring any random posts on plotting and planning, the blog should (in theory!) be back in February. See you then!

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Awards!

JBP award

A lovely evening at Guides this week, with two of our most dedicated and engaged girls being presented with their Junior BP Awards! To gain the award, the girls need to do 12 activities over 6 areas, plus discuss what they have learnt about leadership. For (nearly all) of the activities, they also need to have a three-way assessment done – assessed by their peers, by themselves, and by the leaders. So its no cakewalk!

Because presentation of this Award is quite rare at our unit (these girls were only the 6th and 7th in five years to earn it), we tend to make quite a song and dance about the presentation – we ask the girls to be in formal uniform (which… most managed… ish), and we include colour party, lots of blue-and-gold decorations (balloons and streamers, and table cloths for the supper and presentation tables), we also had the girls carefully pin up our unit flag and trefoil to form a backdrop to the ‘presentation area’.

We had about a third of the girls occupied in the kitchen preparing supper (mainly chopped veggies and dip, but also fairy bread, because it can’t all be healthy!), and learning how to make cups of tea and coffee for the parents that would be attending. We also made up a ‘punch’ for the girls of orange juice and lemonade, just to make it a party!

I suspect that in some ways it wasn’t a hugely fun night for all the girls – learning to march properly, being checked that their sashes were on, and badges correct, and spending ages blowing up balloons and sticking up streamers… but for one night a year, I think its okay to have them focus on making something special for some of their peers, rather than just coming along for fun. That said, I did advise a prospective newbie that it wasn’t a great night for a visit, and so we’ll see them next week instead!

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and I (and the other leaders) were so chuffed to present the girls with their awards, and they were both thrilled to receive them. Hopefully it won’t be a whole year until the next awards ceremony, as there are several other girls who have been working diligently away on their activities and must be very close to finalising!

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As ever, the challenge is retaining

Noodling about the ‘back end’ of the blog reminded me of a post from a while ago, http://guideydiary.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/what-is-good-retention/

So one year on, how are we going, and has anything changed?

The differentiation between Juniors and Seniors does certainly seem to help – you can definitely tell when a kid is getting too old for Juniors, they seem to be decidedly ratty for a term or two before going up to Seniors, when all of a sudden they calm down again and are just thrilled to be there. Its to the point that I almost wonder if our hardline about not moving up to Seniors until you are 10 is appropriate (Australian Guiding is very flexible on ages, and each unit makes its own decisions about such things), but on the other hand, at least having a clear line means that we are on ‘solid ground’ with the kids in setting the rules. They do tend to respond better to an arbitrary but consistent rule, than a flexible one.

Our utilisation of Patrol leaders and seconders is still not as strong as it should be, and its probably not helping retention of the girls who might be in line for such roles, particularly at the Seniors age group where the stability of the group (and the fact that the girls elect, rather than the leaders appoint) has meant that the number of kids able to access formal leadership roles is limited. Perhaps this will open up a little next year though, as a we will create at least one but possibly two additional seniors patrols to cope with anticipated numbers, and we should also have a couple of the oldest girls looking to move up to Rangers towards the end of the year, which should create some change in the kids holding positions.

We are still struggling to do ‘girl-led guiding’ in a way which is useful, although we are definitely being more “there’s the instructions, now sort yourselves out”, particularly with the Senior Guides. I’ve found myself being less directive in recent months with the older girls, and more willing to let them just go for it, which they seem to appreciate, even as initially they protest that “but you didn’t SAY!” No, indeed, I didn’t, but given you’ve been a Guide for three years, I expect you to figure out you’ll need lots of small wood to keep that fire going…! I have noticed that once they twig onto the fact that the adults are stepping back, that they do manage to fill the gaps themselves, so that will certainly be an area to continue with, especially as a few of our Seniors start getting ready to move up further. Ideally, if numbers can keep relatively steady, but the end of next year we would have a functioning system of girls three years of Juniors, followed by three years of Seniors, before moving up to Rangers at 13ish. But we shall see – in our eagerness to maintain a Rangers group, we shall have to be wary of poaching the oldest Seniors too early, and undermining the concept.

Looking back over our member lists for the year, I’m surprised to see how few we’ve lost to other activities – of course there are some, but nowhere near the numbers recent years have taught me to expect. Not sure if we’re doing something in particular that’s improved retention, or if its just luck. Probably just luck!! Of course, having several girls having been with us for years creates its own challenge, of being sure to not repeat things too often (apart from things that have become Unit Traditions which give a rhythm to the year), and it also has the added complication of nostalgia “ohhh but when we did X badge it was waaaaaaaaaaay more fun”.

Anyway, shortly it will be the long summer break, and we shall see if this year’s excellent retention holds up. My gut feeling is that we’ll lose 2-3 kids over the summer, but at this stage, I’m not taking bets on which ones. Sometimes you just know, sometimes its not clear. This year: Clear As Mud!

 

 

 

 

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Evil Doctor Greyzone and the Great Colour Hunt (Wide game)

Here’s a short (approx. 1 hour or so) wide game developed recently as part of our Science and Technology term.  This was tackled by Guides aged 6-12 in mixed aged patrols – there is quite a bit of reading required, so its not one you’d want Guides under 10 doing without support from older girls.

Read to the unit:

I hope all Guides are very Prepared this evening, as we have quite a difficult challenge for you.

It seems that the Guide hall area has been transported to another dimension, and we have been trapped in a giant grey bubble by the Evil Doctor Greyzone!

Doctor Greyzone works by slowly leaching away all the colours, leaving no light, and no hope.

However, Doctor Greyzone has clearly chosen the wrong group to target tonight, because we are going to FIGHT BACK and rescue the colours!

As always, to defeat the Evil Doctor, everyone will need to be alert, pay attention, and FOCUS on working through the challenges. There are eight challenges. Most of the challenges need to be tackled in a different order by different patrols, so DON’T FOLLOW other patrols, follow your own instructions!

Opening activity: (all patrols complete at once)

Using the periodic table provided, decode the message from Doctor Greyzone:

53 74 13 10 81 22 8 62 52 63 33 71 13 57 103 17 76 3 76 92 75 51
     

Periodic-table

Note: I just found a periodic table on Wikipedia – you can probably get a clearer version than this. The numbers in the table correspond with an element, which the Guides then write down the symbol for. The trick is that only capital letters are required, not the lower case ones. I only provided this hint to the patrols that were struggling, but most figured it out independently. When a patrol thought they had the message correct (which is “I want to steal all colours”) they came up and told me the message, if correct, I provided them with the next instructions.

 

Main section:

Each patrol was provided with a little list, which had their six colour-themed activities in a certain order. Each patrol’s order was different, but all ended up doing the same activities.

Instructions for each activity (one per patrol) was put in a small envelope with the relevant colour written on top (in the relevant colour, naturally! So there was a pile of green clues with ‘green’ written in green texta, a pile of ‘blue’ written in blue texta, etc).  The envelopes were left in a central location for the girls to collect as they needed them.

Patrols were instructed to do the activities in the order assigned, and when they had completed the activities included in each envelope, to move onto the next on their list.  

Envelopes had both the activity instructions and a short “science” fact/information slip in them to explain why the activity was included in the wide game.

Activity: Yellow

Locate the yellow edible items, and put them away for safekeeping for now. Rumour has it that Doctor Greyzone hides food items in the kitchen.

You may take up to two per person.

DO NOT eat them yet!

Yellow science:

Marshmallows are originally made by mixing together various ingredients and baking them. All types of cooking, but especially baking, involve chemistry to get the right mix of flavours and textures. So each time you cook, you’re also doing science!

Activity: Orange

To find orange, each patrol member will need to (safely and sensibly!) light a candle and toast your marshmallow.

Note: I splashed out and bought orange coloured tea lights to add to the ‘orange-ness’ of the activity, but the flames are pretty much orange anyway!

Orange science:

The tips of matches are made up of sulphur and potassium chlorate. When the matches are struck firmly against the ignition strip on the matchbox, which includes red phosphorus, the ingredients combine to make a brief flame. The wood and wax in the matches then keep the flame going long enough for you to use the match.

Activity: Red 

To find red, you will need to hunt around the grounds for a red butterfly. Your patrol will need to find and retrieve one butterfly, and keep it safe.

Note: the red butterflies were small (about the size of a 50 cent piece) paper butterflies purchased from a $2 shop. You could also use stickers, or paper cut outs, or whatever. They looked semi-realistic, but it was quite clear to girls when they found them that they were what they were looking for. The butterflies were hidden at roughly eye-height (for the girls!) around the garden.

Red Science:

The study of living things is known as “biology”, while the more specific study of insects, like butterflies, is known as “entomology”. Biologists try to understand creatures and plants of all types.

Activity: Purple

To rescue purple, your patrol will need to blow up one purple balloon, and then using the purple straws provided, blow the balloon from one end of the hall to the other. Be sure to keep the balloon safe!

Note: I purchased purple balloons and oversized purple straws (the type used for bubble tea), which helped theme this one

Purple Science: 

When you blow into a balloon, the air (oxygen and carbon dioxide) you send out is ‘trapped’ in the balloon, and so it stretches out the rubber and expands.

Activity: Blue

The youngest member of your patrol has twisted her ankle. Administer appropriate first aid, remembering RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

To recover blue you will need to make an icepack and treat your injured team member properly.

 Ingredients

  • Citric Acid
  • Baking Soda
  • Tap Water
  • Zip lock bag
  • Measuring cup
  • Plastic teaspoons

What to do:

  1. Put one level teaspoon of citric acid in a zip lock bag.
  2. Put one teaspoon of baking soda in the same zip lock bag. And shake the bag gently to mix the two chemicals.
  3. Fill up the measuring cup with cold tap water (about 30ml).
  4. Here’s where you have to be quick! Pour the water into the zip lock bag and snap it shut fast. Not only does the bag blow up, it also becomes super cold! So don’t forget to feel its temperature.

Treat your patrol member properly before proceeding.

Note: in addition to the ingredients for the cold packs, you will also need a set of crepe/compression bandages for the girls to use. If I were to do this again, I’d also add a couple of drops of blue food dye to the acid and soda before adding the water, so it was actually ‘blue’

Blue science:

Citric acid and baking soda (with the water) form an “endothermic chemical reaction”, which is a type of reaction where heat is absorbed, resulting in something very cold – at least for a while.

Activity: Green

To save green, you will need to make green slime.

Ingredients

  • PVA glue
  • food colouring
  • water
  • Borax
  • 2 plastic cups
  • a sealable plastic bag
  • some paper towels
  • Paddle Pop stick for stirring
  • at least two plastic spoons

 What to do

  1. Measure 3 teaspoons of PVA glue into the a cup.
  2. Add 3 teaspoons of water and stir.
  3. Add a few drops of dye to make green.
  4. Place approximately 1 cup of water into the other plastic cup.
  5. Stir in 1 heaped teaspoon of Borax powder. Once the mixture has been stirred thoroughly you have made a Borax solution.
  6. Add 1 teaspoon of Borax solution to your cup of paste and stir. As you stir the slime should start to form. You might need to add a little more Borax solution. Be careful when you are adding the Borax solution, too much and your slime will go hard.
  7. If your slime feels very wet and slippery (but is not still runny), remove it from the container and kneed it in your hands. In a few minutes, any extra Borax solution will evaporate or be absorbed.
  8. Place the slime into a sealable plastic bag and it should keep for a while.

Make sure you wash your hands after playing with the slime.

Green science:

You are blending together different types of materials to form a non-Newtonian fluid. The borax and glue (in particular) bond together at lots of different points (at a chemical level), to create a flexible, different type of material.

 

Final activity

Note: This section was read out to patrols who reported that they had done all six activities successfully.

To defeat Evil Doctor Greyzone, your patrol will need to have collected each of the six colours, and now, bring them together into a single rainbow to ensure colour is returned to the world.

Mix together in a bowl:

Water, dishwashing liquid, and 2-3 spoons worth of glycerine

Using your hands, try to send rainbow bubbles into the air to show Doctor Greyzone that he is defeated once and for all, and that the colours are safe once more! Once each member of your patrol has successfully created a rainbow bubble, you will have defeated the Evil Doctor!

 

Notes: Overall, this wide game was a lot of fun, and was just the right length for a standard unit meeting. If you wanted to add some additional time, the yellow and orange activities could be combined into one, and another activity added, potentially some sort of trail to follow or puzzle to solve.

Hope you have fun defeating Doctor Greyzone! Let me know if you try it out!

 

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Science + story = wide game!

A great night last night, which required a lot of preparation, but was well rewarded with a bunch of very happy and engaged Guides of all ages!

We were joined by a couple of girls from SisterUnit, which was fun – their youngest newbie was SO EXCITED and kept saying “This is the first time I’ve done this! And its so much fun! I love it!”

I’ll write up the wide game in full shortly, but essentially the story was that the Evil Doctor Greyzone had stolen the colours, and the patrols were in a race to find all six colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) (I gave up on Indigo, finding six relevant activities was hard enough!!), and then had to bring them together in a rainbow (via bubbles).

To even up the challenge – and to give a little twist to proceedings – I split up the unit into different patrols from usual, and made them mixed-ages. Given some of the challenges (like making slime and making ice-packs) were quite technical, it didn’t seem fair to have patrols of 11 and 12 year olds competing against patrols of 7 and 8 year olds! I also appointed different people to usual to be patrol leaders – it was interesting to see which ones embraced the role, and which ones really just didn’t… and I have to say, a couple of my guesses around who would do well were off the mark. Just because a kid is assertive and popular doesn’t mean she’s necessarily able to bring a group together and get them to cooperate!

Anyway, a good night, lots of fun, and I’ll certainly be having them make ice-packs again (using citric acid and baking soda), as that is probably the most brilliant trick I’ve found on the internet for a while, and the girls were enthralled :)

 

 

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Communicating

On balance, a good night last night at Guides, as our Juniors learned some basic Auslan (Australian Sign Language), and the Seniors learned to use semaphore flags.

We started off with a bit of a mess though, as I attempted to get the girls to fill out a little survey about which badges they have (and which they might like in future), meanwhile, the new girls who haven’t earned any badges yet were still playing with the skipping ropes and balls, and it was all just a bit chaotic.

(Yes I should have good records of their badges… but the records didn’t get updated for a while, and then one of the other leaders was organising a couple of badges so of course they didn’t update *my* list, and then it was out of date so I didn’t bother… and… oh, look, I just don’t always have the paperwork side of guiding sorted!!)

Anyway, we then had a bit of feedback from the various weekend Guiding activities (the competitive camp, and trip to Scienceworks), before splitting into Juniors/Seniors for our main activities.

I have no idea what the Seniors got up to, apart from it involving Proper Semaphore Flags borrowed from LocalUnit for the night – YoungCoLeader entirely ran the program in the hall with assistance from ParentHelper2, and I didn’t even have a chance to glance in on them! But they all seemed pleased at the end of the evening, so I’m sure it was great :)

Meanwhile, I took the Juniors out to the foyer area to develop a few skills in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). The girls were pretty befuddled to learn that while English is used in Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand etc, that Auslan is only for Australia, and people using sign language in other countries won’t necessarily understand the same signs.

I went with an approach used previously, and it was just as successful this time – getting the girls into pairs, and having them pull a word out of “the hat” which they then had to spell-sign to their partner. The words were all ‘guiding’ words (things like patrol, camping, friends, girls), and the girls LOVED IT, and kept going long after I thought they would have got bored – none of my backup games were even required!

For those of you who are curious, here is how you say girl guides in Auslan:

http://www.auslan.org.au/dictionary/words/girl%20guide-1.html

(Kind of obvious once you know it!)

And that was pretty much it for ‘main Guides’.

Following that, RangersLeader and I took the (very few) Rangers, plus the oldest of the Senior Guides who had been invited to have a ‘try’ of Rangers for the night, for “pyromania night”. Because, as discussed a lot recently, If In Doubt, Let Them Play With Fire.

RangersLeader had organised a bunch of fabulous fire-starting methods for the girls to try, including making vaseline-and-cottonball firestarters, using cigarette lighters (all our girls are well versed in matches, but none had used lighters until now), trying out fire strikers, and using batteries and steel wool (not very effective, we were not able to get the right type of steel wool).

RangersLeader had also purchased giant marshmallows for toasting (which the girls were in awe of – they were the size of apples!), and I’d brought along some Starburst lollies, which noodling about online had taught me were worth toasting – apparently the girls agreed, as by the time I got there, the lollies were long gone!

We’ve decided to finish up Rangers for the year – RangersLeader is not yet fully qualified, and my little one is imminent, so we can’t really be sure to cover appropriate supervision for in two weeks time. We think we’ll only do one or two Rangers things in term one, but will aim to ‘gear up’ and start growing the group properly from term two – by then a couple of our oldest Seniors might even be getting to the stage of being kinda-sorta old enough to move up.

Next week: a science-themed wide game, including our friends from SisterUnit. I’d better get my imagination in gear, because currently, planning has been pretty much non-existent!!

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Paying it forward

As regular readers will know, I have often spoken about the necessity of maintaining a reasonable life/guiding balance, and not letting the guide leaders natural tendency to say “of course!” overwhelm me.

Well, lately I have failed miserably at that, with this last month involving Guiding commitments on three weekends in a row (Sunday, then Saturday and Sunday, then Sunday again…), plus a Thursday night out with a group of seniors, plus running my unit, and Rangers (although only one meeting so far), and helping out at Sister Unit for the last three weeks! Luckily these extra sessions all ended up being with other crazy overcommitted leaders, so at least I was in good company!

So how did I end up in this Guides overload pickle?

Well, firstly, a bunch of the Senior Guides wanted to try going to a local competitive outdoor camp. *In theory* the preparation for this camp shouldn’t be too onerous, as girls should gradually learn the skills required over their years in Guiding, and only need a bit of time to refine their menus and theme.

*In reality* (at least the reality of my quite-urban-not-very-outdoorsy-unit) the girls required a crash course in old-school camp skills, including cooking A Proper Meal over the campfire, putting up and taking down tents (without the leaders closely directing things!), making wood-and-string gadgets, first aid, camp hygiene… et cetera!!

So the journey started last term with a pre-meeting for potentially interested guides and parents to let them know what they might be in for, followed by a short meeting to confirm who would be attending, elect the patrol leader and second, choose the patrol name, and agree to a basic schedule of training.

This term, we then met at a local pizza/pasta place for planning – the girls had to agree as a group what they would cook (being sure to manage the food desires of each of them with the required menu balance), and the broader menu and thematic elements – and try and negotiate what “bits” they would all organise! It went quite well, and I think it was easier to do an extra night than to try and tack it onto a usual Guides night, especially as the group was a mix of girls from my unit and Sister Unit. Next up, we had two full days of training – the first day was campfire cooking, followed by tents, and a bit of “campsite planning”, which involved the CUTEST little set of campsite/dolls furniture which SisterUnitLeader had found through the magic of ebay. The second day involved cooking on campstoves, gadget making, and drilling in first aid and food/campsite hygiene and safe practices. Both days were long and exhausting, but the girls did seem to learn a lot, and hey, given the kids had to learn to do it all independently, there were also substantial periods where myself, SisterUnitLeader and RangersLeader were all able to sit in camp chairs in the sunshine and merely supervise, which if you’re giving up a Sunday, isn’t such a bad deal! The camp they were preparing for was this weekend, and apparently they did very well, woohoo!

I also managed to get myself talked into helping out for a few hours on two separate Saturdays this month for district shenanigans - once at a sausage sizzle at a local hardware store, and once at a farmers market where we had a (vastly unsuccessful!) promotional stall. Phew!

Annnnd of course I’ve also signed up to help at SisterUnit for a few weeks, as poor SisterUnitLeader doesn’t really have any backup at the moment. I’m just doing the “assistant leader” type role of turning up and being an extra pair of hands and eyes, but I know how much of a difference that makes compared to having to be THE responsible adult. I’m in constant awe of SisterUnitLeader, she’s managed to keep her wee little unit going through thick and thin (even managing to keep the unit going while she was working several hundred kilometres away!!), and is always happy to pitch in and help our unit whenever needed, so a bit of share and share about is only fair!

Finally, had my last day of crazy over commitment to weekend Guiding yesterday, teaming up with AParentHelper, YoungCoLeader and RangersLeader to take a group of kids from my unit and sister unit to Scienceworks, which was actually really fun. We went to the planetarium, and explored lots of exhibits – the ones on town construction and science fiction/space were particularly intriguing. The girls also loved the sports exhibit, which had them testing their balance, strength, speed etc.

So, that should be pretty much it for weekend bits for me for a while. And shortly this little blog will take a wee hiatus too, as I’m soon to be having a break from Guides, even a bit longer than the usual summer pause, as I’ll be on “maternity leave” from Guides (although *really* dedicated leaders tell me there is no such thing!). All going well, I think I’ve got three weeks of Guides left that I’ve committed to, but I guess we’ll see if mother nature agrees with those plans!! :)

And that is probably the other reason I’ve been madly saying yes to all requests – paying the karma forward a little so I don’t feel guilty about taking a step back for a while :)

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Old school Guiding… with mixed results!

Sometimes, Guides works even when it doesn’t quite work.

Last night was one of those nights – our timing was massively out, the kids didn’t all get to do all the activities… but mostly, we had a good night.

The plan was for a ‘back to the future guiding’ night, where we would brush up the girls on some traditional skills – bedrolls, knotting, and marshmallow toasting.

The plan was to do the activities in kind of a round-robin, with the bedrolls for the Seniors done individually/in pairs, before doing them via a patrol ‘beetle’ for the Juniors. But… not so much!

YoungCoLeader was wrangling bed rolls in the hall (thank goodness we have a large hall, as 8 or so bedrolls pre-rolling take a LOT of space), I was doing knotting in the Grassy Courtyard, and ParentHelper was toasting marshmallows over tealights in the Paved Courtyard.

Splitting the activities this was was definitely the right way to go, especially as it was quite warm and getting the majority of the kids out of the stuffy hall was very sensible!!

Anyhoo, I started off with the Juniors (we went with Juniors all together, but seniors into patrols for the round robin), and decided that rather than trying to “teach knots”, I would split them into age groups, provide them with the relevant handbook, and let them self-direct.

This turned out to be quite a good method – the three six year olds had fun attempting to do a double overhand using a skipping rope (sometimes I forget how tiny our little sixies are – they’re befuddled by overhand knots, can’t always tie their own shoes, and think all problems are best solved by complaining to the leader rather than figuring it out. Ah, tiny ones!); meanwhile, the seven and eight year olds worked on reef knots (and as always happened, accidentally discovered the granny knot at the same time!); and the nine and ten year olds (well, one ten year old!) decided to try square lashing, which ended up morphing into “gods eyes” quite nicely.

I ended up spending the majority of my time with the girls doing reef knots, and I think by the time to switch over, they had reasonably got the knack – or at any rate, could identify a reef from a granny!

Switching over, the Juniors went to do marshmallows, and (some) of the Seniors came out to do knots, while other Seniors started on bedrolls. It seems that the bedrolls were taking waaaaay longer than expected, so there was a major hold up there, and only about half the original bedrolling-patrol were able to move to the knots straight away. I used the same approach of “find knots in the handbook, then try”, and we got a few interesting giant clove hitches around the park bench, but not a lot of engagement. Perhaps having just come from knot-intensive bedrolls, they were  a bit meh about the activity!

Thinking it through, it doesn’t entirely surprise me that the bedrolls were taking ages – we have a reasonably high proportion of Seniors who have never done outdoor camping, and of those who *have*, in general, the types of camps they’ve been to have tended to be reasonably relaxed region ones, where they pretty much just have to get their gear to camp and home again in one piece, without the bedroll needing to be properly knotted, or able to stand up to any particular battering.

And of course, YoungCoLeader is (to her credit) very particular in her teaching of techniques such as knots and bedrolls, and so I’m sure that my imagined “give them the gist of the concept and they can learn to refine later when its necessary” thinking on the timing of the night was probably actioned instead as “if they are going to learn then they should learn PROPERLY”, so instead of 20 minutes for a patrol to do bedrolls I think it was more like 35-40 minutes… I guess my slapdash approach to things can lead to me assuming things will be easier than they actually are!

Meanwhile, ParentHelper did sterling work in keeping the girls occupied after they’d cooked their lone marshmallow (we only had one packet in the cupboard, so Quantities Were Limited), by having them set teeny little mini campfires in the glass candle holders, which they all got hugely into. It seems ParentHelper may have latent Guide Leader capacities with the “if in doubt let them play with fire” strategy of time management!

So, in the end, all the Seniors got to do PROPER bedrolls, all the Juniors got to do knotting/lashing at an appropriate level, and all 30ish kids got to toast a marshmallow… so, I guess we can call what felt like a higgledy-piggledy not-quite-right sort of a night a success!

Here’s hoping we’re slightly more organised and time-effective next week, but I make no guarantees!!

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Memory, and memories.

Something of a disjointed night last night, but several real highlights.

For the Junior and Senior Guides, we had a night focused on getting activities/presentations completed for kids working on their JBP or BP Awards, and three girls were actually organised with specific activities, which was great (these nights can be decidedly hit and miss!!). One which did seem to get a fair bit of engagement from the girls was a Greek version of a ‘duck duck goose’ type game, which was interesting, although the girls really didn’t quite understand the differences between the words they were attempting to say. Still, nice to move away for once from games from the UK/Canada/New Zealand, which is what we usually get for these international activities.

The other really great activity was a ‘memory’ card game about Guiding, which had the classic cards face down and the girls had to pick up various cards to try and find pairs. The twist was that the pairs were questions and answers about Guiding, both international “Where did Guiding begin?” “England”, and more local “When did [Unit] begin?” “1931″ (Yep, we’re old!), as well as “What do all Guides have?” “World badge” and “What is the Guides colour?” “Blue”.

The game was cleverly put together, but most amusing was the girls playing – one patrol of senior guides, split in two to form teams, and they were HYPER COMPETITIVE! Absolutely into it and sooooo excited and yelling and going crazy trying to remember the matches. One of the funniest things I’ve seen for a long time as they *really committed* to playing to win!

Also exciting was that such a successful activity ended up being the final activity for WhiteFoodGuide’s JBP. We had a chat afterwards (what had she learnt, how had she changed during the work towards the award, etc), and I was utterly delighted (and she was utterly delighted!) to agree that she had met the criteria for the award, and would be presented formally with it later in the term! Yay!! Only the 6th girl to get her JBP at the unit, and very deserved :)

Later, I joined the Rangers girls, for a bitter sweet night. Our nearly-17-year-old Guide has decided (reluctantly) to finish up, as schooling is getting too much, and she was missing so many nights it was hard to justify continuing to pay membership fees. We said she was welcome to visit anytime, and I really hope she will :)

We’ve also had two other Rangers move on – one who’d been with us for years and years, but again, school was too much; and another who (rumor has it!) may have moved over to Scouts. Not entirely surprising, given her family is heavily into Scouting, but interesting that she’d made it to nearly 14 in Guides before heading over. On the upside, we had a prospective new Ranger from SisterUnit come to try (just turned 13), and we have a crop of Senior Guides in both my unit and SisterUnit who will be due to go up to Rangers progressively over the next year, so if we can keep it going for another six months or so with teeny numbers, we should be well placed to grow. It’s hard though, very difficult to justify the time and effort for only 3-4 girls at once.

On the other end of the recruitment/retention scale, however, is Senior Guides is now FULL, and Junior Guides gained another member last night, a younger sister of a new Senior. Little Sister is seven and shy, but perked up reasonably once we’d paired her up with a couple of the little ones. I guess our unit can be alarming if you’re shy and seven, as a bunch of noisy, over-confident 11 and 12 year olds will seem very LOUD and very TALL!! Now we just need to decide if we can squeeze in a Promise ceremony before the end of term for the newbies (two seniors and four juniors!!), or whether they’ll need to wait to first thing next year. Occasionally our comprehensive programming complicates things!

Til next week then… :)

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Slimey fun

First night back for term four!

We’re working towards the ‘Science and Technology Explore A Challenge’ badge this term, which I think will be rather fun, although tonight’s first attempt was… hmm… mixed!

ScienceAndTechnology

We started out with a bit of fun, playing “evolution” – an elaborate multi-round paper/scissors/rock game. Everyone starts off as eggs (with hands on heads walking around saying egg egg egg egg), and when they meet another egg, playing paper/scissors/rock. The winner becomes a chicken (flapping their wings and clucking). When they find a chicken, they play paper/scissors/rock. Etc etc. The next stages are dinosaur (t-rex hands and roaring); monkey (cavorting around and going ah ah ah); human (saying hello); Guide (making a salute and saying Be Prepared!); Guide Leader (wagging a finger and saying “Don’t do that!”) (hmmm not sure about the message but they all found it hilarious!), and finally Superwoman (arms in the air ‘flying’). The winner is the first girl to get to Superwoman :)

After two rounds of ‘evolution’, we split into Juniors and Seniors.

I was working mainly with the Seniors, while YoungCoLeader and ParentHelper organised the Juniors. The Juniors were looking at “sinking and floating” – YoungCoLeader had a bunch of different objects, and the girls had to try and guess if the objects would sink or float, and then see if there was anything they could do to change its status. I only looked in occasionally, but they did seem to be having fun… and making a shocking mess!

Meanwhile, the Seniors and I attempted to make cornflour slime. Despite my saying “each patrol has only one box of cornflour” and “start with only a very small amount of water”, about 2/3rds of the girls immediately flooded their cornflour and then got grumpy as they had essentially ruined their chance to make slime. I encouraged the girls to work as patrols to deal with the problem (some had gone slowly so still had the capacity to do it properly). Interestingly, one patrol was able to negotiate in such a way that they all ended up having fun, while the other were determinedly working in pairs and did not want to cooperate. It was interesting to observe the different approaches, and also interesting to see how utterly sure they were that I would have back up materials. Indeed, a couple were decidedly put out that I didn’t have extra cornflour, but I have no regrets. I was very clear about the resources available at the beginning, so perhaps next time they’ll listen when I warn them about limits!!

Still all that done, we did end up with a couple of bits of slime to play with (and, similar to the Juniors, a shocking mess to clean up!) – thank goodness we went outside!!

After a quick “reconvene” inside after everyone had washed up (to varying degrees of thorough-ness), the Juniors went to the front yard to play camouflage (a perennial favourite), while I set up the Seniors in the courtyard to do ‘invisible ink’ with lemon juice, and then use lit candles to try and show the messages. Of course, we ended up mainly with various bits of burning paper (rather than messages showing), but nothing that couldn’t be put out with an enthusiastic stomping, which they did with much glee! I think it must be written in some ancient Guide leader manual somewhere “if at wits end, let them play with fire”, as it certainly restored good humour after the trials of slime!

Next week we’ve got a night of girls running activities for their various badges, so we shall see how that goes. Hopefully we’ll get one girl finished her JBP, and another one or two very very close!

In other news, most of the newbies that visited towards the end of last term have returned, one with forms, and another potential newbie (a possible transfer from another unit due to moving house) also came along and seemed to have fun. If all the newbies stick, we’ll be full in Senior Guides for the term, which is pretty exciting! A bit of room in the Juniors though, so I guess we’ll see what happens there. Three of the returning newbies from last term are Juniors, so potentially they’ll end up bringing friends, and I know we have a couple of little sisters *nearly* old enough to join, so we should be close to capacity in the younger girls by the end of the year as well. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens with our retention over the summer holidays, traditionally the time we lose the most kids to other activities. But that’s a looooong way away. Lets get through the term first!!

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