guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Wheely wheely fun!

great night last week, as we took the ‘wheels’ badge in a slightly more outdoorsy direction.

Essentially, we went on a penny hike around the local area, travelling via a range of wheels-y contraptions.

Our four dolly trolleys once again got a work out – two just plain (girls mainly sitting or kneeling on them), one with a washing basket on it, and one with a big plastic storage container on it! All four had ropes attached, and the girls worked in pairs and threes to travel about to varying degrees of success.

My toddler’s cheap stroller also got a workout (not entirely sure it will ever be the same!), as the girls ran about with it and sometimes got in for a ride! We also had a ball being soccer dribbled and bounced around, and various hula hooping techniques,  including some very old fashioned pushing along with sticks!

It wasn’t a complicated night in terms of heavy programming, but I think it was quite a “Guide-y” night – the girls were given free reign to figure out the knotting and stabilising themselves, and figure out how best to balance and travel – do pairs work better, or should you be in threes or more – and we also insisted that they do all their own negotiating around who got access to the various bits of equipment, and when they switched roles, and how things should be ‘fair’. Wheeling and running around with dolly trollys, wheeled baskets, prams, hoops, and balls – well, we certainly made an impression on all the locals out to walk their dogs for the evening!

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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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Catching up

Two weeks to catch up on!

Week one we had a brilliant night with a local women’s circus organisation coming in and running a circus skills workshop. The girls all got to do some basic acrobatics (mainly balancing), as well as plate spinning, hula hoop tricks, and juggling. They all had a lovely time, and it was great to connect with another organisation focused on girls and women, and give the girls a different experience. For our juniors, the activity counted towards their ‘body’ badge, for the seniors, it was just something fun and different!

Week two was a night where I focused on the rangers group, rather than the Juniors or Seniors, which was rather lovely. On the program was international games, which of course led Rangers Co-Leader and I madly googling the night before… and hurrah for the internet, we had a bunch of easy and fun games to play!

The resources we used were: http://www.girlguides.org.au/public/attach/go_girl_final_web.pdf
http://www.girlguides.ca/web/documents/ns/6/pa-int-booklet.pdf
http://guidinguk.freeservers.com/internationalgames.html

Games played include sleeping lions (because rangers girls are indeed overgrown tiny people!), big snake (essentially chain tiggy), and moon and morning stars – using a footpath in place of a tree shadow. We were joined by a prospective new ranger (super exciting!), and for about 20 minutes, the upper seniors group, about half of whom are nearly ready to move up. If they all end up making the transition up (and the current ones continue!), we should end up with around 10-12 rangers, which would be brilliant. Still, that’s a little way in the future, and I should *never* count guides before they’re promised 😉

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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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Wide game planning

Fun night with my Seniors (10-13s) this week, as they worked together to plan a wide game that they’ll be running next week for the Juniors group!

At the end of the week before, we’d done a brainstorm and then process of elimination and voting to decide that the theme for the wide game would be “into the future” (great theme!). So this week’s task was to expand this into a story, come up with a method for the wide game (was it a back-to-base, or did things have to be done in a certain order, or follow clues around, or…), plus come up with what activities the girls wanted to run.

This is all part of their ‘leadership’ badge, so I aimed to have the girls making the decisions, and working with each other to figure it out. That said, in order to actually get the task done (and keep the kids engaged, rather than degenerating into frustration and confusion), I ended up acting almost as an ‘MC’ for the kids – breaking them into small groups and giving five minutes at a time for “two ideas of what the story is” “one idea of the method” “two activity ideas” and then getting each group to say their ideas, and then have the whole unit vote on which they wanted. Overall, though, I think they met the badge criteria, as all the ideas and strategy came from the girls, but of course it will need to be considered in context with how next week goes. Fingers crossed next week all goes to plan!

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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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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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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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Back again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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