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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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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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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Leading, following, teaming, promising.

A bit of a bitsy night last week, as I and NewCoLeader2 worked with the Seniors to develop their leadership (and follower-ship!) skills.

We started off with a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet, which was talking about the good qualities of a leader. Interestingly, 9 times out of 10, they had all chosen exactly the same word. I don’t know if the sheets were written in such a way that there was only one realistic answer, or if they don’t have large vocabularies, or if they were trying to be ‘right’ rather than ‘creative’, but it was interesting. I thought that going through everyone’s answers together would give us some interesting discussions, but it turned out instead to be more of an echo chamber! Perhaps next time I’ll have to offer lollies in exchange for the most creative-but-sensible word choice!

We then decided to enjoy the gorgeous summery weather, and played a bunch of teamwork/leading/cooperating games- a series of 3-legged races, and blindfolded leading about races. I insisted on the girls pairing up with someone they didn’t know well (had to do a little enforcing of this “but we don’t go to school together, and she’s not in my patrol!” “yeah but you’ve both been Guides for three years – find someone else!”) – in the end they all had a lot of fun, and particularly in the leading-a-blindfolded-team activity, it was lovely to give some of the newer and shyer girls the opportunity to be in charge. One of our most socially awkward newbies was the leader of her little group, and she was just sooooooo chuffed, especially after having been paired with one of the “cooler” girls earlier on. I think she got a real boost in confidence, and felt like she was part of the in crowd, rather than watching from the sides… not that she was ever excluded (we are lucky in that all our unit members are excellent about including everyone), but there is a difference between being formally included and feeling like you are really part of the team!

Meanwhile, the younger girls were doing some weather experiments as part of their Air badge, making mini tornadoes in glass jars, practicing making thunder out of paper bags, and creating static electricity with balloons rubbed against their hair! Not really my cup of tea, but several of the girls were very excitedly reporting the goings-on to their parents at the end, so it seems it was well-aimed at the younger girls!

Finally, to round out the night we had a Promise ceremony for two of our girls moving up to Seniors, a ‘moving up’ ceremony for our oldest girl moving properly to our Rangers group, and (first for many years for me!) a Promise Ceremony for our two new Leaders, which was super lovely. It was really great for the girls to see that the leaders also make the same Promise, and get the same Promise and World badges!

Next week: cooking for the older girls, paper planes for the littlies.

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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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Three year blogiversary

So, wordpress tells me I’ve now been blogging for three years! I guess time flies when you’re having fun!

Given this milestone, perhaps it is time to pause and ponder the changes that have occurred over the three years:

Numbers

My unit has gone from struggling to maintain three viable mixed-age patrols across Juniors and Seniors to now having three full patrols in both age groups (so six patrols in total), with enough numbers and age range to the point that we are closing the books for new members in the seniors group until next year, barring any major and unexpected drop off in numbers. The juniors group is also close to full, with only three places available – and two of those earmarked for newbies who came to visit last week. Having a big unit (big for our space and our experience) is a new challenge and one that will take some time to settle I think.

Its interesting how suddenly things transition from “ooh how exciting we’ve got lots of kids!” to “oh my gosh there are so many and how do I manage this?!”. I suppose like every change, it will feel strange for a while, then we’ll start adapting our processes and ways of managing the flow of kids and activities and it will become the new normal. Perhaps in a year’s time I’ll be all blasé about having five patrols in each age group… or panicking about having only one!!

Leaders

Our leadership team dropped down from five to two in quick succession eighteen months or so ago (losing one leader to life pressures, and two to interstate moves), but has over the past six-twelve months has gradually re-grown to now have three full leaders and two in training, which is just wonderful. Of course you never can tell where lives will go, but our new group of five has a ‘long haul’ type feeling to it, so I hope that comes true. I also really hope that we figure how to become a genuine team, with everyone getting the opportunity to both lead and assist, and that we each have time to learn the skills and quirks of each person so we can all play to our strengths 🙂

Badges and program

I think a strength of our unit during this period has been the shift towards doing a badge a term – the structure of the badge requirements provides us leaders with some boundaries, and forces us to be creative in a way that a genuinely “whatever you like” situation would not inspire. I think we’re better for the structure, and I think the girls (and families?) really like that with regular attendance the girls will gradually gain a number of badges, and I think they also appreciate that the rate of badge acquisition slows as they move from Juniors and into Seniors, as the requirements get more stringent and particular, and they often have to add on out-of-unit-time activities to meet the requirements.

Well, I’m sure there is more to ponder, but lets leave that for another day. In general though, this little blog has brought me much pleasure to put together over the past three years, and I hope that it has been of at least some interest to those who stumble upon it 🙂

Onward!

 

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Back again!

A somewhat frustrating evening this week as we returned for term two, and had an evening that just didn’t quite work in terms of programming and timing.

I think the issue is that the girls haven’t seen each other for a couple of weeks (not many of our group are out-of-guides-friends) so they are madly trying to catch up on everything, and don’t have the patience to engage in the program, particularly (for the Seniors at least) when it was mainly a discussion-ish based program. So, note to self: next term, week one – something that requires them to use their hands in pairs or threes, to keep them busy and the noise to a functional level!!

Over the holidays, the leadership team (now with an extra leader-in-training AND a new unit helper I AM SO EXCITED WOOHOO EXTRA PEOPLE!!) decided that we would have the Juniors working on the Fire Create-A-Challenge badge, and the Seniors/Uppers would work on the Emergency Achieve-A-Challenge badge. The Fire badge we’ve done previously, but long enough ago that the few girls still around from then are now safely into Seniors 🙂

So this week’s badge activities for the Juniors were based around myths of fire, getting them to learn a few myths (Prometheus and others) and then have them develop their own little skits based on fire. Meanwhile, the Seniors were learning about how and when to call for help in an emergency, and we had quite long chat about when and how to use 000, and how using that or 112 will basically override everything on mobile phones.

As calling Triple 0 for practice purposes is not exactly encouraged, I decided to go with a different approach – part of what we were aiming to learn was how to give and receive information on the phone. So patrols were allocated two organisations/companies each to call for information. The patrols had their questions pre-approved by me (things like opening hours, price of tickets, group discounts etc), and then one kid from each patrol was allowed to call and ask the questions, using my phone on speaker function so the whole group could hear. It actually worked really well, and the girls doing the calls were stressed but excited and proud that they’d done it, and it was really great how encouraging the other guides were of their efforts. And now I know that a group of guides would get the schools-rate discount at ice-skating… 🙂

I had intended that we’d also take a walk up the street to a local payphone and get them to try that out, but with all the gossiping and mucking about, we ran out of time!! Ah well. The guts of what we needed to do was achieved, and I think they generally had fun!

Next week: fire safety (merging the two badge requirements helpfully!) and a promise ceremony 🙂

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Colour and movement

A lovely quiet night at Guides this week, as about a third of the girls were absent (a lot of schools have camp in the second week of term), which lowered the chaos level hugely! Of course, it helped that unlike last week, they were not all seeing each other for the first time in months, so the girls were generally more chilled out.

In addition, we had quite separate programming for the Juniors and Seniors, including having them physically separate – the older girls outside, the younger ones in the hall, so the ‘vibe’ of the evening was much more relaxed.

Our theme for the night was “arts and illusions”, to contribute to the Eyes badge for the younger ones, and to just be a bit of fun for the older girls – not everything needs to be hard work!

For the Junior Guides, YoungCoLeader came up with a brilliant activity – making spinning colour wheels (a bit like this- http://www.crayola.com/lesson-plans/spinning-color-wheels-lesson-plan/ ), which the girls all really loved. Brilliantly, YoungCoLeader had thought ahead and pre-drawn the circles and sections, so the girls only had to colour, cut, and thread the string, but as they’re ages 6-9, and we had more than one activity planned, this was just enough work, especially given most of them are rather particular about their colouring! For those that finished early, I brought along a book of optical illusions, and a book of MC Escher’s works, both of which proved quite popular.

Meanwhile, AwesomeCoLeader was outdoors with the Senior Guides, letting them play with dyed ice, which they found utterly hilarious! Despite it being an activity she found on a website about activities to do with your toddler, our bunch of 10-12 year olds thought it was just be greatest activity! Pity the weather had cooled off and was not the predicted 36 degrees, because in the heat this would have been perfect!

The dyed ice, before melting into fabulous patterns for some, and giant messes for others!

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Once the older girls had finished with their icy messes, CoLeader had a great little leadership/theatre sports activity for them, where she would appoint one girl to be the organiser, and then give her a shape to get the other kids into – some of the shapes on her list were “knife and fork” “clock” “a bed” “a bicycle”. The girls LOVED it, and had so much fun – they all got super creative, for example, the bed ended up including not only legs, a mattress, a doona and a pillow, but also monsters underneath! This ended up being a really great little exercise just prior to a bit of a spiel from me about leadership and patrols, ahead of the girls voting for their PLs (we have fresh elections each year, or as a vacancy arises). I had originally intended for the voting to only happen on that night, but with a third of the girls away, both CoLeaders and I decided it was fairer to wait until first thing next week and ensure the other girls get to vote as well.

Finally, I showed both Juniors and Seniors a cool little drawing illusion, which they all practiced and did fairly well – its basically this: http://www.handimania.com/diy/3d-handprint.html (What did leaders do before the internet?!), and the girls all enjoyed it- a great one for our wide range of ages and skills, as it wasn’t complex to do, but there was value in doing it with more precision and skill as the effect was stronger.

So, overall, a good night. Good both in terms of the girls – I think they all had fun, and in terms of the leaders. AwesomeCoLeader and I have been together a while now, but YoungCoLeader is starting to really integrate, and is stepping up and increasingly taking a more active role as a full leader, rather than a semi-assistant type role, which is just great. I had the pleasure last night of having nothing to do for 2/3rds of the evening but take photos, help set out paper, and find the scissors box. How lovely to no longer feel (as I did for a while) that the unit would fall over if I wasn’t able to attend for whatever reason! I now feel really confident that I’m only part of the team, rather than “The Main Leader”, and despite my bossy soul, that is just brilliant :))

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Paying it forward

As regular readers will know, I have often spoken about the necessity of maintaining a reasonable life/guiding balance, and not letting the guide leaders natural tendency to say “of course!” overwhelm me.

Well, lately I have failed miserably at that, with this last month involving Guiding commitments on three weekends in a row (Sunday, then Saturday and Sunday, then Sunday again…), plus a Thursday night out with a group of seniors, plus running my unit, and Rangers (although only one meeting so far), and helping out at Sister Unit for the last three weeks! Luckily these extra sessions all ended up being with other crazy overcommitted leaders, so at least I was in good company!

So how did I end up in this Guides overload pickle?

Well, firstly, a bunch of the Senior Guides wanted to try going to a local competitive outdoor camp. *In theory* the preparation for this camp shouldn’t be too onerous, as girls should gradually learn the skills required over their years in Guiding, and only need a bit of time to refine their menus and theme.

*In reality* (at least the reality of my quite-urban-not-very-outdoorsy-unit) the girls required a crash course in old-school camp skills, including cooking A Proper Meal over the campfire, putting up and taking down tents (without the leaders closely directing things!), making wood-and-string gadgets, first aid, camp hygiene… et cetera!!

So the journey started last term with a pre-meeting for potentially interested guides and parents to let them know what they might be in for, followed by a short meeting to confirm who would be attending, elect the patrol leader and second, choose the patrol name, and agree to a basic schedule of training.

This term, we then met at a local pizza/pasta place for planning – the girls had to agree as a group what they would cook (being sure to manage the food desires of each of them with the required menu balance), and the broader menu and thematic elements – and try and negotiate what “bits” they would all organise! It went quite well, and I think it was easier to do an extra night than to try and tack it onto a usual Guides night, especially as the group was a mix of girls from my unit and Sister Unit. Next up, we had two full days of training – the first day was campfire cooking, followed by tents, and a bit of “campsite planning”, which involved the CUTEST little set of campsite/dolls furniture which SisterUnitLeader had found through the magic of ebay. The second day involved cooking on campstoves, gadget making, and drilling in first aid and food/campsite hygiene and safe practices. Both days were long and exhausting, but the girls did seem to learn a lot, and hey, given the kids had to learn to do it all independently, there were also substantial periods where myself, SisterUnitLeader and RangersLeader were all able to sit in camp chairs in the sunshine and merely supervise, which if you’re giving up a Sunday, isn’t such a bad deal! The camp they were preparing for was this weekend, and apparently they did very well, woohoo!

I also managed to get myself talked into helping out for a few hours on two separate Saturdays this month for district shenanigans – once at a sausage sizzle at a local hardware store, and once at a farmers market where we had a (vastly unsuccessful!) promotional stall. Phew!

Annnnd of course I’ve also signed up to help at SisterUnit for a few weeks, as poor SisterUnitLeader doesn’t really have any backup at the moment. I’m just doing the “assistant leader” type role of turning up and being an extra pair of hands and eyes, but I know how much of a difference that makes compared to having to be THE responsible adult. I’m in constant awe of SisterUnitLeader, she’s managed to keep her wee little unit going through thick and thin (even managing to keep the unit going while she was working several hundred kilometres away!!), and is always happy to pitch in and help our unit whenever needed, so a bit of share and share about is only fair!

Finally, had my last day of crazy over commitment to weekend Guiding yesterday, teaming up with AParentHelper, YoungCoLeader and RangersLeader to take a group of kids from my unit and sister unit to Scienceworks, which was actually really fun. We went to the planetarium, and explored lots of exhibits – the ones on town construction and science fiction/space were particularly intriguing. The girls also loved the sports exhibit, which had them testing their balance, strength, speed etc.

So, that should be pretty much it for weekend bits for me for a while. And shortly this little blog will take a wee hiatus too, as I’m soon to be having a break from Guides, even a bit longer than the usual summer pause, as I’ll be on “maternity leave” from Guides (although *really* dedicated leaders tell me there is no such thing!). All going well, I think I’ve got three weeks of Guides left that I’ve committed to, but I guess we’ll see if mother nature agrees with those plans!! 🙂

And that is probably the other reason I’ve been madly saying yes to all requests – paying the karma forward a little so I don’t feel guilty about taking a step back for a while 🙂

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