keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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!


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!


Yes more please! Nah it was boring!

So, what did the kids actually think about whatever night?

Interestingly, the feedback seemed broadly split into two camps of opinions, and those two camps mapped almost exactly to our Juniors and Seniors groups!

The Juniors (ages 6-9) LOVED it, and begged to have more nights where there is “so much STUFF”. I think that for those girls, rummaging through a giant box of crafty bits and pieces was incredibly exciting, and they found the more relaxed interactions with the leaders (who were mostly also just playing with the crafty things, or having casual chats with the kids) to be really novel. I suspect they felt quite grown up having that freedom.

The Seniors (ages 10-13) however, had a much more mixed feeling. Comments included “there wasn’t much point” “It didn’t seem like there was something to really aim for…” “it didn’t really feel like Guides…”

Which, to be perfectly honest, was exactly the reaction we’d hoped for. The opening and closing ceremonies may occasionally seem a little boring, but they nicely bookend the evening. And having clear plans for the evening does mean that it feels like there is a reason for being away from the tv for the night 🙂

So, I think we’ll call it a success, but keep in mind the fun of entirely unstructured crafting time. Perhaps we can have a session or two a year to use up all the odds and sods and save us having to keep *quite* so much stuff in the shed!


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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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:


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!!


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 🙂



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As ever, the challenge is retaining

Noodling about the ‘back end’ of the blog reminded me of a post from a while ago,

So one year on, how are we going, and has anything changed?

The differentiation between Juniors and Seniors does certainly seem to help – you can definitely tell when a kid is getting too old for Juniors, they seem to be decidedly ratty for a term or two before going up to Seniors, when all of a sudden they calm down again and are just thrilled to be there. Its to the point that I almost wonder if our hardline about not moving up to Seniors until you are 10 is appropriate (Australian Guiding is very flexible on ages, and each unit makes its own decisions about such things), but on the other hand, at least having a clear line means that we are on ‘solid ground’ with the kids in setting the rules. They do tend to respond better to an arbitrary but consistent rule, than a flexible one.

Our utilisation of Patrol leaders and seconders is still not as strong as it should be, and its probably not helping retention of the girls who might be in line for such roles, particularly at the Seniors age group where the stability of the group (and the fact that the girls elect, rather than the leaders appoint) has meant that the number of kids able to access formal leadership roles is limited. Perhaps this will open up a little next year though, as a we will create at least one but possibly two additional seniors patrols to cope with anticipated numbers, and we should also have a couple of the oldest girls looking to move up to Rangers towards the end of the year, which should create some change in the kids holding positions.

We are still struggling to do ‘girl-led guiding’ in a way which is useful, although we are definitely being more “there’s the instructions, now sort yourselves out”, particularly with the Senior Guides. I’ve found myself being less directive in recent months with the older girls, and more willing to let them just go for it, which they seem to appreciate, even as initially they protest that “but you didn’t SAY!” No, indeed, I didn’t, but given you’ve been a Guide for three years, I expect you to figure out you’ll need lots of small wood to keep that fire going…! I have noticed that once they twig onto the fact that the adults are stepping back, that they do manage to fill the gaps themselves, so that will certainly be an area to continue with, especially as a few of our Seniors start getting ready to move up further. Ideally, if numbers can keep relatively steady, but the end of next year we would have a functioning system of girls three years of Juniors, followed by three years of Seniors, before moving up to Rangers at 13ish. But we shall see – in our eagerness to maintain a Rangers group, we shall have to be wary of poaching the oldest Seniors too early, and undermining the concept.

Looking back over our member lists for the year, I’m surprised to see how few we’ve lost to other activities – of course there are some, but nowhere near the numbers recent years have taught me to expect. Not sure if we’re doing something in particular that’s improved retention, or if its just luck. Probably just luck!! Of course, having several girls having been with us for years creates its own challenge, of being sure to not repeat things too often (apart from things that have become Unit Traditions which give a rhythm to the year), and it also has the added complication of nostalgia “ohhh but when we did X badge it was waaaaaaaaaaay more fun”.

Anyway, shortly it will be the long summer break, and we shall see if this year’s excellent retention holds up. My gut feeling is that we’ll lose 2-3 kids over the summer, but at this stage, I’m not taking bets on which ones. Sometimes you just know, sometimes its not clear. This year: Clear As Mud!






Old school Guiding… with mixed results!

Sometimes, Guides works even when it doesn’t quite work.

Last night was one of those nights – our timing was massively out, the kids didn’t all get to do all the activities… but mostly, we had a good night.

The plan was for a ‘back to the future guiding’ night, where we would brush up the girls on some traditional skills – bedrolls, knotting, and marshmallow toasting.

The plan was to do the activities in kind of a round-robin, with the bedrolls for the Seniors done individually/in pairs, before doing them via a patrol ‘beetle’ for the Juniors. But… not so much!

YoungCoLeader was wrangling bed rolls in the hall (thank goodness we have a large hall, as 8 or so bedrolls pre-rolling take a LOT of space), I was doing knotting in the Grassy Courtyard, and ParentHelper was toasting marshmallows over tealights in the Paved Courtyard.

Splitting the activities this was was definitely the right way to go, especially as it was quite warm and getting the majority of the kids out of the stuffy hall was very sensible!!

Anyhoo, I started off with the Juniors (we went with Juniors all together, but seniors into patrols for the round robin), and decided that rather than trying to “teach knots”, I would split them into age groups, provide them with the relevant handbook, and let them self-direct.

This turned out to be quite a good method – the three six year olds had fun attempting to do a double overhand using a skipping rope (sometimes I forget how tiny our little sixies are – they’re befuddled by overhand knots, can’t always tie their own shoes, and think all problems are best solved by complaining to the leader rather than figuring it out. Ah, tiny ones!); meanwhile, the seven and eight year olds worked on reef knots (and as always happened, accidentally discovered the granny knot at the same time!); and the nine and ten year olds (well, one ten year old!) decided to try square lashing, which ended up morphing into “gods eyes” quite nicely.

I ended up spending the majority of my time with the girls doing reef knots, and I think by the time to switch over, they had reasonably got the knack – or at any rate, could identify a reef from a granny!

Switching over, the Juniors went to do marshmallows, and (some) of the Seniors came out to do knots, while other Seniors started on bedrolls. It seems that the bedrolls were taking waaaaay longer than expected, so there was a major hold up there, and only about half the original bedrolling-patrol were able to move to the knots straight away. I used the same approach of “find knots in the handbook, then try”, and we got a few interesting giant clove hitches around the park bench, but not a lot of engagement. Perhaps having just come from knot-intensive bedrolls, they were  a bit meh about the activity!

Thinking it through, it doesn’t entirely surprise me that the bedrolls were taking ages – we have a reasonably high proportion of Seniors who have never done outdoor camping, and of those who *have*, in general, the types of camps they’ve been to have tended to be reasonably relaxed region ones, where they pretty much just have to get their gear to camp and home again in one piece, without the bedroll needing to be properly knotted, or able to stand up to any particular battering.

And of course, YoungCoLeader is (to her credit) very particular in her teaching of techniques such as knots and bedrolls, and so I’m sure that my imagined “give them the gist of the concept and they can learn to refine later when its necessary” thinking on the timing of the night was probably actioned instead as “if they are going to learn then they should learn PROPERLY”, so instead of 20 minutes for a patrol to do bedrolls I think it was more like 35-40 minutes… I guess my slapdash approach to things can lead to me assuming things will be easier than they actually are!

Meanwhile, ParentHelper did sterling work in keeping the girls occupied after they’d cooked their lone marshmallow (we only had one packet in the cupboard, so Quantities Were Limited), by having them set teeny little mini campfires in the glass candle holders, which they all got hugely into. It seems ParentHelper may have latent Guide Leader capacities with the “if in doubt let them play with fire” strategy of time management!

So, in the end, all the Seniors got to do PROPER bedrolls, all the Juniors got to do knotting/lashing at an appropriate level, and all 30ish kids got to toast a marshmallow… so, I guess we can call what felt like a higgledy-piggledy not-quite-right sort of a night a success!

Here’s hoping we’re slightly more organised and time-effective next week, but I make no guarantees!!

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Less chaotic girl-led guiding!

An easy night for leaders this week, as a night focused on JBP award activities meant a night of girl-led activities – but thankfully, with less chaos than our last attempt!

This time, the main activity was a wide game entirely organised by one of the Senior guides. She had specifically asked last term for “about half a night” to run her game, and then arranged last week to arrive 30 minutes early this week to set up, which she did with an assist from her little sister, and a tiny bit of a “okay, so what needs to go where? Right, so lets gather those bits and place them first” type direction from me, but really, it was 99.95% her. Not bad for a kid barely 11!

And it all worked brilliantly! I can’t fault her organisation, it was very impressive – she had organised ‘patrols’ (different to our usuals), thinking about what might be a useful mix of ages and abilities, and had come up with a clever story for the game – the recycling bin had been misplaced, so the girls had to do a series of challenges to collect and sort the recycling items she’d left all around, and using them in a series of activities, including ‘getting across the river’ and ‘building an animal’. She also had put together individual clues and packs for each of the patrols… all in all, a fabulous mini wide game, and a total credit to her 🙂

So what is the lesson from all that? Girl-led guiding CAN work really well, but perhaps it works best when you have only a few girls trying to share their vision, rather than patrols and units worth of kids all trying to get their time to shine at once!

After that, we had a short presentation from one of the other girls working towards her JBP – less interactive, but another good job done – looks like we’re on track to have several girls getting their awards by the end of the year!

Finally, AwesomeCoLeader pulled “the postbox game” out of her box of tricks, which involved having three girls moving around and hiding, one holding paper, another ‘stamps’, and another the ‘mailbox’ – the other girls had to find the paper, stamp, and mailbox in the right order – kept everyone happily occupied for 25 minutes, and could have gone longer. Would be a great one for on camp with a larger area, and perhaps a few more steps involved!

To round out the night, I took the Rangers girls – unfortunately only two of them due to several late drop outs – but we had fun. Used an idea I spotted online a while ago on one of the Canadian guide blogs about using bleach to ‘paint’ designs on dark tshirts… (was it you? Please let me know so I can give proper credit!). Anyway, they both bought a cheap tshirt along, and the bleach worked brilliantly! Interestingly, on the navy blue tee, the bleach resulted in pink patterns, while on the black tee, the bleach came out as various shades of orange. One of the girls suggested that we should use the same technique to make a Rangers flag – sounds like a great idea for next term 🙂



The chaos that is girl-led guiding

So, this week the five patrols each ran an activity for the rest of the unit, following on from last week’s planning session.

And it was constrained chaos.

They were TERRIBLE at providing instructions, and took SOOOOO LONG to even the simplest tasks! Even our supposedly competent seniors patrols were all over the place, the ideas which were so clear to them last week having somehow been 99% forgotten, so we had kids standing outside (in the cold!) waiting around and getting irked as they tried to remember the instructions…


Basically, THIS is my greatest challenge as a leader – finding the patience and the acceptance to recognise that having the girls learn to lead – and learning to fail! – is part and parcel of guiding. It is soooo hard not to jump in and sort it out, and to sit back and let them wrangle each other.

Every unit and every leader has its strengths and weaknesses, and girl led guiding is ours and mine. I really need to work on this, and make sure I’m providing the girls with enough opportunities to really grow their leadership skills, otherwise, I’m missing out on a whole “fundamental” part of the program, and unfairly short-changing the girls.


In more positive news – Rangers was also on, and we again had five girls! Fabulous! We did box cooking again, to similar mixed results as last time (and once again managed to catch the box on fire, ooops!), but they all had heaps of fun and were totally engaged. Its fantastic to see the little Rangers unit – which was regular readers will know I was despairing of at the end of last term – suddenly feel like it might actually have a future and a point. 🙂



Butterflies + Dragonflies + Worms + Ants = critters camp!

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

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

So, the details –

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

The table decorations:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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