keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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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Sewing peaceful guides

A lovely quiet, calm, and useful night at Guides last night, as YoungCoLeader and I taught/facilitated the Junior Guides with sewing. Most of the girls had brought along their sashes, badges, blankets or bags and so had a ‘project’ to work on. The few that didn’t have anything of their own to sew helped add to the ‘unit’ blanket I’ve started for just such a reason, and which now has our unit name in (slightly wonky) felt letters across the middle, to add to the patchwork shapes sewn on last year – an on-theme trefoil and a random rainbow striped heart!

YoungCoLeader is very patient and methodical in teaching skills like sewing, so she quickly set up in a space with girls who didn’t know what they were doing and gave them very detailed instructions on how to thread the needles, and how to do a basic stich. Unfortunately, being quite a proficient sewer herself, she told the girls they didn’t really need to knot the ends of their threads, which is certainly true once you know what you’re doing, but possibly isn’t the most practical of instructions for seven year olds who’ve never tried to sew before! Ah well, it did give them practice at threading the needles!

Meanwhile, I floated around, providing advice on “what to do next”, “how do I sew in the middle of my blanket?” and “uh oh I sewed together both sides of my bag…”.


After about 40 minutes, three of the girls got a bit bored and started up a game off in the corner – I would have let this go, but a running game when other people are using scissors and needles isn’t a great plan! So I made the three of them sit down, each with a different age handbook, and said “I haven’t had a chance to look through these properly, could you all please have a look and see if there is a fun game we could play?” which, amazingly, they got right into! After a few minutes, I headed back over and asked if they’d found anything, only to be informed “there’s no games!!” “oh, drat… well, are there any cool activities that might be fun?” “Yes!!” and they proceeded to show me instructions on making a plaited friendship bracelet, a little keyring with beads, and instructions on knotting. Interesting! So I immediately said, well, we don’t have those type of beads at the moment, but we have a box of wool in the cupboard, would you like to try the plaiting or the knotting? “YES LETS DO PLAITS!”, and so they very happily settled down with the wool box, and got stuck in, eventually being joined by a couple of other girls who had finished up with their badge sewing. It was a really nice little moment, re-directing their boredom towards something that was at least sort of on-topic, but via their own choice. Also an excellent justification for the sheer volume of STUFF we have on hand for guiding!!

Meanwhile, AwesomeCoLeader was in the kitchen with the senior guides, doing a superhuman job of wrangling 12 girls plus four lots of cooking. While the kitchen in our hall is very well equipped, like most kitchens it only has a single stove, which can make cooking quite challenging given you don’t want a crowd around it. But during the week AwesomeCoLeader had a bit of a brainwave, and decided that we should get out our little butane camping stoves, and set up two of those on the other side of the kitchen, so that she could have multiple cooking stations around the space, and apparently this worked really well! She was able to split up the girls into four groups of three (two using the main stove, which is quite large, and two using the camping stoves), and basically give them their recipes (one for cheese sauce, one for chocolate sauce) and tell them to go for it. As she said later, “cooking is an equipment game”, so if we can figure a way to give the girls enough of the essential items (enough chopping boards, sharp knives, measuring cups etc) then we can scale up activities much easier, and they won’t get frustrated and bored.

So, all in all, a good night. Also exciting was two newbies (both prospective Juniors), who both seemed to have fun, so that could be good – we’ve got  few girls moving up to Seniors soon, so a couple of littlies is could be handy 🙂


Weave it!

Guides this week focused on weaving, and it (mostly!) went really well.

We don’t tend to do much craft in our group – I think because although I love crafty things, I tend to like the sorts of crafts where you come up with your own design and ‘play’ a bit, and that doesn’t tend to scale well to a group of 25ish kids aged 6-12.

I do, however, find that the nights that we do crafts with a base structure that then let the girls be creative with their own twist on top to be very satisfying, and this week was one of these.

Both Juniors and Seniors did weaving, but the Juniors made their ‘looms’ out of polystyrene trays (cutting notches into the edges to run wool through for the ‘weft’), while the Seniors made their looms out of wood and nails.

I worked with the Seniors, and it was a great activity – very few of them had ever used hammers and nails before, so they were all very engaged in the activity and found it rather exciting… although I do sometimes wonder how much they find the activity exciting, and how much they find doing something more complex than the juniors exciting! This was actually quite a good one in terms of the overall task being the same for both age groups, while clearly showing a difference in complexity, and drawing out the different expectations we have of each age group.

Hammers and nails are certainly something that we’ll be keeping for older girls, mind you, given the number of hammered fingers we ended up with! I can’t imagine the 6 year olds getting through without major meltdowns. Luckily at the older age group, they’re pretty able to cope with minor injuries, and didn’t complain much – and we didn’t end up breaking any skin, so there should only be a few bruises in the aftermath!

It was interesting to see the diversity in skill level between all the girls – for something none of them had tried before, it was clear that for some it just clicked, while for others, it was a huge struggle. Two girls in particular I think ended up with only 5 minutes worth of weaving at the end, as their nailing had taken so long – and even then included a couple of sneaky leader assists. However, both of these girls are usually more at the “competent” end of things, so I think it was probably good for them to find that they’re not going to naturally pick up everything easily, but that with a bit of persistence, they can get something servicable at the end. On the opposite end of the scale, one of the older Juniors took to her weaving with such immediate skill and interest that we ended up giving her a brief chance to also do the Senior’s activity, enough to get her started and to take the rest home to complete there – she was super excited and just glowing at having found something that suited so well and that she’d never tried before 🙂

So, definately an activity to keep on the longer term program list, and repeat in three years or so once the current crop have all moved up a section or two!

Wooden looms under construction:
weaving board

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