guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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!

 

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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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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.

 

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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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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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What do we teach? (part 3)

Returning again to ponderings from 2013 (part one and part two) around what is it that we do in Guiding.

Recently, I’ve been reading Mama OT quite bit, and some of the posts over there around children’s skills in self regulation, the usefulness of outdoors activities in building resilience, social and emotional skills, and the focus on the importance of a mix of gross motor skills and fine motor skills have struck me as the types of skills and knowledge and experiences which we aim to give girls via Guiding.

Over the course of each term we explicitly aim to balance activities which use different skills and capacities – activities such as building rope bridges, putting up tents, even building crazy constructions with boxes etc, all build gross motor skills, as well as requiring cooperation and teamwork in order to achieve the tasks. On the other hand, the crafty bits and pieces we do – sewing, and origami, and even things like cupcake decorating – use fine motor skills, and a degree of focused task concentration which is so important. The other major thing the program offers is a real ‘traditional childhood’ focus on games and play, often in a less structured way than many other children’s activities. We often have full nights just dedicated to games, the girls are able to suggest their own additions and modifications, or run their own versions. And who can forget the teenagers spending a full hour and a half playing versions of hide and seek in the dark?!

We’re not perfect by any means – and ALWAYS there is room to improve – but I think what I love so much about Guides is that we aim to build the whole girl, rather than just aspects of her skills or personality. Now if only I could somehow articulate that in a thirty second elevator pitch!

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Sangam & pets & relaxed fun

A lovely evening this week, as one of my co-leaders ran a brilliant program based on Sangam and India for our Seniors, while another co-leader worked with the Juniors on their pets badge, doing skits and learning about animal care.

Firstly, the amazing program put together about Sangam! Co-leader’s family is from India, so she was able to draw on a lot of practical personal knowledge – including being able to bring along and demonstrate the sitar! We had six stations set up around the room, and the girls moved around the various activities roughly in patrols.

The activities were playing the sitar, learning various traditional dance moves (yay for a laptop and youtube clips!), using dyed rice to do rangoli patterns (mainly of trefoils, of course!), trying on saris (which they just adored!), mehendi patterns on their hands (using eyeliner), and writing out hindi/Sanskrit letters.

Unfortunately for such a great program, we were low on numbers (our oldest girls were doing rangers activities off site, and several had school events so were away), but it kind of worked out well as the smaller numbers gave everything a lovely chilled out vibe, and our shyest and youngest girls were able to have a really comfortable night, and really engaged in a way that they don’t always seem to.

Meanwhile, the younger girls worked in patrols on skits about animal care. I formed part of the audience for the final products, and they were surprisingly good! We have quite a set of little dramatists, and they were mostly revelling in the silliness of the activity, all playing with props of leashes and cat toys, and fish food and pooper scoopers etc etc!! It was a good opportunity for the younger girls to work in their patrols, which are still in the settling down stage since a bit of a rejig at the start of term.

Overall, a brilliant night, pitched perfectly at the different age groups!

 

 

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Knots and knots of fun

A fun night with the senior guides, building their knotting and lashing skills as part of the Ropes badge.

As with previous “potentially boring” topics, we made it into a series of inter-patrol competitions, with the incentive (bribery?!) of a bag of jelly snakes for the winning patrol.

The competition rounds were:

  1. un-knotting and then re-knotting a series of reef knots
  2. racing to complete various knots using pictures pulled randomly out of a “hat”
  3. race to use square lashing to produce a structurally sound square of four sticks
  4. same again, but tripod lashing for a tripod able to stand independently
  5. follow a picture to make a “rope person” with the correct knots to form head/body/arms/legs etc.

It all worked fairly well, with the majority of kids engaged and focused. And at least a few of them discovered some latent knotting skills!!

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To finish off the night, we let them play a couple of rounds of camouflage (a hide-and-seek type game), which was fun. About a third of our seniors group are now in high school, and wouldn’t dream of being so uncool as to play such games in public, so it was lovely to have them just being little kids again for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, as part of their Body badge, the Juniors were using their bodies to dance, act, and convey information with a series of theatre games type activities. They were all buzzing with excitement when I checked in on them, and it was really lovely to see! Especially  as it was a session being run by YoungCoLeader, who tends more towards the “correct” rather than “fun”end of Guiding. I know she had a total blast doing it too, so hopefully she’ll get more and more confidence to let her silly side come out with the kids in future!

 

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Planning for progression (onwards and upwards!) (we hope)

Final Guides meeting of 2015 a few weeks ago (always a happy/sad day!), and I end the year full of enthusiasm and hope for the coming year.

It’s been a year mainly of growth at our unit – looking back over the year, we’ve had three girls leave, but had ten join us, and I think we’ve kept all our oldest girls, transitioning them up properly to our rangers group (of course, the long summer break may change this, but I don’t *think* so…). Our Seniors group has remained full (enough so that we created a 4th patrol), and our leadership team has really got comfy and reliable, so I feel quite sure that we can handle a large group… and I still want more growth! We’re about to have a bunch of Juniors move up to Seniors, creating nearly a patrol worth of spaces in the littlies, so recruitment drive ahoy first thing next year!

On our final night we had a bit of a party night, playing The Chocolate Game, their favourite outdoor game (‘camouflage’), and doing a scavenger hunt for Christmas decorations, which became their little chrissy gifts (oh, and a suitably themed badge!). It was fairly unstructured, but a lot of fun, and the girls were all pretty excited about it being the end of the year.

Christmas Guide badge 2015

We also had a session for an extra hour after the main group had gone, for girls nearly old enough to move up to our Rangers unit – a bit of a transition taster. It was great fun (lots of ‘minute to win it’ games), and good for both the grade six girls to feel a little special and like there is a reason to stick with Guides after moving up to High School (the primary-to-high school transition is our Recruitment Dead Zone), and also good for the current girls to realise that there are a bunch of girls not much younger who will be joining them soon. The current crop (only 5 of them) have been a little worried that the group is unsustainable at that number, so seeing that there are 7 kids who will (potentially!) progressively move up over the coming months should be reassuring. Ideally, I would love to have a Rangers group that was around 12-15 girls, the kind of numbers where one or two people being away isn’t noticeable – but given the competing demands for time in the teenage age group, I suspect those numbers will be a challenge, even if on paper we should get there by mid-year. I’ve seen enough ups and downs in recruitment not to count my chickens too early!!

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Rewards, stopping points, recognition. A few ponderings.

Inspired by both Trefoil Knot’s pondering about Badges and a book I’m currently reading (“Better Than Before”, by Gretchen Rubin), I’ve been contemplating what it is Guiding aims to achieve through the badge system.

Rubin’s book is all about forming habits, and discussing what strategies we can use to help or hinder habit formation. One of the ones mentioned is around ‘rewards’ and finish lines, and the idea that while a finish line or a reward can kick start activity, it is often not enough to sustain that activity… once the finish line is reached, or the reward achieved, the work stops.

So, how does this link with badges? In theory, the badges are meant to direct skill development – does the awarding of a badge then suggest that the skills are ‘done’, and that attention can be re-directed elsewhere? Do girls think of them in that way?

My unit tends to use different badges as the underlying themes for the term – for whatever reason, I find that choosing a badge provides a little structure to the “it can be anything” nature of Guiding, and I find that I can be more creative and truly “Look Wide, and Look Wider Still” when I have a little limitation, and changing the theme each term helps to avoid falling into the possibility of rinsing and repeating activities too often. Of course there will be some repetition – skills cannot grow without it – but at least if sometimes you’re using knotting to build a circus tent structure, sometimes to build a pet hideaway, sometimes to create a lantern, it doesn’t feel so repetitious.

In building each term on a theme, we tend to designate certain sessions as ones that ‘count’ towards the badge, and say that girls need to require a certain number of those sessions in order to earn the badge, or make up extra activities at home. Usually this ends up with badges being earned over around 5 hours or so of programming, with anywhere between 4 and 20 activities broadly linked to the theme.

Using the badges in this way provides something of a ‘time marker’ for our girls – looking at their sashes, they can immediately see which Guides have been engaged in the program regularly, and for a long time. In a weird way, the badges act as both a ‘certificate of participation’, and as a marker of achievement. I think this odd combination actually mostly works.

I know some people are of the view that badges should only be achieved individually, and ‘out of hours’, but if the way we as leaders deliver Guiding is primarily in a group-based, weekly session, then surely achievement of markers of progress (aka badges) should be at least available via that same group based weekly method. Of course, that doesn’t preclude additional achievement on an individual basis, and I think the more specific syllabus badges fill this niche well. I suppose the most important thing for me is that our girls do seem to value the badges, and that they notice who has certain badges, they look in the badge books for topics that interest them and ask to have those topics included in the program, and use them as something of a wayfaring guide as to what Guiding can offer.

Essentially, badges for me provide:

  • a marker of time/engagement in the program
  • a feeling of ‘progress’ – that something has been achieved via the activities
  • an aide memorie of topics/activities
  • a way of recognising individual achievement when required.

I’d be interested to hear if these aims I ascribe to the badges are those shared by other leaders!

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