keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Promise and law and games

Back for our final term for the year, and we decided to quickly squeeze in some promise and law activities. Not sure about other peoples’ units, but certainly we struggle to balance the ‘serious’ side of guiding with the fun, so this was a rare night focused entirely on promise and law!

Our Junior girls did three activities – the first was just a bit of a chat – going through the promise line by line, and asking for examples of how they could live up to the promise. The first bit “I promise that I will do my best” we asked each of the girls to have a think and then give an example of when they’ve done their best in the last week. They were all able to give an example, and it was really nice to give them all a chance to shine a little bit and be a bit proud of how they’d done their best – at school to get an A in maths, in carefully doing a picture for their auntie, in helping out at home.

Next we had a game which involved the girls all having a word or two of the promise written on a post-it note, and stuck on their backs. They had to work together to get it in the correct order… and once they’d figured that, we mixed it up and had them try again, but this time without speaking! I think the ‘without speaking’ part was probably a bit too tough for the younger group, but they got there eventually, with the odd suggestion or two from the leaders.


The post-it-note promises

Finally, they made teeny-tiny mini promise books – they ended up being about 2cms wide by 3cms tall! The girls really liked them though, and I got shown several different ones for approval :)

Meanwhile, the Senior girls (who we’ve decided to split into four smaller patrols, rather than 3 too-large patrols) did two activities – making promise origami ‘chatterboxes’, which they all found fun (lots of comments of “ohhhhh I haven’t done this in years!!) (they’re so old our big girls, heh).

The second activity was run by one of our new leaders, putting into practice an idea she got from a recent training weekend – getting the girls to do a kind of graffiti wall about what they believe in, as part of the ‘develop my beliefs’ part of the promise.

Some of their comments were lovely: “keep calm and live life”, “world peace is a possibility”, “everyone is equal no matter what colour skin they have”, “your imagination is the limit”… and some were a bit less sensible: “I believe in flying pigs!”. Heh. Still, they seemed to have fun, and the majority of the comments were good!

Overall, a good night, and one where promise and law activities thankfully did not end up boring!

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Relationship building

Last week, we had planned to have a night of the girls using mainly pipecleaners to make little human shapes – for the younger girls, a free choice of design, for the older girls, they were to base their people on Guides from the Asia-Pacific region uniforms.

But looking over the course of the term, we’ve had an unusually high number of crafty type nights – ones that when we first did the program didn’t seem particularly craft-y (e.g. the International Year of Light evening, and our Whatever night) ended up being craft-dominated.

So instead of spending the whole night doing the pipecleaner people, we decided to do a bit of a round-robin of activities – yes the pipecleaners, but also team-building-y type games, and a torchlight scavenger hunt.

We’ve also noticed in recent weeks that our group has got quite large (and with a wide age range), and quite a few of the kids don’t even know each other’s name, yet alone anything about them. So we decided to pair up our Juniors and Seniors patrols for the night, and have those pairs move through the activities as a group. I was running the ‘games’ ‘station’, and made sure that at the start of each of three sessions, that the girls in the paired patrols had all shared names, and were chatting a bit. Interestingly, even when the third set of patrols came through, they had not taken the initiative themselves to introduce each other… perhaps they were a little embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t remember each other’s names and needed introductions??

As for the games, we did:

human knots – stand in a circle, reach across and grab the hands of two different people, attempt to un-tangle the knot without breaking the chains

circle sit – stand really close together, all facing one way, then sloooooowly sit down on each other’s knees – in theory the circle should balance so the weight is distributed and not heavy

Mexican wave chain – hold hands in a long line, and raise hands in a row Mexican-wave style, while also bobbing up and down (to get the wave really moving), AND walk around the room.

For one of the groups, we also did wheelbarrow races, and a kind of crawling conga line.

It was lots of fun, and for the human knots and circle sit, NewCoLeader and I got in there with the kids and fully participated, which they found hilarious! I’m often in a “directing” rather than “participating” role with the kids these days, and it was nice and novel (for both me and the kids!) to be more actively involved. I think I used to be more a participant, but as the group has grown, the directing type role seems more necessary…? Or perhaps I’m just changing in my leadership style gradually. Regardless, its nice to mix things up every now and then.

The other activities – the pipecleaner people and the scavenger hunt – seemed to go fairly well. Unfortunately, the pipecleaner people probably did need a bit of a longer session (at least for some kids), as a few were getting frustrated that they didn’t have time to complete to the standard they wanted, as it was time to move ahead to the next activity. Ah well, you can’t get everything right!

Overall, I think it was a good session, and I think it was good to get the older and younger girls to interact with each other. There is no point having a large group of possible friends, mentors, peers… if you don’t even know each other’s name!!

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More stiches, more baking… and some decidedly unsuccessful campfire cooking

Following on from our lovely night of sewing and baking for the little ones, we did it all again, swapping the girls over, so they each did both activity.

This second time around was both more and less successful than the first. In the sewing side of things, we had an easier run second time as the parent helpers and I knew what we were doing, but that did mean that rather than the activity perfectly filling the time, we ran a little early and a few of the kids were getting a little bored. That said, I did have a lovely experience working quite one-on-one with one of the girls who I would have expected to struggle with the activity. She’s one of those kids who is always on the go, rarely pays attention to instructions, always chatting and mucking about… (one of the ones whose name you learn QUICKLY as you’re using it in a warning tone a lot!!)… so I would have thought sewing was not her cup of tea. And indeed, her initial response to the activity was “do I HAVE to?!” but she ended up loving it. Her doll ended up being one of the wonkiest ones produced, but it was very clearly one that she had made with only the most minimal of instruction, and she was pretty chuffed.

Meanwhile, the baking was a little more challenging than the week before – slightly more girls in the kitchen, and an interesting problem we hadn’t dealt with before – several girls too short to comfortably reach the benches! The one little step stool was in high demand, and meant things took longer than expected!

Maybe time to hunt down some extra step stools to add to our equipment stash!

For the older girls, they were doing outdoor cooking – which was meant to be a camp version of croque monsieur. It… didn’t go well. The leaders we had outside didn’t have much experience with outdoor cooking, the kids for whatever reason were a bit ratty, and all just didn’t quite go as expected. Still, the fires got built properly and quickly, and they are all definitely getting better at the whole fire concept, so that was good. And I guess the odd fail is okay!

We’ll just call it a learning experience, and decide that the activity was all about building resilience. Yep, that was it! Lalalalala… :)

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Yes more please! Nah it was boring!

So, what did the kids actually think about whatever night?

Interestingly, the feedback seemed broadly split into two camps of opinions, and those two camps mapped almost exactly to our Juniors and Seniors groups!

The Juniors (ages 6-9) LOVED it, and begged to have more nights where there is “so much STUFF”. I think that for those girls, rummaging through a giant box of crafty bits and pieces was incredibly exciting, and they found the more relaxed interactions with the leaders (who were mostly also just playing with the crafty things, or having casual chats with the kids) to be really novel. I suspect they felt quite grown up having that freedom.

The Seniors (ages 10-13) however, had a much more mixed feeling. Comments included “there wasn’t much point” “It didn’t seem like there was something to really aim for…” “it didn’t really feel like Guides…”

Which, to be perfectly honest, was exactly the reaction we’d hoped for. The opening and closing ceremonies may occasionally seem a little boring, but they nicely bookend the evening. And having clear plans for the evening does mean that it feels like there is a reason for being away from the tv for the night :)

So, I think we’ll call it a success, but keep in mind the fun of entirely unstructured crafting time. Perhaps we can have a session or two a year to use up all the odds and sods and save us having to keep *quite* so much stuff in the shed!


Stitches and stuffings

For me, this week just gone was an easy and simple affair – I was in charge of a mere seven girls, and had three adult helpers with me!

The reason for these odd numbers? We were playing with sewing machines, where you really do need to keep things to a very high helper-to-kid ratio, especially when those kids are all the under-nine set.

Of course, this wasn’t all the unit was doing – our Senior group was out in the foyer area with two of my lovely co-leaders, making “swaps” for three of our girls to take to an upcoming interstate camp (with, I gather, decidedly mixed results… oh well), and the other half of the Juniors group was in the kitchen making gingerbread girls.

So anyway, back to the sewing. AwesomeCoLeader had found a great fabric recently which had this oversized print of stylized paper-doll style girls, and bought it “as I’m sure we’ll think of something to do with it!” – well, we did. Each Guide cut out one of these ‘dollies’ with a reasonably generous seam allowance, and then cut out a matching shape from our stash of bright fabrics left over from various previous projects. They then sewed the two sides together using the sewing machine (leaving a gap at the feet), stuffed them with cushion stuffing (of which I now realise I insanely over-purchased, in fear of not having enough… so need to come up with at least three more projects using stuffing…), and then the girls could choose whether to sew up the feet using the machine, or by hand.

It was a lovely, peaceful, chilled out evening, and all the girls were just delighted with how their cushion/dolls turned out (they looked a  bit like matroyshka dolls), and it was lovely to have three helpers (two mums and a grandma). I don’t often like to call on the parent cohort for help (I know there are mixed views out there on this, but I don’t generally think that just because I enjoy volunteering that others should be made to sign up!) but it was nice to have help for a discrete task like this, and two of our three helpers were ex-costume makers, so this was right up their alley!

Next week- the Juniors are doing the same again (but switching, so those who baked last week sew this week and vice versa), and the Seniors will be cooking outside on the campfire. Fingers crossed its not too rainy!!


Like, whatevah.

A fun and totally unstructured night at Guides this week, as we decided to take the girls up on their critiques of “too many rules” and have a night where the leaders were essentially on strike – no step in to open, no circle and songs to close, no activities planned!

We just put a box of left over craft *stuff* in the middle of the hall, put out the boxes of pens, scissors, tape and glue, and had another box of sports equipment in another area, and let them figure out for themselves how they wanted things to go! My baby ended up coming along for the night, so she provided another source of entertainment, and got passed around like a sack of potatoes.

We’d told them it was “whatever” night, and that they could “be in uniform… or not…” – some came dressed in perfect uniform, and some turned up in animal onesies, so we had quite the range! There was a bit of confusion with the kids about what they were “meant to do”, and I got several queries like “um… has Guides started yet??”, but overall, it was a lot of fun – the girls mainly mucked about with the craft box, with all sorts of crazy creative ideas and projects, and I think an unstructured use-up-the-bits-and-bobs sort of night might be one to keep in the mix. Interestingly, it was the oldest girls, the ones who I think had been the most “ugh, rules” in the feedback, who seemed most at a loss with how to handle the lack of structure. I wonder what their comments will be next week, whether they recognise the value of having a bit of a plan in place?

At the close we did also need to word up the parents – we’ve got them so trained to wait until we’ve done our closing circle and goodnight songs that if we hadn’t said discretely “we’re trying a bit of an unstructured night, so when your kid has done a bit of tidying and has their stuff together, you’re welcome to head off” they would have waited around for quite a while!

So, all in all, easiest night to plan for ages, and hopefully next week we’ll hear that overall, the girls prefer a touch of structure to the night!

And if they don’t… hmmm…! Cross that bridge when we come to it!



Two weeks of celebrating the diversity of guiding experiences – ranging from very solemn and traditional through to chaotic and modern.

The first week was a lovely ceremony night, awarding a Junior BP Award (I think only the 8th of our unit??), and having two girls make their promise, and one renew. It was a lovely happy sort of an evening, and while I think there were flashes of boredom from a couple of the girls, they were all beautifully behaved and seemed to rise to the challenge of putting on something of a performance for the various parents and friends who came along to be part of the evening.

Included in the ceremony was a very slow and solemn singing of the first verse of ‘This Little Guiding Light’, which was lovely. I wonder if that is something that should be part of our promise ceremonies more generally… hmmm.

The second week was a visit to the local ‘Showtime’ (similar to ‘Gangshow’), a production by the local guides and scouts. Not my favourite activity of the year (amateur dramatics and musicals not really being my cup of tea), but it was exciting for the girls attending to get to stay up late, and nice for one of our older girls who was in the show to know that we were in the audience!

This week: the leaders are going on strike… stay tuned to learn more!

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A little festival of light

Lovely and lively evening at Guides this week, where despite not getting through all the planned activities, we had a great time with happy girls, a little bit of culture, and a little bit of learning!

Our theme for the evening was “International Year of Light”, and we decided to slant this towards a multi-cultural sort of thing, given our badges for the term are “girls” and “other people”. Our main activities for the night then was making krathongs (Juniors) and diyas (Seniors) as part of learning about Loi Krathong (Thai festival of light) and Diwali (Hindu festival of light). The two crafts went really well, and the girls were all very engaged. I was mainly working with the Seniors making diyas using air-drying clay, and while at first there was some “meh I do ceramics at school” sort of comments, once we started rubbing ghee into cotton strings to make wicks and then lighting them, suddenly they realised this was actually pretty great :)


Some of our diyas 

Meanwhile the krathongs were made not out of the traditional banana leaves, but by making origami water lilies!

We also had a brief whole group chat at the beginning of the night about how we use lights in celebration, and got the girls to add in examples- we had Hannukah, Christmas, fireworks, birthday candles, candles at promise ceremonies all come up as ways we use light. Sometimes the “group chat” thing works, sometimes not, but this time it really worked well and was a good example of valuing the views and knowledge of all the girls- good examples came from both 7 year olds and 12 year olds!

We had also planned a true/false game about what technologies use light, and skits to be based on Indigenous sun myths, but ran out of time!

I was so pleased to have a good, well balanced and fun night. For whatever reason I’ve felt a little off my game with guides in recent weeks, and I was beginning to wonder if it might be time to move on, but I think my thematically appropriate Guiding Light might just have re-lit :)


Taking a back seat

Our first week back for the term this week, and I did basically nothing.

I’m not quite sure how I wrangled it, but I did no planning, no running of activities, and barely even any parent-wrangling! So hurrah for co-leaders!

So what was I doing for two and a half hours (Guides plus overlapping Rangers)? I had the thrilling (?!) task of sorting out our cupboards in the hall! This followed on from an absurdly long and freezing cold (but very satisfying) afternoon last week with AwesomeCoLeader when we COMPLETELY sorted out the shed. We were utterly ruthless, it was glorious! Sometimes you really need to just admit that if a particular resource has survived 5 clean outs “because we might use it…” but has NEVER been used in the 6+ years you’ve been with a unit then it is only taking up space and it is time to move on. Sorry little paw print tracking cards in the overly large old fashioned wooden box that takes up 3x as much space as it should, but the love just isn’t there!

So all I can say about the activities was that Juniors and Seniors did a bunch of activities broadly around a theme of ‘the developing world’ – all a bit Worthy and Appropriate and Sensible, of course mixed up with some games. Meanwhile the Upper Seniors skived off to Rangers for the night and used Proper Recipes to make a lovely and hearty vegetable soup and chocolate cake.

Next week: I’m on holidays! Yes, I am abandoning my fabulous team for a week of (hopefully) sunshine, so little blog will be having a rest until the following week :)

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Catching up!

Whoops, poor little neglected blog!

So, a quick update on the last two weeks of term:

Our little ones did campfire cooking, doing bananas with chocolate – and very successfully I might add! One fire per patrol, and one adult per patrol, made for a smooth experience. Their work over the term in developing confidence with matches, and the fact that many of them had attended our Juniors sleepover a few weeks ago where they also had to build fires, meant that they’d actually developed and consolidated their skills and were quite competent to set and light and maintain the fires. Go littlies!

Meanwhile, I and NewestCo-Leader (we have a crew now… I need to do some re-blog-naming of my excellent leaders!) led the older girls in ’emergency out of the box’ – we provided a bunch of *stuff* (tarps, ropes, blankets, first aid equipment, clothes, chairs, tables, gadget wood, wool….) in a pile and in patrols they had to respond to various scenarios pulled ‘out of the hat’. Scenarios were things like “there’s been a car crash out the front of the building” “there’s a fire in the kitchen” “you’ve got home and realised you’ve lost your keys and no-one is due home for two hours…”

I’d kind of envisaged they’d pretty much use the bits and pieces to create a vignette of how they’d respond, but it seems we have quite a few dramatic little souls in the group, and so somehow we ended up with these elaborate mini-plays, complete with characters and backstories and HIGH DRAMA! We finished on a silly scenario (“oh my god, the party is in an hour and I have NOTHING to wear!!”) which was a bit of fun :)

Our final week of term was a bit ‘bitsy’ – the Seniors did a version of the mini-meal done by the Juniors a few weeks ago (cooking a tiny 3 course dinner over candles), but with the added complication of working with only torchlight – they seemed to enjoy it, but interesting “haaaaate soup” (noted for future camps etc), and got through the task faster than expected. Luckily we were able to fill the time with a bit of “so, what do you want to do next term?”

Meanwhile, the Juniors had a games night, with a bit of leadership worked in – each of the girls had the chance to take the lead in running a game for the group, and it worked really well. We didn’t have a set list of games or of kids, but made it clear initially that we wanted each of them to have a try running things, even if it was only for a round or two of a well known game. They all really stepped up and embraced the task, and it was lovely to see, not to mention, fabulously run by YoungCoLeader, who really does enjoy working with our youngest girls.

Finally finally we had another session of our limping along Rangers group, pulling out our Upper Seniors for the night – they were doing “mini gadgets” (hmm quite a mini theme for the evening, didn’t realise at the time!), using tiny twigs and twine to make doll-house sized camp gadgets. It was… hmm… of mixed success. Still, they enjoyed the time as a separate older group, and have begged for extra sessions next term, so that’s a good sign :)

Speaking of next term, our leadership team got together last week for planning term three, and it should be a bunch of fun – we’ll be working on the ‘Girls’ and ‘Other People’ badges for Juniors and Seniors respectively, and I think it should be a lovely relaxed sort of term… at this stage it doesn’t look like we’re attempting to crazily over-program, but I’m sure as each week approaches we’ll somehow find ways to add absurd flourishes to the proceedings!

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