guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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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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… 😆

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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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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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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!

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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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Journey to Japan (while still in a Guide hall)

Journeying to Japan was the theme for this week, and so our full kit and caboodle of kids, both Juniors and Seniors, progressively worked their way through a bunch of Japanese themed activities!

Once again, my splendid team of co-leaders had mostly taken the reigns, so I had minimal organising or wrangling to do! Its still a little shock to me how many nights I’ve been able to not be in charge this term – and I admit, its a little disconcerting! But it is genuinely wonderful to feel able to let go and let others take responsibility, and I’m absolutely sure its a better long term plan than having one or two people feeling like they can’t really have time away, or that the group would be at risk of closure if they had to move. Teams are definitely more sustainable than individuals!

The activities we had running for the girls included:

Origami – the traditional cranes, as well as a couple of simpler designs

Peg dolls – dressed up in little pieces of fabric and pipecleaners to look like they were wearing kimonos

Bookmarks – these were a design that sort of used origami type techniques

Hiragana – writing out Japanese Hiragana letters, and using these to roughly write the girls names (while knowing that technically names would be translated into Katakana, but my skills in Katakana are even rustier than my Hiragana, so…!)

Sushi and gyoza – making both reasonably from scratch – the girls had great fun perfecting their sushi rolling!

With seven patrols, but only five activities, we decided it was easiest to just have the girls move between activities as they chose, in whatever groupings they wished. We’ve done that sort of thing a few times lately, and it does seem to work well, and result in quite a nice relaxed vibe, as the girls can move as they’re ready, rather than having to wait for the slowest members of their patrol to finish. In the end, not all the girls got to do all the activities, but they all seemed happy! Our original grand plans for the night included some sort of ‘flying’ to Japan, and having passports and setting up the different activities as various cities… etc etc etc. But time got away from us, and seeing as the girls didn’t know how elaborate our original ideas were, they didn’t miss the extra flourishes!

This week: a campfire, with the program being planned by a couple of our rangers girls. Lets hope the weather clears up, or we’ll be doing panic buying of red and yellow glow sticks to create an indoor campfire! Not that we need to be entirely sheltered from the weather, but in tiny campfire versus driving rain, I suspect the campfire won’t end up being very festive!

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A new term!

Back for term two, and a great night with lots of different things happening – Juniors playing a whole bunch of traditional games all roughly on the theme of ‘fruit salad’ (the name of one of their favourites), Seniors playing with fabric and making costumes, and lots of Rangers running about like pre-schoolers playing hide-and-seek in the dark!

Our Juniors’ games included variations on duck duck goose, ladders, oranges and lemons, kim’s game, and a few others. It was a nicely chilled out sort of night, and they all seemed to have fun. As always on these sorts of nights, the tricky part is knowing when to call a game over – trying to hit that sweet spot of when they’ve had enough goes for it to be fun and understood, but not so many that they get bored!

Meanwhile, our Seniors group were playing with a whole bunch of donated fabrics (as in, full bolts!), making ‘national costumes’ for their patrols… which probably didn’t end up quite getting there in terms of that particular aim, but they all seemed to be having fun, and being a bit creative, and trying different approaches to construction, using needles and thread, and knotting, and draping etc etc etc. So it terms of an explorative activity, it totally hit the mark!

We also had our Rangers group back together, including most of the Upper Seniors girls, which gave us a group of 11, I think. Anyway, plenty enough to spend nearly the full hour and a half playing two different versions of hide-and-seek in the dark with torches. Which they were all completely into, because apparently nothing entertains a bunch of teenagers like being allowed to pretend to be back in kindergarten!!

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cooking, campfires, and crazy crafting

Simple evening this week – Juniors having a lovely time raiding our stash of crafty odds and ends to do whatever they wished (which turned out to include puppet-ish things, a castle, and using up aaaaaaaall the stickers), while the Seniors cooked damper on campfires.

I had a pretty relaxing evening, as our leadership team has been a bit more explicit and organised in our planning this term, and has actively assigned the various leaders to be in charge of organising and wrangling each night. So, woohoo, I had a night off! Well, basically I became an assistant leader for the night, but that was lovely. NewYoungCoLeader took responsibility for leading the Seniors for the first time, and she was a little freaked out, but not so the girls would know, and it all went beautifully!

Most of the Seniors are pretty experienced campfire builders these days, and were able to set several little cooking fires with little trouble – well, apart from the requisite whinging about collecting wood! As part of our Ropes badge, they all made damper, plaiting or twisting it into rope-ish shapes prior to cooking.

I had a sudden inspiration and suggestion for the girls on the cooking, and it turned out great so here’s my genius tip – rather than just wrapping the damper in foil (we were  doing loaves, rather than on sticks), we wrapped it in buttered baking paper, THEN the foil around it. The baking paper seemed to almost steam the damper, speeding up the cooking time significantly (always handy when you’ve only got unit time!), and the butter not only stopped it sticking, it helped brown the outside beautifully. So definitely using that trick again!

Meanwhile, the Juniors had a lovely chilled out time using up odds and ends of the craft materials, and chatting and just pottering away. It was a warm night (and our hall is again having renovations!) so the crafting took place in the courtyard which was surprisingly perfect. AwesomeCoLeader commented that it was a lovely night which let “Juniors be Juniors” – where they were able to let their creative minds wander, and come up with elaborate castles and characters and fantastical creatures.

So all in all, a lovely evening.

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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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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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