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. 🙂

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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!

The Library needs a home…

You may remember that I mentioned that we had started a library of books and DVDs to inspire discussion and thought on the Personal Values octant. Of course, books need a bookshelf, and so we managed to incorporate a little Independent Living and Creativity octant to our last two meetings.

While a few girls were still decorating their bear’s t-shirts for the Senior Section Spectacular, the rest were getting to grips with an Ikea Flatpack and a fancy screwdriver lent to us by my stepfather (my tools got stolen by one of my tenants many years ago!) that has lots of different ends you can add to suit the job you are doing.

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For most, if not all, the girls this was their first time building flatpack furniture and though it started with a mild look of panic, I stayed out of the way other than to recommend they check everything was there before they started building. A couple of moments of realising bits were in the wrong places happened – but they recognised their errors and rectified them all on their own. As many of them plan to go to university, and I’m sure all of them will eventually move out of their parents’ homes and into their own flats and houses at some point. I’m also sure that this will not be the last time in their lives that they will build Ikea furniture.

They had forgotten about the decorating part, and so once the bookshelf was built they improvised with what they could find in the leftovers from previous craft projects for the rest of the meeting. The result being that this was the bookshelf we left in the church hall next to the Brownie, Guide and Senior Section cupboards

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What you can’t see is that  they got some adhesive backed fabric on the top of the bookcase, and everyone signed their names (they asked me to add mine). At the last meeting the girls all brought magazines and cut out pictures from them to start decoupaging the sides of the bookcase. We will hopefully eventually varnish them once they are finished, which will likely not be until after the summer holidays now.

It has been fun to see them get creative with this, and I can’t wait to see the end product! I’m hoping we can get more funding to get more books and films to add to the library next year.

Now we have just over a week until the summer holidays begin. Some of the unit members are taking part in the Girlguiding Scotland contingent of the riding into Parliament on 2nd July. I’ll sadly not be there as I’ll be at work (boo). Hopefully the girls going will tell the rest of us all about it after!

But that’s it for our fourth year of Senior Section – we will turn 4 on 12th September. Due to a Guide camp in August, losing leaders (hopefully getting more?) and me being on the hunt for full-time work we’ll have two months off meetings and return at the start of September for a new school year. My hope is that I’ll get a job that will allow me to stay in Edinburgh and continue volunteering, but nothing is guaranteed. Fingers crossed though!

Senior Section’s Community Knitting group

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

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Learning to Knit

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

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

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

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

Mood and Inspiration Boards…

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

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

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

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

I kinda want to make one myself!!

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

The Look Wider Alien Sweetie Beetle

I’ll always be grateful for the lovely blogger Kelloggsville who is a Ranger leader. Her blog helped me a ton in those first months of panic when I was trying to support the five girls in our original group get our unit established and going.

We have had a fair few of our older members moving on in the last year, and a chunk of newbies joining. The last couple of terms have been hard going, mainly due to the new Scottish Secondary School curriculum which involves constant tests, exams and coursework that ends up having to be done at home as there isn’t enough class time (and that’s with some of our girls only doing 6 subjects as opposed to the 8 that was the norm for as long as I can remember for the O Grade/Standard Grade/Int 2/GCSE level of study).

Several of our new girls are not yet familiar with Look Wider, older members seem too tired to come up with and follow through on new ideas. So I decided that for the first nights back both groups would do a variation of the Octant Beetle.

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First was finding sweets to fit dietary requirements that could be used for parts of the beetle. Because gluten free foods tend to be more expensive, I did do some that had two options.

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Body = Gluten Free Brownie or Malted Milk Biscuit

Head = Jaffa Cake or Coconut macaroon

Eyes = Dolly mixtures or jelly beans

Legs = Strawberry laces or Strawberry Fruit yoyos (these are vegan & gluten free)

Feet = Cola bottles

Antennae = Strawberry pencils or Mango fruit yoyos and strawberry bonbons

Spots = Chocolate buttons

The Girls and leaders took turns in throwing the dice. I had a poster on the wall of what the beetle should look like, and what each number on the dice could contribute to, and what you could make it with. We played by the rules that you needed to start with a body or head, and you couldn’t add anything that would be ‘floating’ (ie you can’t add a foot before you have a leg for it)

1 = Body and Head

2 = Eyes

3 = Antennae

4 = Legs

5 = Feet

6 = Spots

I decided not to complicate things by having 8 things represent each octant. Instead, I had a blank Look Wider chart on the wall with sections to represent Phase 1, 2 and 3 of each of the octants. Any time someone got something to contribute to their beetle, they had to go up and add an idea for something they could do for Phase 1, 2 or 3 of one of the octants. Once the chart was full, we just added extra ideas until everyone had completed their beetles.

We also made it a new rule that if your turn came while you were still standing up trying to come with an idea, the next available person in the circle took a roll of the dice for their turn. This kept the game flowing better so that everyone had a completed sweetie beetle (or an almost completed one) by the end of the meeting.

At the end of the beetle game we had a bit of a sugar high and played pass the parcel (as there were birthdays, plus the prize inside was to help start an idea one of the groups had last year that we hope to act upon this term). But we also now have a two pieces of paper filled with ideas for how to complete Look Wider.

And yes, it has been long established that drawing (or anything that comes under the ‘arts and crafts’ bracket really) is not my strong suit. Please don’t judge my circle/octagon being more ovalish. Luckily the girls were able to follow it regardless.

The girls in the first group told me that ‘This was a great idea’. I was relieved that they thought that, and it went much better. It was a bit more challenging on the second night as we had as many Rangers as Leaders.

I totally recommend doing this as a pre-term planning activity or if you find your unit struggling to get into Look Wider. It was good having girls who have already completed (or almost completed) the Chief Guide Challenge there as they were able to share ideas from what they or past members had done.

 

A year of Guiding: 2015

So the calendar year is almost over, my Guiding is done (in terms of unit meetings) for 2015. Here’s a wee look back at all that I got up to as a Girlguiding volunteer this past year…