keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Growing apace


Not quite sure how its happened, but all of a sudden we’re bursting at the seams – our first night of term had 5 newbies (all prospective juniors) come along, and three weeks later all five have joined. And a newbie from last term who we thought we’d lost is suddenly back, as is her little sister. AND two girls who didn’t come back after term one are back and paid up, plus, one year after she left we’ve got another girl back after zero contact. So that’s 9/10 kids up from the end of last term… out of nowhere. Its just strange. Wonderful, but strange!!

Its such a sudden and significant jump that it’s throwing out our systems a little – we’ve been running at 3 patrols in Juniors for a while now, but at 20 kids in the littlies, we probably should move to 4 patrols, the 4 Seniors patrols we thought were going to slip down to three with several girls moving up to Rangers will stay at four, the Rangers are suddenly big enough for us to think about patrols… And on a more practical level, we probably need a few more sets of scissors, textas etc to accommodate the extras…

I’m sure by the end of term it will all seem normal, but for the next few weeks I suspect everything is going to be just a bit wonky as we try and get the new kids’ names and faces sorted, and get them all used to being part of our little group.

All in all, great problems to have, but I suspect we’ll be feeling a little stretched for a while until this all becomes the new normal!

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Tunnel and track building

Another pretty good night this week, as the girls used various recycled bits and pieces (plus a raid of the cupboards!) to build tracks for a little matchbox-style car, as part of our wheels badge.

We set it up as an inter-patrol challenge, with one single car, so the challenge was to build a track that kept the car running for the longest time – the aim being to have as long a track as possible, with enough of an incline to keep it going but not so little that it slowed and stopped or got stuck.

It ended up being a really fun night, and the girls all got really competitive – constantly testing and refining their ideas, really focused. We only gave them about 30 minutes to work together, before testing (and timing – the longest journey of the little car was only 2.8 seconds!!). We then got the various tracks put together, getting the whole group to cooperate (well, in theory), with the aim of achieving a longer run time than any one group had managed. The eventual longer track did get a bit better – I think the final time was just on 3 seconds – so I’m not sure that the idea of more minds being better necessarily was true!!

Overall, a good evening – it was great seeing them all so invested in building and constructing and thinking through how the pieces could go together!

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Maps and road rules – and how to make boring topics fun!

As part of the Wheels Create-A-Challenge badge that my Senior Guides are working on this term, we decided to have a bit of a patrol quiz night on road rules, going with the tried-and-true theory that the best way to handle learning-y and potentially school-ish material is to make it fast, make it competitive, and squeeze in the learning between the giggles.

We started with each patrol getting a copy of a Melways (Melbourne’s main street directory, so standard that people use “Melways” to mean “street directory”, and get confused when in other cities they use something else), and having races to find certain locations. One point was awarded to the patrol that was able to give the first correct map reference for each of the locations I read out. It was quite interesting seeing several of them being a bit mystified at why you’d have such a thing in your car – I guess these kids are so used to smart phones and gps devices that actual maps seem deeply quaint.

Handily, we ended up with enough Melways that I was able to use my one (a super handy mini version!) to confirm if their answers were correct. My original plan had me writing down the references in advance, but time got away from me, and this was actually more fun to properly check, rather than just look at my list. Locations included our nearest cross-streets to our hall, the local pool, the MCG, a local station, the nearest general hospital… etc etc.

We then awarded one point per street name for each member of the patrol – so Sally Marie Jones would have to find a street (or lane, or close, or avenue…) named Sally or Marie or Jones. They all seemed to get a kick out of finding “their” street!

Next we switched gears and focused on road rules. I’d done some print outs of several pages (er… about 35 pages actually!) of the booklet that learner drivers use to get their permits. Each patrol got a set of rules, and it was then a race to answer a bunch of questions correctly – things like “what are two tips for driving safely in tunnels” “who must you give way to in a roundabout” “when can you enter a tramway”. Each of the answers was SPECIFIC, and they were all flinging the pages around desperately trying to find the right tiny paragraph which would answer the question.

We also had a round where they had to quickly draw specific signs (less successful I think – perhaps as it was a bit more individual than team-y), and then finally a round where I told them specific maneuvers – zip merging, hook turns, three point turns – and as a patrol they had to act it out, with points going to the best/most accurate/most creative representation!

So, all in all, a fun night, full of crazy yelling, and lots of excitement, about a topic that I’m sure none of them were psyched to find out about!

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Musing and moaning (just a little)

So, I’ve barely blogged this year. And having barely blogged, I’m out of practice, and feeling guilty that I’m out of practice, and it just becomes a big shame spiral.

The thing is, this year I’ve felt a little funny about blogging my adventures. With my awesome co-leaders taking on more of the load, I don’t feel as able to tell the tales of “my” unit, as it seems a bit weird to talk about the marvellous ideas they’ve come up with, even though I know from comments etc that people enjoy hearing about my team’s ideas as much (or if perfectly honest, more!) than they do about mine. But still, it feels like I’m stepping on toes somehow.

And more generally, I think I’ve lost a bit of my guiding mojo these last few months. Not so much in my enjoyment of the girls and the activities, but somehow my confidence that I’m putting together a program worth sharing, or ideas worth telling about. Our units are doing great – heaps of kids, growing at almost every age group (we’ve even had now 3 new-to-guiding teenagers join us, which is some sort of miracle), and a great team of leaders who are all gelling.

And yet… somehow my confidence is down. I think it started when a couple of big ideas and offers to do specific things for “higher ups” went unanswered… it makes you start to shrink in on yourself a touch, and wonder if possibly previous ideas that had been favourably received were done so more out of politeness…

So, my aim this term is to return to blogging properly – perhaps writing down the great things we’re doing – me and the whole crew – will reassure me that we’re broadly on the right track. Or, of course, it may convince me that it’s time to move on – either from the blogging or the guiding or possibly both. We shall see.

To those of you who’ve been reading and following – stick around despite the whining of this post – I’ve got about four wide games to publish in the next few weeks!



Eggy delicious

A few weeks late, but oh well!

As part of our cooking badge work, one of the criteria was to cook a simple meal using a frying pan. To mix things up a little, we decided that we’d make this an outdoor activity!

So we built a little fire (in our patented foil-tray-on-bricks method), slid our little grill over the top, and then popped the frypans on top of the grill! Perfect!

Our ‘simple meal’ was fried eggs, popped on top of toasted English muffins, with a slice of cheese slightly melted on top. Tasty, easy, and hopefully something the girls can easily re-create at home.

We did this with two of our four seniors patrols, while the other two patrols were inside in the kitchen, baking cakes, also on the cooking badge criteria. The following week, we switched the roles around so they all got to do both activities. I think it was a good decision to get part of our cooking skills outside, even though that element wasn’t explicitly included in the criteria – mixing it up keeps the term interesting, and woohoo, brings in the outdoors and fire element that the girls don’t really get elsewhere!

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Bringing friends, growing guiding… perhaps!

Two weeks of ‘bring a friend’ nights, which will hopefully (maybe?) grow our units. We’re not struggling for members (woohoo!), but the extra leaders, and a bit of time for us to get used to the current numbers, and we think we could comfortably go up an extra patrol worth in the Juniors, and an extra few in Seniors would be handy, as several are due to head up to Rangers in the next term or two.

We decided to split the  bring a friend activities over two weeks, as there is always added complexity when you have newbies around. Week one, the Juniors brought friends for a Swiss themed night (world guiding: tick!) – we started off with some newspaper skiing races and games, followed by three stations for the patrols + pals to move around. One was a raclette station – co-leader brought long her special tiny little raclette grill pans, and the girls chopped veggies and cheese for grilling. Properly Swiss, and something they certainly hadn’t done before! Another station was chocolate fondue – we had marshmallows and fruit for the girls to dip in the fondue, which of course went down a treat! The final station had three different crafty options – a tapestry-ish bookmark (sewn with wool), a little woven heart shape, and a papercut.

Finally, to bring them all back together and add a touch more ‘play’, we had several rounds of a giants treasure style game, with the object to catch being a small cow figure.

It all went well, I think. But no returns the following week, so who knows??

To be fair, the following week was a bit of a challenge – owing to our landlords letting us know only a few days in advance that they’d double-booked our hall (and had over 400 people coming!!), we had to do some quick work to move for the night. Luckily, we were able to move to another hall in the district, but we did have a drop off in numbers, as the location really wasn’t as convenient for many of our families.

Anyhoo, for the second bring-a-friend we had our Seniors girls inviting their mates for a zombie wide game. I’d done this years ago to some success, and decided to revamp and update it, adding in a de-coding element, which required the girls to travel as zombies (with the limping, lumbering walk, lolling heads and outstretched arms) to their next destination, which added probably an extra 10 minutes, which was enough. They all seemed to have fun, and luckily, although it was reasonably chilly, it was a dry night so we were able to have them all outside for the whole time, so, I’m counting that as a ‘tick’ in the “outdoors” fundamentals column!!

I suppose the next few weeks will show if these efforts lead to any extra friends joining us… but to some extent, I suppose it doesn’t matter: the two nights went well, and our existing members had a fun night to show off to their friends – nothing too earnest to be embarrassed about, but also proper showcases of guiding activities, the mix of cooking, crafting, outdoors, and fun that we try to aim for. So, we’ll see!


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Cooking with managed chaos, and some calm crafting

Well, Awesome Co-Leader earned her blog name this week, somehow managing to wrangle 20 kids all cooking at once.

Thankfully, we have lots of knives and chopping boards (although, as it turned out, still not quite enough!), so the stir-frying all got done, with two pairs at a time using woks on the kitchen stove, and two pairs using our old faithful little camping stoves. Writing it down, it doesn’t seem so bad, but gosh, it seemed overwhelming in terms of moving parts on the night, plus the sheer logistics of getting that many kids safely in and out of the kitchen (in an hour and a half!) was kind of crazy.

Still, they all cooked, all explored some new flavours, textures, and ingredients, and all seemed happy at the end of the night!

Meanwhile, I organised the juniors group for a lovely calm craft night, using cellophane and glass bricks (amazing what you find at the hardware when you “think wide” about the task!) to make nature-ish scenes. I say “ish”, as according to the girls, apparently nature scenes now include Pokemon… 😆


Next week- a bring-a-friend Our Chalet themed night for the juniors (hopefully we’ll have a crowd!), and a play-with-the-craft-odds-and-ends night for the seniors. Should be fun!

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Guiding again

Cruisey first night back for term 3 – Juniors playing a bunch of games with a ‘nature’ theme (variations on classics fruit salad, tiggy, rob the nest, and kim’s game), Seniors getting started on their Lifeskills (Cooking) trefoil one, with a bunch of activities based around food safety, and the Rangers being overgrown tiny kids playing games in the dark.

It was an easy night for me, as our whole multi-leaders thing swung into action, and I wasn’t needed to run things – my main contribution to the evening being an idea that we could fun-up the food safety activities by having the girls make up short jingles about using up food scraps – which I got to be the judge of – they were hilarious/terrible, but the girls were all having a lot of fun, knowing that they were quite, quite bad!🙂

This term, we’ve got the Juniors working on the Nature Create-A-Challenge (based off a bunch of suggestions from the girls which seemed to have a surprisingly strong plants and nature focus), and the Seniors doing the “proper cooking” Lifeskills (cooking) badge – we decided that they all keep asking for cooking, so lets do it properly!! They probably won’t want to see the inside of the kitchen after this term for quite a while!

We’ve done the Nature badge previously, but over a camp based around bugs and critters, so we’ll take quite a different approach this time – keeping it interesting for the adults as well as the girls!

Next week – butterfly craftiness for the littlies, stirfry cooking for the seniors.



Campfire cooking

An excellent final night of term, as our seniors group embraced the cold and expanded their campfire cooking skills.

We had a slightly smaller group than usual, as several girls were already on holidays, plus the usual winter illnesses (although not too bad, still 15 kids) –  but that worked quite well, as we were able to have the whole group working together in various configurations.

We used our usual fires-in-tinfoil-trays set up, but had two of them together, so that we could slide our little cast iron grill top (which has legs about 40cms tall) over the top to cook on.

As usual with cooking and with fire, we didn’t quite get finished in time, leaving the leaders to put out and clean up the fire, but at least we were organised enough that the girls had done the cleaning up of the left over kindling and washed and put away the dishes!

We cooked vegetable skewers, using eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, capsicum, and red onion. Chopped the pieces finely, and drizzled a bit of oil over them – mostly they turned out quite well, and even our veggie-averse kids mostly seemed to enjoy them… or at least parts! The zucchini was particularly popular, with several girls seeming a little shocked that they actually liked zucchini done that way!


For dessert, we put some crushed plain guide biscuits in muffin tins (with muffin cases), added a marshmallow, a slice of banana (or pear, for a couple of banana-allergic kids), and a large chocolate drop. The first set were probably left on a bit long (the biscuits at the bottom were a bit too… well, charcoal. But the second set which had about half the time on the heat were delicious!

While all this was going on, the juniors group went for a night time expedition to the local park, and had fun playing games in the dark and cold.

All in all, a good term, looking forward to a couple of weeks without the kids… but with planning and tackling cleaning out the cupboards!


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Sewing, science, and skyscrapers

Fun and delightfully planned-by-others night at Guides this week, as we split the girls up into three groups (rather than the usual two), separating out our high schoolers (who we refer to as ‘upper seniors’)  from our seniors, and having separate programs for them, and separate again for the juniors.

The Upper Seniors had fun in the kitchen, doing crazy masterchef style ‘molecular gastronomy’ experiments – making ‘cordial caviar’, ‘fruit fettucinni’ and various other concoctions! It was basically science via food, and they all seemed to really get into it.

Meanwhile, the Seniors were working in patrols to tackle a series of skyscraper challenges, building towers out of skewers and marshmallows, legos, straws (strong enough to hold a tennis ball), and various games based on towers, like jenga. I peeked in a couple of times and they were all really engaged, with lots of giggling, plus a bunch of gentle of teasing the opposing patrols.

I was mainly working with the Juniors for the night, doing sewing. Newest co-leader (leader #6, yes, we’re super lucky!!) had arranged for the girls to sew little echidna shapes out of a stretchy fabric, which was then filled with dirt and grass seed, with the idea that with a bit of love, care, and water, will end up having echidna ‘spikes’ of grass in a week or two!

Once again, the juniors were fantastic at the sewing, really engaged, and quietly focused. They all did both hand-sewing of two button eyes (and even our littlest 6 year olds managed this just fine), plus at least some of the machine sewing of the pieces together. We did have a few sneaky cheats to help progress – a mum helper got a production line going of pre-threaded and knotted sewing needles, so we didn’t have to fuss about that, and our new junior leader (well… not yet official, as she’s not *quite* 14) was fabulous at wrangling the filling of the echidnas with dirt, and generally trouble-shooting. Anyway, a great night, and one where all of the girls seemed happy and settled.

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