keeping track of my adventures in guiding!


Fun night this week, as my Seniors worked together to build a bridge between two trees, using nothing but rope… and a sprinkling of problem solving, teamwork, and cooperation!

We are lucky enough to have two large gum trees on the front lawn of our hall, conveniently spaced about three or four meters apart, so the night basically consisted of two large bags of ropes, a bag of fabric scarves (to place under the ropes to reduce the wear on the trees), and the task to work as a whole group (rather than in patrols) to build a bridge capable of holding one of the leaders.

After a bit of fussing about, they all ended up really getting stuck into it, and came up with some really ingenious solutions to the problems they were finding – like throwing a lightweight rope up over a sturdy branch (about three meters up!) to anchor things and help counter-balance, plaiting and sort of finger-knitting the ropes to make them thicker, and just generally really thinking things through. Several girls did ‘test runs’ of the bridge, and provided feedback on problems, that they then collectively nutted out solutions to, ending up with a fairly study contraption.

rope bridge

Early on, one of them said “are you just going to stand there and watch??” to which I replied “yep, its your problem to solve… I might throw in the odd bit of genius advice though!” to which I got a chorus of giggles – I suspect they know perfectly well that I am no knotting genius!!

To finish it off, AwesomeCoLeader tested out the bridge, and managed to get across it in one piece, and not touching the ground! We then got the whole bunch of them (about 15 I think, we had a few away on school camps) to clamber on for a photo, which was pretty great… although after that the structural integrity was a little battered!

Remarkably, they even managed to get it all taken down without whining, including wrapping up the ropes correctly! Hurrah!

All in all, a fabulously Guide-y night, traditional AND fun!


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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!!


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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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.


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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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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Constructing Guides

If anyone ever tells you that girls don’t like to build things, well, they’re wrong.

Tonight we had a brilliant night, possibly one of my favourites for quite a while, as I spent some time with the Juniors as they used sticks and rope and tarpaulins to construct small pup tents/shelters.

My role was pretty much just supervising (with the occasional advice/comment) as they all worked brilliantly in their allocated small groups (not their usual patrols), and started to get really creative in their approach to problem solving. Gratifyingly (in terms of our term structure), several of them remembered how they’d got their tripod tents to stay up several weeks ago, and were able to apply that thinking, and explain it to the newer members of the group.

It was particularly impressive that the night went so well, given that we had visitors from Sister Unit (always lovely), plus two girls “brought a friend” (which… that’s great, but a heads up is always nice… and *technically* the Juniors are full…), plus four of the girls are so new they can’t yet remember which patrol they’re usually in, or hardly anyone’s name, so the challenges were potentially substantial! (True confessions time its not just kids having trouble with names: of four newbies this term, there are three girls (sisters and their friend) who look SO ALIKE that I have NO CLUE which is which… I wonder if there’s a way I can work in nametags next week…??)

All in all, a really great activity. Filled nearly an hour, including them gleefully destroying their creations, and then helping (quite well actually) to wrap up the ropes neatly and put everything away.

While all this was going on, AwesomeCoLeader supervised the Seniors (a flip to our usual ways) as they put up and took down little 3 person tents in patrols. Putting them up the challenge was to do so in silence, while taking them down ended up with one of the funniest sights I’ve seen for a while – 4 patrol members blindfolded, one not, and supposedly providing instructions. The results seemed decidedly mixed when I peeked in, but my little tent was returned to me fitting better inside its case than I’d sent it off to them, so I can only assume it at least partly worked!

And of course you’re reading the blog closely (of course), and noticed we’ve only got an hour of programing there – what happened to the extra half hour? Well, that went on a couple of activities and presentations run by a couple of girls for their Junior BP Award, plus a bit of futzing about, and your basic chaos of trying to wrangle 25+ kids!

Followed all that with decoupage at Rangers, and then panic raiding of the shed and cupboards for anything and everything we could possibly need for this weekend’s camp! Fingers crossed all goes to plan (or near enough!) so that I’m not scared off planning others in future! 🙂


Laying tracks


Tracks and trails last night, as the senior guides learnt about tracking, and a couple of different ways to lay trails, as part of a ‘tracking wide game’, although with less of an underlying story than usual!

Both patrols had instructions to follow their own trails, and had separate starting points, from where they were meant to follow a trail of arrows and similar signs, laid out in wooden skewers and toothpicks – one patrol did really well, the other, not so much as I’d foolishly placed a clue for a later stage of the trail broadly in sight of the signs, so of course they went straight to that!! Ah well.

After the arrows, they found a card with the trail sign for ’20 paces forward’, which lead to an envelope with a code, which when decoded said “follow the pink/green footprints” (drawn on the pavement with chalk) – the footprints lead to another envelope, which required the girls to find three flowers (made of pipecleaners) or three animals (little brightly coloured plastic ones) that they should have observed while following the trail so far. Once they’d found those, they proceeded to the foyer to make a vase for the flowers/pen for the animals, using lashing/knotting, gift ribbon (not exactly the traditional string, but it was handy!) and more wooden skewers.

Finally, they were directed into the courtyard to find another envelope, which told them to follow ‘these’ – a couple of brightly coloured beads. The beads were then about a meter or two apart around and about, finally ending in a ‘gone home’ symbol, with their new patrol badges in the middle 🙂

Only drama was – they all managed to get through the trail in about 40 minutes, not the 60-70 I’d planned for!! So, a quick change of plans – we regrouped, chatted about what they’d learnt so far – and then said, okay, each patrol is setting a trail for the other. And they ran straight to it! All in all, I think they had fun.

Meanwhile, AwesomeCoLeader continued the ‘Tents’ badge with the juniors, doing a just-complex-enough craft to make little cardboard circus tents – I walked in briefly and saw two tables full of little ones totally focused on what they were doing, and very happy. In other news, TinyNewbie is all signed up and uniformed, SisterNewbies showed up uniform, and FriendOfSisterNewbies turned up for a second go, so juniors looks pretty full!

Finally, we had a short parents information meeting for our upcoming camp, which seemed to go well – not sure if our current crop of parents are particularly low-stress, or if the notes I went through were super comprehensive, but either way, there were pretty much zero questions, so, yay, and bring on camp next weekend 🙂


And we’re back!

Term one for 2014 has begun! A slightly chaotic evening, but overall, really good. Lots of happy girls, and happy leaders too 🙂

We’ve ended up with retention slightly better than expected – only one girl away (who I’m sure will be back as she’s paid for camp!) – and one girl I was almost certain wouldn’t be back was there, enthusiastic, and chatty as could be!

We also had two teeny little newbies come to try (both 5-and-a-bit… definitely at the lower end of our age range!!)- one a little sister of one of our long-standing Guides, and another who got in touch via email last week. Both fitted in really well, and I think we’ll see them again.

In other ‘recruitment’ news – we had a new leader show up, which is very exciting! She’s from another unit in the district, but apparently too much Guiding is never enough, so she’s going to help us out as well! I’ll have to think of a Blog Name for her… hmmm…

So, activities! For our tent-ish term, we started off with “The Postcard Game”, but with pictures of tents, which Awesome Co-Leader hid half off around the garden. The girls ran about in pairs hunting for their cards, and seemed to have fun! Next we took them back into the hall, and, working in patrols, they used our fancy new gadget wood and printed graphical instructions on tripod lashing, and each constructed a small tripod… eventually!

I’d been able to find online a website which had good pictures of three different techniques ( – I decided the text would just confuse things, so printed off the ‘Quick tripod lashing’ for the Juniors, and the ‘Tripod lashing with racking turns’ for the Seniors. Interestingly, the girl we’d thought wouldn’t be back (and who last year was often disengaged) ended up totally taking over the activity for her patrol, and was deeply focused on getting her lashing technique just so. 

On balance, I’m not sure that the activity worked quite as well as hoped – I think the patrols were slightly too big to just do one tripod each – perhaps groups of three or pairs would have worked better? Still, we got there, and I was very pleased that we were able to introduce some formal traditional skills training into the program – gadget making is not one of my skills, but with the aid of books and online tools, that doesn’t need to stop my Guides from growing in this area!

One of the tripod teepees… this one was a little underdone in the crepe paper department!


We then had the girls use crepe paper to add ‘sides’ to their tripods, to make teepee tents – which we then promptly watered with a watering can to see which ones would stand up best to the weather! The girls were mildly horrified that their hard work was being ‘rained’ on, but got over the shock quickly and then found it hilarious how quickly the crepe paper melted away into nothing but blue sludge… which naturally they got all over their hands… and in their hair… Honestly, I don’t know what the thought process was for “eww, blue sludge, that would look good on blonde hair!”

And that was pretty much it – we had a quick game of Colour Hunt, but they were a bit meh about it – isn’t it strange how a game can be THE BESTEST and then suddenly switch to BORING SO BORING! Perhaps (as has happened before), they started playing it at school, so by the time we bring it back at Guides, its old hat.

This weekend, Sister Unit Leader and I are taking a bunch of girls canoeing, which will be a first for me in many years, so lets hope that goes well! Current weather forecast is for 36 degrees, so it’s going to be a hot one on the water!