guideydiary

keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Stepping back in time

Old style Guiding activities took centre stage this week, as our unit celebrated its 85th birthday (yep, we’ve been around a while, in various forms!).

We set up a series of activities, which the girls moved through in patrols at their own pace. Most of the activities harked back to the early years of Guiding – not something that should be done too often, but fun in small doses! We had:

  • Making cups of tea
  • Polishing silver
  • Blindfolded scavenger hunt
  • Skipping games
  • Knotting challenges
  • Marshmallow toasting

Amusingly, the silver polishing and tea-making were probably the most popular activities – I think silver polishing in particular is sooooooo out of the usual experience of the girls that it was just fascinating for them, and not at all like a chore as it was just so out of their wheelhouse!

We also had a little table set up with old photographs (with pics from the 1930s, 1960s, 1980s, and early 2000s), and a bunch of old program books and games and activities books from across the years – the girls were encouraged to have a (gentle!) flick through the old books, which they were surprisingly keen on. I think when the history is properly local, its more interesting than general “Guiding History” – even in the oldest pictures, they could notice local landmarks, which they found fascinating.

1930sguides

Photos and notes from the 1930s

There was also a little colouring in activity – I had printed out heaps of letters on A4 paper, which spelled out our unit name and “celebrating 85 years of amazing” – the girls all coloured in a letter or two, which we then pinned up and had a photo taken underneath. The girls all seemed chuffed that their colouring contributed to the sign, and were all excitedly pointing out the letter they’d done.

Finally, to finish off the evening we had a little ceremony – one of our newbie Juniors made her Promise, as did our newest Leader (a rare and super exciting thing!). With a nod to history we had one Junior, one Senior, and one Ranger (a few visited for the evening) team up to do colour party, which was lovely. We finished with everyone renewing their Promise in unison, then lit 85 candles on a huge cake, sang “Bravo” and “Happy Birthday To Us!”, then the girls all crowded around and blew out the candles as a big group.

It was really lovely night, with the girls bonding across the age groups – somehow fantastically affirming that while lots of details have changed over the years, the core of what we’re doing continues.

 

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Growing apace

crowd

Not quite sure how its happened, but all of a sudden we’re bursting at the seams – our first night of term had 5 newbies (all prospective juniors) come along, and three weeks later all five have joined. And a newbie from last term who we thought we’d lost is suddenly back, as is her little sister. AND two girls who didn’t come back after term one are back and paid up, plus, one year after she left we’ve got another girl back after zero contact. So that’s 9/10 kids up from the end of last term… out of nowhere. Its just strange. Wonderful, but strange!!

Its such a sudden and significant jump that it’s throwing out our systems a little – we’ve been running at 3 patrols in Juniors for a while now, but at 20 kids in the littlies, we probably should move to 4 patrols, the 4 Seniors patrols we thought were going to slip down to three with several girls moving up to Rangers will stay at four, the Rangers are suddenly big enough for us to think about patrols… And on a more practical level, we probably need a few more sets of scissors, textas etc to accommodate the extras…

I’m sure by the end of term it will all seem normal, but for the next few weeks I suspect everything is going to be just a bit wonky as we try and get the new kids’ names and faces sorted, and get them all used to being part of our little group.

All in all, great problems to have, but I suspect we’ll be feeling a little stretched for a while until this all becomes the new normal!

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Bringing friends, growing guiding… perhaps!

Two weeks of ‘bring a friend’ nights, which will hopefully (maybe?) grow our units. We’re not struggling for members (woohoo!), but the extra leaders, and a bit of time for us to get used to the current numbers, and we think we could comfortably go up an extra patrol worth in the Juniors, and an extra few in Seniors would be handy, as several are due to head up to Rangers in the next term or two.

We decided to split the  bring a friend activities over two weeks, as there is always added complexity when you have newbies around. Week one, the Juniors brought friends for a Swiss themed night (world guiding: tick!) – we started off with some newspaper skiing races and games, followed by three stations for the patrols + pals to move around. One was a raclette station – co-leader brought long her special tiny little raclette grill pans, and the girls chopped veggies and cheese for grilling. Properly Swiss, and something they certainly hadn’t done before! Another station was chocolate fondue – we had marshmallows and fruit for the girls to dip in the fondue, which of course went down a treat! The final station had three different crafty options – a tapestry-ish bookmark (sewn with wool), a little woven heart shape, and a papercut.

Finally, to bring them all back together and add a touch more ‘play’, we had several rounds of a giants treasure style game, with the object to catch being a small cow figure.

It all went well, I think. But no returns the following week, so who knows??

To be fair, the following week was a bit of a challenge – owing to our landlords letting us know only a few days in advance that they’d double-booked our hall (and had over 400 people coming!!), we had to do some quick work to move for the night. Luckily, we were able to move to another hall in the district, but we did have a drop off in numbers, as the location really wasn’t as convenient for many of our families.

Anyhoo, for the second bring-a-friend we had our Seniors girls inviting their mates for a zombie wide game. I’d done this years ago to some success, and decided to revamp and update it, adding in a de-coding element, which required the girls to travel as zombies (with the limping, lumbering walk, lolling heads and outstretched arms) to their next destination, which added probably an extra 10 minutes, which was enough. They all seemed to have fun, and luckily, although it was reasonably chilly, it was a dry night so we were able to have them all outside for the whole time, so, I’m counting that as a ‘tick’ in the “outdoors” fundamentals column!!

I suppose the next few weeks will show if these efforts lead to any extra friends joining us… but to some extent, I suppose it doesn’t matter: the two nights went well, and our existing members had a fun night to show off to their friends – nothing too earnest to be embarrassed about, but also proper showcases of guiding activities, the mix of cooking, crafting, outdoors, and fun that we try to aim for. So, we’ll see!

 

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Campfire!

Lovely multi-age program this week, as we integrated our Juniors/Seniors and Rangers programs for evening.

Our units meet at a slightly separate time – the Juniors/Seniors together from 6.30 to 8.00pm, the Rangers from 7.00 to 8.30pm. So rather than having a fully integrated program, we went with a slightly staggered approach.

From 6.30 to 7.30 (ish!), our younger girls all worked on making situpons. At a district camp at the start of the year we noticed that another unit had a set of lightweight situpons that they were able to easily stack and carry, and started thinking about how we could do something similar.

Cue leaders pondering!

Our original plan was to use a heavyweight plastic tablecloth, but on pricing it out, it was going to be quite an expensive little project. Which is fine (what are fees for if not to buy cool things?), but I got to pondering. Luckily, on a trip to Ikea, inspiration struck in the form of a whole bunch of their iconic shopping bags being on sale – a slightly smaller size than usual (hence I guess why they were getting rid of them), and only 49 cents each! And we could get two situpons out of each one! BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY.

Anyway, back to the girls. They all worked to do their own interpretation of the one I’d mocked up, cutting out the two pieces from the bags, edging them with heavy packing tape in bright colours, and then doing various designs on them in permanent markers. Our plan is to stash them in our shed and have them as our ‘unit set’ of situpons for as long as they last! And the particularly brilliant thing about them being based on Ikea bags, is that if the unit grows, or we lose a bunch, or they wear out or whatever, we can easily replace them. WOOHOO!

situpon

Here’s the example one I did for the girls – its hard to tell the scale here, but they’re about 45 cms long, and about 30 cms wide. Plenty big enough for even a chunky bottom to stay dry on the went ground!

So that’s what was happening from 6.30 to 7.30. Meanwhile, at 7.00 the Rangers group commenced, and they were tasked with setting and starting our campfire outside. I expected a bit of complaining (wood collecting always brings it on!), but they were pretty chirpy and cooperative, which I think was aided by the fact that I’d managed to raid my work’s recycling stash and had come well prepared with heaps of newspaper, so we knew at the very least we’d get some decent flames happening with minimal effort.

At 7.30, the whole unit joined together, putting the new situpons into action, and singing a bunch of campfire songs, using a program put together by one of the Rangers girls as part of her BP Award, and including a few songs led by one of our Juniors as part of her Junior BP Award! We finished up with a Promise Ceremony for two of our littlest members, then said goodbye to our Juniors and Seniors, leaving the Rangers with half an hour to toast some marshmallows (their reward for doing the hard work of the fire prep!) and then douse the fire and clean up.

All in all, a really lovely night, and a good one to bring together the various age groups in a way that used all their individual strengths.

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Sangam & pets & relaxed fun

A lovely evening this week, as one of my co-leaders ran a brilliant program based on Sangam and India for our Seniors, while another co-leader worked with the Juniors on their pets badge, doing skits and learning about animal care.

Firstly, the amazing program put together about Sangam! Co-leader’s family is from India, so she was able to draw on a lot of practical personal knowledge – including being able to bring along and demonstrate the sitar! We had six stations set up around the room, and the girls moved around the various activities roughly in patrols.

The activities were playing the sitar, learning various traditional dance moves (yay for a laptop and youtube clips!), using dyed rice to do rangoli patterns (mainly of trefoils, of course!), trying on saris (which they just adored!), mehendi patterns on their hands (using eyeliner), and writing out hindi/Sanskrit letters.

Unfortunately for such a great program, we were low on numbers (our oldest girls were doing rangers activities off site, and several had school events so were away), but it kind of worked out well as the smaller numbers gave everything a lovely chilled out vibe, and our shyest and youngest girls were able to have a really comfortable night, and really engaged in a way that they don’t always seem to.

Meanwhile, the younger girls worked in patrols on skits about animal care. I formed part of the audience for the final products, and they were surprisingly good! We have quite a set of little dramatists, and they were mostly revelling in the silliness of the activity, all playing with props of leashes and cat toys, and fish food and pooper scoopers etc etc!! It was a good opportunity for the younger girls to work in their patrols, which are still in the settling down stage since a bit of a rejig at the start of term.

Overall, a brilliant night, pitched perfectly at the different age groups!

 

 

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Catching up

Two weeks to catch up on!

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

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

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

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

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Bridges!

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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Planning for progression (onwards and upwards!) (we hope)

Final Guides meeting of 2015 a few weeks ago (always a happy/sad day!), and I end the year full of enthusiasm and hope for the coming year.

It’s been a year mainly of growth at our unit – looking back over the year, we’ve had three girls leave, but had ten join us, and I think we’ve kept all our oldest girls, transitioning them up properly to our rangers group (of course, the long summer break may change this, but I don’t *think* so…). Our Seniors group has remained full (enough so that we created a 4th patrol), and our leadership team has really got comfy and reliable, so I feel quite sure that we can handle a large group… and I still want more growth! We’re about to have a bunch of Juniors move up to Seniors, creating nearly a patrol worth of spaces in the littlies, so recruitment drive ahoy first thing next year!

On our final night we had a bit of a party night, playing The Chocolate Game, their favourite outdoor game (‘camouflage’), and doing a scavenger hunt for Christmas decorations, which became their little chrissy gifts (oh, and a suitably themed badge!). It was fairly unstructured, but a lot of fun, and the girls were all pretty excited about it being the end of the year.

Christmas Guide badge 2015

We also had a session for an extra hour after the main group had gone, for girls nearly old enough to move up to our Rangers unit – a bit of a transition taster. It was great fun (lots of ‘minute to win it’ games), and good for both the grade six girls to feel a little special and like there is a reason to stick with Guides after moving up to High School (the primary-to-high school transition is our Recruitment Dead Zone), and also good for the current girls to realise that there are a bunch of girls not much younger who will be joining them soon. The current crop (only 5 of them) have been a little worried that the group is unsustainable at that number, so seeing that there are 7 kids who will (potentially!) progressively move up over the coming months should be reassuring. Ideally, I would love to have a Rangers group that was around 12-15 girls, the kind of numbers where one or two people being away isn’t noticeable – but given the competing demands for time in the teenage age group, I suspect those numbers will be a challenge, even if on paper we should get there by mid-year. I’ve seen enough ups and downs in recruitment not to count my chickens too early!!

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A touch of tradition (and naturally some chaos!)

Last week our program was one of those slightly unstructured let-the-girls-lead nights, where the kids were working towards various badges and presenting or running activities.

To mix things up, I was mainly with the younger girls “we NEVER get you!” “well, aren’t you lucky tonight then?” “ummm….”

Heh.

We started out with explaining a bit about the various awards, and explained that girls in the younger group could also work towards the Junior BP Award if they wanted to, once they’re seven (although we suggest eight is better). Naturally this resulted in the six year olds complaining, and the eight year olds looking freaked out that they’re old enough to do the things the Seniors do!

One of the Senior girls then ran a game or two for the Juniors for one of her badge criteria – and had the decidedly educational experience of finding out just how annoying it is trying to give instructions when the girls chat and get distracted. Given that girl is a particularly frequent offender of chatting-through-instructions, I help but be amused by her irritation… and had fun pointing this out to her 🙂

We then split into age groups to work on different badge criteria, before setting up for a Promise ceremony for two newbies – one Junior, one Senior. As always, it was a lovely ceremony.

Next week: cooking for Juniors, first aid for Seniors. Should be fun!

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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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