guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Exploring in the rain

Fun, if somewhat wet night at Guides this week, as we took the Seniors girls out around the local streets to come up with a bit of a treasure hunt for a different patrol to follow next week.

It was dark and cold and raining, but that just made it all a bit more exciting and interesting, and you get a different perspective on an area you’ve seen many times.

It was quite nice just to be out with one patrol (other leaders took other patrols, yay for lots of adults!), and just being able to chat a bit to them in a relaxed way without having to keep an eye on 20+ kids at once! Nice too for the group to have some time to bond a little bit, and relaxed, quiet walking around made it a really low pressure evening. The purpose of the activity (which will be completed next week) was to observe the local area, and draw a map or create map-like instructions for another to follow – both elements of the World Explore A Challenge badge!

Meanwhile, the Juniors managed to squeeze 15 kids into the kitchen (lucky they’re little!) to make and decorate cupcakes to look like cats and dogs for their Pets badge (any cooking can be made relevant to the badge du jour with a bit of thinking!). Unfortunately the picture examples were forgotten, but luckily not needed as the super creative kids all just figured it out brilliantly themselves, yay 🙂

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Sangam & pets & relaxed fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Knots and knots of fun

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

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

The competition rounds were:

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

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

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

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

 

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Welcome back!

Term one has begun, and it was so lovely to see the girls again after our long summer break!

Our first night back was rather more chaotic than anticipated, as one of our leaders (who was meant to be running the seniors program) was out sick, another was away, our anticipated new helper had to cancel due to work calling her in, AND we got to the hall to find that the repairs due for completion in early January were still underway and the hall was totally blocked off, our cupboards were in the foyer (with all our stuff on top higgledy-piggledy), and all our ideas of how we were going to organise the activities was thrown into disarray!

Luckily, guides are adaptable (and the weather cooperated!), so my hastily pulled together seniors activities were run on the front lawn, the juniors made do in the foyer, and the Rangers comandeered a small room off to the side!

This term, we’ve got the seniors group doing the Ropes badge, and Juniors doing the Body badge. So week one had seniors girls working in their patrols to plan a ropes-based game, and then run it for the other patrols. They were pretty creative, coming up with a spiders web de-tangling game, an obstacle course, and a relay race of sorts.

The juniors we’re learning to care for bodies, doing a bit of first aid, and having a lovely time bandaging each other up. Truly a tragic sight, so many broken arms, twisted ankles, and terrible snakebites! 🙂

Next week: campfire cooking for the seniors, free form use-up-the-odds-and-ends crafting for juniors!

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Relationship building

Last week, we had planned to have a night of the girls using mainly pipecleaners to make little human shapes – for the younger girls, a free choice of design, for the older girls, they were to base their people on Guides from the Asia-Pacific region uniforms.

But looking over the course of the term, we’ve had an unusually high number of crafty type nights – ones that when we first did the program didn’t seem particularly craft-y (e.g. the International Year of Light evening, and our Whatever night) ended up being craft-dominated.

So instead of spending the whole night doing the pipecleaner people, we decided to do a bit of a round-robin of activities – yes the pipecleaners, but also team-building-y type games, and a torchlight scavenger hunt.

We’ve also noticed in recent weeks that our group has got quite large (and with a wide age range), and quite a few of the kids don’t even know each other’s name, yet alone anything about them. So we decided to pair up our Juniors and Seniors patrols for the night, and have those pairs move through the activities as a group. I was running the ‘games’ ‘station’, and made sure that at the start of each of three sessions, that the girls in the paired patrols had all shared names, and were chatting a bit. Interestingly, even when the third set of patrols came through, they had not taken the initiative themselves to introduce each other… perhaps they were a little embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t remember each other’s names and needed introductions??

As for the games, we did:

human knots – stand in a circle, reach across and grab the hands of two different people, attempt to un-tangle the knot without breaking the chains

circle sit – stand really close together, all facing one way, then sloooooowly sit down on each other’s knees – in theory the circle should balance so the weight is distributed and not heavy

Mexican wave chain – hold hands in a long line, and raise hands in a row Mexican-wave style, while also bobbing up and down (to get the wave really moving), AND walk around the room.

For one of the groups, we also did wheelbarrow races, and a kind of crawling conga line.

It was lots of fun, and for the human knots and circle sit, NewCoLeader and I got in there with the kids and fully participated, which they found hilarious! I’m often in a “directing” rather than “participating” role with the kids these days, and it was nice and novel (for both me and the kids!) to be more actively involved. I think I used to be more a participant, but as the group has grown, the directing type role seems more necessary…? Or perhaps I’m just changing in my leadership style gradually. Regardless, its nice to mix things up every now and then.

The other activities – the pipecleaner people and the scavenger hunt – seemed to go fairly well. Unfortunately, the pipecleaner people probably did need a bit of a longer session (at least for some kids), as a few were getting frustrated that they didn’t have time to complete to the standard they wanted, as it was time to move ahead to the next activity. Ah well, you can’t get everything right!

Overall, I think it was a good session, and I think it was good to get the older and younger girls to interact with each other. There is no point having a large group of possible friends, mentors, peers… if you don’t even know each other’s name!!

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Catching up!

Whoops, poor little neglected blog!

So, a quick update on the last two weeks of term:

Our little ones did campfire cooking, doing bananas with chocolate – and very successfully I might add! One fire per patrol, and one adult per patrol, made for a smooth experience. Their work over the term in developing confidence with matches, and the fact that many of them had attended our Juniors sleepover a few weeks ago where they also had to build fires, meant that they’d actually developed and consolidated their skills and were quite competent to set and light and maintain the fires. Go littlies!

Meanwhile, I and NewestCo-Leader (we have a crew now… I need to do some re-blog-naming of my excellent leaders!) led the older girls in ’emergency out of the box’ – we provided a bunch of *stuff* (tarps, ropes, blankets, first aid equipment, clothes, chairs, tables, gadget wood, wool….) in a pile and in patrols they had to respond to various scenarios pulled ‘out of the hat’. Scenarios were things like “there’s been a car crash out the front of the building” “there’s a fire in the kitchen” “you’ve got home and realised you’ve lost your keys and no-one is due home for two hours…”

I’d kind of envisaged they’d pretty much use the bits and pieces to create a vignette of how they’d respond, but it seems we have quite a few dramatic little souls in the group, and so somehow we ended up with these elaborate mini-plays, complete with characters and backstories and HIGH DRAMA! We finished on a silly scenario (“oh my god, the party is in an hour and I have NOTHING to wear!!”) which was a bit of fun 🙂

Our final week of term was a bit ‘bitsy’ – the Seniors did a version of the mini-meal done by the Juniors a few weeks ago (cooking a tiny 3 course dinner over candles), but with the added complication of working with only torchlight – they seemed to enjoy it, but interesting “haaaaate soup” (noted for future camps etc), and got through the task faster than expected. Luckily we were able to fill the time with a bit of “so, what do you want to do next term?”

Meanwhile, the Juniors had a games night, with a bit of leadership worked in – each of the girls had the chance to take the lead in running a game for the group, and it worked really well. We didn’t have a set list of games or of kids, but made it clear initially that we wanted each of them to have a try running things, even if it was only for a round or two of a well known game. They all really stepped up and embraced the task, and it was lovely to see, not to mention, fabulously run by YoungCoLeader, who really does enjoy working with our youngest girls.

Finally finally we had another session of our limping along Rangers group, pulling out our Upper Seniors for the night – they were doing “mini gadgets” (hmm quite a mini theme for the evening, didn’t realise at the time!), using tiny twigs and twine to make doll-house sized camp gadgets. It was… hmm… of mixed success. Still, they enjoyed the time as a separate older group, and have begged for extra sessions next term, so that’s a good sign 🙂

Speaking of next term, our leadership team got together last week for planning term three, and it should be a bunch of fun – we’ll be working on the ‘Girls’ and ‘Other People’ badges for Juniors and Seniors respectively, and I think it should be a lovely relaxed sort of term… at this stage it doesn’t look like we’re attempting to crazily over-program, but I’m sure as each week approaches we’ll somehow find ways to add absurd flourishes to the proceedings!

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Cool, calm, and creative (oh and some knots!)

A lovely calm evening at Guides this week!

We split the girls into their three sections (Juniors, Seniors, Upper Seniors), and had different activities for each.

As part of their Fire badge, the Juniors made candle holders, decorating small glasses with tiny pieces of cut up tissue paper, which gave a gorgeous mosaic or stained glass window type effect.

To reduce the potential level of chaos, we had the three patrols on separate trestle tables (our hall is blessed with an excellent supply of tables!), and the various supplies on a fourth table for supervised distribution by the leaders – time has shown that Things Work Better if you don’t have overly enthusiastic six year olds being in charge of sharing out tissue paper and glue!!

The girls each did two candle holders, and those that finished a little early (or in the case of one or two, just got frustrated!) were then able to use some of the cut up tissue to do some simple collage type art. Wish I’d taken a photo of the floor under the tables- it was covered in what looked like bright oversized confetti!

Meanwhile, the Seniors were being Proper Guides, developing their square lashing skills – even using their handbooks for instructions on the knotting!

They were aiming to construct a lantern (basically a cube with a cross-hatch on the base to put a tealight), although due to time limits, none of them *quite* got there. That said, two girls were up to the final section, and several others were not far behind, so the timing/complexity wasn’t too far off correct, and most of the girls decided that they would take the extra bits and pieces needed home to finish it off properly, so I think we’ll call that a win.

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Its always interesting with activities like these to see which girls do well and which struggle – the girls who were overly particular about their lashing struggled to get very far as they focused too much on perfection, and not enough on speed and getting through the task. But equally, the girls that were too unfussed about quality found that their lashing had no structural integrity, and the pieces kept falling apart! Perhaps a lesson there for all of us 🙂

I’m not a huge fan of the knotting/gadgets side of guiding, but they can be useful skills to know, and I think a small scale crafty activity like this was quite a good way of introducing the skills and applying them, without going the full build-a-camp-kitchen!

It was also a really lovely activity in terms of providing the girls with enough interest to keep their hands and minds busy, but not so busy they couldn’t chat. I think after several weeks lately of working in patrols, the older girls also really enjoyed just having something they could focus on individually, rather than needing to cooperate with others… well, apart from negotiating about who got access to the scissors!

Our final activity had the Upper Seniors in the kitchen, cooking marshmallows from scratch! AwesomeCoLeader is very clever with all matters culinary, so she was in her element playing with candy thermometers and whatnot. Also nice for her to have a break from the tiny ones where she usually ends up!

We’re aiming to have a couple of activities each term where we differentiate the Upper Seniors, both as a way of keeping them engaged, and as a longer term retention strategy for our next cohort of girls. The transition to high school is traditionally a huge drop off point for our unit (and most units, I gather), so having certain activities and privileges only available to those who have stuck around gives the next lot of girls reason to stay 🙂

Overall, a really lovely and calm evening, which the girls and the leaders all really got into!

Next week: we’ll be bringing the whole group back together for a campfire… lets hope the weather holds out!!

 

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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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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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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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