Toasting marshmallows on the beach…

There’s a constant challenge with Rangers, trying to keep it girl-led, flexible but also trying to still do something to make it worth coming to. I always feel like I’m not doing a good enough job of providing opportunities to them through Girlguiding.

Due to my job changes, and so many of the girls doing school trips abroad, one off to Camp America and a few on Duke of Edinburgh, we have had to do away with trips we wanted to do…like our end of year campfire. We used to be able to use a Girlguiding campsite that was 10 minutes away, and backed on to our Assistant Leader’s garden (handy if we ever forgot anything!) but it was sold off last year.  We also have several of the girls who have commitments right before our meeting time so often arrive late. Going on a trip is even more difficult because of this.

We did manage one though – we headed down to beach area not too far away in the North West of the city, disposable barbecue in hand so we could toast some marshmallows.

It was wonderfully dry but got very chilly by the end of the night as the barbecue died down and the wind blew! It was a very brisk walk back to the car park, where many of the Rangers hid in my car to keep warm while they waited for parents to arrive to pick them up. They also spotted that someone had tossed rubbish all over a section of the car park and decided to use some Guiding spirit to go pick it up and put it in the nearest bin (as a Surfers Against Sewage supporter, I wholly approved of this initiative). And as the sun started to set, I fully appreciated a night outdoors!

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Sharing reviews and Thirteen Reasons Why

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Our library is now up and running, with the Senior Section giving ongoing requests for books to add to our bookcase. Over the easter holidays, most of the girls took books or films home and a few of them wrote up reviews for their blog at our last meeting. We had a little bit of chat about one of the books that many had requested, Thirteen Reasons Why as over the holidays a Netflix series based on the book was released and has caused quite a lot of controversy. I was intrigued because the girls had mentioned the book so many times, plus I’ve been a long time supporter of the charity To Write Love On Her Arms which raises awareness of mental health. I did have concerns about the show as the episodes went on though. A friend asked me my opinion after seeing some articles about it on social media and I advised her not to watch for fear certain scenes would be a trigger for her. Several of our members have been watching the series – as I know many teens have (several of young people who I have known from surf camp, as well as teen sons and daughters of my friends have posted about it on social media). I think that the post that Jamie Tworkowski (founder of To Write Love On Her Arms) has written in response to the show is a measured and sensible one. And the TV series for sure has taken quite a few liberties from the original story in the book. I’m guessing for ‘dramatic’ effect (and I suspect, reason to create a Season 2).

Anyway, if you are interested in our members’ opinions on books and films they have been reading and watching you can find them over on their blog. They are doing this as part of their Phase 2 or Phase 3 of Personal Values octant.

Perks Of Being A Wallflower (film)

The House on Mango Street (book)

Thirteen Reasons Why (book)

The next month sees us in school exam season, so we will be having some chilled out nights with less serious discussion I imagine! 🙂 We shall see.

5 years of Look Wider…

…what have we done? I know a lot of Senior Section leaders say they “don’t get it” or aren’t sure how to plan a programme. It is hard work, but once your girls get it, you will find that they come up with so many ideas.

The great thing about Look Wider is that it is so flexible. I think that can be intimidating for members who have been used to a fairly firm structure (both unit members and their leaders). But it doesn’t need to be intimidating. If your members are really struggling for ideas, then go seek around the world loads of examples of what others have done – they might like the ideas, it might inspire somehing else. Do a game like the one Kelloggsville invented to get more ideas. Ask the girls pertinent questions and give them time and space to think on them. Then support them to use their answers to base your programme on over a longer period.

Over the last 5 years our group has been running we’ve done a range of things.At times we have been limited by the availability of the girls, and the fact that I don’t always have access to a car. Some activities have become traditions that the girls want to do over and over. And some nights it’s just been about chilling and having fun – especially when the girls are on exam leave. These are just things we have done together in our meetings. This does not include what individuals have done as Young Leaders/Adult leaders in training, or during their own time outside of Girlguiding/School/Work/University/College which they can also count as part of Look Wider.

Activities for Look Wider Octants

All of these activities we have done during our meeting times, with the exception of a few things (such as Remembrance Sunday, Color Me Rad 5k, opening of Parliament and the Build A Bear Party which we did on a Sunday morning before the shop opened). Some were away from our regular meeting place, but done during our meeting time.

Community Action

  • Painting glass jars to be filled with sweets & sold for Bake A Little Love
  • Participating in local service of remembrance
  • Inviting a volunteer from the local Food Bank to talk about their work
  • Doing a collection for the local Food Bank
  • Creating a Community Map with photos identifying needs and focal points for the local area.
  • Raising awareness and campaigning for War on Want
  • Learning about voting
  • Raising funds for local community centre doing a Colour Run
  • Inviting volunteer/staff from Refugee Survival Trust
  • Participating in the opening of Parliament
  • Volunteering at local fair to raise money for Division
  • Helping Leaders do the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for MND Scotland

Creativity

  • Nail Painting
  • Hallowe’en Party – fancy dress and creative games
  • Painting glass jars
  • Unit Scrapbooking (we have kept scrapbooks of all our activities as a unit since the beginning).
  • Theatre Trip to support fellow members in Gang Show
  • Designing our own mugs with Sharpie Markers
  • Charity Shop Fashion Show
  • Learning how to knit
  • Mood Boards
  • Easter Baking – making easter egg nests
  • Creating a Timeline of Women’s History
  • Designing T-shirts for their Senior Section Spectacular bears with fabric paints

Fit for Life

  • Rock climbing and abseiling
  • Invent your own smoothie night
  • Pilates for Dummies
  • Color Me Rad 5k
  • Inviting a local Hula Hooping instructor to give us a class
  • Walk around local nature reserve
  • Rest and Relaxation Night (healthy foods, spa treatments)
  • British Heart Foundation Heart to Start Course
  • Learning First Aid
  • Trying a Taekwondo class

Independent Living

  • Invent your own smoothie night
  • Charity Shop Challenge – finding an outfit for £10 or under
  • Money Management – making Spend/Save/Give Jars
  • Making Pancakes for Pancake Day
  • Hosting a Swap Shop Night
  • Learning how to make non-alcoholic mulled wine
  • Learning how to knit
  • Bake Off Night
  • Building Ikea furniture
  • Learning how to do laundry
  • Learning how to boil potatoes and eggs
  • Make your own pizza night

International

  • World Thinking Day Badge Pack from WAGGGS
  • Researching and celebrating Diwali (everyone brought an activity for group relating to Diwali)
  • Writing letters to Rangers in other countries
  • Ready, Steady, Glasgow Challenge Badge
  • Learning about ethics of behind the scenes of how clothes are made by retailers
  • Hawaiian Night
  • Chinese Food Night
  • Celebrating World Thinking Day
  • Learning about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers

Leadership

  • Planning the term programme
  • Planning and organising Hallowe’en Party for unit
  • Organising an Invite A Friend Easter Egg Hunt & Party for the local Brownies
  • Putting on a Charity Shop Fashion Show for Guides
  • Planning a Swap Shop night
  • Planning an Oscar Themed Awards Party for the Guide & Senior Section leaders getting their ALQs
  • Learning how to do a risk assessment for an outdoor walk
  • Planning and running Hallowe’en Party for a Brownie Unit
  • Look Wider Sweetie Beetle
  • Organising a Bake Off night ‘techinical challenge’
  • Organising games for Harry Potter Night

Out of Doors

  • Christmas Market
  • Rock climbing and abseiling
  • Campfire
  • Community Photo Walk
  • Sparklers outdoors for Guy Fawkes Night
  • Walking around local nature reserve
  • Barbecue on an island (crossing a causeway)
  • Penny Hike
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Colour Me Rad 5k
  • Going to outdoor ice rink

Personal Values

  • Activities looking at the Promise from Senior Section CD Rom
  • Collages to celebrate International Women’s Day – women who inspire us
  • Making the Promise
  • Creating a group Promise Tree
  • Making their own individual Promise Tree Booklets
  • Charity Shop Fashion Show
  • Learning about lent and Shrove Tuesday
  • Planning a Scavenger Hunt
  • Personal Collage/Inspiration Boards
  • Debates on social and ethical issues
  • Scottish Parliament Election Manifestos Debate
  • Watching Suffragette film and writing review for their blog
  • Watching He Named Me Malala documentary
  • Creating an inspiration library
  • Creating a timeline of Women’s history

Just for fun/Other

Please feel free to share more ideas that your unit has done below! We are always looking for inspiration too. 🙂

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!

The Joy Filled Jars

We actually missed the first proper week back this year, because I had to postpone our meeting due to me being ill with my silly tooth infection and antibiotics. The initial idea was to do something looking at the Promise because we gained two new members just before Christmas and they intimated to me that they’d like to make the promise. News that the girls wouldn’t make our first meeting made me rethink the plans. It was one of those moments I think all leaders have had where we just think “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THEM TONIGHT?!”

A conversation with our youngest Guides who were looking at the Guide Promise, plus some blogs from a woman I hugely admire got me thinking. My Mum said she was headed to take a friend to Ikea, and so I requested she buy 10 glass jars. I knew we had some glass paint from a project a member did years ago in our cupboard somewhere…

One of our youngest Guides told me that she thought a great way of serving our communities was smiling at people and putting happiness into the world and that really got me thinking. Miss Val* has talked a lot about choosing to  be grateful for the privileges we have. Over New Year I’d been thinking about the amount I get grumpy about what I don’t have rather than finding joy in the nice things that happen. And so I gave each of the girls a jar (and I bought one for myself) and told them that these were for them to use how they wished – my idea is to put notes of all the good things that happen in. However, they could choose to use it differently – either to hold notes of things they are thankful for, good things that happen, good ideas for positivity….

The girls decorated them, and I loved watching their creativity in doing so! They’ve said they’d like to maybe bring them in later in the year so we can share all the positivity, joy and gratitude stories they contain. I’m all for that!

*For those not in the know, Valorie Kondos-Field (known as Miss Val) is the legendary coach of the UCLA Women’s Gymnastics Team. The UCLA team are famous for their creative routines on beam and floor especially – one went viral in 2016, and even my Senior Section girls with no interest in gymnastics saw it on social media. 🙂

Rangers learn some life skills

You may remember at the start of the year, I asked the lovely ladies of our Senior Section what they would like to learn before they leave their parents home. There were a few skills that they wanted to learn – and one of them was laundry.

There is no washing machine where we meet, so we had to get a little creative…

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And so I brought down a pile of mixed (clean) laundry belonging to members of my family. And yes people, it included some (old) bras. I queried the appropriateness of that, but in the end I figured that the majority of women wear them, and it’s not always obvious how to care for them. Especially if they are underwired or have lace. So yes…we did discuss handwashing and ‘delicates’. Not all the girls arrived at the start of the meeting on time (a current ‘challenge’ this year for me as a leader) otherwise I would have split the girls into teams and had them sort out the laundry into loads, what setting they would put for the washing machine, how much laundry detergent etc.  I also found this helpful print out on Love Your Clothes website about clothing care labels and what each of the symbols mean which all the girls asked if they could keep a copy of.

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Although most of the girls can bake and some can cook, many of the girls confessed to not really knowing or ever having done some basic things they felt all ‘grown ups’ should know. These were boiling potatoes and boiling eggs. So…we got some new potatoes, some saucepans (again our meeting place’s kitchen is not very well equipped for cooking), some eggs and I brought down my old Student Cookbook (which is where I finally learned at the age of 29 how to make scrambled eggs which don’t look like yellowy grey bits of rubber – no one had explained that I needed to cook them on a super low heat!). And I just sat back and made sure no one did anything life threatening.

They’ve also requested to have a night at someone’s house to cook a full proper meal that isn’t pasta. Not going to lie, I’m a terrible cook (I’d like to blame it on the anti social hours of 16 years working in youth work, retail and community education where I usually don’t have time to spend an hour cooking) so I may need to call in some friendly reinforcements to share their skills so I don’t pass on my culinary ineptitude to the girls!

 

Rangers leading Ranger meetings

I know a lot of Senior Section leaders often tear their hair out. We are undervalued, get very little support, communication isn’t great (or very last minute) through national/regional/county level for Senior Section events and we are dealing with a section of Girlguiding members who are undergoing one of the most difficult life transitions – childhood to adulthood.

You are no longer dealing with parents – communication goes directly to the members of your unit and many of them haven’t learned the art of diary and time management. They are learning to do it themselves having all their lives had their parents do it for them. It is understandable that sometimes they make mistakes. They forget when they have exams, or rehearsals or family holidays when it comes to planning a programme that is more flexible.

This year, I had to make the difficult decision of telling one of my Ranger groups that I couldn’t keep running their group. There were only 3 of them, they weren’t able to recruit more members to their group and they seemed reluctant to run themselves despite being aged 17-20. I think the knowledge that this happened made the younger group realise that if they didn’t step up there would be no group at all. Now I’m the only Senior Section leader, and this year I’m working more and later hours with longer commute.

And so when we made up a term programme, I compromised the usual pushing for nights to be more obviously octant related with the fact that each night 1 or more members of the group are in charge of that evening. So in the last month we have had a Harry Potter games night and a Fancy Dress night with Hallowe’en style games. Both organised by the group’s members with me not having to bring anything but the register and the petty cash and receipt book. So far, all the girls have managed to accomplish this.

Harry Potter Pictionary

Harry Potter Pictionary

How did we do it?

Deciding who is best suited to each night – bringing something for Harry Potter games night was good for a couple of our members who arrive late due to other commitments (one attends a dance class, the other volunteers with another section of Girlguiding at a different venue). We could do games brought by other members and move onto theirs once they arrived. Also if the girls know that there’s a week where they are going to be super busy with rehearsals for a school show or university coursework – we’ll note that so they aren’t down to be in charge that particular week.

I set up facebook events through our secret group. On the event info I post who agreed to be in charge of what so they can go back and refer to it. Not all the girls are on facebook, so I usually ask the girls to remind those not on the group if they can. They are very good at doing this.

The girls set up their own what’s app group which all but one of them are members of. They can remind each other, clarify and check things. They added me to it, so I can reply back if they want to check something with me quickly. (From a safeguarding perspective, I prefer a group what’s app chat over being sent a personal text message as it’s obviously being seen by everyone in the group making communication between me as the ‘responsible adult’ and young people as transparent and open as possible). I will also sometimes do a wee reminder 1-2 days before, and on the day if needed.

I thank the girls in charge for what they’ve brought and remembering. I like to try and do this publicly on the group too, so that they know how much their effort is valued by me as a leader. It’s even more lovely when the other members join in with their thanks too.

I think I have an advantage though as I’m also a Guide leader. Many of the girls now have known me as their Guide leader (or friend’s Guide leader) and I now actively try to help my Guides learn responsibility, consequence and organisation so that it’s not a huge shock when they move up to Senior Section. Some of my Senior Section were just told what to do and handed badges during their time in Guides with no idea what it really was they were doing. Others did little to no badges, and many didn’t have things like Patrol Leaders Councils.

Senior Section members being Mummified...

Senior Section members being Mummified…

It’s also important to remember that young people now have way more homework and extra-curricular activities than previous generations of teens. Schools seem to do a lot of ‘youth work’ now, which means that curriculum work ends up having to be done at home instead of during class time. As much as Girlguiding is about action, for many of my Senior Section girls, they just want to come along and chill out for a couple of hours, meet with friends, make new friends and have a laugh in a safe environment where it’s cool to not take yourself too seriously. Look for the opportunities to help the girls’ – while they were eating doughnuts from string and setting up boxes of slimy things we had talks about school uniforms, recognition (or lack of recognition) for consistently attending and performing well in the classroom, how to write a CV and more. Not because I’d planned for us to have those discussions, but because these conversations were brought up by the members. We are probably now going to have a ‘job hunting’ workshop at some point this year now because of those conversations.

So to my fellow Senior Section leaders – take heart. Your effort is worth it, and it is possible for young people to lead!