keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Service, supermarkets, and speedy strolling!

A fun, if somewhat not-quite-to-plan evening at Guides this week, as we took the entire group to the local supermarket!

The Church where our hall is based has an annual food drive, which for the past two or three years I’ve been thinking we should assist with as part of our broader service to community… but each year it sneaks up on me and by the time I realise “oh yeah the food drive” its over and done with, agggh!

BUT NOT THIS YEAR! I finally, finally managed to actually have the idea in time for our term planning, and even managed to find and get in touch with the organiser to confirm our participation and signal our willingness to be involved in future! Yay me and remembering in time!

So rather than just collect from the families (although we did put out a note encouraging donations from families too, and got quite a few bags worth of goodies), we decided to take the girls to the local supermarket, and have them work with a defined budget in small groups to purchase suitable items.

So the whole group – travel cards in hand! – walked up to the local tramstop, caught the tram into the main part of town, and we then let them loose on the supermarket (after reading the behaviour riot act of course!). We had the girls split up into their patrols, and then into half again, with the PL and PS each heading up a half-patrol. Each of these half patrols was given $5, and told to do their level best to come in on budget.

In the end, two of the patrols were about 70 cents over budget, but the other came in between 5 cents and 60 cents under budget, so overall, we were pretty close on expenditure, and ended up putting about a dollar worth of change in the little charity collection.

The girls all seemed to really get a kick out of being allowed to wander the supermarket with only ‘light touch’ supervision (the leaders were wandering the aisles and keeping a general eye, but didn’t go around with the girls) and they seemed to enjoy the intellectual puzzle of figuring out how to get the best value for their money… I do hope the food drive recipients like canned corn though – when we looked over what the various groups had bought, it featured unusually heavily in the purchases! Must have been a sale on that I missed!

Unfortunately, our best laid plans came unstuck as we went to catch the tram home, only to have the tram take off just as the first of our group got to the tramstop. We thought the driver would have seen us and waited while the slower girls caught up, but nope, just took off. Usually trams along that route are every 10 minutes or so, but when we checked our handy little tramtracker apps, the next one wasn’t for 25 minutes! agggh! And the meeting was meant to finish with parents picking up in 25 minutes!

So, quick change of plans, we decided to walk back to the hall! 2.3kms of luckily quite straight and flat and well-lit footpath… and as it turned out, we made it back to the hall only five minutes after our scheduled closing time, and without the tram passing us so it was definitely the right call rather than trying to keep 30+ kids safe and occupied waiting for the tram next to a main road!

Next week: candle-y stuff for littlies, knotting stuff for middlies, marshmallows for biggies!

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Fire safety shenanigans

Simple evening at Guides, focusing on fire safety.

The younger girls brainstormed fire safety rules, then read through some statements about fire safety to decide which ones were correct, and then did fire safety ‘relay’ – with the hope that The Power Of Three would help at least *some* of it stick!

They then practiced lighting matches to light a tealight candle each, and toast a marshmallow over the top. My co-leaders report that as per usual, there were a few kids very apprehensive about lighting matches, but that with a lot of coaxing, they all got there – one of the littlies was so pleased and proud she had to show her mum once mum arrived 🙂

Meanwhile, the older girls did maps of their homes and found the logical escape routes in the event of a fire, and did a scavenger hunt of sorts around the hall and grounds to find the fire blanket, extinguisher, hydrant, maps of evacuation points, and external taps. They got surprisingly into it – anything with an element of inter-patrol competition seems to get them excited!

We then had a quick fire drill, and I discovered exactly how little the girls actually listen, and how much they follow the crowd – I’d given instructions firstly to the Seniors that we would shortly be having a drill, and the seniors would be going to the carpark evacuation point, and the juniors to the front lawn point. Then when all the kids were together, I told all the girls that they were to do as they’d been instructed, and if they were unsure, to follow their patrol leader.

Well, I waited in the carpark with (most of) one of the three seniors patrols, plus a stray from another patrol… but well under half. It took a further five minutes of them running back and forth trying to convince their fellow guides to come! It seems a) their short-term memory is pretty poor and is quickly over-ridden by ‘the crowd’ and b) that some of them can’t even remember who their patrol leader is, so *that* is interesting!!

Anyway, we closed out the night with a Promise ceremony for two teeny 6 year olds, and a renewal for one of our long standing guides moving up to Seniors. Lovely as always 🙂

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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!


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- ), 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!


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: (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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Science + story = wide game!

A great night last night, which required a lot of preparation, but was well rewarded with a bunch of very happy and engaged Guides of all ages!

We were joined by a couple of girls from SisterUnit, which was fun – their youngest newbie was SO EXCITED and kept saying “This is the first time I’ve done this! And its so much fun! I love it!”

I’ll write up the wide game in full shortly, but essentially the story was that the Evil Doctor Greyzone had stolen the colours, and the patrols were in a race to find all six colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) (I gave up on Indigo, finding six relevant activities was hard enough!!), and then had to bring them together in a rainbow (via bubbles).

To even up the challenge – and to give a little twist to proceedings – I split up the unit into different patrols from usual, and made them mixed-ages. Given some of the challenges (like making slime and making ice-packs) were quite technical, it didn’t seem fair to have patrols of 11 and 12 year olds competing against patrols of 7 and 8 year olds! I also appointed different people to usual to be patrol leaders – it was interesting to see which ones embraced the role, and which ones really just didn’t… and I have to say, a couple of my guesses around who would do well were off the mark. Just because a kid is assertive and popular doesn’t mean she’s necessarily able to bring a group together and get them to cooperate!

Anyway, a good night, lots of fun, and I’ll certainly be having them make ice-packs again (using citric acid and baking soda), as that is probably the most brilliant trick I’ve found on the internet for a while, and the girls were enthralled 🙂





A night of drama at Guides and Rangers this week, in a number of senses of the word!

Firstly, the theme for the night was ‘skits and plays’, with patrols working together to come up with a short play which aimed to “show off Guides”. We ended up with both seniors patrols showing off first aid skills (decidedly dubious first aid skills in one case – I certainly wouldn’t want them treating my broken leg!!), two juniors patrols doing some general ‘games and being friends’ sort of stories, and one juniors patrol ‘teaching new kids to build a fire’.

Most of the patrols worked really well together, but one was unfortunately very dysfunctional. The group includes our newest and youngest Guide, (who honestly is probably too young for the group, and who unfortunately has “whine to the leaders” as her go-to problem solving mode), as well as two friends who we had previously separated but who had begged to be in a patrol together, and who unfortunately are proving the wisdom of our prior separation (in other words – they are both having a marvellous time together, but making life very difficult for everyone else), and a patrol leader who is really trying to do the right thing but is overwhelmed by the diverse needs of the patrol, resulting in tears of frustration! Oh, and one poor kid trying to mediate! Oh dear!

So that one patrol ended up taking about 90% of the available leader attention, as we tried to assist without being too directive and reinforcing the idea that they didn’t need to sort themselves out… no idea if we succeeded, but on the upside, all this drama did turn out well with their skit ending up probably the most cohesive and structured out of all of them! Funny how that sometimes happens, but then I guess if they all have enough capacity for drama to have flouncing, yelling, and crying during rehearsals then they might just have a naturally dramatic bent!

After Guides, I joined with the Rangers, who were (reasonably successfully) planning the rest of the year. RangersCoLeader was directing these discussions really well, so I’m sure the program she’ll pop together on the back of it will be great 🙂

In some bad news, one of the girls said she was planning to leave, as the group was too small (irony alert!). No idea what to do about that. Attracting new girls at the older age group is incredibly tricky, and the oldest bunch of girls from the senior guides won’t realistically be ready for Rangers until probably mid next year, and Sister Unit only has one old enough currently (but who wants to wait until the start of next year), and possibly one more mid-next year. Older groups are always difficult – there are just so many competing demands once kids are in high school. Guess we’ll just do what we can. Even if it all falls over, we’ve at least given the current crop of Rangers a few extra terms of guiding!

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Ahh, THAT’S better!

Week two back in our old hall and several times last night I just looked around with a contented grin.

The kids were running about in happy chaos to begin, with impromptu games of tiggy and skipping and soccer, as well as little gossipy groups forming and re-forming as new people joined, or as others got distracted and joined in the games. A really happy sight, after months of being cooped up in the teeny space where we couldn’t get out the balls and skipping ropes, and running around wasn’t really an option.

I find that a few minutes of this unstructured fun seems to open up the friendship groups a little, as the girls come in to the hall in dribs and drabs, and join in as the wish, the older ones (who are “too cool” to skip) getting talked into playing by the littlies, and loving it.

The activities for the night were to be run by girls working on their JBP or BP Awards (or other badges if they wished), and several of them had indeed been organised enough to have a clear idea of what activity they wanted to run, and had brought along the right equipment, and had clear instructions (not always the case on these evenings!!). So we had a lovely night of girl-led Guiding, which included the older girls practicing and performing skits, all the girls learning a game called ‘High Five’ (a Canadian Guide game), and a morse code activity using a torch to signal the dots and dashes. The girls were almost all really well behaved during the activities, and responded well when the leaders said “right, [kid A] is running this activity, so you need to listen to her”.

We also had a quick game of Kim’s Game (with separate challenges for the Juniors and Seniors), and AwesomeCoLeader and I had a bit of a chat to the new crop of Juniors Patrol Leaders and Seconders about Appropriate Behaviour as PLs and PS’s. Our new seconders were all SUPER EXCITED to have been chosen, and it will be interesting to see if they rise to the challenge… two of the three new seconders are our more… hmm… ‘exuberant’ group members, and it will be interesting to see if this new responsiblity will help settle them!

Finally, after Guides, I had the first Rangers night for the term. During the “cross over”, I had them do the craft activity which was originally meant to be part of ‘Christmas in June’ late last term (making teeny christmas trees), and discuss what to do for the rest of the term. When I joined them later, we then put some time into plotting out options for our next meeting in particular, as we are being visited by some Canadian Rangers, which is pretty exciting!  

So, all in all, a really lovely evening.

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Patrols and planning

A reasonably low key evening this week, with the main activity for the night being the girls working in patrols to plan an activity to run for the rest of the unit next week.

We started off with a whole unit chat about what it means to work as Good Patrol, and how each person should behave to make the patrol work. This was particuarly targetted at our mildly disfunctional junior patrol, although they can all do with a reminder every so often that just because you say something loudly, doesn’t mean others agree with you!

Why do we have a disfunctional patrol? Because over the holidays when re-jigging the juniors, we decided to put all the disruptive girls together, in an effort to quarantine the chaos! So far (and to be fair, this was only week three), I’m not yet sure if it was a good idea. On the one hand, it does mean the other two patrols have a decent chance of getting on with things, and that some of our shyer girls are not intimidated. But its a lot of work for the (very calm) patrol leader of Chaos Patrol, and I’m not yet sure if its the right call for the three particuarly disruptive girls to be with each other – on the one hand, they may realise how frustrating it is to be with people intent on grabbing attention, but on the other, perhaps they’ll just learn to be louder and more difficult to one-up each other?! Time will tell.

Still, none of that was my particular problem, as I had the pleasure of leaving the juniors to my lovely co-leaders, while I went upstairs and lightly supervised the two seniors patrols, who were both excellently functional and needed minimal input or direction. I had twice the number of kids of the other leaders, but I looked decidely less rattled by the end of the evening!! I definately prefer the more independent older girls, as charming as the littlies can be 🙂

In terms of actual planning, we asked each patrol to plan an activity of 15 minutes duration, suitable for the rest of the unit to do. It also had to have an ‘Australia’ theme, as sadly, next week we will be losing AmericanCoLeader, and the Aussie theme will be part of her farewell.

The girls generally started with doing a bit of brainstorming around the sorts of games/activities they like to do, and then giving it an ‘Australia’ twist. I think we’ll end up with a good mix of games and challenges, and hopefully the girls will get into running the activities, as its not an aspect of Guiding that we tend to focus on terribly often, and is a little bit of a gap in our programming. Its challenging though, especially with the significant age range we have.

Finally, to round out the evening, we had three new girls (the ones I *still* struggle to tell apart) make their Promise. A bit trickier in our current small room than in our usual hall, but we made it work – a bit of dim lighting and candles can make anything feel special 🙂


Everything is more exciting in the dark!


First night of term last night! Yay!

Its a funny week here in Australia, we’re just after Easter (and the 4 day weekend that entails!), and this week is also ANZAC Day (and so a lovely 3 day weekend!) – so only Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are ‘working days’. We umm’d and ahh’d about whether to return to Guides this week or not – school has gone back for some schools, but not for others, and we genuinely had no idea how many kids to expect!

In the end, it was worth it – we had the vast majority of girls show up, and most of them (or their parents!) had even read the email requesting they rug up and bring a torch! We also had a SUPER CONFIDENT new six year old join us (shall we spell that HANDFULL?), which was rather nice. She seemed to have a fun night, so I suspect we’ll see her next week 🙂

To go on our hike, we split up the Juniors and Seniors – sending AwesomeCoLeader with the Seniors (only 8 of them), while and I, NewCoLeader and AmericanCoLeader went with the mass of Juniors. I gather the Seniors had fun, certainly the Juniors did! We ranged all over the local area (which has a convienient number of cross streets for this sort of thing), and they all got a turn or two at flipping the coin to determine our direction. We even managed to find the ‘back way’ to the local park (quite by accident!), and so they got to have five minutes running about on the playground in the dark. Pretty much everything is more fun in the dark!

It was interesting chatting to some of the younger ones – I asked how often had they been out at night, and several of them said NEVER, and a couple said “only at Christmas to look at the decorations” – so I guess our simple little walk locally gave a lot of them a surprising new experience.

Oh, we also restructured our Juniors patrols, moving to three patrols. This, and Old Junior moving up to Seniors last term has meant we’ve been able to promote a few more girls into PL and PS roles, and they are all VERY chuffed. Its understood by the girls that not everyone will get to be a PL or PS (although if you stick around long enough your chances are good!), so they do tend to regard it as quite an honour, which is lovely.

So, all in all, a fun, exciting, easy and cheap night, rounded out by handing out the term program and invite to our next sleepover which had the girls all excited! Next week – cooking for the littlies, exploring careers through skits for the biggies 🙂


(Oooh, I nearly forgot: cutest overheard discussion last night –
“Tell your sister [now 6 and old enough] that Guides is REALLY BORING so she doesn’t come”
“Even though its THE BEST THING EVER”
“Not EVER”
“Nahh, Luna Park is the BEST THING. But Guides is the second best!”)


Thinking about our sisters in guiding (and scouting!)


Postcards, poems, and politeness were some of our themes this week as we marked World Thinking Day. We started the evening off with going through the postcards we had received from the World Thinking Day Postcard Exchange. The girls seemed pretty excited to receive information about Guides/Scouts from America, the UK, Dubai, and South Africa. It definitely provided a more tangible way of talking about the international aspects of guiding than the usual “no, seriously, we’re everywhere!”.

We split the activity into two, with the Juniors going through the postcards while the Seniors voted on Patrol Leaders, followed by the Seniors reading postcards while the Juniors did a treasure hunt, looking for a Promise Badge and a World Badge which had been hidden in the building (surprisingly successful!).

We followed that up with a ‘serious’ interlude, with a short (about 10 minutes) Guides Own that I’d put together, which focused on what it means to be a Guide, what the various parts of the world badge symbolise, the meaning of the salute (the three-part promise), and a poem I found online about guiding sisters around the world, which I cut up into sections and had a couple of the older girls read a stanza each. We also sang ‘Make New Friends’ and ‘This Little Guiding Light’. A fairly successful little ceremony, I think, and the girls seemed engaged throughout, which is the main thing. We finished it quite nicely with “please close your eyes for a moment or two and think about your sisters in guiding across the world, and how they’re thinking about you too… when you’re ready, stand up, salute, and quietly go into the next room”. It was very sweet to see even the three newbies who’d joined us for the night attempting to properly salute, and being very solemn in their exit 🙂

Next, we went for a bit of international fun – learning how to say ‘hello’ in several languages so you could greet your interational sisters (we went with greetings in Mandarin, Arabic, German, French, Hindi, and Swahili), and played a game where everyone stood in a circle and threw the ball across the circle, and named a country where one of those languages were spoken (China, Egypt, Germany, France, India, Kenya), and the girl catching the ball had to say hello in the correct language or get out. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but they seemed to get into it pretty well.

Then to round it all out and add a bit of chaotic fun, NewLeader organised them all into a game of Cat and Mouse, with different rules to how we’ve usually done it (which is generally a version of Streets And Lanes), and this new version was MUCH more successful, so I think we’ll keep that one in the box of tricks! Finally finally we played their old favourite of Not-Fruit-Salad. This weekend – more Thinking Day!