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.

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The Women’s History Timeline…

The girls decided they wanted to do something for International Women’s Day, and I guess because of the library have been thinking more about inspiring women of late. So they suggested that we all come to the meeting (myself as well) with a woman that inspired us. We each chose a decade/era so that no one would have the same woman or group of women, and we came prepared to share about our women. I think the idea was to dress up as well, but none of us ended up doing that!

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They also decided to use their research  to create a timeline of women’s history. It was by no means all inclusive – there’s just so much we could add. All our chosen women were of course main features, and from some of the books which they had requested and arrived in time for that meeting like Rad Women Worldwide had female historical figures they decided to add.

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We got distracted by putting our library together the night they planned to do this, so it was only last week that it finally got finished. I left them to it, chatting to girls about their Look Wider books, and lending out my laptop to some of the girls who were taking turns to use it to write blog reviews on books and films they read/watched over the Easter holidays.

Sometimes I worry with activities like this that it might be too much like schoolwork. But as it came from them, I didn’t get concerned about it. And actually it’s inspired me more to get back involved with sharing women’s history and making it better known. The simple fact is we don’t get these history lessons in school. They also seemed to be invested in the project, and satisified with the end result.

 

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. 🙂

The Inspiration Library

You might remember a while ago, I mentioned how the Ranger group decided to start their own library. Before last summer, we purchased an ikea bookcase which the girls built (and decorated). They call it the ‘Hawaiian bookshelf’.

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They requested a couple of books and films last year – we had two film nights to watch the DVDs we purchased for the library when they came out. And then they got distracted by other activities…until we asked the question ‘If you could change anything about the world…’ and every single member wrote down equality for women and equality in general. The girls had struggled to come up with more than about 3 or 4 book/film suggestions for the library at the start. Over the last month, I’ve taken a pile of books I had for other projects and from my own bookshelves to meetings to let the girls look through, and from there the girls have also given me more for their list of what they’d like to be included. At least one I think went off and did some book buying research! We have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books and some films with the idea that the content of them will help us learn and think about our stance on a variety of social issues.

This will hopefully help them fulfil requirements for their Personal Values octant.

They have scheduled a Book club night for our last meeting of this term, and the hope is to take away a book or film over the Easter Holidays and do a little review of it for their blog. They also want to finish their International Women’s Day activity – as they got a little distracted last time looking at the books. Particularly Rad Women Worldwide (a new book published very recently).

Suffragette (film)
He Named Me Malala ( film)
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai*
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
The Shed That Fed A Million Children by Magnus Macfarlane Barrow
The Imitation Game (film)
Inside Out (film)
The Help (film)
The King’s Speech (film)
Perks of Being A Wallflower (film)
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
How To Start A Revolution by Lucy-Anne Holmes

On the wish list:

How The Girl Guides Won The War by Janie Hampton
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Atlas of Women in the World by Joni Jaeger
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Girl Up by Laura Bates
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley*
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

*both of these books are the Young Adult versions, mainly as I found the original I Am Malala book quite difficult to follow myself as it seemed like it had been edited poorly, I suspect in a rush to publish her story. My friend who studied Children’s Literature and Literacy (and a fellow bookworm) also had a similar struggle when reading the book when it first came out. I don’t know if the latest adult edition has corrected to rectify some of the grammar and sentence structures to make it more readable. It may be we will get both the original and young adult editions depending on feedback from the Rangers.

There are some books I suggested or took down in the piles that I was surprised they didn’t want (such as Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, which was very popular with my younger sister and some of my ‘graduated’ Rangers). They actually told me they really didn’t want certain books, and most of the time it is because they now hate them having been forced to analyse every inch of their pages at school. Ugh. It’s a real shame but I also understand. I’m constantly having to remind them not to put that pressure on when they have decided on a project like this…that we are not marking the work they’ve put in, it doesn’t have be done any particular way. The whole point is learning and enjoying the process of thinking, discovering and sharing that with others.

We shall see how this idea develops…they are certainly getting me reading more!

Thanks to my friends from the Women of Colour Feminism Conference, A Mighty Girl website and The Book Fairies for giving me some suggestions of books to take along when the girls were struggling for book ideas at first.

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. 🙂

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 !