keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

At the park

A reasonably easy evening this week, as we took the girls to the local park.

We were joined by Sister Unit, which meant that we had 40 kids (even with a few from both units away… we’ve both grown a lot recently!), which meant that the noise level was higher than usual, and the chaos level was DEFINATELY higher than usual!

We started by getting the girls into groups of 2-3, and blindfolding one member of each group, before walking the two blocks or so to the park. The girls found this hilarious and fascinating, and it was a good activity to even up the girls- some of the 12 year olds struggled just as much as the 6 year olds!

Once at the park, we had the girls mix up into different pairs, and then hunt for a long list (18 items I think) of ‘shapes in nature’ – the shapes included “corkscrew” “letter C” “cone” “cube”. The girls found bark, clouds, leaves, vines… and one group even made the letter c by forming it with their hands, reasoning that they too are part of nature 🙂

We then went to a little wooded area, and played “my friend the tree” which had them again in partners or threes – one girl in each partnership was blindfolded, ‘dizzied up’, and then led to a tree. They had to touch it, smell it, and try to remember it, before being dizzied up again and led away, then have the blindfold taken off. They then had to try and identify their tree! It worked really well, and was again an activity which seemed to be enjoyed by the girls at both ends of the age spectrum.

We finished up with a bit of a play on the playground (there would have been a mutiny if not!), before walking back. It wasn’t the most action-packed evening, but it was nice to get outside, stretch our legs, and give the girls time to chat and muck about a bit!

Next week, badge work, which will, *in theory* be directed by the girls, rather than the leaders. We shall see!

Leave a comment »

Faith and service: exploring the serious side of Guiding

A fantastic day out yesterday, helping around 12 Guides to give service and explore their understanding of faith, and explore the serious side of Guiding in a fun way.

We started the day with an hour and a half of helping out at National Tree Day in a local park, digging holes (with a cool pogo-stick-esq digger) and planting some native grasses along a river bed. The girls all got really into the activity, and luckily the weather was on our side, all bright blue skies which always makes things easier!

The girls really worked well together, with groups of three working on the digging (the digger really needed two to hold steady and one to jump), and being a bit creative in their problem solving around how to get the stakes into the ground (thump it with a stray rock being vastly more efficient than other possibly less injury-prone strategies) (no fingers were harmed in the thumping of stakes!).

After our time planting, we had a mini-change of the guard, with three girls heading off, and two others joining us for the second part of the day, which was exploring places of faith.

Following much wrangling of public transport (train stations are ALWAYS further on foot than they appear on a map!) (especially with 8 year olds busy gossiping rather than moving quick smart!) we made it up to the inner northern suburb of Coburg, where we visited a local mosque, and were given a tour and a brief overview of Islam by some of the mosque’s volunteers, who were all so lovely to the girls – just delighted to show off their mosque and de-mystify their faith. The girls were all facinated by the beautifully decorated Qurans, and were decidedly taken by the lovely dense carpet (many patterns were drawn on the thick pile while listening!). But of course, the thing that really caught their eye? The fact that the mosque had a table tennis table set up in the community room! Heh.

We then had a short break for lunch at  Lebanese restaurant, where the girls feasted on pita bread, dips, salads, and meat. Even FussyEaterGuide managed to find things she enjoyed (pita, hummous, chicken), and for all her fussy eater status, she did have a tiny try of everything, and even agreed that tabouli was “not tooooo bad”. Success! A few more years in Guides and she may even branch out into non-white-food options!

After lunch, we headed back to the city to visit a synagogue. In what turned out to be a stroke of luck, we missed the opening hours of the synagogue by five minutes, but the door was still open. So I went in and apologised profusely for our tardiness and wondered if the girls might have a quick two minute look and then head off? Well, it turned out the Rabbi was still around, and was DELIGHTED to give the girls a private tour and talk (and even show off blowing the new year’s horn), so rather than be in a big group with other people for the open day, they had all their questions answered and tailored attention! Super lucky!

Finally, we had half an hour to check out Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral, which despite being only a five minute walk from my work I’d never been inside – well, it was beautiful, all soaring vaults and stained glass, just gorgeous.

So all in all, we had a great day, giving the girls a wider understanding of faiths in their city, and hopefully giving them a chance to see that there are people of good will and friendliness from many backgrounds. If only we’d had time to fit in a visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples as well to really broaden the experience… perhaps that can be on the agenda for next year!

Overall, I think the day helped our girls meet their Australian Girl Guides Promise to “serve my community and Australia” and “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”… and tick off a couple of clauses in a few badges as well!


Butterflies + Dragonflies + Worms + Ants = critters camp!

Combine 16 Guides, 3 leaders, 1 parent helper, an activity day, a bunch of insects and critters great and small and what do you get? A happy and (mostly!) successful camp!

‘Crazy Critters’ was our theme, so bugs and insects wove in and out of the activities, decorations, patrols, and food. It probably wasn’t a theme our girls would have chosen (we planned the camp so far ahead they had no say this time!), but they all really got into it, and it was a great one for helping the leaders be creative!

So, the details –

Friday night I got up to camp early and set up as much as I could – I’d found some fake ivy in a $2 shop, so that plus some little lady bug clips formed our table centrepieces, on top of a luridly lime green plastic table cloth – I haven’t done the table cloth/centrepiece thing much before, but I really liked it – it themed the main room for the whole weekend, and made it look a bit special, while being really easy to clean up!!

The table decorations:


The girls all arrived on the bus at about 7pm, unfortunately this was only 5 minutes behind my QM (SisterUnitLeader) who had got caught at work! So much for our plan to have dinner on the table when they arrived! But it didn’t matter – by the time I’d welcomed them all to Crazy Critters Camp, presented them all with their themed scarves (thank you quilting sale pile!), sorted them firstly into patrols, and then secondly into rooms, and then got them AND ALL THEIR STUFF into their rooms, SisterUnitLeader and Parent Helper had platters of chopped up veggie sticks and dips ready, which they all just gobbled down! Luckily the main meal was just sausages in bread, so that didn’t take too long to sort out. After we’d cleaned up from dinner, we went for a night walk around the campsite, which was both exciting (Ooh spooky bush sounds! Being out after dark!) and also useful – as we were able to point out some of the main landmarks which they’d need to know the next day!

It was also useful in that a bit of physical activity seemed to calm them down a touch, and we had an easier bedtime than at recent camps – we put the lights out at about 10.20ish, and I think the last time I SHOOSH’d a kid was at about 11pm, which is decidedly better than two years ago when I had to go and find poor AwesomeCoLeader who was sitting in the cold outside one of the rooms to force them to shut up at 1am!!

Saturday we had the most elaborate hot breakfast I’ve ever had at Guide camp – SisterUnitLeader took everyone’s breakfast orders the night before and then provided everyone with their own tailored breakfast – I had mushrooms, ‘hash browns’ (potato gems), fried eggs, baked beans, and butterfly toast (toast with a butterfly cut out using a cookie cutter) (the other option was dragonfly). Other people had boiled eggs or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, spinach… honestly, I’ve never seen such a diverse breakfast – usually we just do a big pot of something and serve it up!!

We then had a brief Guides Own, not one of my most successful ones, but oh well. I was running a bit short on inspiration when I put it together, but the girls did at least all have a part to play, and all managed to read out their bit reasonably well. For the record, I’m thinking that mid-morning Guides Owns just are not as effective as ones in the dark or twilight. I’m sure dawn would also be fabulous, but unless we start camping mid-winter when dawn is at a suitable hour for me to be nice to small children, that’s not going to happen anytime soon!

For the main part of the Saturday, we had the patrols move through four different activities. To manage this, the patrol leaders were all given a watch, and wrote down the times and activities that they had to be at. We were camping at Britannia Park, which is a fabulous, but GIANT Guide campsite, so they were all under STRICT instructions to never lose their patrol, and that people had to be in at least pairs at all times. I brought the seconders in at that point and reminded them that they were also responsible for ensuring timing and not losing their patrol!! (Can you tell I was a little obsessed on this point? To be fair, its about 20acres or so, and they were going to be without direct adult supervision, so this was not entirely unreasonable…)

The four activities were: Making and eating their lunch at the cabin, Making a bug-themed dessert at the cabin for everyone to try at dinner time, going on the open day activities (which included a jumping castle, circus skills, making damper etc) while hunting for 10 bugs that we’d hidden all over the campsite, and helping out with taking tickets etc at the jumping castle, which was our assigned activity.

Lunch and helping out generally took less than their appointed hour, so they were free in that time to continue bug hunting and activity-day-ing, which they did with gusto. The bugs, as I’m sure you’re curious, were brightly coloured plastic bugs (e.g. an orange millipede, a blue beetle, a yellow scorpion), which we put in small glass jars about the place. Their general location was marked on a map given to each patrol, but they definitely took some hunting, and some very careful observation! By the end of the day, the two older patrols had managed to find all 10, but the two younger patrols gave up after finding about 5 each!

On the program we intended to do a hike after the activity day, but they were all whiney about the prospect, and the weather looked to be coming in… so a bit of a re-think, and we decided to use the ‘Challenge Valley’ obstacle course equipment instead, which was conveniently just across from the cabin, and which they all really got into. Interestingly, several of the girls really struggled with the concept of having to wait before your whole patrol had completed a challenge before moving on… I suppose there aren’t many times where they’re reliant on other people’s capacity to complete something.

Dinner was reasonably standard camp fare – spaghetti bolognaise – but they all ate it enthusiastically. SisterUnitLeader did give the meal a bit of extra pizzazz by serving “bug juice” – green cordial with sour worms in ice-cubes, which the kids thought was just the most brilliant thing! I think at this camp we were a bit more minimalist with the food than last time – we had food available for morning tea and afternoon tea, but it was more just platters of cut fruit or a few savoury biscuits, rather than anything substantial. I think this was actually the right call – no one went hungry, but they were all more enthusiastic about the main meals, and we didn’t have so much food left over, as the kids were actually having the planned second serves of pasta etc, rather than just one as they’d filled up at snack time. Mind you… we did follow up standard spaghetti bolognaise with the four ‘bug desserts’ the girls had made earlier in the day – firstly apples and cheese cut up to look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar (shared between two), followed by individual ‘tasting plates’ of honeycomb, butterfly cakes (with cream and jam), and spider chocolate crackles (crackles with liquorice legs and eyes). They looked great, and were all delicious, and the girls were all pretty chuffed to share their hard work.

Finally, after dinner, we had an indoor ‘campfire’, as the rain was absolutely bucketing down. In place of fire, each girl had a glowstick in a jar at their feet, and we had a bunch of the jars in the middle, which was very effective. Kids were in bed and quiet a bit earlier – I think the last SHHHH was at about 10.20pm 🙂

Sunday we got up a tiny bit later (a princely 7.30am!), and insisted on the girls packing and cleaning their rooms prior to breakfasting – which worked quite well with two of the rooms, but one was soooooo scatty and soooooo disorganised, that they ended up delaying the start of the wide game beginning as it took them one and a half hours to get to breakfast!!

The main part of the day was spent on a brilliant wide game put together by AwesomeCoLeader (I’ll see if I can convince her to do a Guest Post with the details!), the central concept of which was: the Professor of Entomology from the local university has been kidnapped, and as uni students are on holidays, the Guides have been asked to track her down!

Challenges included in the game included building a shelter facing north (like termites), doing a dance to share a message (like honeybees), building a spiders web, using a compass to walk in a certain direction and observe what sounds and critters were around, and collect some bugs from the site, and of course, cook lunch over the fire. Naturally, it finished with hunting down the kidnapped professor 🙂

After that, we pretty much just packed up, had a short closing ceremony, and then sent the kids home! The last girls left at about 3.20pm (so much for the 2.30-3.00pm pick up!), and us leaders left at about 4.00pm, which wasn’t too bad.

Overall, a pretty good camp – the girls seemed happy (and 16 was a lovely number!), the leadership team worked really well, and even the parent helper was great, really happy to pitch in wherever, always asking if there was anything extra she could do to help. So, all in all, I think I’d be willing to do it again, and after chats with the girls and AwesomeCoLeader, I think we’ve got themes for the next two already sorted! Titanic Camp and Dinosaurs Camp, here we come!

1 Comment »

Patrols and Promises

Good but unusual sort of an evening –

For the first half, we finished off our pets badge with a series of activities aimed at enhancing patrol work, with the central aim of getting through a series of challenges while protecting an egg. The original plan was for each patrol to have a blown egg, but time got away from me! Luckily, an emergency trip to the craft shop (which is conveniently 2 minutes walk from my bus stop!) yielded Styrofoam eggs, which worked quite well.

So the series of activities (pretty much made up on the spot by me and co-leader!) for each patrol were as follows:

  • Human knots – get out of, and then back into – a human knot, while protecting the egg
  • Get from the corner to the main driveway, transferring the egg person to person, without using your hands.
  • Get from the main driveway to the next corner, again transferring person to person, without using your hands or arms.
  • Using things you can find in the garden, make a nest for your egg that you can transport to show the leaders.
  • Do Scouts pace one by one up the other footpath, keeping the egg safely tucked into the back of your collar
  • With your egg on a spoon, walk to point one, hop to point two, then skip to point three.

Overall, it worked pretty well, with a couple of the girls commenting that it was a bit like a wide game, with working through a series of challenges in their patrol. Given the group loooooooooooooooooove wide games, I’m going to call that as high praise 🙂

After the girls had mostly got through the activities (some of the patrols didn’t quite complete the final task, but close enough), we quickly got set up for our final Promise ceremony of the year. Three lovely newbies made their Promise for the first time, and two of our Juniors moved up to Seniors.

I say it every time, but gee I love Promise ceremonies. The girls are all so serious and solemn, and the girls making their Promise are both excited and nervous… and so many parents come up afterwards and say “oh I was so proud! I was just about in tears!”. Our very traditional ceremony is, I think, a lovely way to impress on the girls that in being part of Guiding, that they’re part of something special. It also seems to move parents from “oh its a club that little Suzie does because her friend Sally does it too…” to feeling like being a Guide is something different, and something to be proud of. So yes, I love our little ceremonies, with marching in, colour party, and lots of candles!

Next week – more ceremonies as we present our first JBP Award in two years, and first BP Award in three! Woohoo!

One of the ‘nests’ for the eggs – pretty creative!



Doggies and bunnies and games, oh my!

Thanks to the unreliability of Melbourne’s weather, tonight’s plans of pets in the park had to be abandoned at the last minute, in a flurry of last second emails and text messages!

So instead, we were back in the usual hall – but visited by two bunnies and nine dogs!

The girls had fun showing off their pets, and meeting the pets of others – and they were all fabulously well behaved! Only one dog was a bit ‘over enthusiastic’, but that was okay!

After the last of the pets had headed home with families, we played a few games – first one called “A What?” – which was a bit of a variation on Chinese Whispers, which was quite funny, as multiple pet-related “items” went around the circle… turns out the girls are very unfamiliar with the word “budgerigars”! (Storms of protest: why didn’t you just say bird if its a bird?!) (Because I have to amuse myself as well!)

Followed up with a game of Monkey Tiggy, which was quite funny to watch, and then I put them in pairs and gave each a plastic animal. One of each pair hid the animal, then the other was guided to it with “hotter/colder”. My next suggestion of Duck Duck Goose was vetoed (girl lead guiding!) and they organised themselves into a game of Run the Gauntlet instead, keeping it in theme by using the little animals as objects to collect at one end of the gauntlet.

Finally, we had 15-20 minutes left, and I was over the noisiness, so decided I’d give them a quick first aid challenge. A bit of whinging ensued “we KNOW how to wrap ankles already!” “Excellent, you won’t need the book then and can show me that you can get it right first time” “Okay!” Heh. Anyway, despite the whinging, the whole group ended up practicing, and even those who thought they didn’t need the book ended up learning a bit and improving. So glad I invested in a set of bandages just for practice a while ago!

Next week we’ve got games outdoors, followed by a Promise ceremony for 3 newbies. And in other excellent news, awesome co-leader will be back, and we had a third visit from another newbie, so I think we’ll be signing her up properly next week 🙂


Leave a comment »

structured chaos and chia pets

Bit of disjointed night this evening, but the girls seemed to have fun, so it can’t have been too bad!
I was mainly with the Seniors, and we started with the chia pets, which they didn’t find difficult, but they all had fun, and were happily chatting with each other as they constructed their pets.

They also found it completely hilarious that some of the grass seed from two weeks ago had somehow got into the bag of potting mix and had sprouted! But of course it had been in the dark, so it was all this very pale and weak little threads of grass!

After the grass heads were done (only about 40 minutes), I took the girls back inside, and split the group into two (not patrols, for once – split on age), and gave each group a handbook, and said “find an activity” – the younger group ended up making morse code ‘bracelets’ (very creatively, actually, especially given we didn’t have all the equipment suggested by the book!), while the older group ended up splitting into two, with 3 of them practicing a dance, and two building little mini-rafts out of straws and paddle pop sticks.

Meanwhile, the Juniors worked on the bird feeders activity (apparently to more success than the older girls a couple of weeks ago!), and then coloured in the very excellent ‘brownies colouring sheets’ from Guiding With Jewels. (Here! ) – they were all really engaged, and its lovely to slip a bit of stealthy world guiding into the program!

And that was pretty much it, apart from a quick game of ‘fruit salad’, and a very quick voting for a new PL for one of the patrols. The PL was as I would have guessed (but good that they voted), but I was surprised by her choice of seconder – very sensibly chose a girl who has been a Guide for a while, and really goes along to all activities, and is working well on her JBP, but who has quite a “pushy” personality, so I would not have thought she’d be chosen… So, I was very pleased that the new PL has chosen a girl who deserves the role, rather than just choosing her particular friend 🙂

Leave a comment »

Odds and sods

Ah, the final night of term. Always bitter-sweet!

Poor attendance this evening – only 13 out of 24! I suspect a few kids are already on school holidays, and when that happens, they *always* forget. There also seemed to be a few events on tonight – three of the oldest girls let me know they were away due to school productions etc.

As is generally becoming customary, we asked the kids to do an evaluation of the term – in recent terms I’ve gone for a single large sheet that everyone puts ticks on. I then have the term’s main activities down one side of the page, and ‘ratings’ across the top axis – ratings are some variation on “great!” “good” “okay…” or “boring!”. This term I went with individual feedback sheets, which was rather interesting. Some of the activities which I thought went quite well (like pot painting and planting) got middling results, while some which I thought might have missed the mark (making ‘eiffel towers’ out of straws) were reasonably popular. Huh.

Interesting too, the variation in evaluation of some of the activities – last weeks ‘green taste test’ was thought “great!” by the littlies, but “boring!” by the oldest girls! Overall though, most activities were marked as ‘good’ or ‘great’, so I think we’re broadly on track. 🙂

tonight’s activities were a bit of a mish-mash! Based broadly around a ‘world’ theme, we had:

  • sock skiing races (for Switzerland, for Our Chalet)
  • making ‘gods eyes’ (for Mexico, for Our Cabana)
  • a Millenium Development Goals ‘bingo’ (not sure any info stuck, but hey, at least it’s integrating some serious world stuff into the program!)
  • Kim’s Game with items from other countries, and the kids had to remember both the item and where it came from.

We also had one of the girls working on her JBP run some activities, which generally worked well – she’d certainly put a lot of thought and effort into them, and tried to tie everything into a ‘world’ theme – so she had the kids building ‘igloos’ out of white sheets and chairs, going ‘ice fishing’ and making ‘fishing rods’ with rope and sticks, doing a quick ‘fill in the blanks’ promise activity, a puzzle, and a matching game. She’d done fabulously in planning and making sure she had everything!

Overall, a quiet night, fished off by presenting a bunch of kids with their world and/or nature badges. I’m really liking our increased focus on badges this year, its great to see the girl’s sashes starting to fill up, and it gives us good reason to ensure each term’s program is different – harder to fall into the trap of too much repetition when you’re totally switching topics term to term – even if you only end up making a small modification – like playing ‘froggy tiggy’ rather than the usual ‘spy tiggy’ – it helps to mix things up a bit.

So, a good term, now time to gear up for the next one!

Leave a comment »

Earthy adventures

Last night was a brilliant night of Guiding! Three separate activities (one per section – Juniors, Seniors, Upper Seniors), which were ALL successful, which all the girls seemed to enjoy, and all of which were fun, something new, and fitted into the badge program!

Our littlies made volcanoes, which they seemed to really enjoy – we had them make a dough to shape the volcano shape around a bottle, which they seemed to enjoy – they really like it when we give them a recipe or similar and let them get on with it. I’m guessing for girls aged six to nine, there probably aren’t many times where they get to self-manage an activity, and follow the instructions with minimal adult involvement! Once again, that tiny taste of freedom and responsiblity really seems to work for the younger ones. Younger co-leader ran the activity, and did really well – but she did say for sure afterwards that she prefers the older girls! Fair enough!

Meanwhile, other co-leader ran a brilliant ‘edible gardens’ activity with the Upper Seniors, which had them use various forms of lollies and chocolate to build the layers involved in soil and gardens! So clever, and so much fun – dyed coconut for grass, sour worm lollies for earth worms, made-from-scratch chocolate pudding for the sub-soil… The girls had lots of fun, and were completely surprised by the activity, which was great!

And thirdly, I helped the Seniors out with making terrariums! They turned out really well, each girl got a *teeny* parlour palm, a wee little fern, and various combinations of moss, baby’s breath, and teeny violet plants. They all got really absorbed in the task, and were very excited when I suggested we could also add some beads and things – and very luckily found a box of gorgeous flat glass ‘marble’ type things, which made for brilliant ‘ponds’.

So, three fabulous activities, absorbed kids, and THEY EVEN ALL CLEANED UP WITH MINIMAL WHINGING!! Woohoo!!

Not only all of that, but two newbies! One who came to last week’s bring-a-friend with the younger girls, who dragged mum over at the end, and insisted mum take the forms (cute!), and another who came for the first time last night – apparently she’d seen an ad about Guides, checked us out online, and ended up with us! Got a call from her mum today saying that daughter loved Guides, and she’d pick up the forms next week!

Next week – ‘jumping snakes’ for the juniors, pottery for everyone else. Should be great!

Leave a comment »