keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

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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Spruiking for Guides!

Back out on the local street this weekend, hustling for Guiding!

Our unit and sister unit had a joint stall at a local community festival on Sunday, providing activities for kids, and spruiking for Guides. It was a fabulous day for it – warm and sunny (although a touch windy!), and there were heaps of people about.

About 7 Guides came along at different points to help run the activities, as well as 6 leaders (myself, main co-leader, sister unit’s main leader & assistant, and the district leader and assistant district leader), so we had plenty of people about to manage everything.

We ran three activities:

making button bracelets, which was simply threading buttons onto beading elastic, which looked surprisingly effective

decorating guide biscuits with icing, chocolate sprinkles, and lollies (very popular of course!)

making dragonflies out of pegs and paddlepop sticks – with googly eyes, naturally!

All three activities proved popular, which was great! We had the button bracelets activity set up inside a large 2-room tent, which was quite an inspired move by sister unit’s leader – made it a calm little oasis where kids could sit down for a while and quietly thread their bracelets, and take a break from the craziness of the festival environment!

My main role was chatting to prospective parents and girls, which was made easier by sister unit’s leader having printed off and laminated heaps of photos of both our units’ girls doing various activities. Guides is such a diverse concept, that it really helps to have photos to explain what you’re trying to do!

Excitingly, I may have also found a new leader for the district! An American woman, recently moved to Australia, who was previously a Girl Scout leader! She was super excited to have found us (although her husband was decidedly less thrilled – I think I know his expression from my own house!!), apparently she’s been missing her Scouts terribly, and can’t wait to get back into everything! Yay!

As to whether our efforts succeeded – well, I guess we’ll find out on Wednesday. We handed out a bunch of invites to our Foot Olympics night, so fingers crossed we’ll have a few girls coming along to ‘try and see’! Hopefully sister unit will also have had a few along both this week and next week- there were certainly plenty who seemed interested, so fingers crossed!

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What do we teach?

Earlier this week, a post, by a local blogging guide leader had me pondering. The post  noted that a parent had commented/complained that she wanted her daughter to “learn something”.

This got me thinking – what is it that we aim to teach through Guides?

We’ve had a few girls leave in recent times – a couple just before Christmas, and then two sisters not returning this year. The reason was “oh they have so many things on”. Well, yes, but they’ve chosen to do basketball or netball or music instead of Guides, even though they were enjoying Guides. Why is this? My feeling is that with these other activities, parents can really see the change in the skill level of their daughters. You can see when someone has progressed from chopsticks to Mozart, in a way that our skills don’t really show.

As a leader, I generally feel like a kid is developing in Guides when she grows in confidence, is able to interact with both her patrol and the other girls well, when she’s able to take on a leadership role without fear. And sometimes, for the more outgoing girls, when they’re able to calm down and focus on intricate tasks without complaint.

These are, in many ways, skills of personal development, rather than tangible progress. Helping to grow girls through fun into good people is not a linear process, and I suspect that many parents – particularly ones as achievement oriented as many of ours are – can struggle to see the true value of what we are doing, when compared to being able to boast that their daughter had moved from seconds to firsts in their basketball grading.

I suspect I need to get better at identifying what we teach, and selling it both to the parents and to the girls – coming up with a bite sized way of saying “we will help your daughter grow into a good person” without being preachy. Tricky!


Tickling the memory

Summer holidays.

Should be a time of rest, and relaxation.

But for the paranoid-about-numbers Guide leader – not so! The long six week stretch of no Guides is traditionally the time when we have the biggest drop off in numbers. For girls (or often more importantly, families) who are weighing up what activities to do in the new year, the long break can get them enough out of the habit that they simply don’t return.

In an effort to keep us ‘top of mind’, I’ve decided to use the power of email to keep in touch a little – sending out information about the option to participate in Australia Day events with another unit, and, just this week, sending out our first ever “yearbook”.

The ‘yearbook’ is adapted from previous annual reports/district reports – but its longer, and full of photos of the girls throughout the year. Its a good way to actually use all the photos which had been lurking on my iphone, and will hopefully give the parents and the kids a reminder of all that they love about Guides, and get them ready to go for 2013!

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Yeesh, what a mess!

This evening we again split the juniors into one set of activities, and the seniors & upper seniors into a different set.

The Juniors had a ‘weather night’ – finding pictures of cloud formations hidden around the hall and gardens (naturally some went entirely missing!), doing an experiment with warming and dying water to show air currents, and toasting marshmallows (“clouds”, of course!).

Meanwhile, the Seniors & Uppers were attempting to ‘air paint’ – I imagined this as a lovely arty project with gorgeous jewel colours, the kids learning how to manipulate the paint gently… well, clearly I was entirely mad as it ended up with paint everywhere!! With no real discernible patterns or point… oh well… I guess abstract is okay?!

Still, they seemed to have a marvellous time, and I’ve never been more pleased that I had the forethought to purchase some $1 white plastic tablecloths from Big W, and that the weather was clear enough that we were able to be out in the courtyard! CERTAINLY NOT an activity for in the hall with the lovely polished floorboards!!

In recruitment news, the two newbies from week one are going to join, and will be bringing forms etc next week, and we had a further two newbies come for a try out. They seemed to have a good night, so hopefully! We also handed out info about the upcoming sleepover, which seems like it might be a clincher – cheap babysitting rules again!

Sadly though, one of our lovely little ones also announced that her family is moving to Adelaide over Christmas, so we’ll be losing her. Its never the trouble makers that leave, is it?!

Next week – halloween bring a friend night, which we’ve also got advertised in the local paper (I hope!)… it will be interesting to see what kind of turn up we get, as it appears a few of our usuals won’t be there as they’ll be trick-or-treating instead… which surprises me greatly, clearly Australia is embracing halloween faster than I thought. Regardless, we’ll have fun with zombie tiggy!

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Tonight – for the first time since I’ve been a leader – we had a juniors-only night! We combined with sister unit, and made it a bring-a-friend activity, and the early signs are that we’ll have at least two girls coming back for another try, so that’s fabulous news! Lets hope it happens!

It was actually really lovely having just the little ones there – even with the same size group as all our usual mob (22 kids), it didn’t seem like so much work, because you’re only attempting to run one activity at a time, with a bunch of kids who are broadly peers, rather than our usual trick of trying to keep both six year olds and teenagers entertained!

We ran primarily a games night, which included:

Stacks – where each girl has a seat in a circle to start with, but then has to move in response to questions – so “if you have a little brother, move five seats”, “if you like chocolate, move one seat” – and if there is someone already in the seat you’re trying to move to, you simply sit on top of them! definitely one that works better with littlies who don’t have so many concerns about personal space!

Topple the Clown – this worked really well – we have a bowling pin shaped blow up clown, who, poor clown, fits upside down in a bucket. As girls’ numbers are called out (in pairs) they have to run to the end of the row, stand on a chair, and throw a ball at the clown – the girl who knocks down the clown earns a point for her team.

Streets and Lanes (cat and mouse) – this didn’t work so well, as they couldn’t keep straight in their head which way was a street, and which way was a lane… and our cats and mice kept forgetting to run!

Secret circle – basically a pattern-detection game, which is good to help calm down the group, and is simple for even the littlest kids to pick up the game

Wink murder – worked surprisingly well! Another good one to calm down, and one I think we’ll try with the slightly older group soonish.

After a quick drink-and-loo break, we also played Bodies to Bodies, where pairs of kids have to touch elbows, knees, bottoms, noses etc as different parts are called out – and swap pairs at “bodies to bodies” – again a good one for the younger girls with minimal body issues, not one I’d be trying out with the teenagers!!

Final game was a quick round of Creatures, where kids were each given an animal type, and had to find the others in their group, only using sounds and gestures, no words. Might be one to play over a larger space, perhaps on the oval in summer, where finding your group is a bit trickier!

To finish off we did a couple of short songs – Name is Joe; Yogi bear; Eppo; Guiding Light, and finally Canadian Vespers.

Overall, it was a really great evening, and reminded me that I really quite like the little ones!

Co-leader and I were chatting afterwards, and agreed in principle that we’d really love to have a separate Juniors group, a separate Guides (seniors and upper seniors) group, and a separate Rangers (age 13 plus but ideally 14 plus) group. If we could get a bit of parent support, and a couple more of the co-leaders qualified, we could potentially have enough kids at each of those age groups to at least give it a decent go… the worry would be if we didn’t end up with enough to be sustainable in each group, and then you get that horrible ‘death cycle’ where the group is shrinking, so it seems less fun, so it shrinks further… having gone through that as a Guide myself, it’s no fun when that happens! Anyway, that is probably plans for next year, but worth considering.

So, tomorrow night – bowling and pizza with the older girls! Should be fun!

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Food and chaos

Tonight we met up with our ‘sister’ unit at their hall, for food games. I really need to find a way to piggyback on other people’s units more often – all the fun, none of the work! They were expecting about twelve kids all up, with their teeny unit plus a few from mine, only to be overrun with 26 kids in total!

The kids had a brilliant time though, they had set up some great activities – bobbing for apples, ‘painting’ with sauces (like bbq sauce, mustard, strawberry topping…), making mini pancakes (much more successful using an electric pofferjee grill than our efforts last week using tin can cookers!), and some sort of strange craft activity using drinking straws and cocktail umbrellas, where each of the groups had to try and build a protective cage for a raw egg… which was later summarily dropped from on high. None of the cages were very successful!

There were a couple of littlies who might be interested in our unit, we’ll see. Regardless, it was nice to finally visit sister unit, rather than always having them visit us.

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The great land grab

Tonight I was a bit sneaky. We’re not meeting tomorrow (public holiday), so it occurred to me that I should pop up a sign outside the hall, just in case anyone forgot and turned up.

Fair enough, I think.

However, it had occurred to me late yesterday that we struggle to keep the parents in the loop about major things coming up… no matter how many notes we put out, I swear we’ve NEVER had a successful event where all the forms/money etc came in on time. Usually the story is “oh I didn’t realise…”.

Well, no more! At least, not for those who pick up their kids from the hall!! I have launched a land grab for pin-board space out the front of the hall, and put up a copy of the program, and brightly coloured signs full of exclamation marks about our upcoming sleepover and camp – right where the parents lurk while waiting for us to finish the meetings!

With any luck, this strategy will INCREASE time-appropriate enquiries, and DECREASE the ‘oh I didn’t realises’! I shall have to evaluate success at the end of term.

Problem is, I’m technically not entitled to the pin-board space, and only have permission for a single poster… Hence the land grab. Oh well, here’s hoping our good relationship with the hall owners continues and they view it benignly!! If I don’t get any push back, I’m going to claim it properly and put up photos and biscuit posters for some more colour and movement!

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Promoting and propagandising the local population

The weekend just gone I helped out our ‘sister’ unit from the next suburb with their stall at a local festival. Yes, this was altruistic, but given the suburb is close enough to walk to (and I did, go me!), it was certainly worth my while to be promoting my unit as well, heh.

Sister unit had set up two fantastic activities – the first was cooking marshmallows over tealights (which, honestly, although a great idea, I was a little sceptical about – I’m hesitant enough about letting kids I know play with fire, not very keen on random kids being allowed near flames!!), and the second was decorating mini cupcakes or biscuits with brightly coloured icing and sprinkles. Genius! An activity which is fairly low cost to set up, the kids can do and complete with very minimal instruction or assistance, and which gives them a bit of a treat. What a fantastic idea, and one I am totally stealing next time I’m silly enough to agree to a community festival event!

As to whether or not it was worth it, initial signs suggest it was. I’ve already had one prospective parent call about her daughters (and their best friends) coming to try and see! Huzzah! Lets hope they love it and want to join, especially as eldest daughter and friend are just the age for my middlies. Fingers crossed!

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