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Happy Burns Night!

Last week my Rainbows celebrated Burns Night (a bit early – the great man’s birthday is actually today).

We looked at a map of the UK and after a few wild guesses found Scotland and where we live. We spoke about how far away Scotland is from us. If we’d started driving right after Rainbows, we’d have reached the border around midnight.

Next, a game. I’d printed some pictures of typical Scottish things, and when Unit Helper held up a picture and I called out what it was, the Rainbows had to do an action, as follows.

  • Loch Ness monster – pretend to swim and make splashing noises
  • Highland cow – go on hands and knees, and moo (one Rainbow was excited because she’d seen real highland cattle in Scotland. I have too, so I could agree with her that it’s exciting)
  • Highland dancing – do a dance
  • Bagpipes – pretend to play bagpipes and sing a little tune
  • Porridge – pretend to eat porridge and say “yum yum”
  • Highland games – pretend to toss a caber

When we felt thoroughly immersed in these fine points of Scottish culture, we made tartan bagpipes by sticking strips of paper on a coloured circle, then sticking that on a colouring sheet I made (click to download it). I’d brought a plaid shirt to demonstrate what tartan was, but I had an even better example because one Rainbow deliberately came in a tartan skirt for the occasion!

bagpipe colouring

This was my demonstration. It’s very bland compared to what the Rainbows did.

While the Rainbows were sticking and colouring, our special guest arrived: a bagpipe player!

A couple of weeks earlier, when I was planning the term, I got in touch with some local pipers and pipe bands on the offchance that anyone was willing to come and play for us for a few minutes free of charge. I got a few very sweet replies saying no, sorry, it’s a busy time of year and they were booked elsewhere. Then I got a yes, so it was well worth asking.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – we hadn’t had much contact other than me telling him the time and place – so I was delighted when in walked a man in full highland dress. The Rainbows were fascinated, and to be honest we adults weren’t far behind. The piper was lovely, and I think he was surprised the Rainbows were so small, so basically we were all in awe of each other.

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We sat down 15 minutes before the end, and he played us a few tunes. It was nice that some parents, Brownies and Brownie leaders were starting to arrive, so they came in and listened too. Well, it was hard not to listen. We meet in quite a big hall so it wasn’t deafening, but a few Rainbows were happier with their hands over their ears. He told us a bit about his pipes, answered some questions, and then it was time for thank yous (we’d made him a card) and goodbyes.

On the way out we gave the Rainbows a taster of shortbread, oatcakes and Edinburgh rock. The Brownies and Guides who meet after us were having haggis, but I wasn’t that brave!


Wild West camp: day 2

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Sunday dawned bright and cold, and the girls had a prompt 7am wake-up call, as they had adventurous activities booked for 9:30am.  We had breakfast (the cooked element was porridge, yum!), made bedding rolls, packed daysacks, and the Guides were, impressively, ready to leave at 9:15am.

The Scout site were were staying at offers a lot of instructor-led activities.  Our budget allowed for each girl to have 3 sessions.  This morning , half did archery and the other half went on the 3G swing (two people are harnessed into a seat, the rest of the group pulls a rope to winch them up really high, and then…they swing).  They returned for the campsite for squash and cake, then my co-activity-leader introduced them to the camp challenge booklet she’d made (it’s wonderful – I have a feeling she’ll be asked to do all future ones), and the time before lunch was spent getting tents ready for inspection, having inspection, and starting the booklet.

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The plan was to put up the name of everyone who completed the challenges in the booklet up on the wall of fame (a groundsheet with “wall of fame” painted on it, first used at region camp last summer), but no one finished it in the end.  I saw some people working on it, but possibly the Guides didn’t have enough free time to do it justice.  Or maybe the wall of fame just wasn’t enough incentive!

Lunch was a tasty ploughman’s with…maybe jelly and ice cream?  We definitely had jelly at some point that day.  QGB’s assessor came for lunch, a leader from another District in our Division whom most of us know.  Apparently – and unsurprisingly – she was very impressed.

After lunch, the girls had a bit of time to mooch and roam to the shop, before another adventurous activity.  The groups swapped over for archery and the 3G swing.  I watched both for a bit – the swing looked terrifyingly fun, and although archery wasn’t new to most girls, I liked that everyone had plenty of turns to try to improve, rather than just two or three experimental goes as sometimes happens, and that the instructor upped the game halfway through by doubling the shooting distance.

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After another squash and cake break (with every Guide bringing a cake, we had to eat a daily quotient to get through them all), we started the Hobby Horse Challenge.

Co-activity-leader and I had decided early on that we should make hobby horses, and we’d also decided that, rather than just giving the components to the Guides, they should do a challenge to earn each piece, like a mini-wide game.  We had some ambitious challenges up, but in the end we abbreviated them, as there just wasn’t time for everything.  I was both disappointed and relieved not to attempt to lead the Guides in milking PVA glue out of rubber gloves (the cow theme, innit)!

To earn the broom handle for the horse, the Guides had to make a fire and make smoke signals: two puffs per person.  We took them to a campfire circle and each tent group built a fire.  When the fire was established, they put damp grass on the fire to make a lot of smoke, then used a square of damp thick fabric to cover the fire, remove, and cover again, creating a puff of smoke.  None of the leaders had tried this before, let alone the Guides, but fortunately it worked and the fabric didn’t put the fires out or anything.

Once everyone had puffed and put their fires out, we did the next bit of the challenge, which was water pistol target shooting.  We hung three balloons from a stick (with water in them so they hung down) and one at a time, each Guide had to hit all three with a water pistol.  Then they were given the materials for their horse’s head.

At this point, the challenge broke down a bit because putting the horses’ heads together took so long.  They were made from two large bits of foam underlay (Co-Activity Leader happened to have loads left over from decorating: win.  The fact that it was turquoise made the horses even better), stapled together around the edge and turned inside out, with two small foam ears poking through and stapled in place.

Some finished horses, chilling in the corral.

Some finished horses, chilling in the corral.

We started putting the heads together outside, then moved into the tipi as it was more contained and less windy.  While some Guides stapled, others made eyes out of paper, post-it notes and googly eyes.  Co-Activity Leader (the mastermind behind the horse heads) was here, there and everywhere answering cries of “what do I do next?”.  Meanwhile, I took a few Guides at a time outside to do a wool trail (winding up a long piece of wool that had been wrapped around trees) to find nosebags for their horses (=sandwich bags) containing strips of fabric for the reins.

The horses were still in progress at dinner time, so we pushed the heads to the side of the tipi, tidied up the craft things, and left them for another day: the beauty of having lots of group space.  All those horse heads, some with eyes, some without, did made it look like the site of some bizarre sacrifice…

Sunday dinner was memorable, as it was delicious roast pork/nut roast with veg, roast potatoes, apple sauce, gravy, the works.  QGB sent a photo to our Region and County Facebook pages, where there was much praise for our QMs.

After dinner, we played some games “in the dark” – it was a clear evening and took a while to actually get dark – including one that I improvised based on a game I used to play when I was a Brownie.  Each patrol had to take off their shoes, lie down and pretend to be sleep.  When the leaders shouted “the bandits are coming” and banged on a dustbin lid, the patrols had to wake up, put on their shoes, hold on to each other in a conga line, run around a big circle, and race to be the first patrol back to where they started.  It took a lot longer to explain than it should have done – the Guides had listened to a lot of instructions over the day and were losing capacity by that stage – but once they got it, it was very entertaining and we played twice.

When it was properly dark, we had a glowstick quiz.  We hung 20 jam jars in the trees with glowsticks inside, and a question stuck to them.  Each patrol was given a bundle of post-it notes (a different colour for each patrol) with the answers written on them, and they had to decide which answer went with each question, and put the answer in the jar.  Again, their attention spans were seriously flagging as I explained what to do, but once they understood, they got on with it and worked well in their groups.

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The questions were assorted facts about Native Americans.  I found it very educational putting the quiz together – it’s not a topic I know much about or studied at school.  Download the questions, answers, and extra facts.

As each patrol finished, we sent them back for hot chocolate, followed by an earlier night than the first one!  Co-Activity Leader and I collected the jars, and we counted up the correct answers and went through them with the Guides at breakfast the next day.

Wild West camp: day 1

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Having loaded up vehicles the night before, the leaders, plus helpful family members, arrived on site at 9am to unload and start setting up.  We had to miss our planned tea break and sit-down, but by the time the Guides arrived at 11:30 we were ready to welcome them.

As the girls arrived, they handed in health forms and home-made (well, almost all home-made) cakes, left their bags in the party tent, collected name badges, and joined me and another leader for games (mainly monkey football, fruit salad, and stuck in the mud).  We played for about half an hour, and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone got into it, because when we did the same at our last camp, it was a bit awkward and lifeless.  Not so here: phew.

Queen’s Guide Buddy, when she was ready and happy with the arrival paperwork, took the Guides on a tour of the site (toilets, shop, bins, out-of-bounds areas etc.), and then we sat down to eat our packed lunches.  This introduced those not familiar with it to our standard camp mealtime routine.  We sit in a circle with leaders on camping chairs and Guides/Senior Section on sitters, with the patch of grass in the middle becoming the “table”, which no one is allowed to walk across.  The patrol on hostess duty lays out the sitters and chairs, makes a table decoration, lays out the grace sheets (QGB had made some new ones, laminated, with a selection of secular and God-mentioning graces on one side, and the words of the Promise on the other side), and chooses a grace to sing.  When there is food to serve, we send a few Guides at a time up to a table where the leaders and Senior Section serve them, observing a one-way system.  After the meal, each patrol does their own washing up, and sometimes a share of the leaders’ and kitchen washing up, in a bowl on a stand.

Anyway, during this lunch, QGB said a proper welcome and went through roles, rules, explanations, and so forth.  Afterwards, we got on with the fun.

All the Guides started off painting totem poles: each tent group had a long carpet roll tube (begged from a local carpet shop), and used acrylic paints (8 200ml bottles in a selection of colours was about right for 6 totem poles, though the Guides used up the bright colours before we leaders made our pole, so ours was mostly brown and grey!).  They got really into it, and it was a good way to encourage tent team spirit.

Meanwhile, I called out a tent at a time to tie dye their neckers.  We knew we’d need camp neckers for our excursion later in the week, and QGB thought that if everyone decorated their own, they’d be more positive about them than about our usual old neckers.  So I cut up a bedsheet into 34 triangles and she hemmed it (an experience she doesn’t want to repeat), and the Guides tied elastic bands round them and left them in a tub of blue dye.  It was nice sitting around with each tent, chatting with them as they twisted rubber bands.

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Meanwhile again, other leaders called out a tent at a time to pitch their tents.  They were very efficient: every time I looked, another tent had gone up.

After a squash and cake break (a staple of camp), we had originally planned to start another activity, but it looked like everyone would be happy to have more time for painting and pitching and settling into their tents, so we let them carry on and taught them how to make gadgets, and postponed the activity to another day, rather than rushing it.

Before dinner, everyone put their beds down, and we all sat in the tipi and introduced our teddies (an idea I’d stolen from pack holiday a few days earlier).  I wish I could remember what meals we ate each day, but most of them have blurred together in general tastiness.  I know that on the first night both the main course and the pudding were things that our QMs had prepared at home and warmed up in the camp kitchen…maybe casserole and apple crumble?  Delicious, whatever it was.

Our evening entertainment was line dancing!  First the Guides put on boots/wellies/cowboy hats if they had them, then they made spurs* in what I like to call a flash-mob craft because it was fairly speedy.  Once everyone was spurred, our chief QM, who does line dancing, taught us all a few dances.  Everyone picked the first two up, and I saw some Guides doing them by themselves later in the week; the third was more rhythmically complicated and not many people got it, but it was all good fun.

Then it was time for hot chocolate and a biscuit (another camp staple) and bed.  One of my favourite quotes of the week came when QGB was explaining the bedtime routine.

QGB: You’ll need to hammer in all your brailers and tuck the sodcloth under your groundsheets, because you don’t want to wake up soggy.

Guide: Who’s Soggy?

We hoped the dancing might help the Guides to get to sleep at a reasonable time, and it sort of worked: I think the last time we had to speak to a tent was 11:30pm.  The leaders turned in somewhat later!

* How do you make them, I hear you ask.  Cut out card from this Welly spur template, cover the star in silver foil (or metallic pens, or use metallic card), punch holes through the shaded circles, cut along the dotted line to make two “legs”, bend one leg forward and the other back, sit them on the back of your ankle so that the legs wrap around your ankle and the star sticks out at the back, and tie elastic between the two holes.

The finished totem poles

The finished totem poles

How to make a rain stick

Home made rain shaker stick

Here’s another craft from camp. The picture doesn’t do justice to the pleasant rattling sound it makes.

My original plan was to poke cocktail sticks into the cardboard tube, but that would have left pointy bits at the sides.  I see from various online instructions that you can poke nails or tacks into the tube…but internal silver foil was the easiest and cheapest material to obtain, so it won.

I asked all the leaders to collect and bring along cardboard tubes, and we had a mixture of kitchen roll inners, silver foil inners, and the tubes that glowsticks come in – it sounded like a monsoon when they were all rattling at once!

Download a rain stick instruction sheet – feel free to use it in a legal and non-profit way 🙂

I returned from camp yesterday, so no doubt posts about how it went will follow soon!

How to make a dream catcher

A home-made dream catcher

This is one of the crafts we’ll be doing on camp round about now.

Our dream catchers are thicker than the average, because they’re made from the inner tubes of the barcode sticker rolls I use at work.  I’ve been saving them for a year, knowing that they’d come in handy for something guiding-related.  It’s so nice to be proved right.

Download a dream catcher instruction sheet – feel free to use for your own legal and non-profit purposes 🙂

Brownie hat templates

At my division’s Big Brownie Birthday tea party a couple of weeks ago, one of the finishing touches was card cutouts of Brownie hats through the ages, on sticks, for people to pose with.  We managed to get a photo of the town mayor “wearing” the classic woolly hat.

Here are the templates to download, should you ever need a picture of a Brownie hat.  We printed them straight onto yellow and brown card and taped them to garden canes, but you can do what you like with them!

Brown pork pie hat with buttons 1917-1936 templateBrown wool beret 1950-1973 templateKnitted brown bobble hat 1973-1990 templateJeff Banks yellow baseball cap 1990-2002 template