While we were doing our First Aid badge, we had one week where about half of our Guide unit who are all from the same year group in the same school were off to P7 camp. In the end Stefan suggested we take a week off from the badge so they didn’t miss out, and we were grateful! With a much smaller group, we decided to have a night teaching some ‘Old School’ Guiding skills – learning morse code and semaphore!
Our unit helper helping one of our Guides practise morse code with a torch. We had the girls flash the light against the wall.
I thankfully still have my Guide Handbook from the 90s, which was full of great information. It helped me pack for my backpacking trips to Morocco, Western Europe (and Australia…but by then I didn’t need to refer to it – packing a rucksack is second nature now). It taught me how to do my bedding roll when I’d forgotten. It gave me recipes. It gave me exercises that helped with periods. It helped me learn some sign language. It is covered in scribbles from doing my Trefoils (now replaced with the annual challenge badges), my emblems, my Baden-Powell, my Pre-Promise challenges and more. I was able to photocopy the pages which show morse code and semaphore – skills that my Mum and our unit helper learned as Guides. I learned morse code, but not semaphore as a Guide.
I brought along torches, and other leaders brought along garden stick things (what are those things called that hold up plants?!) which the girls used to make their own semaphore flags with paper, sticky tape and felt pens.
After some practice, the girls were split into two teams each supervised by one of our young leaders and came up with a message which they relayed to the other team via semaphore. Then the teams went outside (in the dark!) to flash the message back using morse code back to them to see if they got it right.
The girls really got into it, and did struggle but kept persevering and had a lot of giggles doing it.
Last Autumn, I shared how we were doing our Traditions of Guiding badge with the Guides. One of the things we did for this was go to visit the other Guide unit in our district to learn how to do the traditional Horseshoe formation. I did this at every meeting as Guide but couldn’t remember exactly how it was done to teach the girls. The girls have requested to do it since and it ends up being a bit of a mess (probably because I yell out the wrong commands!)
I found this really helpful video that has been made by a Guide leader who is (I think) based in Canada.
With the new promise being introduced part way through this past term, we decided to do the ‘Traditions’ badge as a unit so we could help the girls understand and learn about the history of Guiding.
The badge has a whole ton of options, so we did a few things that we as leaders organised – which included visiting another unit close to us to learn about marching and flags. Now the girls often ask if we can do the horseshoe marching! It’s funny how you think that things that are ‘old fashioned’ will have no relevance or be of no interest to girls in this modern age of phones, computers and the rest – and be proven so wrong when you bother to teach them at the risk of seeming ‘uncool’.
We were also really blessed by a woman who runs the Girlguiding Edinburgh archives. I’d been in touch with her to see if we could visit, and it turns out we couldn’t. Noticing she lived not too far away from me I asked if perhaps there was an alternative. She generously took the time to look out a box of old handbooks and scrapbooks, many copies of ‘The Guide’ from the 1930s and 40s, and six uniforms from a century of Girlguiding.
We set up a stations for the girls to look all the scrapbooks and magazines, brought down my own guide camp blanket (which has most of my Brownie and Guide badges on it). One of the girls brought her Mum’s old badges and Brownie and Guide handbooks too. The girls also got to try on the different uniforms and we took pictures for their own scrapbooks. We had information stations about how Girl Guides started and how they kept going through the first and second world wars – even when in some places Girlguiding was banned by the Nazi regime.
On the other weeks the girls chose clauses to do in their patrols, and we finished off by having a History of Guiding quiz with a bit of competition between the patrols.
It was a great experience and showed the girls how much Guiding has changed with the times. A month later, we were representing Girlguiding at our local Remembrance Sunday services, and the girls seemed to understand a little more why it is that Guides and Scouts are part of it. One of the girls who was part of the colour party got up early to give herself a wee manicure…trefoil style!