guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Campfire!

Lovely multi-age program this week, as we integrated our Juniors/Seniors and Rangers programs for evening.

Our units meet at a slightly separate time – the Juniors/Seniors together from 6.30 to 8.00pm, the Rangers from 7.00 to 8.30pm. So rather than having a fully integrated program, we went with a slightly staggered approach.

From 6.30 to 7.30 (ish!), our younger girls all worked on making situpons. At a district camp at the start of the year we noticed that another unit had a set of lightweight situpons that they were able to easily stack and carry, and started thinking about how we could do something similar.

Cue leaders pondering!

Our original plan was to use a heavyweight plastic tablecloth, but on pricing it out, it was going to be quite an expensive little project. Which is fine (what are fees for if not to buy cool things?), but I got to pondering. Luckily, on a trip to Ikea, inspiration struck in the form of a whole bunch of their iconic shopping bags being on sale – a slightly smaller size than usual (hence I guess why they were getting rid of them), and only 49 cents each! And we could get two situpons out of each one! BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY.

Anyway, back to the girls. They all worked to do their own interpretation of the one I’d mocked up, cutting out the two pieces from the bags, edging them with heavy packing tape in bright colours, and then doing various designs on them in permanent markers. Our plan is to stash them in our shed and have them as our ‘unit set’ of situpons for as long as they last! And the particularly brilliant thing about them being based on Ikea bags, is that if the unit grows, or we lose a bunch, or they wear out or whatever, we can easily replace them. WOOHOO!

situpon

Here’s the example one I did for the girls – its hard to tell the scale here, but they’re about 45 cms long, and about 30 cms wide. Plenty big enough for even a chunky bottom to stay dry on the went ground!

So that’s what was happening from 6.30 to 7.30. Meanwhile, at 7.00 the Rangers group commenced, and they were tasked with setting and starting our campfire outside. I expected a bit of complaining (wood collecting always brings it on!), but they were pretty chirpy and cooperative, which I think was aided by the fact that I’d managed to raid my work’s recycling stash and had come well prepared with heaps of newspaper, so we knew at the very least we’d get some decent flames happening with minimal effort.

At 7.30, the whole unit joined together, putting the new situpons into action, and singing a bunch of campfire songs, using a program put together by one of the Rangers girls as part of her BP Award, and including a few songs led by one of our Juniors as part of her Junior BP Award! We finished up with a Promise Ceremony for two of our littlest members, then said goodbye to our Juniors and Seniors, leaving the Rangers with half an hour to toast some marshmallows (their reward for doing the hard work of the fire prep!) and then douse the fire and clean up.

All in all, a really lovely night, and a good one to bring together the various age groups in a way that used all their individual strengths.

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Delegating, and celebrating

An excellent two weeks just passed at our Guides group, with firstly our older girls’ wide game planning coming off beautifully (even with several kids away!) (yay for girl-led programming, and delegation of responsibility!), and then a lovely evening celebrating two girls earning their Junior BP Award, which is always so exciting!

Firstly – the wide game! The girls (mostly) remembered what they had planned, and how it was all meant to hang together, and had a great twenty minutes running madly about, gathering the equipment they needed, putting things together, and sorting out how the activities they had dreamed up the week prior would actually look – so they ran about hastily rigging up a complicated “laser” maze with red wool, finding suitable hiding places for kids who had dressed up as particular characters, setting up an obstacle course, and practicing the steps to a dance that would need to be copied.

And they had the usual complications that leaders encounter on the day of a wide game – oops, we don’t have X material, quick, lets substitute Y; oh no, that person who was meant to do THIS activity is away, how can we work around it, or adapt it?

They all seemed to have a really excellent time, although they did note that once it was all set up, and instructions passed on, that there were boring bits… which is exactly what the adult leaders find with wide games too- when set up well, they kind of run themselves! All in all, I think it was a highly successful exercise – the girls got a real taste of what goes into planning these types of complicated activities, and got to experience the rush that you get when your plans actually work and the girls have fun bringing the different challenges to life.

The following week, we had a much more mellow evening, where the main activity was setting up, rehearsing, and then holding a ceremony to celebrate two girls achieving their Junior BP (and also one girl making her Promise, and two moving up to the Rangers group! So much growth in one night!). We have been moved out of our hall this term due to construction/repairs, so part of our challenge was identifying an alternative suitable site – and with a bit of re-arranging of outdoor equipment and furniture, we were able to turn the large courtyard into an excellent little ceremony space! Yay for streamers making anywhere look festive!

All in all, an excellent fortnight… and I haven’t even yet told the tale of a fabulous camp in the weekend in the middle… so stay tuned… FOR DINOSAURS!!

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Paper planes!

Fun night this week, as I mucked about with the Juniors, helping them make all manner of creative paper planes, thanks to Fun Paper Airplanes!

When I did this activity a few years ago, it was with the older group of girls (mainly 10 and 11 year olds), and so I wasn’t quite sure how the 6-9s would go, but it worked brilliantly. I stuck to just the beginners and intermediate level planes, and those were plenty complicated enough for the younger group.

Initially there was some confusion about how the templates worked, with several of the kids going straight for the scissors to cut along dotted lines, rather than read the instructions carefully and use those as fold marks! Still, once they’d got the hang of one of them, and the way the instructions worked, they all did really well! Even one of our girls who is notoriously impatient with anything which requires being methodical got on board with it all, and ended up doing some quite complicated designs.

We had lots of fun flying them all around our little hall, and then went outside to see how far they could go – and even though it was a bit more windy than you’d prefer for that sort of activity, they all had a lovely time running about and challenging each other – after testing outside they were keen to run back in and do an extra one or two for further trials! So we managed to fill the whole hour, and I think it was pitched pretty much perfectly in terms of complexity. Having the range of templates was great, as it let the girls set their own level of challenge, and work up or down from where they’d chosen as they felt necessary.

Meanwhile, the seniors were doing a bit of girl-led Guiding, with two of the girls working towards their Junior BP Award running a ‘masterchef’ night, and doing it so competently that the two leaders helping out with that activity felt quite un-needed!

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Celebrating!

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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Future focused

An interesting night this week, as we wriggled our planned program to account for the weather (oh Melbourne how you taunt us!) and also to fit in some activities designed to feed into the national program review.

The program review team had come up with a full night’s worth of programming, but we didn’t have space for the whole kit and caboodle, so we modified and tried to get to “the guts” of what is being asked – namely, what is good (and not good!) about Guiding currently, and where would you like it to go?

We had the girls work in small groups (different to their patrols – based roughly on ages and on ‘time in guiding’), and had them spend about 5 minutes per question on “What do you like about Guides now?”, “What do you NOT like about Guides now?”, “What would you like [Unit] to do in future?” and “What would you like included in Guides Australia in future?”

Satisfyingly, the responses were nearly all positive – lots of requests for more cooking, more games, more wide games, more camps… And less rules and less traditions! While we can be a bit strict about some things, I don’t think looking across the world of Guiding that my unit is particularly rule-heavy, so I suspect the girl who made that comment may get a little shock if ever she moves units 🙂

And as far as traditions go – really, apart from our Promise ceremonies and opening/closings, I don’t think we are particularly tradition heavy… but perhaps she was reflecting on some of the heavy going work required last term around Thinking Day which certainly did drag a little. So, I think I’m pretty happy with the general tone of the comments. Especially ones like “Guides is Awesome!” and “I love girl guides because we all have lots of friends” 🙂

After that was completed, we had our campfire – sadly changed from a proper one to an indoor candles fire, as heavy, steady rain is just no fun – nor really possible to do an outdoor one! In the end, we had about 30 minutes of singing, including the introduction of a new song from one of our Guides working towards her JBP Award, and that was almost the perfect length. I think in previous sessions we’ve had about 45-50 minutes of songs, and it gets a bit exhausting after a while!

This weekend – a sleepover just for juniors, and then next week, a wide game for Juniors/Seniors, and Paper Cut Art for Rangers!

 

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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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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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Guide-directed Guiding

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Faith and service: exploring the serious side of Guiding

A fantastic day out yesterday, helping around 12 Guides to give service and explore their understanding of faith, and explore the serious side of Guiding in a fun way.

We started the day with an hour and a half of helping out at National Tree Day in a local park, digging holes (with a cool pogo-stick-esq digger) and planting some native grasses along a river bed. The girls all got really into the activity, and luckily the weather was on our side, all bright blue skies which always makes things easier!

The girls really worked well together, with groups of three working on the digging (the digger really needed two to hold steady and one to jump), and being a bit creative in their problem solving around how to get the stakes into the ground (thump it with a stray rock being vastly more efficient than other possibly less injury-prone strategies) (no fingers were harmed in the thumping of stakes!).

After our time planting, we had a mini-change of the guard, with three girls heading off, and two others joining us for the second part of the day, which was exploring places of faith.

Following much wrangling of public transport (train stations are ALWAYS further on foot than they appear on a map!) (especially with 8 year olds busy gossiping rather than moving quick smart!) we made it up to the inner northern suburb of Coburg, where we visited a local mosque, and were given a tour and a brief overview of Islam by some of the mosque’s volunteers, who were all so lovely to the girls – just delighted to show off their mosque and de-mystify their faith. The girls were all facinated by the beautifully decorated Qurans, and were decidedly taken by the lovely dense carpet (many patterns were drawn on the thick pile while listening!). But of course, the thing that really caught their eye? The fact that the mosque had a table tennis table set up in the community room! Heh.

We then had a short break for lunch at  Lebanese restaurant, where the girls feasted on pita bread, dips, salads, and meat. Even FussyEaterGuide managed to find things she enjoyed (pita, hummous, chicken), and for all her fussy eater status, she did have a tiny try of everything, and even agreed that tabouli was “not tooooo bad”. Success! A few more years in Guides and she may even branch out into non-white-food options!

After lunch, we headed back to the city to visit a synagogue. In what turned out to be a stroke of luck, we missed the opening hours of the synagogue by five minutes, but the door was still open. So I went in and apologised profusely for our tardiness and wondered if the girls might have a quick two minute look and then head off? Well, it turned out the Rabbi was still around, and was DELIGHTED to give the girls a private tour and talk (and even show off blowing the new year’s horn), so rather than be in a big group with other people for the open day, they had all their questions answered and tailored attention! Super lucky!

Finally, we had half an hour to check out Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral, which despite being only a five minute walk from my work I’d never been inside – well, it was beautiful, all soaring vaults and stained glass, just gorgeous.

So all in all, we had a great day, giving the girls a wider understanding of faiths in their city, and hopefully giving them a chance to see that there are people of good will and friendliness from many backgrounds. If only we’d had time to fit in a visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples as well to really broaden the experience… perhaps that can be on the agenda for next year!

Overall, I think the day helped our girls meet their Australian Girl Guides Promise to “serve my community and Australia” and “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”… and tick off a couple of clauses in a few badges as well!

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Ahh, THAT’S better!

Week two back in our old hall and several times last night I just looked around with a contented grin.

The kids were running about in happy chaos to begin, with impromptu games of tiggy and skipping and soccer, as well as little gossipy groups forming and re-forming as new people joined, or as others got distracted and joined in the games. A really happy sight, after months of being cooped up in the teeny space where we couldn’t get out the balls and skipping ropes, and running around wasn’t really an option.

I find that a few minutes of this unstructured fun seems to open up the friendship groups a little, as the girls come in to the hall in dribs and drabs, and join in as the wish, the older ones (who are “too cool” to skip) getting talked into playing by the littlies, and loving it.

The activities for the night were to be run by girls working on their JBP or BP Awards (or other badges if they wished), and several of them had indeed been organised enough to have a clear idea of what activity they wanted to run, and had brought along the right equipment, and had clear instructions (not always the case on these evenings!!). So we had a lovely night of girl-led Guiding, which included the older girls practicing and performing skits, all the girls learning a game called ‘High Five’ (a Canadian Guide game), and a morse code activity using a torch to signal the dots and dashes. The girls were almost all really well behaved during the activities, and responded well when the leaders said “right, [kid A] is running this activity, so you need to listen to her”.

We also had a quick game of Kim’s Game (with separate challenges for the Juniors and Seniors), and AwesomeCoLeader and I had a bit of a chat to the new crop of Juniors Patrol Leaders and Seconders about Appropriate Behaviour as PLs and PS’s. Our new seconders were all SUPER EXCITED to have been chosen, and it will be interesting to see if they rise to the challenge… two of the three new seconders are our more… hmm… ‘exuberant’ group members, and it will be interesting to see if this new responsiblity will help settle them!

Finally, after Guides, I had the first Rangers night for the term. During the “cross over”, I had them do the craft activity which was originally meant to be part of ‘Christmas in June’ late last term (making teeny christmas trees), and discuss what to do for the rest of the term. When I joined them later, we then put some time into plotting out options for our next meeting in particular, as we are being visited by some Canadian Rangers, which is pretty exciting!  

So, all in all, a really lovely evening.

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