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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Faith and service: exploring the serious side of Guiding

A fantastic day out yesterday, helping around 12 Guides to give service and explore their understanding of faith, and explore the serious side of Guiding in a fun way.

We started the day with an hour and a half of helping out at National Tree Day in a local park, digging holes (with a cool pogo-stick-esq digger) and planting some native grasses along a river bed. The girls all got really into the activity, and luckily the weather was on our side, all bright blue skies which always makes things easier!

The girls really worked well together, with groups of three working on the digging (the digger really needed two to hold steady and one to jump), and being a bit creative in their problem solving around how to get the stakes into the ground (thump it with a stray rock being vastly more efficient than other possibly less injury-prone strategies) (no fingers were harmed in the thumping of stakes!).

After our time planting, we had a mini-change of the guard, with three girls heading off, and two others joining us for the second part of the day, which was exploring places of faith.

Following much wrangling of public transport (train stations are ALWAYS further on foot than they appear on a map!) (especially with 8 year olds busy gossiping rather than moving quick smart!) we made it up to the inner northern suburb of Coburg, where we visited a local mosque, and were given a tour and a brief overview of Islam by some of the mosque’s volunteers, who were all so lovely to the girls – just delighted to show off their mosque and de-mystify their faith. The girls were all facinated by the beautifully decorated Qurans, and were decidedly taken by the lovely dense carpet (many patterns were drawn on the thick pile while listening!). But of course, the thing that really caught their eye? The fact that the mosque had a table tennis table set up in the community room! Heh.

We then had a short break for lunch at  Lebanese restaurant, where the girls feasted on pita bread, dips, salads, and meat. Even FussyEaterGuide managed to find things she enjoyed (pita, hummous, chicken), and for all her fussy eater status, she did have a tiny try of everything, and even agreed that tabouli was “not tooooo bad”. Success! A few more years in Guides and she may even branch out into non-white-food options!

After lunch, we headed back to the city to visit a synagogue. In what turned out to be a stroke of luck, we missed the opening hours of the synagogue by five minutes, but the door was still open. So I went in and apologised profusely for our tardiness and wondered if the girls might have a quick two minute look and then head off? Well, it turned out the Rabbi was still around, and was DELIGHTED to give the girls a private tour and talk (and even show off blowing the new year’s horn), so rather than be in a big group with other people for the open day, they had all their questions answered and tailored attention! Super lucky!

Finally, we had half an hour to check out Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral, which despite being only a five minute walk from my work I’d never been inside – well, it was beautiful, all soaring vaults and stained glass, just gorgeous.

So all in all, we had a great day, giving the girls a wider understanding of faiths in their city, and hopefully giving them a chance to see that there are people of good will and friendliness from many backgrounds. If only we’d had time to fit in a visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples as well to really broaden the experience… perhaps that can be on the agenda for next year!

Overall, I think the day helped our girls meet their Australian Girl Guides Promise to “serve my community and Australia” and “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”… and tick off a couple of clauses in a few badges as well!


Shop for service

Short Guiding interlude to my Sunday – one hour of service, with five keen kids, wandering about our local Kmart, finding gifts for the Wishing Tree –

Its a service activity I was introduced to back when I was a Guide – the first year it started, my unit walked down to our local shops and bought gifts for the Tree. It must have made a deep impression on me, as every year since, its been part of my Christmas tradition. Since going back to Guides as an adult, I’ve extended the tradition to the two units I’ve worked with. Hopefully it will stick with my Guides as well as it has stuck with me.

This year, we did it as a weekend activity, rather than a unit night activity, just because we had too packed a term!

As for the activity itself – its very girl-directed. They’re given a set amount of money, and allowed to walk around in a group, staying broadly in the same area as a leader, but don’t have to explicitly stay with us.  As a group, they have to work out what age and sex of person they wish to buy for, and then set about deciding on gifts. The girls were given $30, and they decided to split this into three gifts – for a 3 year old boy, a 3 year old girl, and a 9 year old girl. They looked at books, and stationary, and toys, and sports equipment, and ended up – after much discussion, checking of prices, and negotiating! – deciding to get a mix of things for each gift, including a soft toys, crayons, colouring books, play-doh, and soccer balls.

It was a very guidey activity – building teamwork, negotiation, decision making skills, while being oriented towards service and helping others. And they had fun!

This week – final Guides and Rangers. Should be fun!

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Scone service!

Fun day today – the Church where my unit meets was celebrating a major anniversary, and had a fete type event to celebrate. So my unit helped out with serving scones and cups of tea – a nice and easy way of being visible and providing service.

Service of course is one of the seven fundamentals of the Guide program, and I find it can be a tricky one to integrate well into the program, so opportunities like this are good to seize when they happen. I really like service activities where the girls can see a clear link between the work they’re doing, and the recipient – rather than, say, raising money for a distant “good deed”. Today’s activities also had some useful skills training – learning how to make cups of tea properly, cut up the scones, whip the cream etc. The girls also helped with the cleaning up – gathering plates and cups, stacking the dishwasher correctly, and wiping up as we went along.

But it wasn’t all hard work, with seven Guides helping out, there was really too many to help in the kitchen at any one time (three was the maximum, really, to be useful rather than in each other’s way), so they were able to go off in pairs and groups and check out the other activities – a jumping castle, a reptile show, mini golf etc. So, it was a fun day, just a couple of hours, and raised our profile as well – at least a few kids and parents seemed interested in Guides, so I guess we’ll see if anything comes of that 🙂

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Adventures in mud & masterpieces

Great day out today, starting off with National Tree Day (, which is a great service activity for kids – its reasonably short (we did about an hour and a half), everything is provided (although its pretty good for kids to bring kid-sized garden gloves), and you feel like something has been achieved.
This year, the site we chose was at Collingwood Children’s Farm (, which was rather lovely, as it was nearby, and the girls were allowed to have a bit of a wander around after planting and check out the sheep, goats, horses, and pigs.
We were joined by a few of sister unit’s kids (and 2 of their mums!) which was great, its always nice to have a good crowd for these sorts of activities, its much more fun! And our total of 16 kids across the two units was much better than last year’s 3!!

In the afternoon, we backed up our muddy morning by taking just the girls from our unit (minus two planters, plus one extra kid who didn’t want to plant!) into the city for a lunch out, and a visit to the Australian art collection at the National Gallery of Victoria.

It worked out really well – lunching at a Chinese restaurant, which the girls seemed to enjoy – one of our younger Guides was decidedly skeptical about dumplings, but being reminded that Guides rules are “must have two bites”, she gave both the vegetable and the meat dumplings a try and LOVED THEM!

Onto the art gallery, and co-leader had been very organised and found that the gallery offers ‘trails’ for kids to do (, so we had something to structure our time in the galleries, and give the kids something in particular to look for, and analyse, and think about. It worked really well, and I think it made the kids focus, rather than just go through as quick as they possibly could.

Of course, we did have a moment or two in the modern 80s themed galleries, where some of the content was less… kid-friendly than the more traditional collections! A couple of pictures that were decidedly risqué! Ah well!

To finish up, we did a quick activity downstairs for kids, where they could colour in masks, before heading across Federation Square (and having a dance and a pose for the big screen!) and catching the train back out to our meeting point with parents.

All in all, a good day, a bit of service, some new experiences, and a bit of fun!

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Chatty hands

Back for term three, yay!
Bit of a slow start to the term, with 8 girls away (out of 20!), which is high even for our historically poor first week attendance.
We did, however, have a newbie come to join us, which was lovely (especially as by the end she was nagging mum about getting her uniform!), and also a new adult helper! She’ll only be around for a term (originally from America and will be heading home), but she seems lovely, and extra pairs of hands are always very welcome.
To start our Hands Create-A-Challenge term, we had the girls work in pairs to send messages to each other using the Auslan alphabet, which was actually really successful! We gave a copy of pictures of the alphabet to both members of the pair, and then one girl (the message sender), picked a word out of the hat (mainly guiding type words – promise, friends, knotting…) and had to get her partner to de-code the word and write it down, before swapping roles.
I thought they might find it boring, but nope, they were going back to pull extra words out of the ‘hat’, and all really engaged with it!
After being so quiet, we had to have a bit of a run-around, and had a quick game of “fruit salad”, which for WHATEVER REASON has absolutely NOTHING to do with fruit according to the way its always been played in this unit!! They all love it, and its *that game* that needs to be rationed, or they’d insist on playing it each week.
Next up, we did an activity I called ‘happy hands and service hands’ – they each drew around both hands onto coloured paper, and cut out their hand shapes, and wrote their name on the palm of each hand. On one, they wrote different service/lend a hand activities that they would try and do (one on each finger), and on the other, they had to pop their hands into the ‘hat’, and take out someone else’s, and write along the fingers something nice about the person whose hand they’d picked out.
Finally, to round out the night we had a quick chat about the term program and all the paperwork they’d been given (various permission slips etc), and then did a little bit of campfire singing – I know they weren’t so keen on that last term, but a couple of quick songs saved my sanity as I was out of games ideas and they didn’t need another round of fruit salad! By including Eidelweiss with the clapping motion, I can pretend its part of the theme!
Next week: JBP activities for a bunch of kids, and a quick Promise renewal for the girl moving up to Seniors who missed her ceremony late last term.

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Feminism and Girl Guides

In recent months, I have come to regard my role as a volunteer Girl Guide leader as probably the most feminist role I have.

And Girl Guides as the most feminist organisation I know.

At Guides, girls and women can be themselves. They can be quiet or loud, shy or confident, interested in traditional home skills or really invested in camping and outdoors activities. They can mosey along doing whatever badges happen to be included in the program or they steadily work their way through the books and cover their sashes in brightly coloured mementos of achievement.

The history of Girl Guides is a history of girls and women actively choosing to be part of the program, and of doing more than just asking nicely. At the famous Crystal Palace Rally which started it all, girls were not expected. Lord Baden Powell had called together his scouts, children who had been reading “Scouting for Boys” and had started to put the plans into action. Up the end of the rally was a bunch of girls, who had decided they too would be part of this new movement, and insisted they had the right to be there. So right from the start, girls were there by choice, and making the movement fit them.

With each unit operating semi independently, and each leader having different interests, there is of course a wide variation in what Guides can and does offer each kid. But regardless of whether the unit tends to do a lot of baking or a lot of building, each one does it with women, and for women. There is no question whether a girl can be a patrol leader, or treasurer.  No question of whether its ‘right’ for a girl to be interested in the building or the baking. Because of course she can – there are examples all around.

I know that volunteering isn’t always regarded as “feminist” – surely giving time for free is not the best road. But I don’t care – I’m lucky enough to earn plenty of money in my day job, Guides is what I do for pleasure. On the nights where I realise I’ve helped a kid learn something new, conquer a fear, or suddenly feel accepted, I come home glowing. Of course, the flipside is, when a kid decides to leave, I’m devastated! But that’s growing, and caring.

This week co-leader and I will be talking to the parents about the upcoming camp. While we do that, our 13 year old helper will be running the games and activities. A girl who is sometimes little too loud, and a little socially awkward has found a way to grow as a person, learnt to soften her edges, and ask nicely for others barely 2 years younger to please follow her instructions. And they do. Perhaps she would have learnt these skills elsewhere, who knows? But for her, she has taken the skills given through Guides – to cooperate, to lead, to help – and they have helped her grow.

So when people say to me “oh, Guides is so old fashioned”, I think, yes, perhaps in some ways it is. But given the history of Guides, and the fabulous pushy little girls who started it, I really hope that it is, and remains so.


Fun diseases?

Today we had a district World Thinking Day celebration. Fewer girls than anticipated (only 3 of our expected 7 turned up, no idea what happened there!) but the ones who were there seemed to have a good time. I think there were about 25-27ish kids in total, from across the District.

I suspect the reasons for the low turn up were mainly the “pitch” rather than availability – trying to convince a bunch of kids to give up their afternoon to learn about maternal and child health is pretty tricky!

Activities for the littlies included a bunch of games supposedly focused on improving child health… so we played immunisation tag, malaria ten-pin bowling, and ‘pass the germs’. More educationally, we also had an activity where the kids had to try and come up with a healthy menu, brainstormed about how to keep healthy, and learned to was their hands properly.

It all sounds rather blah, but they had fun! And it was nice working with other leaders from across the District!

Final activity was girls in their unit groups trying to find a project to do in the service/advocacy space – our girls ended up going with the idea of doing a food drive over the next few weeks or perhaps next term. I’m not a huge service-y Guide, but this sounds like the sort of thing we could manage okay.

Next week – easiest night ever – Penny Hike around the local streets 🙂

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The Wishing Tree

Tonight Rangers-leader and I took some of the older girl via tram to the local shopping centre to purchase gifts for the Kmart Wishing Tree, which go to disadvantaged people.

The girls seemed to have a good time, and it was kind of fun to include the travel (certainly made it fill the whole hour and a half), but I’m not sure that they got as much out of it as I would have hoped… Not sure. Ranger leader and I let them wander about Kmart in pairs/threes which I think they enjoyed – they always like that little bit of freedom, and they did seem to work reasonably well together in choosing which items they wished to purchase for the tree.

Meanwhile, the littlies were at the hall with co-leader, doing a couple of very cute Christmas crafts – most fabulously, a santa that ‘climbed the chimney’! Very clever!

It seems my concerns re retention may be well founded – Senior who I was figuring was unlikely to return attended this evening and said she won’t be back next year as she’s doing Gym instead… and interestingly, gossip from other girls with the Juniors tonight suggested that CryingMissSix and her older sister may not be returning… which would be very disappointing, they haven’t been with us for that long, but certainly seemed to be enjoying it and getting a lot out of it. I hope its an incorrect rumour, but the kids are sadly often on the mark with such things…

*Sigh* well, I guess we’ll see how everything pans out. Next week, Christmas carols, and a party in the park to close out the Guiding year.

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Service and balance

Sunday morning found me embracing my very toasty new uniform polar fleece, as despite the cold, and threatening rain, I was off to be a good little community member and help out at National Tree Day. It turned out only one of my Guides showed up to help, and two girls from sister unit! Not entirely sure that our kids are getting the ‘service’ aspect of their Guiding!!

Oh well, the rain held off, we had some fun, planted some trees, and it was all over in two hours with a free sausage sizzle – so as far as service actitivies go, not too bad!

On a total other topic, its suddenly occurred to me this evening (when I was printing out YET MORE flyers and permission slips, there HAS to be a better way) that with a couple of our younger girls having left (one as the time really didn’t suit, as she had health issues, two to move overseas), and a couple of new older girls – we’re actually almost in balance, numbers-wise, for the first time in a long time. It will be interesting to see how this develops, and how it changes the dynamic of the unit.


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