Long time, no blog!

Hello!

It’s been a long time since I blogged, and I promise I have a good excuse. At the end of last term, things got a little bit crazy as in May I was having numerous interviews about job opportunities. In the end, I was offered two part-time jobs in the space of 30 minutes (crazy after a THREE YEAR search for work in the CLD sector) so in the last week of term I travelled to London to start a part-time job as a Fundraising Officer for a national charity, and then after helping out as a group leader, worship leader and First Aider at Surf Camp started another part-time job with a youth project to develop services for young women.

Schools went back in Edinburgh this past week, and the Midlothian schools go back this coming Tuesday…so I’m started to get prepared for a new school year in all manner of ways!

As much as I am able to, I will continue sharing what our units get up to. In the hope that it helps other volunteers and youth workers.

Some of the things we have planned for this term is:

Patrols choosing, planning and doing a Go For It badge

Trip to a new trampoline park, roller rink or Gang Show (we had requests, and they will get to vote on which trip they want to do, with potential to do others later on in the year).

Organising a sponsored Little Lights Walk for Bliss (there will be glow bands & luminous face paint!)

Participating in local community services of Remembrance.

Having our first proper Patrol Leader elections (the girls have always asked us to choose, but we would like to encourage them taking more ownership of this…so we shall see. I’ve been asking other leaders about how their Guide units organise leaders and patrols).

Having a visit from one of our local Peer Educators to do Think Resilient.

plus if our Young Leaders get it finished soon, we hope to have a party to celebrate them gaining their Young Leadership Qualification.

We also have a location move this year, where we will be leaving our old hall and moving to a different one. We are still waiting for details to be finalised (in particular for storage space to be made available to us).

And that’s just for Guides!

Senior Section starts back this week, and I’m hoping for more organisation, commitment and flexibility of meetings so they can do more this year. We shall see. It will really depend on what the girls want and decide.

Whodunnit?

Recently some unexpected absences led to a panic about what we were going to do at Guides as we had to quickly change what we had planned. Cue our unit helper, Penny coming to the rescue by borrowing an idea from her daughter to play a large Guide themed game of cluedo!img_8679

As you can see we used some masking tape, and equipment we’ve collected over the years from Active Kids (training poles, throw down feet and bean bags) to set up our ‘Cluedo Board’. The Guides loved this so much they insisted on playing it three times, and we are using this year’s vouchers to get a few more things (like a giant foam dice) to make playing this game a more frequent activity and a bit easier to set up.

Penny has kindly sent me the instructions after a Guide leader asked me if I could share how the game works. They are in the PDF document below (click on Guide Cluedo).

I believe it was Professor Laurie Plum, in the kitchen, with the hot chocolate! 😉

Guide Cluedo

Guides rising to the challenge…

A long, long time ago we decided that our unit would do the Rise to the Challenge badge in the second half of the spring term. The challenge badge involves 5 challenges under the themes of

  • Nature
  • Creating
  • Survival skills
  • Construction and Engineering
  • Baking

I really can’t take credit for organising any of this. It was all the other leaders. I was present, and helped tidy, made sure people stayed alive and took lots of pictures but I’m so grateful for the other leaders giving me some downtime this last term while I’ve been facilitating Senior Section solo. The themed nights also gave a great opportunity for each of our three young leaders to take charge of facilitating and organising a meeting solo (obviously with our support, but they were the ones taking the lead). This is something they have to do as part of their Young Leadership Qualification which we are supporting them through with the intention of them completing it before they start S6 and doing UCAS applications.

It enabled everyone to use their skills too. Our unit helper has green fingers, so was super helpful person to have with the Nature night as they made their own gardens in strange recepticles!

One of our young leaders is really into Science, so was a perfect fit for the Construction/Engineering night, where we brought lots of recyclable materials for each patrol to build their own bridges.

Another young leader loves to bake, and actually got me pretending to be Sue Perkins when she did a ‘technical challenge’ bake off competition for our Ranger unit. She took charge of baking night as each patrol baked rock cakes, each with different fillings in halved oranges. They used the orange juice to make icing. And I must say being a baking judge is such a difficult challenge…to have to try each of those yummy bakes was just one of those things you have to do as a leader. 😉

The girls designed Guide uniform accessories for their ‘Create’ challenge. And I believe there may be a plan to take this one step further and try and make them…

And our first Young Leader who loves the outdoors took on the survival night. Tins with holes, a pile of tealights to make pancakes with different toppings. I was super sad I ended up ill and unable to go that night.

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Units, Leaders and Trefoil Guild groups can still take part in the Rise to the Challenge badge all through the summer term. I believe there’s a big day out at Glamis Castle at the end of the summer holidays.

If you’re interested, download the activity pack here.

How we celebrate the big awards…

When a big award is achieved, we celebrate with a fun party at the units I help out at. It’s a big deal, and in the five years I’ve been back volunteering (oh wait, no it’s six now!!) we’ve only had 3 Baden-Powells and 3 Chief Guides. This is mainly because we don’t push or force girls into doing either. They are encouraged, they are told the option is there, reminded the option is there…but unless they come to us saying “yes, sign me up” they don’t get put through it.

When someone does complete it, we have a party. With SPECIAL cake. The other girls in the unit are invited to come early to the hall to decorate it. We play party games. Parents and friends of our guest of honour are invited to join us for the fun. With that has come traditions that the girls now request when they know a party is in the offing, and I know that these parties have been memories the girls have treasured years later. A friend of our Senior Section who was in my Guide unit told her she still remembers the BP party we had for two of our girls while she was a Guide and it’s one of her favourite Guiding moments.

A request now at every party is ‘the paper chain game’. The first time we did this the family members of our 2 BP Guides got very competitive as one team. Basically we give each team some paper, scissors, glue sticks and they have about 10 minutes to make the longest paper chain they possibly can.

If you do this at the start of the party, you’ve got some extra decorations! 🙂

Other favourites have included the polo mint on a straw (where you do need a packet of polos handy for each team as polo, after polo, ends up on the floor. The idea is that the team stands in a line, holding a straw in their mouth and has to pass the polo mint from their straw to the next person’s straw without touching the polo. Umpires for each team to assure no cheating (and to quickly replace polo mints) are essential. 🙂 I’ve got some good pics, but unfortunately none I can use for this blog!

The other one we did at our first BP party that was held close to Christmas is the reindeer antlers. Now you know where this picture came from, as one team place their antlers on my head and everyone thought it was hilarious and took lots of photos. As you can see one of my Guides is doubled up laughing. (I did laugh too!).

Each team had got a pair of cheap women’s tights (fairly thick denier, otherwise tights will be ripped to shreds) and a packet of balloons. And well…you get the idea! Balloon antlers abound.

We’ve done musical chairs, corners and other games. And at the last BP party we did pass the parcel. Grateful to our Young Leaders who finished wrapping two parcels each with a layer than contained a glow bracelet and a packet of haribo for all the guests.

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And of course, the cake. We get local commissioners to present the girl(s) with their award and then take pictures of them cutting the cake. I always joke with them they’ll be well practised if they ever get married for the obligatory cake cutting picture. Cake is eaten, grown ups drink tea and then we’ve often ended with a promise ceremony. Sometimes the BP Guides have got enrolled as members of Senior Section with their Ranger/Young Leader pals alongside them who have come along to support them. Other times our Guides have asked if they can make their promise. Sometimes we’ve had both.

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Our Ranger unit and a local Guide unit hosted a party for me, the Assistant Leader and the Guide leader when we all got our ALQs. Two LQ trainees and 4 Rangers made their promise that night.

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New members of Senior Section make their promise

Our most recent BP Party was held the week of Thinking Day, so we had a candle ceremony at the end and some of the new Guides made their promise.

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Essentially, all we want to do is make the night different, informal, fun and different from a ‘normal’ night of Guides. We want to make the person(s) getting the award feel special and celebrate their hard work, dedication and achievement. And we hope (and know it has in the past) inspired younger members to think of taking up on the opportunities offered to them in Girlguiding.

It does cost more money than our normal meetings, and we’re a unit that doesn’t have a ton of extra cash and we don’t have big parties for Christmas where all the girls get gifts like I know some Rainbow and Brownie units have. Normally us leaders put in some money to get a small gift for the award person too. Last time,  thanks to my paparazzi leader tendencies, I was able to put together a small photo album of our ‘graduated’ Guide’s time as a Guide with us. I hope I can continue that as a tradition too, because I think it’s a nice memento for them to have.

Anyway…that’s what we do. Do your Guide or Ranger units have traditions for celebrating the ‘big’ awards?

A Thinking day to think about refugees…

One of our Senior Section has been involved in a campaign with some young people from her high school to ask Scotland to do more to welcome refugees seeking sanctuary here in the UK.  While planning for the term, they asked if we could learn more, so I told them about my friend Katherine who had not long started working for a small charity called the Refugee Survival Trust. One of the things that Katherine and the volunteers at RST do is go into schools and groups to help dispel myths and help educate people about what the reality is like for refugees and asylum seekers.

Thinking Day seemed like a good day to learn about such things, so we invited Katherine to come through for that week. And then the Guide unit that meet at the same time as us said they had no current plans for Thinking Day so we decided to join up with them.

The girls did a quiz, saw photos of the Calais Jungle and learned how to say welcome in three different languages including Arabic. We ended with having cake for Baden-Powell’s birthday, and our candle ceremony which Katherine joined in with. Now she has a guiding light too! 😉

If you are a unit based in Central Scotland, particularly if you’re in the Glasgow area where most of the RST volunteers are based, I totally recommend getting in touch with them and inviting them to come talk to your unit. Maybe your unit could even do some fundraising for them?

Thank you so much Katherine for making the time and effort to come through to spend the evening with us. We really appreciated it!

Old School Guiding Night

While we were doing our First Aid badge, we had one week where about half of our Guide unit who are all from the same year group in the same school were off to P7 camp. In the end Stefan suggested we take a week off from the badge so they didn’t miss out, and we were grateful! With a much smaller group, we decided to have a night teaching some ‘Old School’ Guiding skills – learning morse code and semaphore!

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Our unit helper helping one of our Guides practise morse code with a torch. We had the girls flash the light against the wall.

I thankfully still have my Guide Handbook from the 90s, which was full of great information. It helped me pack for my backpacking trips to Morocco, Western Europe (and Australia…but by then I didn’t need to refer to it – packing a rucksack is second nature now). It taught me how to do my bedding roll when I’d forgotten. It gave me recipes. It gave me exercises that helped with periods. It helped me learn some sign language. It is covered in scribbles from doing my Trefoils (now replaced with the annual challenge badges), my emblems, my Baden-Powell, my Pre-Promise challenges and more. I was able to photocopy the pages which show morse code and semaphore – skills that my Mum and our unit helper learned as Guides. I learned morse code, but not semaphore as a Guide.

I brought along torches, and other leaders brought along garden stick things (what are those things called that hold up plants?!) which the girls used to make their own semaphore flags with paper, sticky tape and felt pens.

After some practice, the girls were split into two teams each supervised by one of our young leaders and came up with a message which they relayed to the other team via semaphore. Then the teams went outside (in the dark!) to flash the message back using morse code back to them to see if they got it right.

The girls really got into it, and did struggle but kept persevering and had a lot of giggles doing it.

Helpful links:

Morse Code

Semaphore

Promise Activities

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that we had a bunch of new Guides still to make their promise. I’m a strong believer that before making the promise the girls should spend time focusing on what the Promise means and looking at the Guide laws before they decide whether or not they want to make their promise.

I’ve been sort of in charge of Pre-Promise activities for a while now at Guides, and have a few standard things that we do with the Girls to help them understand Girlguiding as an organisation, a little bit of history, and to get them thinking about the Promise and Law – how can they individually and collectively live it out in their daily lives if they choose to make it. I’m now encouraging our Young Leaders to find and create new ideas for things we can do to help our Guides consider what the Promise is about, and what is means to live by it! Many of these activities I have got from old issues of Guiding magazine, or from the Girlguiding UK Member’s Area before it changed up with the new website.

Promise Keepers – (from old edition of Guiding Magazine)

Each Guide takes a piece of paper, pen and envelope. We discuss in a group what keeping a promise means to them – is it something that they make and then forget about, or something you take seriously and make sure you keep it? On the piece of paper they write a promise to another person that they will keep that week. They can decorate the paper if they like. The girls fold up the paper with their promise written on and put it in the envelope, but do not seal it (just in case they need to check what promise they made). The following week you ask the Guides to reveal their promises and talk about whether they have kept it.

*It is also worth discussing the circumstances when you shouldn’t make/keep a promise*

The Guide Law and You

This is a really simple exercise where I get the Guides to think of two examples of how they can keep each of the 6 parts of the Guide law in their daily lives. Occasionally if they take a whole hour on an activity that apparently should take 20 minutes, I’ll get them to take this home and then we share and discuss our answers the following week.

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Sometimes I will also give them cut out strips of the Guide laws, and ask them to prioritise them in order of importance. We then discuss in a group what order of priority Guide has chosen and why she thinks that one is more/less important than the others.

Love our community

The idea behind this is to look at the section of the promise which says we will “Serve the Queen and our community” and “help other people”. While the Guides are playing a wide game at the beginning of our meeting, the leaders not overseeing the game hide post it notes around the hall that spell out a message like “Love Edinburgh” or “Make our city better” – something that is a message about caring about where we live. The girls find all the letters, and then work out what the message is. Then I get them individually or in pairs or groups to come up with ideas on how they can do that making an acrostic with the message. So it ends up being something like*

L – Litter picking

O – Organise a fundraising event

V – Visit old people

E – (Be) Eco Friendly

O – Operate a no put-down zone

U – Upcycle our old clothes

R – Recycle and reduce our waste

C – Cooking for people

I – Include others

T – Teach skills we know to others

Y – You before I

*most of these are real examples of ideas the Guides came up with! Others include: shop Fairtrade, be Positive, Smile at people, be Nice to new people, Look after new Guides, Encourage others to be their best, Cheer on our fellow Guides…I’m sure there’s loads more your Guides and Senior Section could come up with!

Peace Envoy (from Guide Promise Activities)

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In this exercise, the Guides are told they are politicians in leadership of the world. They have to come up with a 5 point manifesto of rules they’d like to bring in to help create and sustain world peace. Girlguiding UK will tell you this takes 15 minutes. What you may have to do is spend 10 minutes explaining what a politician is, and how they become the ones who represent us in the world making laws and policies that affect so many people. And then another 10 minutes of heads in hands, chewing the ends of pencils thinking and saying “this is hard”. You will refrain from making any suggestions because you want their ideas to be well…their own ideas. Before you go away, and they’ve come up with something like this 15 minutes later…

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(As a follow up, you might suggest the girls send their manifestos to their MP/MSPs)

Your Place in Guiding

I found this great template from Activity Village. Many of our Guides will not understand the hierarchy of the organisation – districts, divisions, counties etc. This just helps them understand it, and for them to know what unit they are in. I simply get them to fill in each circle, they can write it, draw pictures in each circle. They cut out the circles and we usually staple them together.

Breaking Barriers (also from Guide Promise Activities)

Give each girl a cube template  and some colouring pencils. They can  write negative words or stereotypes on their template – for example, ‘young people don’t make good leaders’ or ‘girls aren’t good at sport’.Each girl can then fold her template into a cube shape, using sticky tape or glue to secure it.  The girls should then build a wall with their cubes, to reflect the barriers that negative stereotypes can create around us.When the wall is built, the Guides can tear it down however they like! Talk with the Guides about how it felt to see their wall of negativity and how it felt to tear it down.

Beliefs and Values

This is actually an activity I used to use when running workshops in PSE and RMPS classes in some of my previous youth work jobs. I put a sign that says AGREE on one side of the room, and a sign that says DISAGREE on the other. I will then read out statements and the girls can choose to stand wherever they like between the two signs – they might stand right next to it, or somewhere in the middle depending on how much they do or do not agree with the statement I have read out. It can be as serious as “No one should be allowed to own a gun“, “There is a God“, “It is okay to steal if the person you’re stealing from is rich” to something more lighthearted like “Only Leaders should be allowed to eat chocolate at meetings” or “There should be an International Day of Dressing Up Like A Minion“. I then will ask a few girls who have stood in different places to explain their reasoning. It is important to make sure the Guides don’t feel judged for their opinions, and the idea is to get people listening and thinking about why they believe what they do. I will also tactfully stand closer to a girl if she seems to be the only one choosing to put herself in that spot just to show encouragement that it’s okay to have a different opinion on something.

 

These are obviously just a flavour of what you can do, and we’ve done many other activities over the years to look at individual beliefs, serving our community, being honest and trustworthy. If you have any activities to share that you do with your Guides, please do share !