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 !

 

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Guides on the Ice…

Last year, we broke the rule on never going ice skating again (after years ago when a Guide apparently broke her arm on an ice skating trip) because the Guides asked to do it. Our city’s ice rink isn’t open to the public when we meet, but every Christmas there are two outdoor ice rinks in the city centre.

This year the girls begged for us to do the trip again this year. Originally we had planned for the new Guides (at the time there were 8) to make their Promise with sparklers on the closest night to Guy Fawkes Night. But in the end all of them weren’t there the week before due to a school hallowe’en party, and we didn’t feel they’d done enough to really understand the promise they were making. So we asked if they’d like to do the Promise at the hall on another night or if they’d like to wait until our ice skating trip.

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New Guides make Promise at outdoor ice rink

…the ice rink. About 15 minutes in we gathered our whole unit in one corner of the ice rink (members of the public already amused by the sight of us blue and red ‘Bambis on ice’) and gathered our now 9 new Guides and the already enrolled Guides and altogether made the promise. It was a really cool moment. Not least of which the miracle that no one fell over on the ice in the process.

We ended the night with one of our new Guides accidentally slide tackling our Assistant Leader in training as she tried to get off the ice at the end of the session. One minute she was next to me, the next she was somehow lying on the ice and Lindsay was taken down a milisecond after. And then others trying to avoid the pile of Guides and Leaders on the rink as they tried to get off the rink too. We were all laughing so hard. One of my favourite things was seeing the girls cheering each other on, trying to help each other and when they fell, laughing and getting up smiling and continuing to do their best to stay upright on the ice. The girls that really struggled with their first time last year surprising themselves at being better this year – seeing that actually the more you practice, the better you get!

Definitely a ‘mountaintop’ moment.

Christmas Market with the Rangers…

The first thing we did as a Ranger unit (after getting to know each other while we painted our nails) was look at the Girlguiding promise. I told them about how when I was a Ranger we’d gone on a trip to Girlguiding HQ in London as we were finalists in an environmental competition and while there each of us due to be enrolled got to choose a location in London of where we would make our promise.

We started in September, and in December our five members decided that they wanted to make their promise on the ferris wheel at the Highland Christmas Market in Edinburgh (we used to have a German one and a Highland one – this has since changed). I have video footage of the girls doing this, and it is quite hilarious, and I have promised that it will not be shown in the public domain. Last year six of them came with me (as poor Jenny was too sick to come with us with some nasty winter bug) to the new and more expensive Christmas Market and we went on the new ferris wheel (a lot less terrifying) and remade our promise because they wanted to make the new one. This year, we changed things up. The girls told us that they wanted to make the Christmas Market trip an annual tradition, and this year we changed it up, and we gave them an allowance and say they could use it to spend on whatever they wanted to do. Well. What seven out of nine girls wanted to do was ride on this…

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For those of you not in the know, that’s the Edinburgh Skyride. Last year one of the seats broke mid air while someone was on it, and it landed in the middle of St Andrew’s Square. Jenny had done the risk assessments though, and I had noted they had improved the seating. I became designated bag lady and I warned them that if they puked they were to come nowhere near me (just as if they are bleeding, they shouldn’t go near Jenny!).  This thing basically spins round and round until it reaches the top next to the Walter Scott Monument. I took pictures of the girls (at their request, two other members also had the girls phones to get pictures for them too) and confess I had to turn away because it made me feel sick to watch it!!

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What was funny that having taken them rock climbing, on the ferris wheel (twice), done hula hooping and a campfire or two which has occasionally brought us city blossoms interacting with some slimy wildlife (frogs, toads, slugs…) I’ve heard our many of girls squeal and scream more than once. And I realised that even tens (hundreds?) of feet in the air, I knew whose scream belonged to who! On the ground four of us stood looking up and then at each other going ‘That’s X!’ ‘Oh now Y is screaming too” “oh, I can hear Z“…

Despite the screaming, they all came off smiling and laughing. Two of them asked me ‘Did you hear us screaming?’ to which we all replied “YES!” and we went off in search of crepes, waffles, pretzels and hot drinks. (And no one got sick…phew!)

We ended the night hoping to reenact a picture from last year next to the famous Jenners Christmas tree, but discovered that Jenners had shut earlier than a lot of the high street stores currently open until 9 p.m. during the Christmas period so had to settle for doing it outside the store before a mad dash for our bus home.

More Senior Section memories made, and it was fun to try and fit our growing unit into another crazy selfie (might have to invest in one of those selfie stick things!)

 

One Promise for all…

Well, I was about to do a ‘Quote of the Week’ post inspired by my amazing Senior Section and other Girlguiding ladies, but apparently there’s a demand for people to speak about an article that appeared the Telegraph on Wednesday. You know, the last day of term for us as Senior Section was the day after the new promise announcement. Several of our girls were hurt by the things said by outsiders about Girlguiding in the press as they were so excited about the wording change and asked me if they could remake their promise. I know I was hurt by it – especially by some of the things I saw on being said on Twitter. I spent 2 days defending Girlguiding and trying to explain what the press had warped and gotten oh so wrong. The one thing that encouraged me was the lovely feedback I got (especially from some nay-sayers) who read my post about the new promise and said they’d found it really helpful. Thank you for being willing to listen!

Planning for next term of Guides

As the Girlguiding members gear up to return for a new term and the new promise is about to come into action, a ton of us leaders were disappointed to see the Telegraph article appear. (And surprise, surprise, a photo with the old uniform!). And then today apparently we were discussed on The Wright Stuff and referred to us being a religious organisation?!!

A few things to say.

First of all, Girlguiding and Scouting is different from the Girls and Boys Brigade. God has never been at the ‘core’, and the promise reflects an era where there wasn’t as much cultural diversity and more people participated in religion because it was what you did, not necessarily because you actually believed. We have never been a Christian organisation.

However, a lot of Parish churches have welcomed and accommodated Girlguiding units (who often don’t have ‘Guide Huts’ – we don’t have the same money that Scouts do!). Just as they’ve accommodated Mother & Toddler groups, Women’s Institute groups, fitness classes and many other community activities. We so appreciate this!

Second, is the idea that a leader should encourage young girls aged 5 or 7/8 to continue to use the old promise when they might not believe (or know what they believe yet) is in my mind, spiritually abusive. And it might not be what the parents want! I don’t think that the new promise excludes Christians at all, or Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or any other faith groups. In fact, it encourages girls to make a commitment to exploring their personal values and beliefs.

Third, is the idea some have made about having two promises. I’m against that, because I think this is the big area where Christians historically have made a real mess of things. I remember having a conversation with my Pastor about one of the saddest sights in Edinburgh: Holy Corner. At a crossroads stands 4 churches on different corners of the intersection. Why do you need 4 different churches in one place? Because of disunity. Let’s find the things we agree on and be united with One Promise for EVERYONE! One that everyone can say truthfully, and make an honest commitment to! That’s what Girlguiding has done.

The Telegraph quoted a lady called Jem who said: “The pack leader’s insistence on keeping the old promise excludes me and any atheist girls from the troop, or asks us to lie when making the promise, something that surely goes against the Guiding principles.

That second part there is what bothers me most. Because lying when making a promise is not just against the principles of Guiding and Scouting (part of the Guide law is that ‘A Guide is honest and can be trusted‘). It also goes against what I understand, as a follower of Christ, to be against the teaching of the bible too.

We had our first day back on Wednesday at Senior Section. All 6 girls made a return and were so excited to be back (or they did a really good job of pretending to be if they weren’t – ha ha!). We had a new seventh member coming for the first time. We had an eighth new member apologetically e-mail me saying she couldn’t come this Wednesday but really wanted to join. A ninth girl e-mailed me last night after meeting some of the girls asking if she could join our group too! I’d made the girls folders to record their progress with the ‘Look Wider’ programme and used this is a base for planning their activities for the coming term.

Senior Section prep

Here’s some of what they decided to do:

A Pizza and Pyjama Party (they want to make the pizzas themselves)

Tie Dyeing t-shirts

Hallowe’en party

Diwali night

and…they want to go back on the Ferris Wheel at Christmas time, and re-do their Promise. I’m going to have to gear myself up for that one because this is what happened last year!

Some of the girls are thinking about exploring their beliefs by going to church as part of the ‘Personal Values’ octant of the Look Wider programme, as they asked Jenny and I what sort of things they could do for that octant. As I’ve said before, some of the girls while we were discussing the promise confessed they weren’t sure what they believed, or that they’d like to go to a church because their families do but they find the teaching there irrelevant or disagree with some of the messages being put out there by prominent people representing Christianity which takes stances on social issues such as homosexuality or women’s health they disagree with. I have girls who are intrigued by other faith beliefs or realise they know little about them. I have girls who regularly go to church and know they believe in God. I have girls who respect people’s belief in God but have looked into it all and know they don’t believe in a God at all.

And we all get along. We might have different beliefs about some things, but we’re ONE UNIT. We’re proud to be members of Girlguiding.

And these girls are AMAZING. The four of them who were in S4 and S5 kicked serious butt in their exams before the summer, one is now in college, the other three are still at school and looking into university options. One is doing her Duke of Edinburgh Award (she says the expedition was the worst experience of her life…but she sucked it up and got through it). Two of them have just finished their Baden-Powell Challenge Awards as they’ve come up to Senior Section. Six of them volunteer as young leaders and have a great rapport with the kids/young people they work with each week. One of them is volunteering to help tutor younger pupils at her high school. All of them are involved with a range of different extra curricular activities from playing instruments, to costume design for drama groups, to singing, ballet, badminton and being a first aid cadet…

They are caring, compassionate and stand up for injustice. Don’t tell me that not believing in God means they have a dodgy moral compass or that because they promise to be ‘true to themselves’ means they act selfishly. Their actions prove otherwise, and to me actions always speak louder than words.

**Update: I have since watched the segment on The Wright Stuff televised this morning on Channel 5. I was totally shocked by the lack of research and tweeted as I watched, totally understanding why my facebook had blown up with raging Guiders and volunteers wanting to throw stuff at their TV screens!

Some points:

1. Girlguiding did not change the promise ‘to gain more members’. It did so after a consultation which happened after many existing members expressed their discomfort about the wording of the promise, and their wish to be able to mean the promise they were making.

2. The logo shown  is not our current logo.

3. The oath is not usually said at the beginning of every meeting, though certainly it is discussed through the activities we do in all sections. This oath is known as ‘The Guide Promise’ and is said at a ceremony when someone joins a section of Guiding. For example, I made it as a Brownie, a Guide, a Young Leader, a Ranger and as an Adult Leader.

4. We don’t have ‘troops’. We have ‘units’ or a ‘Brownie Pack’ or a ‘Guide company’. Troops are what the Scouts have.

5. We had a consultation, and we wanted ONE promise that could include everyone rather than having 2 (or more)

6. We did not ‘get rid of the Queen’. Our new promise changed the line ‘to serve the Queen and my country’ to ‘serve the Queen and my community’ – which incorporated a line from the promise that Rangers and Young Leaders make.

7. ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ is encouraging girls NOT to be ashamed of what they believe.

8. We were not losing members. In fact in the last 2 years 16,000 new members have joined Girlguiding in the UK. And there’s more on the waiting lists.

9. Girlguiding and Scouting was never a recognised ‘religious organisation’, though true Christian principles were (and still are) the influence on the core of Girlguiding and Scouting (caring for creation, treated those as you’d wish to be treated). Robert Baden-Powell always incorporated other religions as Scouting and Guiding spread as a worldwide youth movement. He didn’t keep it limited to Christianity.

I am sad that the producers and people talking on the show didn’t know anything of the history of guiding, the Consultation, not to mention that this debate is being shown like…9 months after the consultation began, and 2+ months after the new promise was announced. **