Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fairtrade Fortnight

This week’s meeting tied in with Fairtrade Fortnight, and fortunately also managed to include an activity the Guides had asked to do this term.

As the girls arrived, we got them painting a banner to celebrate a local day centre’s 60th anniversary.  Our Unit Leader is involved in the centre and the celebrations, and the Guides visit once a year or so to serve tea and do singing.

When the banner was finished and everyone was there, the patrols sat at tables.  We had asked the girls to bring a Fairtrade object and about half of them remembered – not bad considering it was half term last week.  First we discussed what Fairtrade means; then the patrols discussed their objects and chose one to pitch to the leaders, as in Dragons’ Den (which was something the girls said they’d like to do this term).  They only had 5-10 minutes as we were on a tight schedule, but there were some good pitches.  One the largest, youngest patrols was especially impressive, with everyone delivering persuasive messages in snappy soundbites, and they won a Fairtrade chocolate bar to share.  Our brand new Guide was in that patrol, so it was nice that she won something on her first night.

Next, we played a version of this orange trading game.  We started 45 minutes before the end of the meeting, which was fine although it could have gone on a bit longer if we’d had more time.  I’d prepared orange templates and counted out money for each patrol, and written price lists for the market and a tick list for the cost-of-living collector.  At the last minute, another leader pointed out that the setup wasn’t teaching anything about the benefits of Fairtrade, and being awesome, she quickly set up an alternative market, offering better prices for oranges.  We instructed half the patrols to use the original market and the other half the Fairtrade one.

For currency we used little printed trefoils, left over from our Thinking Day treasure hunt.  It worked fine with four leaders: two on one market, one on the other market, and me collecting the cost of living and offering school places.  We didn’t have a money lender.

The Guides picked the game up quickly and got really into it, though I didn’t see any of the creative/morally dubious transactions that sometimes happen in these games.  One of them said to me “we can play this again!”  I was too busy collecting money and announcing price changes, crop blights etc. to take any photos!

The game went on for 4 rounds (“weeks” or “seasons”), which took about 25 minutes.  The debrief, led by awesome co-leader, showed lots of good things.  The patrols trading at the Fairtrade market had made a profit, and had started sending their children to school, while those trading at the other market had made a loss and no one was going to school.  One patrol had switched to Fairtrade halfway through (I didn’t work out if that was their choice, or if the Fairtrade market leader had invited them).  The Guides spoke about how they had coped with the work, e.g. by making a production chain and giving everyone a role, and about concerns, like barely being able to meet the cost of living.

There was a lot of tidying up to do afterwards, what with the bits of paper and pencil shavings!  All in all it was a good fun evening, especially thanks to the adaptations to the game, and I think everyone learned something about Fairtrade.

This is the way we brush our teeth

In the run-up to Pack Holiday, I helped at a couple of Brownie meetings to get to know the girls, as I’m not normally their leader.

This meeting ticked off a couple of boxes in my residential qualification book about making sure the girls know about food hygiene and staying healthy on holiday, and it also counts towards the Brownie Skills badge, which the girls are all working on whether they’re going on holiday or not.  Oh, and these skills are generally useful in life…

We started by putting paint on the Brownies’ hands.  First we did a role play of how paint (i.e. germs) can easily spread from one person to the next.  Then they washed the paint off wearing blindfolds, to see if they were washing as thoroughly as they thought.  The first few Brownies missed spots like their thumbs and wrists, but after that they got wise and actually most hands were pretty clean!  It took a while to get through everyone, even with two handwashing bowls on the go, but a lovely leader did some songs and games with those who were waiting/had finished.

After that, we did tooth brushing!  The Brownies stood round a table in Sixes.  Everyone had a beaker of water, and each table had a spit bowl (nice, I know).  First they chewed on disclosure tablets to see how plaquey their teeth were.  They also noticed their tongues turned purple, which was a good opportunity to remind them to brush their tongues as well.  Then they brushed their teeth, and they had to guess when 2 minutes was up and stop brushing.  I was surprised how patient they were: the first Brownie stopped around 1:40, a couple were very close to the 2 minute mark, but most stopped at about 3 minutes.  I called a halt at 4 minutes, when a few enthusiastic brushers were still going!

After we’d tidied the toothy things away, there was just time for a bit of drama.  Each Six was given a pack holiday scenario, and they had to act out first what they thought would be the wrong thing to do in that situation, and then what they thought would be the right thing to do.  I’d prepared 8 options, though we didn’t use all of them:

You are washing up and one Brownie accidentally breaks a plate.

It’s bedtime. Some Brownies want to sleep, but others want to stay up and play.

It’s bedtime and one Brownie in your bedroom feels ill.

One Brownie in your Six is teasing another because she thinks her slippers are silly.

You are helping in the kitchen. A leader is explaining what to do, but one Brownie is not listening.

You have been outside and your shoes are wet and muddy when you come in.

You have been doing crafts and now the room is in a mess with paper and pens everywhere.

Your Six can’t agree what to do for a performance. Some Brownies want to do a song and others want to do a dance.

We only gave them about a minute to prepare, and then whizzed through the performances, with a little bit of discussion about the situations.  Generally they all seemed to understand and choose a sensible course of action!

That took us to the end.  I did enjoy going to Brownies, as it’s been about 18 months since I was a Brownie leader in another town.  It’s always interesting seeing what’s similar and different between packs – for example, this pack doesn’t sing “We’re Brownie Guides” at the beginning of meetings, but (like all Brownies I’ve met) they love wink murder and Chinese whispers.  I’ve been able to put a few names to faces – maybe a third of the pack? – which is a start.  Roll on pack holiday!

What about breakfast at Brownies?

Before I did my Brownie holiday licence, I helped at a couple of Brownie meetings to get to know the girls as I’m not usually their Leader.  These were also meetings where they were doing things to get ready for the holiday.

At the first one, everyone came in their pyjamas (always a hit!  And a chance for onesie one-upmanship) and had breakfast.  Each Six sat at a table and tried various foods in turn: fruit juice, cereal, toast, and eggy bread.  It was quite flexible, with the Leaders helping them to get their food ready, sorting out refills of juice, supervising the frying of eggy bread and so on.  I found it a good chance to go round the tables and chat to the Brownies and learn their names.

For such a simple thing, breakfast kept them entertained for almost an hour (we might have to be a bit quicker on holiday!), then they played wink murder (of course) and I asked them for ideas for holiday Six names.

When I was getting ready for bed that evening, it took me a second to work out why my pyjama top smelled like frying oil!  Rest assured, that one went into the laundry basket…

Wishing you all a very happy Thinking Day tomorrow, however you’re celebrating!

A delightful District meal

The Leaders and Young Leaders in my District had a lovely Christmas meal – in January, of course – in our Guide hall.  A caterer provided the food, with several tasty options for mains and puddings, and it worked out cheaper than going to a restaurant.  Our District Commissioner and Hall Secretary did a sterling job of organising the evening, collecting numbers, providing drinks, laying the tables, and planning some games.

It was really good to have a chance to mingle with the other Leaders without either being in a meeting or having girls present.  I especially liked that there was a real mix of generations, from 14-year-old Young Leaders to the octogenarian president of our local Trefoil Guild.

Half-finished meals and drinks on a neatly-laid table

I didn’t take any pictures of the food until dinner was well underway!

After the main course, we played “the hat game”: everyone wrote down 3 names of famous people on pieces of paper, folded them up and put them into a bowl.  We got into teams, and the teams took it in turns for 1 person to pick names out of the bowl and describe them without saying their name, with their team-mates guessing, trying to get as many as possible in a minute.  The team kept the correct guesses, and any “passes” went back into the bowl and it was passed to the next team.  Each team got about 5 turns before we ran out of names, then we counted how many correct guesses we had and the team with the most (mine, whoop whoop!) won.  The game ended there, but you can also do a second round where you put all the names back in and do the same but miming the person; and a third round where you can only say one word to describe the person.

After pudding, we played a game that was new to me, but really good.  We were given 26 sealed envelopes, each marked with a letter of the alphabet, with an object inside beginning with that letter (e.g. there was a zip inside the Z envelope).  We had to feel them and guess the objects.  Each team wrote down their guesses and the one with the most correct won.  It could also be adapted so the letters spelled words rather than the alphabet (e.g. “Merry Christmas”), and it could be done individually or in any size of team.  Or you could use a blindfold instead of envelopes.

All in all, it was a really good, fun evening, and I hope we can do it again next year.

Everybody loves that man

A stage set up with tables, chairs and a bar

A rather blurry Fat Sam’s Grand Slam

This week’s Guide meeting was a trip to watch one of our Guides in the dress rehearsal of her school musical, Bugsy Malone.  It was a win-win situation: we got a free show (and biscuits in the interval!), and they got an audience.

The turnout was quite small because of a few factors: the school is in a village 8 miles away, the start time was 2 hours earlier than we usually meet, and there was flooding on the roads round about, with off-puttingly heavy traffic.

Still, we had an enthusiastic crowd of 6 Guides, one Young Leader, 4 leaders, 2 mums, and one little sister.  We enjoyed the show (I was most impressed with how many of the cast maintained American accents all the way through) and gave the children lots of claps and cheers.  A good way to end the half term!

So I’m a Residential Advisor?

That’s how I’ve been saying it to everyone: with a big question mark at the end.  Often also with an eyebrow raised and/or a slightly incredulous expression.

I’m Division Residential Advisor for Rainbows and Brownies.  I’ve been to a grand total of 3 Brownie holidays (5 including ones where I was a Brownie), and 0 Rainbow sleepovers.  At the time of my first advisors’ meeting recently, I was 4 weeks away from running my licence holiday.

So I’m not very experienced compared to some of the other advisors around the county, and I have a feeling I’m going to have to ask lots of questions.  However, I’m keen(ish), I don’t have conflicting work/family commitments, I’m up to date with the qualification since I’m working on it myself, and it’s a good chance to meet other leaders in the division and county.  Most importantly, my Division Commissioner told me I could do it, and I believe her.  She also told me it wouldn’t be a huge role, and I believe that, too (hopefully).

Even so, until I’ve had a bit more experience, I’ll continue to introduce my new role with a question mark.

Go For Its (part 1)

After last week’s meeting, which needed quite a bit of preparation and hands-on leading, it was nice to have a night when the patrols planned their own activities and got on with them.

It gave us leaders a chance to catch up, talk about events coming up, staple together some fundraising packs, look at some old photos, do camp admin, and check on craft supplies, so that was quite productive.  It was one of the very rare meetings where I was surprised time was going so slowly, as usually we’re always in a rush to finish on time!

The Guides mostly did a fine job with their Go For It activities.  They included drawing the world of the future:

Guides drawing

Trying and rating retro sweets:

Guides trying sweets

Survival skills:

Camping gear including rucksacks and a sleeping bag

And more sweets:

Wrapped sweets on a table

And a murder mystery play which, unusually, had a beginning, middle and end.  Good work, Guides.  The only not-so-successful one was meditation, which didn’t happen because the girls bringing the equipment weren’t there; but we found that patrol some crafts to do instead.

Pack holiday parents’ meeting

Four weeks before pack holiday, we had an information meeting for parents.

It took place instead of a Brownie meeting, but only lasted half an hour.  There was a good turnout – in fact, I think we had a parent for all the girls except one.  We also had about 6 Brownies and siblings, who couldn’t be left at home, and we installed them at a table with paper and pens, and some colouring sheets and wordsearches on the holiday theme which I’d printed.

Things we handed out:

  • Site address and map
  • Home contact number
  • Kit list
  • Health info form

(all these were stapled together)

  • Receipt for full payment

Things we collected:

  • Cheques for final payment
  • Food and bedroom questionnaires (given out at Brownies the week before, for each Brownie to fill in their food preferences like pizza toppings, and people they’d like to share a room with, and preferences for top or bottom bunk.)

What we spoke about:

  • Brown Owl introduced me, as I’m not a leader with these Brownies, so most parents don’t know me.  Then I did my thing:
  • Welcome, introduce team and roles
  • The site, house, and facilities
  • Activity programme and duties
  • Kit list – went through each item, explaining where necessary
  • First Aider spoke about her role, invited parents to speak to her privately
  • Caterers spoke about the food – reassurance that no one will starve or have to eat food they’ll hate, and explaining that we’re asking Brownies/parents to bring snacktime food
  • Back to me: explained how home contact works
  • In next few Brownie meetings we’ll be doing activities to prepare for holiday

Parents’ questions

My biggest worry was that a parent would ask something I had no idea how to answer.  I needn’t have worried, as there was only one question, which was were cameras allowed?  (They weren’t on the kit list – not intentionally, I just hadn’t thought of them.)  I said yes, if they were named, and another leader added that older, cheaper ones were preferable to shiny new ones.

That was a relief.  Apparently our parents are quite mellow about the whole thing; either that or I stunned them into silence.  I think it helps enormously that three of the leaders work in the school that most of the Brownies go to, so most of the parents already see a lot of them and trust them with their children.

What was a bit strange was having the last Brown Owl in the “audience”, as her daughter is going as a Young Leader.  This is a lady with loads of pack holiday experience, at one time a residential advisor, and no doubt she found it odd being on the receiving end for a change!


Some of the parents stayed to chat afterwards, e.g. about medication and allergies.  Then we leaders stayed behind a bit longer to sort out the forms and cheques we had been given, and generally have a chat.  The other leaders said they thought I’d done fine at leading the meeting, which was encouraging.  I thought it did the job alright.  At least I’ll never have to do it for the first time again!