guideydiary

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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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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Get ready, get set…

Nearly ready for the start of the new Guiding year!

We’ve had our planning afternoon (much cake was consumed), and have decided that the Juniors will work on their “Eyes” badge this term, while the Seniors (and newly revived Upper Seniors!) work on their “World Guiding” badge. The girls do seem to enjoy it when they’re working on separate badges, and we think that we’ll be able to integrate the two badges reasonably well, with two nights that include wide-game-ish activities focused on both WAGGGS and observation skills!

So the letters to the families are written, the programs are decorated brightly (I do love a bit of clip art and fancy fonts!), and today they’ll be printed and posted, ahead of next week’s first night back!

Exciting times ahead!

Hope you’re all also geared up for the new Guiding year and full of fabulous plans!

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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 🙂

 

 

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Paying it forward

As regular readers will know, I have often spoken about the necessity of maintaining a reasonable life/guiding balance, and not letting the guide leaders natural tendency to say “of course!” overwhelm me.

Well, lately I have failed miserably at that, with this last month involving Guiding commitments on three weekends in a row (Sunday, then Saturday and Sunday, then Sunday again…), plus a Thursday night out with a group of seniors, plus running my unit, and Rangers (although only one meeting so far), and helping out at Sister Unit for the last three weeks! Luckily these extra sessions all ended up being with other crazy overcommitted leaders, so at least I was in good company!

So how did I end up in this Guides overload pickle?

Well, firstly, a bunch of the Senior Guides wanted to try going to a local competitive outdoor camp. *In theory* the preparation for this camp shouldn’t be too onerous, as girls should gradually learn the skills required over their years in Guiding, and only need a bit of time to refine their menus and theme.

*In reality* (at least the reality of my quite-urban-not-very-outdoorsy-unit) the girls required a crash course in old-school camp skills, including cooking A Proper Meal over the campfire, putting up and taking down tents (without the leaders closely directing things!), making wood-and-string gadgets, first aid, camp hygiene… et cetera!!

So the journey started last term with a pre-meeting for potentially interested guides and parents to let them know what they might be in for, followed by a short meeting to confirm who would be attending, elect the patrol leader and second, choose the patrol name, and agree to a basic schedule of training.

This term, we then met at a local pizza/pasta place for planning – the girls had to agree as a group what they would cook (being sure to manage the food desires of each of them with the required menu balance), and the broader menu and thematic elements – and try and negotiate what “bits” they would all organise! It went quite well, and I think it was easier to do an extra night than to try and tack it onto a usual Guides night, especially as the group was a mix of girls from my unit and Sister Unit. Next up, we had two full days of training – the first day was campfire cooking, followed by tents, and a bit of “campsite planning”, which involved the CUTEST little set of campsite/dolls furniture which SisterUnitLeader had found through the magic of ebay. The second day involved cooking on campstoves, gadget making, and drilling in first aid and food/campsite hygiene and safe practices. Both days were long and exhausting, but the girls did seem to learn a lot, and hey, given the kids had to learn to do it all independently, there were also substantial periods where myself, SisterUnitLeader and RangersLeader were all able to sit in camp chairs in the sunshine and merely supervise, which if you’re giving up a Sunday, isn’t such a bad deal! The camp they were preparing for was this weekend, and apparently they did very well, woohoo!

I also managed to get myself talked into helping out for a few hours on two separate Saturdays this month for district shenanigans – once at a sausage sizzle at a local hardware store, and once at a farmers market where we had a (vastly unsuccessful!) promotional stall. Phew!

Annnnd of course I’ve also signed up to help at SisterUnit for a few weeks, as poor SisterUnitLeader doesn’t really have any backup at the moment. I’m just doing the “assistant leader” type role of turning up and being an extra pair of hands and eyes, but I know how much of a difference that makes compared to having to be THE responsible adult. I’m in constant awe of SisterUnitLeader, she’s managed to keep her wee little unit going through thick and thin (even managing to keep the unit going while she was working several hundred kilometres away!!), and is always happy to pitch in and help our unit whenever needed, so a bit of share and share about is only fair!

Finally, had my last day of crazy over commitment to weekend Guiding yesterday, teaming up with AParentHelper, YoungCoLeader and RangersLeader to take a group of kids from my unit and sister unit to Scienceworks, which was actually really fun. We went to the planetarium, and explored lots of exhibits – the ones on town construction and science fiction/space were particularly intriguing. The girls also loved the sports exhibit, which had them testing their balance, strength, speed etc.

So, that should be pretty much it for weekend bits for me for a while. And shortly this little blog will take a wee hiatus too, as I’m soon to be having a break from Guides, even a bit longer than the usual summer pause, as I’ll be on “maternity leave” from Guides (although *really* dedicated leaders tell me there is no such thing!). All going well, I think I’ve got three weeks of Guides left that I’ve committed to, but I guess we’ll see if mother nature agrees with those plans!! 🙂

And that is probably the other reason I’ve been madly saying yes to all requests – paying the karma forward a little so I don’t feel guilty about taking a step back for a while 🙂

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Memory, and memories.

Something of a disjointed night last night, but several real highlights.

For the Junior and Senior Guides, we had a night focused on getting activities/presentations completed for kids working on their JBP or BP Awards, and three girls were actually organised with specific activities, which was great (these nights can be decidedly hit and miss!!). One which did seem to get a fair bit of engagement from the girls was a Greek version of a ‘duck duck goose’ type game, which was interesting, although the girls really didn’t quite understand the differences between the words they were attempting to say. Still, nice to move away for once from games from the UK/Canada/New Zealand, which is what we usually get for these international activities.

The other really great activity was a ‘memory’ card game about Guiding, which had the classic cards face down and the girls had to pick up various cards to try and find pairs. The twist was that the pairs were questions and answers about Guiding, both international “Where did Guiding begin?” “England”, and more local “When did [Unit] begin?” “1931” (Yep, we’re old!), as well as “What do all Guides have?” “World badge” and “What is the Guides colour?” “Blue”.

The game was cleverly put together, but most amusing was the girls playing – one patrol of senior guides, split in two to form teams, and they were HYPER COMPETITIVE! Absolutely into it and sooooo excited and yelling and going crazy trying to remember the matches. One of the funniest things I’ve seen for a long time as they *really committed* to playing to win!

Also exciting was that such a successful activity ended up being the final activity for WhiteFoodGuide’s JBP. We had a chat afterwards (what had she learnt, how had she changed during the work towards the award, etc), and I was utterly delighted (and she was utterly delighted!) to agree that she had met the criteria for the award, and would be presented formally with it later in the term! Yay!! Only the 6th girl to get her JBP at the unit, and very deserved 🙂

Later, I joined the Rangers girls, for a bitter sweet night. Our nearly-17-year-old Guide has decided (reluctantly) to finish up, as schooling is getting too much, and she was missing so many nights it was hard to justify continuing to pay membership fees. We said she was welcome to visit anytime, and I really hope she will 🙂

We’ve also had two other Rangers move on – one who’d been with us for years and years, but again, school was too much; and another who (rumor has it!) may have moved over to Scouts. Not entirely surprising, given her family is heavily into Scouting, but interesting that she’d made it to nearly 14 in Guides before heading over. On the upside, we had a prospective new Ranger from SisterUnit come to try (just turned 13), and we have a crop of Senior Guides in both my unit and SisterUnit who will be due to go up to Rangers progressively over the next year, so if we can keep it going for another six months or so with teeny numbers, we should be well placed to grow. It’s hard though, very difficult to justify the time and effort for only 3-4 girls at once.

On the other end of the recruitment/retention scale, however, is Senior Guides is now FULL, and Junior Guides gained another member last night, a younger sister of a new Senior. Little Sister is seven and shy, but perked up reasonably once we’d paired her up with a couple of the little ones. I guess our unit can be alarming if you’re shy and seven, as a bunch of noisy, over-confident 11 and 12 year olds will seem very LOUD and very TALL!! Now we just need to decide if we can squeeze in a Promise ceremony before the end of term for the newbies (two seniors and four juniors!!), or whether they’ll need to wait to first thing next year. Occasionally our comprehensive programming complicates things!

Til next week then… 🙂

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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 🙂

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A bit of a mess, really!

Final night of term last night, and it was all a touch scatty! Our plans of ‘edible campsites’ only sort of worked… it seems Guides require a LOT more STUFF than AwesomeCoLeader doing an example at home (they managed to use about 3 times as much chocolate…), and it was the sort of activity where some of them just got it, and figured it out straight away, while others dithered and couldn’t get their bits to fit right, and weren’t sure… etc etc.

So instead of a lovely cohesive activity, we had girls all at different stages, and things definately fraying around the edges! We ended up sending a bunch of kids out into the courtyard to figure out a game themselves (which was actually quite nice, I think they do sometimes quite like a bit of just playing and chatting), and then we got a bunch of the newer girls to each decorate a calico bag from our stash for their handbooks and badges etc, which also worked quite nicely. We’ve had 6 newbies join this term (all juniors, eep!), and none of them had bags yet, so I think they all quite liked having 10-15 minutes to just be together.

Luckily, everything came together in the end, and we held a Promise ceremony for one of our girls who joined late last year, as well as a girl renewing her promise to move up from Juniors to Seniors. I was a little sentimental about her moving up, as she was a teeny wee little one when she joined (juuuust six, and the LITTLE sister of one of our Guides at the time), and now she’s old enough to move up to the Seniors! Can’t figure out if this means I’ve been with the unit too long, or they’re all just growing up too quickly 🙂

It was also nice for our bunch of newbies to see one of our ceremonies before they do their own, I think it helps the unit’s sense of continuity when the girls know the broad brush of how we do things, and it makes it special when they too have their night of candles, flags, and solemnity.

So, to next term. Not quite sure what we’re going to do program-wise – we’re being moved into a MUCH smaller room for at least 6 weeks, probably more like 8 weeks, which is going to make things tricky – especially with the time of year meaning we can’t just move the program outdoors easily. I know lots of units meet in small rooms, and that we’ve been spoiled with a giant hall for ages, but that doesn’t make it easier to adjust!! Lets just hope we don’t get any random friends showing up next term, because there *literally* won’t be any room!

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Newbies, planning, and presentations.

Quiet and easy night tonight, as we all recuperated from camp.

Yet another tiny newbie came along to try – only 6 years old – and by the end of the night, was desperate to get mum to buy uniform! So that makes for six tiny new ones for the term, and we’re pretty much full in Juniors… even possibly a little above full, ooops. I’m not used to the idea of saying “no, we’re full”, and I suppose overall numbers aren’t too bad, as Seniors has room, but still.

In terms of activities, it was pretty low key – the first 45 minutes were spent with the girls presenting activities for their JBP Awards, and one of them running a game as her activity – which seemed to take longer to explain than play! But they all did quite well, and one of our long standing Guides has just ticked off her sixth activity, so will be getting her Bronze Endeavour badge shortly! Exciting!

For the second half of the night, we split the girls up into their sections to work on their different badges – the Juniors went with AwesomeCoLeader and YoungCoLeader to build pillow and blanket tents which apparently went quite well, and was a good way to get the quieter new girls to start chatting. Meanwhile AmericanCoLeader and I took the Seniors out to the foyer to work through some of the clauses in the Outdoors badge, although they took SOOOOO LONG to come up with lists of equipment for things to take on a day’s hike, and then strategies for dealing with various emergencies on camp. Actually, it was surprising how quickly and enthusiastically they got into it, given it was quite a “school-ish” activity. But they took so long that they didn’t get to the bit about devising a conservation activity, so they’ll have to sort that out in the next few weeks out of unit time – we’ll see how many badges I need to buy… I’m predicting… hmmm… three. Hopefully they’ll prove me wrong!!

Next week – AmericanCoLeader is planning a bunch of activities based around compasses, so a slack week for me, woohoo 🙂

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