Tag Archives: teamwork

Chinese New Year

CNY (2)

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:

CNY (1)

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):

CNY (3)

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!

CNY (4)


Marathon Challenge 2014

Back in November, I helped at an incident hike run by my old university Scout and Guide Club.

For those interested in incident hikes, I highly recommend Marathon.  I am of course biased, and I’ve never been to any other incident hikes (oh, apart from the Malvern Challenge, now I come to think of it), but every year it’s well-run and well-attended.  It’s open to Scouting and Guiding teams aged 14+, including adults.  Essentially, teams are given grid references for 26 checkpoints (hence the name “Marathon”) and have 9 hours to visit as many as they wish, to win as many points as they can.

It’s a bit strategic: if a team doesn’t plan to visit all the checkpoints (which would usually mean walking about 25-30 miles), they have to decide whether to go for ones that are closer to HQ but worth fewer points, or ones that are further away and worth more points.  There are also four manned checkpoints, where they can do an activity to win more points, scored for teamwork as well as completion of the challenge.

It takes a lot of volunteers to run an event like this: helpers are needed to brief and debrief the teams at HQ, monitor the radios, keep track of scores, man the checkpoints, drive minibuses and cars, and cook dinner for everyone.  I didn’t realise it when I was a student, but seeing it now, it really is a huge achievement for students who you might expect not to have the time, resources or experience to run a complex large-scale event.  (Gratuitous plug: they run another hike in spring for 10-14-year-olds.)  Having co-ordinated it myself a few years ago, I know all too well how much they rely on alumni (aka “fogies”) coming back to help and pass on the dubious benefit of their wisdom (and their cars), so I try to go back as much as I can.

This year I was based on a checkpoint, along with a couple of other fogies whom I already knew, and an amicable first year whom I hope we didn’t frighten too much.  Our task was to set ourselves up in the designated place, wait for teams, and offer them water refills, hot drinks, and the chance to do a challenge.  When there were no teams (i.e. most of the day: on average we got a couple of teams every hour) we sat, chatted, cooked on a stove, and generally entertained ourselves.  I always find it very peaceful to spend the day resting in the outdoors and knowing you don’t need to be doing anything else.  When I was a student, I really appreciated it as a calm interlude in the middle of an intense term, and a chance to break out of the city bubble into the “real world” and see some of the local countryside.

We were lucky to have dry, relatively mild weather.  We were given a tent, but decided not to put it up, since we weren’t likely to need shelter and it would just be a pain to take down at the end of the day when we were tired.

The challenge at our checkpoint was “sheep herding”.  Everyone in the team was blindfold, except for one member who had to guide them through a course using only a whistle.  As fast as possible.


We set up the course with ropes tied round trees – it included a hairpin bend, a slalom around logs, and a tight passage between some bushes.  When it got dark, we put glowsticks on the ropes to help the sheepdogs.


It was interesting to see the different teams’ techniques.  They tended to either work out a complex signalling system (“one whistle blast for left, two for right, three for stop, four for duck…”) or go for a simple “follow the sound” approach.  Both approaches worked well for some teams and less well for others.  I winced at times, when the sheepdog herded his or her teammates into the logs, through branches, or into a complete U-turn!


Altogether it was a most enjoyable day – everything seemed to run smoothly as usual, with no disasters for helpers or teams, which as I recall is the main objective.



Out-and-about challenges

This week’s meeting came from the feeling that it had been a while since our Guides had done any traditional-and-useful outdoor skills like maps, compasses and knots.  Based on a meeting we did a couple of years ago (when I wasn’t around), we leaders discussed a few ideas then agreed to go our separate ways and each turn up with instructions for 2-3 activities could be put in envelopes for the patrols to grab and complete.

Luckily, thanks to Guider-telepathy, there was no duplication of tasks!  We did end up doing as much inside as outside, despite billing this week as “out-and-about challenges”, which some of the Guides noticed and commented on.  Never mind: next week will be very much outside.

1. Rope ladders

Using string and pencils, the Guides had to make a rope ladder with at least 6 rungs, fastened with clove hitches, and hang it up somewhere.  I was envisioning a traditional ladder like this:

Rope ladder 1

But some patrols went for the cheating (or at least less stable) version:

Rope Ladders 2

2. Grid references

A tricky one to gauge, as the oldest Guides have done 6-figure grid references ad nauseam at school, while the youngest ones haven’t come across them yet.  As a compromise, we did 4-figure grid references.  The Guides got a “quick guide” sheet based on this Ordnance Survey page, a photocopy of the Landranger map of our local area, and a list of 4-figure grid references.  They had to colour those squares in on the map and work out what word they spelled.  (It was “HI!”)

3. Compass co-ordinates

“Direct a blindfolded member of your patrol to step out the patterns listed below.  Use the compass to work out which direction to tell her to step in.  Draw the shape she walks out onto a piece of scrap paper as evidence.”

Shape 1: 3 steps west, 2 north, 1 east, 5 south, 2 east, 2 north (rectangle with a square in the corner)

Shape 2: 2 steps south east, 2 east, 2 south west, 2 south east, 2 west, 2 south west, 2 north west, 2 west, 2 north east (star)

4. Friendship knot swaps

Vaguely related to knot-tying, the Guides had to tie a friendship knot with ribbon using these instructions, stick it onto a luggage label, and swap it with a friend.  It seems I wasn’t clear enough, as some patrols made one between them, while others made one each.  It also gets them familiar with the knot before we tie them in our neckers on camp.

Friendship knot luggage label swap

5. Guide Law

This was prepared by Queen’s Guide Buddy, who is on a long-running mission to familiarise the Guides with the law.  It’s not the easiest thing to remember, even for leaders, but frequent revisiting helps.  The Guides got an envelope with all the words of the law chopped up, and they had to put them in the right order.  Each law was in a different colour – it would have been cruelty otherwise.

Guide Law word sort

6. Scout’s pace

Unit Leader explained Scouts Pace to the patrol (walk for 15 paces, run for 15 paces – or a different number if preferred – to move quickly without getting too tired) and timed them while they went around the block, about 5 minutes for most groups.  I’d love to know if they kept it up diligently the whole way round or if they just legged it as soon as they were out of sight!

One leader kept a tick list of who had done which challenge.

It was interesting to watch how the patrols worked, as the dynamics have shifted quite a lot since last term.  We’ve had a lot of new 10- and 11-year olds since Easter (8 of them!), several Guides have left, and a group of friends who used to be inseparable are now amicably splitting into two smaller groups.  It feels like everyone is still finding out how they fit into the new setup.  I noticed proudly that the older patrols were pretty good on their teamwork, getting everyone involved on different tasks.  The younger patrols needed help with this, but somehow still managed to be the first to finish everything…not sure how that happened, maybe because they got more help, or rushed more, or just spent less time chatting!

In other great news, we got a new leader this week, or rather an old leader returned.  She’d moved back to the area less than a week before – that’s how keen she was to come back to Guides.  Hurrah!