guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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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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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Like, whatevah.

A fun and totally unstructured night at Guides this week, as we decided to take the girls up on their critiques of “too many rules” and have a night where the leaders were essentially on strike – no step in to open, no circle and songs to close, no activities planned!

We just put a box of left over craft *stuff* in the middle of the hall, put out the boxes of pens, scissors, tape and glue, and had another box of sports equipment in another area, and let them figure out for themselves how they wanted things to go! My baby ended up coming along for the night, so she provided another source of entertainment, and got passed around like a sack of potatoes.

We’d told them it was “whatever” night, and that they could “be in uniform… or not…” – some came dressed in perfect uniform, and some turned up in animal onesies, so we had quite the range! There was a bit of confusion with the kids about what they were “meant to do”, and I got several queries like “um… has Guides started yet??”, but overall, it was a lot of fun – the girls mainly mucked about with the craft box, with all sorts of crazy creative ideas and projects, and I think an unstructured use-up-the-bits-and-bobs sort of night might be one to keep in the mix. Interestingly, it was the oldest girls, the ones who I think had been the most “ugh, rules” in the feedback, who seemed most at a loss with how to handle the lack of structure. I wonder what their comments will be next week, whether they recognise the value of having a bit of a plan in place?

At the close we did also need to word up the parents – we’ve got them so trained to wait until we’ve done our closing circle and goodnight songs that if we hadn’t said discretely “we’re trying a bit of an unstructured night, so when your kid has done a bit of tidying and has their stuff together, you’re welcome to head off” they would have waited around for quite a while!

So, all in all, easiest night to plan for ages, and hopefully next week we’ll hear that overall, the girls prefer a touch of structure to the night!

And if they don’t… hmmm…! Cross that bridge when we come to it!

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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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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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Making World Guiding facts fun and fabulous!

Want to strike fear of a boring night into a group of Guides?

Tell them you’ll be working through the criteria for the “World Guiding” Achieve A Challenge badge. The clauses include such scintillating requirements as “know what WAGGGS stands for and who can become a member”, “Name all of the WAGGGS countries of the Asia Pacific Region”, “locate the four World Centres on a map”.

Guaranteed snoozearama, right?

At any rate, certainly the type of information which could very easily be reduced to “read this” “list this” and “memorise this”.

I’m sure I speak for 10 year olds everywhere when I say BORRRRR-ING!!

BUT!

After much pondering, I came up with what I thought might be a way to get this info into a fun package – and WOOHOO! – it actually worked!

So how do you make boring into fun? Add competition, speed, and prizes!

Essentially, we ended up with a quiz night, with four rounds of activities, with patrols competing for points/markers (as indicated by coloured paddlepop sticks) at each stage, and the overall winning patrol getting a prize.

Round one: World Centres

Each patrol was given an atlas, and I read out the address (broadly) of the world centres. The first patrol to find the location, raise their hands, and point it correctly out on the map won a marker.

We started off easy with “Pax Lodge, London, United Kingdom”, then progressed to Sangam, Our Cabana, and Our Chalet in the same format. Then as a bonus round, there were five points up for grabs as I read out the five countries which have been involved in the Fifth World Centre project (Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria) – all they had to do was find the country.

Round two: WAGGGS member countries

Using the atlases again (although we switched them around, as each patrol had a different format atlas, and each had good and bad points), the girls competed to correctly name WAGGGS countries in each region.

Firstly, I put out a map of the regions, and got them to have a proper look at it – the WAGGGS regions don’t match directly with continents, which was going to make things a bit of a challenge!

Then, I had a list (broken up by region) of all of the member countries. The girls’ task was to use the atlases to identify and name WAGGGS countries in the various regions. The trick was, they had to pick a country which was a member, and not repeat one already said by another patrol, and not hesitate for more than five seconds!

Each patrol had 10 markers (in a different colour to the ‘points’ markers) – for every incorrect/repeat/hesitation answer, they lost a marker. The winner would be the last patrol left with markers.

So we started with Africa Region, and the girls pored over the maps, yelling out countries, while I ticked their answers off the list. A fast game is a good game, so we raced through, and when about half the countries in the region had been successfully named, I then read out the other possible correct answers, before we went on to Arab region, Western Hemisphere, Europe, and finally Asia Pacific. For each region, I moved on once we’d ticked off about half – much more fun than insisting on finding *every* WAGGGS country – it would take ages, and would get really boring through repeats. But possibly you could aim for the full list if sticking to one region? The winning patrol was then awarded two markers towards their total.

Round three: WAGGGS membership

This round took an “open book test” approach. Each patrol was given a copy of the WAGGGS membership requirements (http://www.wagggs.org/en/about/About/membership) and given two minutes to read it through.

I then sat with my copy, and asked a series of questions – for example “what are joint organisations?” “what do full members need to pay?” “what name rules are there for full members?” etc etc. For each question, the patrols quickly glanced through their sheet, and once they’d located the answer put up their hands – the first correct response then earned a marker! We only did about 6 questions, but it was enough to focus their minds, and I’m sure the first time any of them had even considered that WAGGGS might have membership rules!

Round four: Asia Pacific Region

Our final round was essentially a game of “memory” – the classic “match two cards” game. Patrols took it in turns to attempt to match the cards. The winning patrol was the one with the most pairs at the end.

I’d made up special Asia Pacific Region cards – one half of the pair was the name of the country, the other half was a picture of the guides from that country, which worked really well. Sometimes World Guiding is so remote from our girls, so having pictures of the guides – proper “having fun” photos, rather than drawings of their uniforms or logo or flag, made it all seem a bit more real. Most of the pictures were from the WAGGGS site (http://asia.wagggs.org/en/organisations), some from their individual organisation websites.

IMG_0234Some of the memory cards

The girls were also super excited when they realised that the photo of “Australia” Guides was a picture of them engaged in an activity from last year 🙂

All in all, it was a huge success, and I’m super thrilled at how it turned out – not something I expected to say when I first turned my mind to meeting the badge criteria!!

Finally, we rounded out the night with 15 minutes as patrols to plan their World Guiding/World Centres activities for next week. The planning actually seemed to go well, so hopefully we’ll end up with a good program of guide-led patrol activities… but I might just have some back up activities *just in case*!

Eagle-eyed readers will realise that I’ve not even mentioned the Juniors yet – I was so engaged with the Seniors that I hardly noticed them (also helped by us splitting the physical space – the Juniors were in the hall, the Seniors were in the foyer area), but they were working on their Eyes badge, making glasses out of pipecleaners and cellophane, and then putting different bits of paper over the glasses ‘lenses’ to simulate different types of vision problems – like cataracts, or retinopathy etc. It seemed to go fairly well, but I suspect it was a bit too intricate for some of the younger ones – we seem to have had a sudden influx of 6 and barely-7 year olds, and I’m not sure we’ve yet adjusted the program to account for their more limited fine motor skills, and smaller attention span.

Speaking of influx, we seem to be suddenly bursting at the seams, to the point that I’m seriously considering if we need to move to a waiting list type situation. Unless we get another leader soon (hi universe, are you listening??), we’re probably going to need a parent roster, and to close the books – if the newbies all sign up (which it looks like they will…) then we’re at 18 in the Seniors/Uppers, and 16 in the Juniors, which I think is the biggest we’ve been in my 6 years with the unit. No doubt now I’ve said that we’ll have a massive drop off after Easter and I’ll be wondering what on earth just happened!

Well, we can only take it “one week at a time” as they say on the football shows, so I guess all there is to do is gear up for patrol-led World Guiding, and ‘Reading Without Seeing’ activities focused on Braille, audiobooks, and other marvellous things!

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The best laid plans…

…sadly very rarely actually work!

Generally, nights at Guides for me are roughly planned out – unless its something like a wide game, where I will have had to have everything done in advance, then usually, I have just a rough sketch in my head of how we might pull together the various elements.

Last night, however, realising that over this week and the next two that I need to ensure my older girls are meeting quite specific badge criteria for their Achieve A Challenge World Guiding badges, I actually sat down an wrote a proper program, complete with timings, instructions for different activities, and allocating leaders and girls to different parts as required.

And the result?

We ran late on all activities, very few of them translated from the “ooh that will be a fun twist on boring Traditions/Thinking Day/World Guiding” idea into reality, and the girls were generally a bit ratty!!

All in all, a bit of an epic fail! Hopefully my plans for next week – which essentially will be teaching World Guiding via a series of quizzes and games (with prizes to the winning patrol!) will prove more successful!

Still, there were a few positive notes – the Senior Guides’ patrol leader elections were finalised, and the three new patrol leaders were thrilled, and the girls they asked to be their Seconders were delighted to accept (I didn’t even need to properly ask if they had accepted, they were grinning so wide!), and I think my hastily re-arranged patrols around the new PLs/PSs will work out quite well. We’ve moved to three patrols of 5-6 girls in the Seniors/Upper Seniors section, which I hope will be sustainable. We don’t have many girls due to move up from Juniors over the next year (I think maybe three?), so hopefully they’ll all have long enough to start properly working as patrols, as that has traditionally been a bit of a weak spot for our unit.

The other highlight was a spontaneous newbie joined us (I’d received a call just two hours ahead of the meeting, from someone looking at our poster in the hall area!), and she seemed to have a great time, despite what I regarded as a bit of a dud evening! If she liked that night, one of our good nights is going to totally blow her mind 🙂

And we also had a promise ceremony for 3 girls that joined us late last year. Ceremony nights are always lovely, so we did at least finish on a high note!

So, I guess we chalk the night up to experience… and realise the take-home message is not to be toooooooo Be Prepared!

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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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And so we begin again…

Mid January, and my mind turns to planning the guiding year ahead, although we’re still a few weeks from the term beginning!

This year my Guiding “New Years Resolutions” are:

* To figure a way to combine my new family responsibilities with Guiding in a way that ensures I don’t go crazy. (For those of you closely following the wee blog: I now have a Tiny Future Guide in the family!)

* To help my unit have at least one camp in the year – whether that is fully participating or just helping out for a day will depend on the above, but I’m sure I can manage something!

* Get better at asking for help from our parent group – I hate to make people feel obliged to help out with something that is, for me, a fabulous hobby, but for them may well just be “a thing their kid does on Wednesdays”. But I need to remember that a lot of people *love* to be asked to help, and that often they just don’t know how to offer. So more thinking of discrete requests, and being sure to take people up on their offers of assistance, rather than my default response of “oh thank you but we’ll be okay!”

* Improve transition from Seniors to Rangers, and figure out a way to make Rangers a sustainable group.

* Do some recruitment targeted at younger girls, as we’re likely to have quite a few gaps in the Juniors this year… luckily, that is (usually) the age easiest to grow.

* Help RangersLeader get her qualifications signed off.

* Stay on top of the paperwork!! And actually claim my expenses!!

So, hopefully it will be a good year, and I’m looking forward to having Planning And Cake with my excellent co-leaders shortly to get this show on the road!

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Edible earth and experimenting

This week at Guides I took a step back and let my very talented co-leaders run the show, as indeed they’ll be doing for the rest of the year!

We had another night focused on the Science and Technology badge, and it ended up being a good night for all.

AwesomeCoLeader worked with the Senior Guides in the kitchen, and had them modify an activity she first ran a few years ago as “edible gardens”, morphing it into “edible earth science”. The guts of the concept was to build a model of the earth, with rock layers, sub soil, top soil, grass, etc. The catch was doing this with food, including making chocolate pudding from scratch for the subsoil, crushing biscuits for the topsoil, dying coconut for the grass, etc.

They turned out fabulously, as you can see!

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The girls worked in groups of 3-4 to do various parts of the process, and it worked just brilliantly. Currently patrols in our Seniors group are 8 girls a piece, and they’re just too big to be properly functional, so its good to split things up a little, and it was nice to let the girls form their own groups. We’re quite lucky in that we don’t have a huge number of “out of Guides” friendship groups in our unit (we have something like 10 schools represented across 30 kids), so even when they choose their own groups, they’re not *too* ‘cliquey’.

(We haven’t bothered with splitting the patrols for this term as at the turn of terms we had 2 patrols of 7, which was borderline, and given only a few weeks left in the year, easier not to disrupt things – since then of course, we’ve had 2 newbies join, which has put us to 8 a piece but at this point, its pretty much just a job for next year, especially with another two juniors due to move up at the end of term).

Meanwhile, YoungCoLeader and a GrandparentHelper were outside with the Junior Guides – originally the plan was for the Juniors to just make volcanoes, and when we’ve done this previously (as part of our Fire badge, I think?), the leader at the time had an elaborate process including making a salt dough to go around the volcano (to make it volcano-shaped), and colouring the water red etc, to look like lava. YoungCoLeader went a different way, which better fitted with the science and technology bent, focusing on the chemistry and process of creating the mixture, and then following up with two further experiments – one using milk and cola (I can’t remember to do what with!!), and the other using cola to clean dirty coins. My usual reaction to the coin-cleaning properties of cola is “eew, that must be doing bad stuff to my insides if it can clean coins!”, but apparently the main reaction from the Junior Guides was “awesome, and do we get to drink the cola?!?”. Different priorities I guess!!

Finally, the most of the girls (barring one small group of Seniors who were finishing off their creations) went out to play camouflage, AGAIN. Oh well, at least its not Not Fruit Salad!!

And now the little blog will be on a wee hiatus for a while as I’ll be away from Guides awaiting the hopefully imminent arrival of a little one, and then we’ll have the long summer holidays. Barring any random posts on plotting and planning, the blog should (in theory!) be back in February. See you then!

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