Monthly Archives: February 2016

Muslim festivals

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Last week at Rainbows I had a break from planning, because my unit helper and leader in training (who are mother and daughter, and Muslim) kindly agreed to run a meeting on Muslim festivals.

All I had to do was turn up with a jam jar for everyone, and sharpies to decorate them. I was pleased that I had just the right number of jars in my hoard. Or rather, I did once I’d finished some jam and chocolate spread – it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. I discovered the power of WD40 for getting stubborn sticky label glue off jars, and now I have a bit more space in my cupboard of containers.

My unit helper came in a beautiful salwar kameez. She started with some show and tell, passing round photos of her wedding, a Koran, and a bowl of tasty nutty rice pudding-like food for everyone to try. Lots of Rainbows had a taste, but only one liked it! I thought it was great, I’d have happily finished it! I’ll have to ask how to make it.

Then we decorated our jars with sharpies to turn them into coloured lanterns. We didn’t try lighting them there, but the Rainbows put a tea light inside their jars to take home. (And yes, I removed all trace of WD40 from the jars – perhaps next time I’ll try cleaning them with something less flammable!)

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After that we played a quick game and did an activity from Rainbow Roundabout Festivals based on the Night of Forgiveness, where we chatted about what it means to say sorry and forgive someone, and we said kind things about each other. Another quick game, and it was time to finish.

It was nice having having breathing space to do a little admin and badge stuff in the meeting, and have fun with the Rainbows helping them to follow the instructions. They probably enjoyed listening to someone different too!

Thinking Day cards

Thinking Day cards 2016

Today is World Thinking Day.

I haven’t done anything for Thinking Day with my Rainbows this term. It’s not ideal, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen. I didn’t plan any activities into unit meetings thinking we were going to have a Division activity day, but then it had to be cancelled (hopefully just postponed) and I still didn’t squeeze it into our meetings. Try again next year.

My consolation is we’ve had quite a few meetings with an international theme. That and I’ve sent my Rainbows ‘Happy Thinking Day’ cards, so they’re at least aware of it.

I flipped through old issues of Guiding magazine for pictures to use, and I found this sweet photo of Rainbows wearing uniforms from around the world (it was in the Autumn 2012 issue if you want to know). They’re lucky to have access to such a great collection!

I slipped in a little colouring sheet and a couple of sentences about what Thinking Day is and who we think of, and I popped them in the post a few days ago. I’m always excited to get things by snail mail, so hopefully the Rainbows will be too.

Happy Thinking Day to all my sisters in Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting.

Bilingual Brownies

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The Brownie Law: A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.

Happy International Mother Language Day! In honour of my favourite awareness day, here’s a languagey post.

A couple of weeks ago I read this post from the Girl Guides of Canada about running a bilingual unit. It reminded me of my own experiences in a (sort of) bilingual unit a few years ago.

(Incidentally, I love the word bilingual because it describes itself.)

In 2011-12 I lived in deepest darkest Wales for a year while I was doing a Master’s course, and I helped at a Brownie unit. We had lots of good times, and looking back on it I learned a lot as a leader that year. Here are my jumbled thoughts on the languagey things I learned.

My Brownies were a cross section of the local community. Some went to Welsh-speaking schools and others went to English-speaking schools – it was roughly 50/50. At home some spoke only Welsh, some only English, some a mixture of both, and some a mixture of English and Arabic or Urdu.

The leaders only had limited Welsh. Three of us had moved there from England, and the fourth came from a not-very-Welsh part of Wales. It was a challenge which I’m sure many other units share. We wanted to be inclusive, to let the Brownies use whichever language they felt comfortable in, but we spoke to them and wrote letters to parents almost entirely in English, because we are Sasenach oppressors that was the only language we felt comfortable enough with.

To some extent it affected the activities we did. Early on when we were doing some writing, I noticed some Brownies, even almost 10-year-olds, made spelling “mistakes” that monolingual English children wouldn’t think of: when in doubt they operated by Welsh rules. One I remember was gini pyg for guinea pig. It brought it home to me that my Brownies at Welsh schools might have very little literacy in English – I think they didn’t start English lessons until the last few years of primary school.

After that I consciously planned activities that didn’t involve a lot of reading or writing, which I think is good practice anyway: guiding isn’t school. If there was writing, I tried to make it bilingual (like the Brownie Law mice in the photo – the English version is on the other side). I didn’t always succeed. We offered new Brownies a choice of which language to make their Promise in. (They all chose English in my time there.)

When some new 7-year-old Brownies joined later in the year, I noticed one in particular wasn’t confident speaking English. Well, why would you be when you never use it at home or at school? For example, when they lined up in order of their birthday and we asked them to call out the month they were born, most said it in English but this Brownie called “Tachwedd”. Cool, we know which month that is (November) so you’re in the right order, next please. I think she was happy, she had friends and their older sisters there so she wasn’t isolated.

My guess is that the Welsh-speaking Brownies get more bilingual as they get older, but I wasn’t there long enough to see it happen. Sadly, I’d also guess that the English-speaking Brownies don’t get more bilingual. They just don’t need to in day-to-day life. It’s a tricky issue.

It’s well-known that there are a gazillion advantages to being multilingual, and in the grand scheme of humanity it’s strange and unnatural to only have one language. The obvious advantages for my Cymraeg Brownies were:

  • they had a secret language to communicate in that the leaders could barely understand. When I was that age I loved secret codes, secret diaries etc. I’d have gone wild for a whole secret language.
  • they got to teach us leaders bits of Welsh and encourage/laugh at our efforts to learn. When you’re 7/8/9 years old it’s not often you’re better at something than an adult. With the right attitude from leaders, it can be really good for girls to be the experts for a change. Of course this applies to all girls in all sorts of things, not just languages.

I’ve lost touch with most of my leader friends from Wales, but I hope they and my Brownies, whichever languages they speak, are doing ok. Fingers crossed some of them are Guides and Senior Section now.

A fit of organisation

Going off at a tangent from guiding (but no doubt relevant to most leaders), I had a long overdue tidy-up of my stationery and crafty bits.

Since I moved into my house in September, they’ve been thrown haphazardly into various boxes and containers.

Now the pens, coloured pencils and papercraft things are in one storage cube:

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Paper, card and notebooks are together on the shelf:

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Sticky and fixy-together things (glue, tape, blue tack, stickers, paperclips, staplers etc) are in another cube:

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The pencils and rubbers have merged into the household supply:

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Needlecraft things, beads and miscellanea are in a box:

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I found some magnetic strips and glued them to the back of little notepads – now they’re in the kitchen ready to have shopping lists scribbled on them.

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And there’s a sample craft on display:

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Oh, I make pancakes with a little help from my friends

These are not my pancakes

These are not our pancakes

Last week at Rainbows we made pancakes. It was post-Shrove Tuesday so some of the Rainbows were already practised in making them and almost all in eating them!

I’d planned an extra activity (a bit of colouring to make a Thinking Day card for my old Guide unit) but in the end it took almost the whole hour to mix the batter, lay the tables, add toppings, enjoy the pancakes, and clear away.

I guess I’ll have to make my own card instead of getting 5-6 year olds to do it for me.

I was super impressed with the Rainbows as they had to do quite a lot of waiting (to be given a job to do, to get their pancake, to wait for others to finish). They were really patient and well-behaved. In the few minutes left at the end we played an active game to work off some of the energy and sugar.

Most of all I was grateful for my two mum helpers. It was just the three of us that night, as the other leaders couldn’t make it. They helped the Rainbows to mix the batter, then they took it to the kitchen, fried 17 beautiful pancakes, and washed, dried and put away everyone’s plates and cups. I went into the kitchen at the end of the meeting expecting to help with the clearing up, and there was nothing for me to do.

They’ll be leaving when their daughters move to Brownies at Easter, and I’ll be sorry. And holding onto their contact details in case I can entice them back.

Note to self

2 eggs was good for 6 Rainbow-sized pancakes.

Past pancake adventures

Chinese New Year

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Last week the Rainbows celebrated yet another festival: Chinese New Year.

Unlike Groundhog Day, they knew lots about CNY already, from school. In our chat at the beginning they volunteered lots of facts, like that it’ll be the year of the monkey, and they’d seen/made/carried Chinese dragons. I asked if any of them had been to China, and four girls raised their hands. I suspect they might have misunderstood me, but I didn’t enquire further.

First I read this story about how the Chinese zodiac began. I gave everyone a little sticky badge with an animal picture on, thinking they could act it out, but actually there wasn’t much for everyone to do except pretend to swim (except the rat, who gets up to all sorts of antics). Still, at least they might remember the various animals.

Then we did a chopstick challenge. In groups, the Rainbows had to transfer food from one bowl to another using chopsticks (free ones swiped resourced from a restaurant), with each taking it in turns to move one piece of fruit. Dried fruit (apples, bananas, apricots and sultanas) was a good choice of food to use, because:

  • it’s squidgy and sticky, which makes it easier to pick up than something smooth and hard like beans
  • it comes in a range of sizes, so the Rainbows could start with the easy apple bits and work their way down to sultanas
  • the apple pieces have a hole in the middle, so if all else failed they could just hook it with the chopstick
  • they got to eat the fruit afterwards, and it’s vaguely healthy (actually, they left most of it, so I now have lots at home…oh wait, we can use it as a pancake topping next week
  • bonus relevance: it’s the year of the monkey, and monkeys like fruit

Actually, I was impressed at how good the Rainbows were with chopsticks. Some of them were holding them in one hand, look:

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Next we did a scrapheap challenge: each group had a pile of clean recycling, and had to make various animals from the zodiac story. Here’s a cat (he got left out of the zodiac because he was asleep):

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I wasn’t sure how well the Rainbows would work together in a group of 5 or 6. They’re quite young for teamwork as adults understand it. One group worked together to make one animal (helped by an adult), one group sort of did, and one group split into pairs and individuals doing their own thing. Good to know for future reference.

After all that working together, they needed running around time! So we played a quick and energetic game of traffic lights which left everyone so exhausted they needed a lie down!

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Groundhog Day

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Continuing with our festivals theme, last week the Rainbows learned about Groundhog Day.

Whenever I hear those words, I remember a Guide camp I went to a few years ago. I shared a tent with one of the cooks, and every morning when we woke up the first thing she’d say was “It’s like blooming Groundhog Day” (or words to that effect). Same thing every day!

Anyway, I don’t think any of my Rainbows had heard of it before – no reason why they would have – but they were interested to look at a picture of a groundhog I’d printed off. It occurred to me it would be even better to have a cuddly groundhog . I think I need one as part of my guider stash.

We played the game where the Rainbows run around (“groundhogs playtime”), then crouch down on the floor and close their eyes (“groundhogs go to bed”) and a leader covers one with a blanket, then the others get up (“groundhogs wake up”) and have to guess who’s hidden. They only needed one hint, for one of our newest Rainbows.

Then we made these pop-up groundhogs. The Rainbow Roundabout pack suggests using paper/plastic cups and lolly sticks, but we used big yogurt pots and drinking straws because I have lots of them at home. It’s a relief to have a bit more space in my hoarding cupboard.

The one in the picture is mine, but the Rainbows’ ones were much more colourful, of course. Actually, one girl made such a neat and tidy groundhog that I picked it up at the end thinking it was mine. She had to tell me twice that she couldn’t find hers before I realised I was holding it – whoops!

What was really nice was I posted this picture on a Rainbow leaders’ Facebook group and got not only some replies from other leaders who were doing this/had done it, but also a comment from the lady who put them into the Rainbow Roundabout. She said she got the idea from a Sparks group (Canadian version of Rainbows) and had used it many times over the years. It’s lovely to hear where these things come from. Thanks, Angela!

When everyone was finished we sang a song. It’s possibly meant to go to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot, but it ended up more like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hey, whatever fits.

Wake up little groundhog, it’s time to rise, [pop groundhog up]
Time to wake up and open your eyes.
If you see your shadow, down you pop [pop groundhog down]
For six more weeks till winter stops.

On a different note, I learned a lesson this week: always check the toilets after the meeting. The week before, some Rainbows had made a mess (not deliberately, just because they’re little and can’t reach everything easily), and the Brownie leaders who meet after us had to clean it up. Oh dear. I should have been checking already, but I’ll remember in future.