keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Lazy Sunday

Sunday afternoon SisterUnitLeader and I took 5 girls canoeing on Lilydale Lake. It was a gorgeous day – about 25 degrees, sunny but with a breeze… lovely.

SisterUnitLeader is working towards her canoeing instructing qualifications, so she did all the wrangling of the girls and the boats, while I served as ‘base unit’ and first aider… which essentially meant that I had an afternoon lazing in the sunshine on the banks of the lake. Guiding is tough sometimes!

5 turned out to be a good number, as SisterUnitLeader was able to be in one canoe with two girls, and three others were in another canoe. They went along together, and all five girls got to have time in each position in both boats, so they all got a really good turn.

We’re thinking that maybe next time we’ll try the river that’s quite near our two units… over the longer term, we might even be able to have the odd unit night down on the river during the summer months… guess we’ll see how it goes!


A bit of a mess, really!

Final night of term last night, and it was all a touch scatty! Our plans of ‘edible campsites’ only sort of worked… it seems Guides require a LOT more STUFF than AwesomeCoLeader doing an example at home (they managed to use about 3 times as much chocolate…), and it was the sort of activity where some of them just got it, and figured it out straight away, while others dithered and couldn’t get their bits to fit right, and weren’t sure… etc etc.

So instead of a lovely cohesive activity, we had girls all at different stages, and things definately fraying around the edges! We ended up sending a bunch of kids out into the courtyard to figure out a game themselves (which was actually quite nice, I think they do sometimes quite like a bit of just playing and chatting), and then we got a bunch of the newer girls to each decorate a calico bag from our stash for their handbooks and badges etc, which also worked quite nicely. We’ve had 6 newbies join this term (all juniors, eep!), and none of them had bags yet, so I think they all quite liked having 10-15 minutes to just be together.

Luckily, everything came together in the end, and we held a Promise ceremony for one of our girls who joined late last year, as well as a girl renewing her promise to move up from Juniors to Seniors. I was a little sentimental about her moving up, as she was a teeny wee little one when she joined (juuuust six, and the LITTLE sister of one of our Guides at the time), and now she’s old enough to move up to the Seniors! Can’t figure out if this means I’ve been with the unit too long, or they’re all just growing up too quickly :)

It was also nice for our bunch of newbies to see one of our ceremonies before they do their own, I think it helps the unit’s sense of continuity when the girls know the broad brush of how we do things, and it makes it special when they too have their night of candles, flags, and solemnity.

So, to next term. Not quite sure what we’re going to do program-wise – we’re being moved into a MUCH smaller room for at least 6 weeks, probably more like 8 weeks, which is going to make things tricky – especially with the time of year meaning we can’t just move the program outdoors easily. I know lots of units meet in small rooms, and that we’ve been spoiled with a giant hall for ages, but that doesn’t make it easier to adjust!! Lets just hope we don’t get any random friends showing up next term, because there *literally* won’t be any room!


Never Eat Soggy Weetbix… or Waffles, or Worms!

Easy night for me last night as AmericanCoLeader did all the planning and running of the activities!

We went to the local park, where ACL had set up a series of trails for the girls to follow in their patrols, using compasses to guide their way!

Firstly, we went through how to remember the various directions – where we learned that the Australian “Never Eat Soggy Weetbix” is a little different to the American “Never Eat Soggy Waffles”! So of course the girls started brainstorming all the other things it could possibly be, and, naturally they ended up with “Never Eat Soggy Worms” :)

Anyway, AmercianCoLeader had set up a fabulous little trail, individual for each patrol, which had them finding various clues which gave different directions – like “go north-west five paces” and “go south 20 paces” etc. Along the way they also found textas, stickers, paper, and smarties. They then had to use the materials they’d found to make a sign – each patrol had a direction to make a sign for, which lead into a quick running around game where they had to run to the named direction, with the last kid to arrive ‘out’.

But our game was interrupted by the soccer players using the park, who very rudely moved their activities into the area we were using without saying anything! There was plenty of the park free that they could have used!! Had the very un-Guidey thought of letting the girls run straight through their game, but chose the high road and sent them off to the playground to run about for a bit before walking back to the hall.

So, an easy night, and lovely to have someone else doing all the planning. I like this team-Guiding thing :)


Newbies, planning, and presentations.

Quiet and easy night tonight, as we all recuperated from camp.

Yet another tiny newbie came along to try – only 6 years old – and by the end of the night, was desperate to get mum to buy uniform! So that makes for six tiny new ones for the term, and we’re pretty much full in Juniors… even possibly a little above full, ooops. I’m not used to the idea of saying “no, we’re full”, and I suppose overall numbers aren’t too bad, as Seniors has room, but still.

In terms of activities, it was pretty low key – the first 45 minutes were spent with the girls presenting activities for their JBP Awards, and one of them running a game as her activity – which seemed to take longer to explain than play! But they all did quite well, and one of our long standing Guides has just ticked off her sixth activity, so will be getting her Bronze Endeavour badge shortly! Exciting!

For the second half of the night, we split the girls up into their sections to work on their different badges – the Juniors went with AwesomeCoLeader and YoungCoLeader to build pillow and blanket tents which apparently went quite well, and was a good way to get the quieter new girls to start chatting. Meanwhile AmericanCoLeader and I took the Seniors out to the foyer to work through some of the clauses in the Outdoors badge, although they took SOOOOO LONG to come up with lists of equipment for things to take on a day’s hike, and then strategies for dealing with various emergencies on camp. Actually, it was surprising how quickly and enthusiastically they got into it, given it was quite a “school-ish” activity. But they took so long that they didn’t get to the bit about devising a conservation activity, so they’ll have to sort that out in the next few weeks out of unit time – we’ll see how many badges I need to buy… I’m predicting… hmmm… three. Hopefully they’ll prove me wrong!!

Next week – AmericanCoLeader is planning a bunch of activities based around compasses, so a slack week for me, woohoo :)

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Butterflies + Dragonflies + Worms + Ants = critters camp!

Combine 16 Guides, 3 leaders, 1 parent helper, an activity day, a bunch of insects and critters great and small and what do you get? A happy and (mostly!) successful camp!

‘Crazy Critters’ was our theme, so bugs and insects wove in and out of the activities, decorations, patrols, and food. It probably wasn’t a theme our girls would have chosen (we planned the camp so far ahead they had no say this time!), but they all really got into it, and it was a great one for helping the leaders be creative!

So, the details -

Friday night I got up to camp early and set up as much as I could – I’d found some fake ivy in a $2 shop, so that plus some little lady bug clips formed our table centrepieces, on top of a luridly lime green plastic table cloth – I haven’t done the table cloth/centrepiece thing much before, but I really liked it – it themed the main room for the whole weekend, and made it look a bit special, while being really easy to clean up!!

The table decorations:


The girls all arrived on the bus at about 7pm, unfortunately this was only 5 minutes behind my QM (SisterUnitLeader) who had got caught at work! So much for our plan to have dinner on the table when they arrived! But it didn’t matter – by the time I’d welcomed them all to Crazy Critters Camp, presented them all with their themed scarves (thank you quilting sale pile!), sorted them firstly into patrols, and then secondly into rooms, and then got them AND ALL THEIR STUFF into their rooms, SisterUnitLeader and Parent Helper had platters of chopped up veggie sticks and dips ready, which they all just gobbled down! Luckily the main meal was just sausages in bread, so that didn’t take too long to sort out. After we’d cleaned up from dinner, we went for a night walk around the campsite, which was both exciting (Ooh spooky bush sounds! Being out after dark!) and also useful – as we were able to point out some of the main landmarks which they’d need to know the next day!

It was also useful in that a bit of physical activity seemed to calm them down a touch, and we had an easier bedtime than at recent camps – we put the lights out at about 10.20ish, and I think the last time I SHOOSH’d a kid was at about 11pm, which is decidedly better than two years ago when I had to go and find poor AwesomeCoLeader who was sitting in the cold outside one of the rooms to force them to shut up at 1am!!

Saturday we had the most elaborate hot breakfast I’ve ever had at Guide camp – SisterUnitLeader took everyone’s breakfast orders the night before and then provided everyone with their own tailored breakfast – I had mushrooms, ‘hash browns’ (potato gems), fried eggs, baked beans, and butterfly toast (toast with a butterfly cut out using a cookie cutter) (the other option was dragonfly). Other people had boiled eggs or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, spinach… honestly, I’ve never seen such a diverse breakfast – usually we just do a big pot of something and serve it up!!

We then had a brief Guides Own, not one of my most successful ones, but oh well. I was running a bit short on inspiration when I put it together, but the girls did at least all have a part to play, and all managed to read out their bit reasonably well. For the record, I’m thinking that mid-morning Guides Owns just are not as effective as ones in the dark or twilight. I’m sure dawn would also be fabulous, but unless we start camping mid-winter when dawn is at a suitable hour for me to be nice to small children, that’s not going to happen anytime soon!

For the main part of the Saturday, we had the patrols move through four different activities. To manage this, the patrol leaders were all given a watch, and wrote down the times and activities that they had to be at. We were camping at Britannia Park, which is a fabulous, but GIANT Guide campsite, so they were all under STRICT instructions to never lose their patrol, and that people had to be in at least pairs at all times. I brought the seconders in at that point and reminded them that they were also responsible for ensuring timing and not losing their patrol!! (Can you tell I was a little obsessed on this point? To be fair, its about 20acres or so, and they were going to be without direct adult supervision, so this was not entirely unreasonable…)

The four activities were: Making and eating their lunch at the cabin, Making a bug-themed dessert at the cabin for everyone to try at dinner time, going on the open day activities (which included a jumping castle, circus skills, making damper etc) while hunting for 10 bugs that we’d hidden all over the campsite, and helping out with taking tickets etc at the jumping castle, which was our assigned activity.

Lunch and helping out generally took less than their appointed hour, so they were free in that time to continue bug hunting and activity-day-ing, which they did with gusto. The bugs, as I’m sure you’re curious, were brightly coloured plastic bugs (e.g. an orange millipede, a blue beetle, a yellow scorpion), which we put in small glass jars about the place. Their general location was marked on a map given to each patrol, but they definitely took some hunting, and some very careful observation! By the end of the day, the two older patrols had managed to find all 10, but the two younger patrols gave up after finding about 5 each!

On the program we intended to do a hike after the activity day, but they were all whiney about the prospect, and the weather looked to be coming in… so a bit of a re-think, and we decided to use the ‘Challenge Valley’ obstacle course equipment instead, which was conveniently just across from the cabin, and which they all really got into. Interestingly, several of the girls really struggled with the concept of having to wait before your whole patrol had completed a challenge before moving on… I suppose there aren’t many times where they’re reliant on other people’s capacity to complete something.

Dinner was reasonably standard camp fare – spaghetti bolognaise – but they all ate it enthusiastically. SisterUnitLeader did give the meal a bit of extra pizzazz by serving “bug juice” – green cordial with sour worms in ice-cubes, which the kids thought was just the most brilliant thing! I think at this camp we were a bit more minimalist with the food than last time – we had food available for morning tea and afternoon tea, but it was more just platters of cut fruit or a few savoury biscuits, rather than anything substantial. I think this was actually the right call – no one went hungry, but they were all more enthusiastic about the main meals, and we didn’t have so much food left over, as the kids were actually having the planned second serves of pasta etc, rather than just one as they’d filled up at snack time. Mind you… we did follow up standard spaghetti bolognaise with the four ‘bug desserts’ the girls had made earlier in the day – firstly apples and cheese cut up to look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar (shared between two), followed by individual ‘tasting plates’ of honeycomb, butterfly cakes (with cream and jam), and spider chocolate crackles (crackles with liquorice legs and eyes). They looked great, and were all delicious, and the girls were all pretty chuffed to share their hard work.

Finally, after dinner, we had an indoor ‘campfire’, as the rain was absolutely bucketing down. In place of fire, each girl had a glowstick in a jar at their feet, and we had a bunch of the jars in the middle, which was very effective. Kids were in bed and quiet a bit earlier – I think the last SHHHH was at about 10.20pm :)

Sunday we got up a tiny bit later (a princely 7.30am!), and insisted on the girls packing and cleaning their rooms prior to breakfasting – which worked quite well with two of the rooms, but one was soooooo scatty and soooooo disorganised, that they ended up delaying the start of the wide game beginning as it took them one and a half hours to get to breakfast!!

The main part of the day was spent on a brilliant wide game put together by AwesomeCoLeader (I’ll see if I can convince her to do a Guest Post with the details!), the central concept of which was: the Professor of Entomology from the local university has been kidnapped, and as uni students are on holidays, the Guides have been asked to track her down!

Challenges included in the game included building a shelter facing north (like termites), doing a dance to share a message (like honeybees), building a spiders web, using a compass to walk in a certain direction and observe what sounds and critters were around, and collect some bugs from the site, and of course, cook lunch over the fire. Naturally, it finished with hunting down the kidnapped professor :)

After that, we pretty much just packed up, had a short closing ceremony, and then sent the kids home! The last girls left at about 3.20pm (so much for the 2.30-3.00pm pick up!), and us leaders left at about 4.00pm, which wasn’t too bad.

Overall, a pretty good camp – the girls seemed happy (and 16 was a lovely number!), the leadership team worked really well, and even the parent helper was great, really happy to pitch in wherever, always asking if there was anything extra she could do to help. So, all in all, I think I’d be willing to do it again, and after chats with the girls and AwesomeCoLeader, I think we’ve got themes for the next two already sorted! Titanic Camp and Dinosaurs Camp, here we come!

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Constructing Guides

If anyone ever tells you that girls don’t like to build things, well, they’re wrong.

Tonight we had a brilliant night, possibly one of my favourites for quite a while, as I spent some time with the Juniors as they used sticks and rope and tarpaulins to construct small pup tents/shelters.

My role was pretty much just supervising (with the occasional advice/comment) as they all worked brilliantly in their allocated small groups (not their usual patrols), and started to get really creative in their approach to problem solving. Gratifyingly (in terms of our term structure), several of them remembered how they’d got their tripod tents to stay up several weeks ago, and were able to apply that thinking, and explain it to the newer members of the group.

It was particularly impressive that the night went so well, given that we had visitors from Sister Unit (always lovely), plus two girls “brought a friend” (which… that’s great, but a heads up is always nice… and *technically* the Juniors are full…), plus four of the girls are so new they can’t yet remember which patrol they’re usually in, or hardly anyone’s name, so the challenges were potentially substantial! (True confessions time its not just kids having trouble with names: of four newbies this term, there are three girls (sisters and their friend) who look SO ALIKE that I have NO CLUE which is which… I wonder if there’s a way I can work in nametags next week…??)

All in all, a really great activity. Filled nearly an hour, including them gleefully destroying their creations, and then helping (quite well actually) to wrap up the ropes neatly and put everything away.

While all this was going on, AwesomeCoLeader supervised the Seniors (a flip to our usual ways) as they put up and took down little 3 person tents in patrols. Putting them up the challenge was to do so in silence, while taking them down ended up with one of the funniest sights I’ve seen for a while – 4 patrol members blindfolded, one not, and supposedly providing instructions. The results seemed decidedly mixed when I peeked in, but my little tent was returned to me fitting better inside its case than I’d sent it off to them, so I can only assume it at least partly worked!

And of course you’re reading the blog closely (of course), and noticed we’ve only got an hour of programing there – what happened to the extra half hour? Well, that went on a couple of activities and presentations run by a couple of girls for their Junior BP Award, plus a bit of futzing about, and your basic chaos of trying to wrangle 25+ kids!

Followed all that with decoupage at Rangers, and then panic raiding of the shed and cupboards for anything and everything we could possibly need for this weekend’s camp! Fingers crossed all goes to plan (or near enough!) so that I’m not scared off planning others in future! :)


Laying tracks


Tracks and trails last night, as the senior guides learnt about tracking, and a couple of different ways to lay trails, as part of a ‘tracking wide game’, although with less of an underlying story than usual!

Both patrols had instructions to follow their own trails, and had separate starting points, from where they were meant to follow a trail of arrows and similar signs, laid out in wooden skewers and toothpicks – one patrol did really well, the other, not so much as I’d foolishly placed a clue for a later stage of the trail broadly in sight of the signs, so of course they went straight to that!! Ah well.

After the arrows, they found a card with the trail sign for ’20 paces forward’, which lead to an envelope with a code, which when decoded said “follow the pink/green footprints” (drawn on the pavement with chalk) – the footprints lead to another envelope, which required the girls to find three flowers (made of pipecleaners) or three animals (little brightly coloured plastic ones) that they should have observed while following the trail so far. Once they’d found those, they proceeded to the foyer to make a vase for the flowers/pen for the animals, using lashing/knotting, gift ribbon (not exactly the traditional string, but it was handy!) and more wooden skewers.

Finally, they were directed into the courtyard to find another envelope, which told them to follow ‘these’ – a couple of brightly coloured beads. The beads were then about a meter or two apart around and about, finally ending in a ‘gone home’ symbol, with their new patrol badges in the middle :)

Only drama was – they all managed to get through the trail in about 40 minutes, not the 60-70 I’d planned for!! So, a quick change of plans – we regrouped, chatted about what they’d learnt so far – and then said, okay, each patrol is setting a trail for the other. And they ran straight to it! All in all, I think they had fun.

Meanwhile, AwesomeCoLeader continued the ‘Tents’ badge with the juniors, doing a just-complex-enough craft to make little cardboard circus tents – I walked in briefly and saw two tables full of little ones totally focused on what they were doing, and very happy. In other news, TinyNewbie is all signed up and uniformed, SisterNewbies showed up uniform, and FriendOfSisterNewbies turned up for a second go, so juniors looks pretty full!

Finally, we had a short parents information meeting for our upcoming camp, which seemed to go well – not sure if our current crop of parents are particularly low-stress, or if the notes I went through were super comprehensive, but either way, there were pretty much zero questions, so, yay, and bring on camp next weekend :)


Growing little leaders

Simple night tonight, with lots of games – but with a simple twist: the girls had to lead the activities. Each one of the girls was in charge for a short activity, and I think that for the younger and quieter ones in particular, that it was a good chance to ‘be in charge’ for a while.

We started with a group chat about what a good leader needed (“Not to be a big mean bossy boots”) (yep, pretty accurate!), and we also spoke about using an authoritative voice and attitude. I had a bit of fun showing how it was pretty hard to listen to someone mumbling and twirling their hair and chewing their nails and scuffing their feet, and that you need instead to speak clearly, and project your voice, and stand up straight!

A couple of the activities we did included:

  • getting your patrol ‘across the river’ using two pieces of paper (some intriguingly creative responses including throwing the papers back, and ripping them into multiple shoe sized bits)
  • organising your patrol into tallest-shortest, oldest-youngest, time in guides – all in silence
  • leading your patrol around the hall and out and around a pillar and back again – while they’re all blindfolded (moral of the game: don’t leave anyone behind!)
  • tunnel ball and captain’s ball, again in silence (ish!)

And a few other games, including Not Fruit Salad, Shield Tiggy, and Secret Circle.

Overall, I think it was a pretty good evening – as AwesomeCoLeader said, it was probably a night which was more of a stretch for some of the younger and newer girls, rather than our old hands, but that’s okay every now and then.

We also had the re-worked Seniors patrols choose new patrol emblems – so we’ll be welcoming Dolphin and Bluebell patrols in place of Brumby and Blue Wren :)

After Guides, I helped out with the (only two!) Rangers – glad we didn’t cancel despite the sad turn up, as we had a bunch of fun trying to make a box oven (my first attempt!) – and it kind of worked… although next time, I think it will be worth investing in the heavy duty caterer’s foil, as we ended up catching the box on fire which was a bit dramatic!! Fun though :)


Thinking about our sisters in guiding (and scouting!)


Postcards, poems, and politeness were some of our themes this week as we marked World Thinking Day. We started the evening off with going through the postcards we had received from the World Thinking Day Postcard Exchange. The girls seemed pretty excited to receive information about Guides/Scouts from America, the UK, Dubai, and South Africa. It definitely provided a more tangible way of talking about the international aspects of guiding than the usual “no, seriously, we’re everywhere!”.

We split the activity into two, with the Juniors going through the postcards while the Seniors voted on Patrol Leaders, followed by the Seniors reading postcards while the Juniors did a treasure hunt, looking for a Promise Badge and a World Badge which had been hidden in the building (surprisingly successful!).

We followed that up with a ‘serious’ interlude, with a short (about 10 minutes) Guides Own that I’d put together, which focused on what it means to be a Guide, what the various parts of the world badge symbolise, the meaning of the salute (the three-part promise), and a poem I found online about guiding sisters around the world, which I cut up into sections and had a couple of the older girls read a stanza each. We also sang ‘Make New Friends’ and ‘This Little Guiding Light’. A fairly successful little ceremony, I think, and the girls seemed engaged throughout, which is the main thing. We finished it quite nicely with “please close your eyes for a moment or two and think about your sisters in guiding across the world, and how they’re thinking about you too… when you’re ready, stand up, salute, and quietly go into the next room”. It was very sweet to see even the three newbies who’d joined us for the night attempting to properly salute, and being very solemn in their exit :)

Next, we went for a bit of international fun – learning how to say ‘hello’ in several languages so you could greet your interational sisters (we went with greetings in Mandarin, Arabic, German, French, Hindi, and Swahili), and played a game where everyone stood in a circle and threw the ball across the circle, and named a country where one of those languages were spoken (China, Egypt, Germany, France, India, Kenya), and the girl catching the ball had to say hello in the correct language or get out. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but they seemed to get into it pretty well.

Then to round it all out and add a bit of chaotic fun, NewLeader organised them all into a game of Cat and Mouse, with different rules to how we’ve usually done it (which is generally a version of Streets And Lanes), and this new version was MUCH more successful, so I think we’ll keep that one in the box of tricks! Finally finally we played their old favourite of Not-Fruit-Salad. This weekend – more Thinking Day!


Damper… and ants

Very old-school Guiding night last night – campfires and damper, and some unexpected first aid!

The unexpected first aid was a touch of spontaneous fainting from LovelyNewLeader while we were all standing in our opening circle. She was fine pretty much immediately afterwards, thank goodness, but it certainly provided some entertainment – not to mention the quickest and most through quieting of the girls I’ve EVER seen!

The great thing about having extra leaders though is that while I was helping LovelyNewLeader (I’m the default first aider for the crew!), AwesomeCoLeader was able to take the girls outside and set them to work fetching wood for our campfires, so we were able to carry on and keep the girls busy, which makes things easier for all.

The girls were, however, VERY relieved to get back from their wood fetching to find LovelyNewLeader strolling about and chatting!

So we set up our campfires – our now usual set up is using large tin foil roasting pans (usually two stacked together) as our ‘fire drum’, with the new addition of a couple of cheap pavers as ‘feet’, which seems to work quite well. Last night we decided to have two fires – one for Juniors, one for Seniors. It’s a good way to ensure the younger ones have a chance to (responsibly!) play with fire, and not have it totally dominated by the older girls.

Mind you, we had a bit of rebellion when we made it clear that only girls who had actually read their program and followed the clothing instructions (sensible shoes, long pants) were allowed to set, light, and feed the fires. But we insisted – short shorts are not suitable for being close to fires, and if we take the time to put something on the program, then yes, we do in fact mean it!

So while the long-pants-wearers tended the fires, the short-pants-wearers made up the damper dough for everyone, which actually turned out to be quite a good split of responsiblities. We ended up relaxing the no-short-pants-near-the-fire rule for the actual toasting of the damper, figuring that as they were sitting on concrete, with long sticks into the embers (no longer jumping flames!), that the risk was pretty low.

About 2/3rds of the girls ended up with edible damper – the others just couldn’t keep their sticks in one place long enough for it to have a chance to cook! But even those girls got a bit to taste from others, and I think overall it was worth it.

Only drama was – ants! So many ants! One of the girls dropped the honey container, and suddenly it was the invasion of the ants – they just came from everywhere, and were all over the dropped honey, the honey container, the jam container next to it…!

All in all, a good night.



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