Ready, Steady, Glasgow: The Commonwealth


So at the moment, our Guides are doing the Commonwealth Games challenge pack Ready, Steady, Glasgow. You can download it here.

Did I mention that when I first went to university aged 17 it was to do a Geography degree? I figured we should start with a simple exercise, and the fact that I was able to get two large world maps in The Works for £3.99 each was a sign that this was the perfect activity to kick off our badge!

So it was the first week back at university where I sat in the library typing out all the Commonwealth countries and printing them off. One of our kind and generous Senior Section girls cut them out for me so I had packets of the country labels.

We split our unit into two teams, gave them a packet of labels, half a packet of blu tac. They went to one end of the hall, and we laid the maps on the floor at the other end. Rather than set a time for the relay (which I’m sure would have resulted in the girls only doing the ‘easy’ countries like Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa), we decided that we would call out a country, then the team would have to find the right label, run down and find the map. Then the girl would get from us the name of the next country, and the next person would find that label.

It meant the girls had to work as a team. We allowed a girl from the team to come down to the map to help the girl with the label if they were struggling to find the country (and let’s face it…it’s not always easy to find Barbados if you’ve already got labels in other countries in the Carribbean hiding it!). But also the girls got to work as a team – laying out the labels so it was easy to find the one they were looking for, getting them ready by having the blu tac on the back ready to be stuck on the map.

It took most of the meeting though, and I very quickly realised that schools no longer teach geography other than what they need to pass assessments. When I was at school we learned about ALL of geography, but always our teachers spent our first weeks of first year teaching us about the continents, countries of Europe and so on. When we learned about the weather, we also learned about the oceans and what they were called.

It was very clear our Guides have NOT had that from their Geography teachers.

When we called out a country, when the girls came down we would give them a clue where to look.

I got asked

Where is Africa?

What is the Carribbean?

Where is the Pacific Ocean?

(and not just from our younger guides).

I was quite shocked at the time (that might have been my inner Geographer talking), but at the same time it made me realise that this is why I’m so glad girlguiding exists. Because we so often help the girls learn things they won’t get to learn at school.

I have to say though, seeing how much our Guides struggled with the challenge, I would question doing the relay activity with Rainbows and think it would have to be adapted a bit for the Brownies too. The girls got a bit discouraged and we had to help them find some of the countries, and helped show them how the flags at the bottom of the map also gave details of the country and where it could be found (the map has faint rectangles marked, so it would say ‘St Lucia: E4’ telling them they could find it in rectangle E4.

By the end, I think the girls felt quite accomplished and they got quite competitive trying to find the country before the other team did! At the end we allowed them to spend time in patrols to get ideas of an activity they could run with the rest of the unit for the ‘Scotland’ part of the activity pack. We are however allowing them some flexibility to do something to represent another Commonwealth country if they wish, as being Scottish we have already done many of the activities they have suggested for things like St Andrew’s Day and Burns Night.

Is your unit doing the Ready, Steady, Glasgow challenge pack? How are you finding it?


Campfire’s Burning

Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning
Draw Nearer, draw nearer
In the gloaming, in the gloaming
Come Sing and Be Merry

Can be sung in a round… (group 2 in brackets to sing simultaneously with group 1)

Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning
Draw Nearer, draw nearer
In the gloaming, in the gloaming (Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning)
Come sing and be Merry (Draw Nearer, draw nearer)
Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning (In the gloaming, in the gloaming)
Draw Nearer, draw nearer (Come sing and be merry)
(In the gloaming, in the gloaming)
(Come sing and be merry)

Although this scout group have not got the lyrics *quite* right by how I’ve always been taught them in my 25ish years in Girlguiding, this is probably the most clear recording I could find of the tune.

Spending vouchers



So the voucher scheme has ended and we all have about 6 weeks to get our  vouchers banked, orders in before the summer holidays in England begin.

Our aim this year was to collect 1,500 vouchers. I’m not sure if we’ve managed to do that yet or not…I still have vouchers arriving through the post and to collect from the girls and other leaders. Once we’ve done that we’ll count them up to see what we have to spend.

Because the catalogue is only available online (which is not particularly helpful when you have no internet access in your meeting place), I go through the catalogue and everything that is within our voucher budget and could be used by our unit I write down on a list, along with how much vouchers they cost.

I will miss out anything that is stuff our unit has already or has access to (like cups – we don’t need cups!) or won’t likely ever use (like flags that need to be put in the ground or basketballs). Everything else – measuring spoons to compasses to torches to footballs to pom poms goes on the list.

I then give this to the girls and ask them to consider what they’d like to get, as long as it’s something the whole unit can use. So when we got hurdles for using in relay races (they like to set up obstacle course relay races) – we got more than one so that there was at least one per patrol. Last year we discouraged them from cooking equipment because we figured we can get things pretty cheaply anyway, but as the kitchen in our church hall we use for Guides is so ill equipped and they bake and make food every chance the get, we may do that. We don’t really have the money in our budget to pay for much just now, so if we can get it for ‘free’ with Active Kids vouchers and they want to get it – that’s fine with me!

So in the next two weeks this list will go to the girls and they’ll hopefully agree on a shopping list, give it back to me so I can put in our order. This year I’m more clued up on the process and the fact I need to arrange for a free postal collection to send the vouchers in.

That’s how we do it in our unit. How do you decide what to spend your vouchers on in yours?

Campfires are about to burn…

It’s getting into Campfire season, and we have two campfires planned. Camping was a huge part of my life as a Guide as a member of the Leith Division. Our Division had camps that Guides from all the units were welcome to participate in twice a year at Trefoil (a field on a slope not far from Edinburgh Airport that had a block of toilets as it’s only real set of amenities). The camps usually simultaneously had a patrol camp in one field (patrols had to do their own cooking), a company camp in the next (where cooking was done centrally) and sometimes a third field for anyone doing their Guide Camp Permit.

As neither myself or the other Guide leaders I’ve worked with have their Holiday License and our Division doesn’t have the awesome Leith tradition of Division run camps we have so far had to make do with campfires which have become an annual end of term tradition since I joined the unit.

I’m also now part of an Edinburgh county team to help teach other leaders campfire songs – I discovered last year while our unit was doing ‘Camp Out’ Go For It that the girls loved doing pretend campfires in the hall. One time I had to help at a unit last minute because the leader got sick and I had no activity for them so I just did pretend campfire and some games which they loved (I ended up being asked to help them with a campfire night a month or so later).

I’ve since put together a songbook of all the songs I could remember doing as a Brownie, Guide and Ranger, and am going to try over the coming weeks to post them online for you on ‘Campfire Sundays’.

Watch this space!

Hula girls


Every term we try and get the girls to tell us what we would like to do, and collectively we try to find out if and how we can make it happen. When we first started almost two years ago, the girls weren’t sure what they could or should be doing, and it took me a while to figure out what the whole Senior Section CD rom was all about until they finally ran a Senior Section leaders training in our county.

(Anyone else find that events and training for senior section leaders are as rare as I don’t know…a working tram with people on it in Edinburgh?)

I now try to encourage the girls when they get stuck for ideas or can’t decide on something as a group to take into consideration the Look Wider programme. Last summer I made them folders so it would be clearer for them and so they could take it to music teachers, dance teachers, netball coaches and so on to get signed off. Most of the girls still love having something to work for and I think all of them like getting badges even if they may not readily admit that…!

One of our members has a sister who does hula hooping, and she spoke to her to see if she’d be willing to come and give us all a lesson. She was and last night she brought her music and a selection of hula hoops and set about teaching us how to hula hoop in all sorts of ways. Walking with them, swinging around our heads, turning, different stances, limbo hooping…

It was great fun. At first the girls were self conscious, protesting at me taking any photos for our scrapbooks…but soon they were at ease as we all together tried it out and experimented. And we all laughed with each other, and cheered one another on as we began to master a few skills. I’ll confess that I almost took out the other leader (sorry Jenny), the instructor (sorry Kim), the girl who is a young leader with our guides (sorry) and the daughter of my friend who is a local Brownie leader (sorry). I’d love to say this was on purpose so the other girls wouldn’t feel intimidated by their leaders masterful hooping skills, but that would be the be a huge fat lie. My main skill seemed to be feeling so shocked that I’d managed to do it then promptly letting the hoop fly across the church hall at high speed.


All in all, we had a great laugh and it was fun to try something a bit different.

And several girls have now got another Phase 1 activity to be signed off for their Fit for Life octant/Chief Guide challenge! Bonus!

Free to be me

A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video

We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.

You want to say it doesn’t matter.

And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.

When will this change?

I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.

I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?

Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.

I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.

And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.

I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…

I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.

I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?


Active Kids Vouchers: an update



So a new term has begun, and on Easter Monday – the Guide leaders gathered at our usual meeting time to plan the term. Well, not so very much planning happened because there was too much news to catch up on over the Easter Holidays. And we counted the vouchers that had been collected – many friends had posted and handed me vouchers over the holidays…with the ones our Unit Leader has still to give to me…we have now gone over the 1000 mark!

We have 2 weeks to go, and really hoping that we can reach our target 1,500 vouchers so we can beat last year’s 1,400.

And then will come the fun of how we get our 14 girls to decide what they’d like the vouchers spent on.

Please do keep those vouchers coming! 🙂