Senior Section’s Community Knitting group

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Last term, when I asked our wee Senior Section group what they’d like to do, First Aid and learn to knit were two of the items on their list. Once we got the First Aid down (complete with defibrillator training) my lovely knitting expert friend came in with her newborn, their wool orders, knitting needles and the girls and I learned how to knit scarves.

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Learning to Knit

We got our wool from a website called Wool Warehouse, and my friend deliberately chose thicker wool and needles so the scarves would be quicker to knit and they would see results faster. We got each member a set of needles and three balls of wool to knit a basic scarf.

We had a couple of sessions – one of them with Christmas music, a Division Commissioner visit and chocolates. My friend then returned to teach them how to pearl stitch so they could do something with a mixed texture.

One member in particular has really caught the knitting bug, and I think has completed three scarves already.

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It’s a great thing to learn for part of your Creativity or Independent Living octant.

Thinking Day Candle Ceremony

One of the things I remember doing as a Brownie, but less so as a Guide was celebrating Thinking Day. I shared recently how I was shocked at how many of my Guides and Senior Section had never heard of it and didn’t know what it was, despite having been members of Girlguiding for many years.

This year Thinking Day fell during term time (so often it has been during the half-term holiday) and we were able to do something significant to celebrate. As the Guides have been navigating their G-Files and asking questions, I’ve been telling them more about the history of Guides and the things I did as a Guide. Four new Guides were due to make their promise, as well as our two new Young Leaders so we wanted to do something to make the night special.

I had looked up Thinking Day Candle Ceremonies, and found this one. But for me it didn’t quite sit right. I found some great stuff produced by Girl Scouts in Canada and USA too, and in the end decided to use some of the ideas from each of them and create a “new” candle ceremony.

I managed to get four pillar candles (White, Blue, Red and a yellow-y one – apparently no one sells Gold candles when it’s not Christmas time, so I’m going to nab a gold candle for next Thinking Day next winter!!) and three candles of different colours (scented) that were on sale in my local supermarket. They weren’t quite the colours I was hoping for, but C’est la vie!

Our amazing unit leader spent the weekend making candle holders from cereal boxes so that each Guide (and parents and sisters who came along to join us who wanted to join in) could hold a candle.

I asked our five oldest Guides and our two young leaders if they would light the big candles that we had on a table at the opening of our horseshoe, then from the friendship candle I lit my candle and then with my candle lit the other two leaders next to me and then around the horseshoe each person shared their ‘guiding light’ with the Guide next to them.

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This is how our ceremony went…feel free to use or adapt. I based it on the World Flag and this Thinking Day candle ceremony that I found online, I assume it was made by someone in the Girl Scouts of the USA.

 

For 90 years, on 22nd February, the birthday of our founder and first World Chief Guide we have observed Thinking Day, where we celebrate the international friendship with our sisters in Guiding all around the world.

These candles symbolise what unite us as the World Guiding family  and help us to remember our sisters around the globe.

BLUE: We light this candle to represent the sky and sun that shines over children around the world. We share the same sky and sun whether we are richer or poorer, taller or smaller, older or younger, worship different Gods or no god, come from different countries and have different abilities.

RED: We light this candle to remember our founder, Robert Baden-Powell, and his wife Olave Baden-Powell, our first World Chief Guide. Together they showed young girls and women the way of Guiding and Scouting to ‘Be Prepared’ and do a good turn every day.

GOLD: We light this candle to represent the Promise and Law that we all pledged to keep with the hope that it will become a way of life for all who make that promise.

WHITE: We light this candle in the hope of peace in every country and territory around the world. We remember our sisters who have been affected by war.

PURPLE: We light this candle to remind ourselves to always stay true to our beliefs even when it is not easy.

GREEN: We light this candle to represent our readiness to serve, and to help other people  as expressed in the Guide and Scout motto to always “Be Prepared”.

PINK: We light this candle in honour of friendship, remembering our sister Guides and Girl Scouts wherever they may be – in homes, churches, meeting halls, refugee camps, hospitals and shelters.

We will now each light our own candle from the candle of friendship. Each of these candles are symbols of the Guiding light of friendship and peace we carry wherever we go in our communities and around the world.

It went better than I thought it would, no one set themselves or the hall (or anyone else) on fire with the candles. The girls who spoke did really well, especially considering we had no time to do a practice run. We later re-lit the candles for the girls to make their Promises!

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Other highlights of the night were many of our Guides running a bake sale to raise money for the Guide Friendship Fund – they made £60. Many made friendship bracelets, and had created wordsearches and games about World Guiding. It was all a bit chaotic, and we had to encourage them to reach out to parents and family members they’d invited along for the evening to join in! I hope it gave the parents an idea of what they get up to when they leave them under our supervision.

Earning badges from the cradle to the coffin

Two years ago, I went to Germany to share and compare research on lifelong learning with other education students from all over Europe. We had a phrase that we coined, that learning should be ‘from the cradle to the coffin’ (some things just get confused when you are translating from different languages…I’ll tell you about the presentation about the ‘farmers’ in Italy another day).

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I left Girlguiding when I was 18. I was only 17 when I went to university, and was kept in guiding by a lovely Ranger leader who kept communicating with me, and always left the door open to come back whenever I was at home and a Brownie Guider who picked me up from my relatively isolated student village. In my second year, I was all on my own. Our ranger unit became self run (and never got any new blood as a result with no qualified leader) there was no one to ask about the Queen’s Guide pack my leader had given me before she emigrated and I lived in a flat far away from the Brownie unit. They never trained me and never offered me a transfer to a closer unit.

And there were so many opportunities to learn for someone my age. I got to be a volunteer youth worker, I got music lessons when I sang in my church, people fed me every Sunday and offered me leftovers to take home, I was at university where there were so many societies to join giving access to try so many new things like underwater hockey, opera singing, trampolining, debating, first aid… it was amazing.

When I graduated at 22, I was straight into a workplace where there was so much to learn. How to do risk assessments, live up to standards of the Care Commissions and the education inspectors, child protection policies…I worked evenings and the occasional weekend…and by the time I was in a position where I had time to learn something outside of my workplace, I was 26 and it turned out I was deemed too old for everything.

The world seemed to say that once you were a grown up, your opportunities for learning were kinda done.

I came back to Girlguiding really to get involved in my local community. My friend Ashleigh (a fellow Girlguiding leader) put it best in a social media meme a few weeks ago. We got involved to “be who [we] needed when [we] were younger”. My Ranger leader had been a rock in a difficult two years of my life, and she had been someone who did not judge. She accepted me for who I was, accommodated me and encouraged me. Even to the point where she let me travel to our Venture Scout camp by train and picked me up from the station because I was too scared to travel with the Rangers and Scouts on the coach in case anyone got travelsick on the bus.

Although my Guide leader was an extremely stern ‘old school’ type of Guider, she was kind to me, and she encouraged me so much. She helped me get my first paid job when I was 15 and always passed on every Guiding opportunity to me. When me and my two friends got our Baden-Powell Awards, she made a big deal for us. There was cake, an award from the County Commissioner, gifts and a party where we were allowed to invite our friends and family. (Yes to my own Guides and Senior Section, I totally copied her when it came to celebrating YOUR Baden-Powell and Chief Guide award achievements). I felt like I’d achieved something great. When I got into the County Show, she brought my unit along to cheer me on. I knew she had my back.

It was sad to realise that in the years I’d been away from Guiding, I’d missed out on all the opportunities of Senior Section awards. And now there was nothing. Sure, I did my Leadership Qualification – but really the only thing I learned was how to use the Girlguiding admin systems. Everything else was pretty much skills I was transferring from the fact I was a Community Education Worker by trade already! I was very happy to qualify, but mostly for the fact it meant that I had checked the box to be able to do more with my units.

I get super jealous of the girls sometimes, for all the amazing things and badges they can achieve. Though I am sad for the Guides – there are fewer badges for them to achieve now compared to when I was a Guide, and no badge book which makes things more difficult.

But as we did Free Being Me, it got me thinking about something that had been bugging me for a while. We talk in the Free Being Me programme about the image myth. It was all about weight, skin colour, hair colour, texture, body shape. But not about age. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that there are very few older women in our media. There are even fewer who are learning and embarking on new things. Have you noticed?

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Yes. This is what a whole full-time year of postgraduate study will get you. An E-mail.

I’m finding at 30 that there is little opportunity for learning and achieving. Heck, even two years of university and earning a qualification only got me an automated e-mail to say “Qualification Achieved”. At least I got a nice letter and a shiny badge from Girlguiding UK even if they did put not quite my name on my certificate when I got my Leadership Qualification. The only badges I get now are the ones I can simply buy from the Guide Shop, and it’s just not as fun or rewarding. Gone are the days where I learned Scottish Country Dancing for 4 weeks and showed what I’d learned in front of a tester. Or spent several evenings learning first aid and then showed off my skills on a resusci annie lying on a gym mat. I’m not trying to write poems or learn photography or the constellations of the sky.  I can go to my local adult learning class for leisure, but there’s no badge at the end. When I did ballet as a teenager I got the opportunity to be examined and got a lovely certificate. Now I just turn up if I want to. It’s fun and I love my ballet teacher. But I kinda liked the certificates and knowing how I was progressing.

I thought I was the only person that felt the need for badges, but then Dotty Winters wrote this article for Standard Issue Magazine. And I was like “YESSSS! I’ve been saying this for AGGEEESSSS! I want grown up badges too!!”

Yes, there’s a bit of selfishness in my quest for adult badges, but also something serious. What message does it send if we are telling young people that all their learning has to end at 25? Because really, that’s the current perspective society is giving us. Not only does it send the subliminal message that you’ll have life sorted and sussed out by 25 (I was shocked to discover that it is not the case), but we are short changing everyone. The wisest people I know are the ones who not only have life experience but still want to learn new things. Like my friend who retired and the next week starting taking guitar lessons.

I’ve heard my own mother say she’s too old to learn, too old to start something new. I used to get annoyed, but now I understand. And I want to change that.

Guiding started as a way of extending learning beyond the classroom.

Let’s extend it beyond 25.

 

Mood and Inspiration Boards…

…because I’m not sure what else to call them. My poor Guides and Rangers, they’ve been given a leader who is not in the least bit crafty. Our teeny group that started last year are gradually getting into the swing of the Senior Section life, and doing the Octant Beetle (thank you again for sharing that gem of an idea K-ville!) has helped them plan better as it has given them ideas. No longer do I feel like everything needs to come from me. I was starting to tire again, as my two assistant leaders who alternate both had to cancel on the meetings again not to mention girls being ill and stuck at home stressed out revising for their mock exams. Senior Section leadership can be a lonely business at times.

Cue our last week before the half-term holiday, when we decided to do one of the ideas that one of our newer members came up with on the octant beetle. “Make mood boards”. They had to explain what this was, but I thought it was totally doable, and so I told the girls to bring in what they liked, our new leader in training bought foam boards from the art collage shop and dropped them off at my house and I went to The Works and picked up anything I thought might be useful for the girls to use. I also let the girls use my new Sharpie markers I got on sale in January. They very kindly took great care in making sure they remained in their colour order (they know my OCD well! Ha ha!)

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Two of the other group had heard what we were up to, and one of our older members who hasn’t been able to come to regular meetings but always keeps in touch came along for the evening. A local mentoring coordinator stepped in to cover for our assistant leader who was stuck at work, and I was thankful that we got enough foam boards so all the girls there had one each. Usually I join in with whatever the girls want to do, but on this night I was happy to watch the girls and chat with them as they worked on their boards. There was a lot of reminiscing of old trips and activities, chats about working and university. One of our girls announced triumphantly that she’s accepted an offer for a local university “so it means I’ll be able to come next year!”

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Some girls went for the mood boards of deciding how to decorate their rooms, others went for more of a collage about the things they love, others Senior Section friends memories and some with an inspirational motivation with quotes and pictures.

I kinda want to make one myself!!

All in all, the boards which were about A3 size cost 90p each, and I got craft pegs, superglue, glue dots, double sided sticky foam tape/pads, pom pom string, adhesive fabric rolls, white, black, metallic and coloured card, little chalkboard accessories, craft flowers and a bunch of other random stuff for about £25 – we’ve still got a lot left that we’ve kept for future crafty activities!

World Thinking Day 2016

So World Thinking Day is coming up. I was shocked to discover that none of our Guides knew about World Thinking Day, many didn’t know who Baden-Powell was and one Guide said in shock to me ‘Lord Baden-Powell was a real person?!’ when we sat on the floor in a circle ‘Brownie Pow-wow’ style to talk about the World Guiding badge which we are doing as a unit.

As someone who grew up in Girlguiding, I find it really sad that the girls – who have pretty much all been growing up in Guiding since they were old enough to join Rainbows – had no clue about World Thinking Day.

Thinking Day in our county used to be a big deal. I remember as a Brownie every year going to a big event with Brownies from all over the county where we played games and then sang songs together. On the meeting closest to Thinking Day we would collect our subs and donations and put them in the shape of the Trefoil and send them to the Thinking Day Fund/Guide Friendship Fund (whatever it was called back then!)

As a Guide, to do your Baden Powell you had to have done your World Guiding badge and I still have the badges on my camp blanket that I exchanged with Guides from other countries as part of this.

This year I’m determined to give our girls the opportunity to celebrate Thinking Day.

Here is how I’m try to help create awareness of the day

1. Wearing promise badge/uniform on 22nd February.

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Wearing badge on Thinking Day

We have written to the local primary schools to ask if they will allow members of Girlguiding to either wear all/or part of their uniform on 22nd February. Two out of the three primary schools have replied back with a yes – one we haven’t heard back from.

2. Changing cover photo and profile picture on Twitter/Facebook to include the World Thinking Day 2016 ‘Connect’ banner.

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You can do this too by going to the Twibbon website. I’ve also added the banner as our cover photo for our Senior Section unit’s facebook group.

3. Our Guide unit is doing the World Guiding badge in the lead up to Thinking Day.

There are also activities (some of which we are using to complete the badge) in the Connect resource produced for World Thinking Day by WAGGGS, and there is a Brownie version of the World Guiding badge. And Activity Village has some sheets that you can download and print, as well as craft ideas that you can use for Thinking Day.

4. Giving an opportunity to add badges to camp blankets.

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On Thinking Day I have a Sale or Return order from Girlguiding Scotland shop which includes camp blankets and the World Thinking Day badge so if the girls want to, they can start their own camp blanket to collect badges. As part of the badge, the girls are going to be running a bake sale to raise money for the Guide Friendship Fund. We are inviting parents to come along to celebrate Thinking Day with us.

5. Sharing our Guiding light.

I’m currently trying to come up with a doable idea for a Thinking Day/Promise ceremony using candles or torches!! Thankfully there’s lot of ideas been shared online, and I think I’ll be meshing them somehow.