Tag Archives: themes

Division leaders’ sleepover…and they all lived happily ever after

I recently went to a division night away for adults and Young Leaders.  Our Division Commissioner (who is also my Unit Leader), wanted us to get to know each other, have fun and pick up some new ideas to use in our units.  We stayed at a local hostel, so it was easy for people to come and go if they couldn’t stay the whole time, and were there from Saturday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime so it didn’t take up the entire weekend.

Great view from the grounds.

Unit Leader enlisted people from our district to help run the weekend, and in a glorious mini-rerun of summer camp, Co-Activity Leader and I ran most of the activities.  We decided (I can’t remember how, but it was late on the last night of camp) on a fairytale theme, hence the snazzy decorations.

Great inside, too.

As everyone arrived, they made paper crowns with their names on – more fun than name badges!  Some were  basic, and others very elaborate.  Later, to encourage crown-wearing, the QMs decided that they would only serve dinner to those wearing them.

We played the helium stick game as an icebreaker, first as a race between groups and then (with bamboo canes taped together) with all 30-odd people together.

Then we cooked lunch on trangias, very ably explained and supervised by Queen’s Guide Buddy.  We stirfried vegetables and chopped-up sausages, which was very tasty but we really mustn’t fry things on borrowed trangias again.  There will be burnt bits, and they will have to be laboriously scrubbed off.  Boiling all the way from now on.  For pudding, we made fruit kebabs and melted chocolate in bowls over hot water in the smaller trangia pan.

After lunch, we had a cup of tea and split into groups rotating around three activities:

  • a game like charades with teddies, getting the teddies to act out fairy tales.
  • planting a “magic bean” (a bulb from a mixed bag of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths) in a toilet roll tube, decorating it with a little rhyme instructing them to make a wish when planting it out.
  • a game hunting in the woods for words on sticky labels, which they then stuck onto fairy tales to fill in the gaps.  I ran this game and was quite pleased with it – might write another post about it.

Hunting for wordsAfter everyone had done these, we had a lovely cream tea.  By this stage, some of our newer leaders and Young Leaders had started to notice a feeling that those with more residential experience take for granted, that they were simply drifting from one meal to the next.

Did someone mention food?  Our next activity was building and decorating gingerbread houses.  I have a friend who, for the last 10 years or so, has hosted a gingerbread evening at Christmas: she provides the house pieces and cement (melted chocolate and icing) and the rest of us bring sweets and decorations to share.  It’s a highlight of my year, and I wanted to do something similar for the Guiders.  I had an epic baking session making over thirty sets of house pieces, and for a unit meeting I think I’d just use shop-bought biscuits, but it was worth it on this occasion to see the adults enjoying themselves and getting into the construction and decoration.  I have a theory that knowing that the gingerbread was home-made made them put more effort and care into putting them together.  Whatever the psychology, don’t they look good?

Such a creative bunch. There’s even a garage and a tasty-looking rubble heap!

Gradually as everyone finished, we tidied up, gave the tables a good wipe-down, and had a bit of free time before dinner.  Which was lasagne, delicious and very savoury: just what we needed after all that sweetness.

After dinner, we did some fairytale-themed “minute to win it” challenges, with teams of Rainbow Leaders, Brownie Leaders, Guide Leaders and “Others” competing against each other.  The challenges didn’t all go as expected and my point scoring wasn’t the most accurate in the world, but they had good competitive fun (and the Guide Leaders won, of course!).

That was the end of the organised fun for the day.  We sat on comfy chairs and nattered for a bit, and one of the leaders had brought a Christmassy colouring book – a few of us enjoyed sitting there colouring!  It was nice to do this without having to think about whether the Guides/Brownies were getting to sleep ok.

Likewise, in the morning, it was lovely not to be woken by early-rising Brownies or have to get up early to get the girls up and ready.  I woke up fifteen minutes before breakfast to the smell of eggy bread.  Love the lovely QMs.

After breakfast, Co-Activity Leader and I set out crafts, and everyone dabbled for about an hour and a half.  There were pipe cleaner teddies, decorating horseshoes, cross-stitch memento badges, frog princes, and spinning wool.

Just before home time, we all sat together and said our best bits and reflections.  Another leader and I were awarded our Going Away With certificates and badges, and four Young Leaders made their Promise.  We sang two versions of the Rainbow goodbye song, Brownie Bells, and three versions of Taps.  Most people left, and a few of us cleared up and left an hour later.

There were lots of things I liked about this event.  I enjoyed meeting people whom I didn’t know before, including a very new Leader in my district.  She said that she felt very welcomed, which is a relief.  I liked that it gave the Young Leaders a chance to mix with the adults and be treated as such (the age range was 14-85!).  I know it can be strange to make the transition to having an adult relationship with women who used to be your Rainbow, Brownie and Guide Leaders, and I hope this helps them along the way.  I really liked walking around listening to everyone’s conversations.  It seemed like every time I listened, people were getting to know each other, sharing what they were doing with their units, catching up on news, signing off training books, recruiting for next summer’s camp, throwing around ideas for future events, and having a giggle.  In short, bonding, which was what Division Commissioner wanted.  Not one to put off till tomorrow what she can do today, she’s already booked us in again this time next year.

Fairytale decor

Co-Activity Leader, who is a leader in the other Guide unit in my district and ran the activities on last summer’s camp with me, is wonderful for many reasons.  One is her ability to produce themed props and decorations at short notice.  I said “Please could you bring some fairytale decorations?”, and this happened:

WHV Court Hill weekend (8) - Copy WHV Court Hill weekend (7) WHV Court Hill weekend (6) WHV Court Hill weekend (5) WHV Court Hill weekend (4) - CopyCheck out that mirror!  That rose!  Those goblets, that beanstalk!  (I made the toadstools and another leader supplied the pumpkins.)  And I didn’t even get a photo of the bunting, or the magic cauldron, or Dick Whittington’s bundle on a stick, or the chintzy door hanging, or the wall of fairy lights.  As far as the candlesticks and fairy lights go, Co-Activity Leader proved that if you’re having a wedding, you should always buy decorations that can be re-used at guiding events.

Wild West camp: day 5

On Wednesday we called in the cavalry.  We like to have a themed wide game day on camp, and months ago QGB had the inspired idea of asking the Rangers to run it.

There were many advantages to this: they could be involved in camp even though they weren’t there for the whole week; they got some planning and leadership experience and it counted towards their Octants; it took the pressure of the leaders at camp to some extent; the Guides got some fresh faces leading them, as they were no doubt fed up of us by that stage in the week; and the Guides got to see the joys that await them if they move up to Rangers.

QGB gave the Rangers and their leaders an idea of what was needed, they planned it over a couple of meetings in the summer term, there was much exchange over email and Facebook about equipment, timings, who was coming, etc. etc.  Much was at the last minute when we were already on camp, so thank goodness for QGB having a clever phone that lets her use email.

Before the day’s activities began, we had another delicious breakfast – was it pancakes?  Or hash browns? – with two highlights.  Firstly, Unit Helper finally finished the leftover jelly from several days before, which she had been dutifully having with every meal.  Secondly, one of my favourite lines of the week: we were getting the Guides to complete the lyrics to campfire songs before they could go up to be served.  When we were down to just a few, I tried one from We Are the Red Men.

Me: We come home from far-off shores, greeted by our…?

Guide: ?

QGB: What’s a name for a Native American wife?

Guide: Er…the old dun cow?

Before activities started, the Guides made their bedding rolls as usual, but instead of stacking them on their gadgets, they put all their bedding rolls and bags in the big party tent, dismantled their gadgets, and took out their brailer pegs.  Although we had one more night, we decided to take the patrol tents down today, to give us more time to pack up the rest of camp the next day, and because there was a chance of rain the next day.  Oh, and here’s another favourite line.

QGB: When you’ve taken the brailers out and cleaned them, you stack them up in twos, crossing over each other.

Guide: Yeah, we know, you stack them in a hashtag.

Who says camping skills aren’t relevant to modern life?

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Three Rangers came to run the wide game, although more had helped with the preparations (I think we have about eight in total at the moment?).  They divided the Guides into two groups.  In the morning, half made Native American headdresses with feathers, beads and raffia (simple but went down well) and the other half played piñatas – wonderful home-made papier-mâché cow piñatas that it was sort of a shame to smash into smithereens – and then a Wild West version of the game I call “mafia” or “werewolves”: the one where a narrator tells people when to go to sleep and wake up and some people are murderers and the others have to try to work out who it is.  The Guides loved it – they’re just at the stage where Wink Murder is no longer quite as exciting as it used to be, and this is the cool teenage next step up.

Summer camp 2014 (68)

The pinatas before…

...during...

…during…

...and after.

…and after.

We had squash and cake, the groups swapped, and then it was lunchtime.  Lunch was one of QGB’s favourite activities: cooking on trangias.  She led assembling-and-dismantling-your-trangia relay races, then the Guides fried sausages, heated sweetcorn, and mixed Angel Delight for pudding.  Yum!  This was followed by a long washing up time to get all the burnt bits off the trangias.

Summer camp 2014 (88)

In the afternoon, the wide game continued.  Again, we really appreciated having the Rangers there to run it, as it meant that some of the leaders could take down the patrol tents, and others (including me) could finish scrubbing the trangias and reunite all the parts, and fill up water balloons for later.  I felt a bit strange not seeing so much of the girls that day, but that must be what the QMs and QGB felt like all week.

In the wide game, one group of Guides went into the woods and made shelters out of groundsheets and string, and the other group did initiative exercises, passing each other through a spider’s web and lassoing a cow-shaped laundry basket (this was the “nuclear waste” challenge where you’re not allowed inside the enclosure and you have to get it out by throwing ropes around it, pulling tight and lifting as a team).  The teams swapped activities, and then they had a water fight (yes, the second of the week) with the shelters they’d made.  Each group had to get inside their shelter and they were given an equal number of water balloons.  The Rangers released one group at a time to go to the other shelters and pelt them with water balloons.  It was quite clever, because they had to decide how many balloons they would take to throw at other groups, and how many they would keep to throw in retaliation when they were under attack.  A whistle helped with keeping order, and at the end, Co-Activity Leader and I were there to make sure no group left the area until all the shelters were dismantled and all the bits of balloon were picked up.

    There are Guides in there somewhere.

There are Guides in there somewhere.

Then it was time for squash and cake and getting dry, and everyone said a big thank you to the Rangers.  They did us a great favour, did a super job, and I think learned a bit about planning and running activities.

The Guides had some time to do final practising for the evening cabaret, then it was dinner (er…something tasty…I’m writing this several weeks after camp and the details are getting hazy) and time for the evening entertainment.  It was good fun, and featured:

  • a “fashion show” – the Senior Section patrol dressed up one of the QMs, who was a very good sport, in a ridiculous outfit involving a swimsuit and a tutu, and paraded her for all to see
  • a cowgirl-themed play
  • First Aider’s five-year-old singing “ten fat sausages sizzling in the pan, one went pop and the other went bang, eight fat sausages etc.”, holding a frying pan with modelling balloons and popping them with his fork.  We all sang along and it was adorable.
  • The yoga class skit, where Guides sit on top of other Guides who are lying down, so that it looks like they have super-flexible legs
  • A medley of songs, with the lyrics changed to be camp-relevant.  Although it was upbeat, we leaders found it quite moving, as it was full of the guiding spirit and made us proud.  We captured it on video the next day.
  • The leaders’ act.  We jokingly complain about the plays that the Guides make up, because they’re often purposeless, improvised, too long, and hilarious only to the performers…and ours that night was all of those things!  We started off singing Three wheels on my wagon, carrying a box back and forth, and dropping pan lids as the wheels fell off, and then we sang a hastily-written song about camp duties to the tune of We Are the Red Men (“Pow wow, pow wow, can you come for your duties now?” etc.).  The Guides gamely laughed (probably at us) and clapped (probably with relief).  All part of the fun!

Since we had packed up the patrol tents, most of the Guides slept in the tipi, with a few choosing to sleep under the stars (and under lots of layers of blankets and groundsheets).  We tucked everyone in and said goodnight, and then the leaders had a session signing off as much as possible in QGB’s residential qualification book and discussing our favourite parts of camp, and things we would change.  I was pleased when one of the QMs said she was impressed by the variety of evening activities.  We made a valiant effort to finish all the snacks and “leader juice” we’d brought, but eventually had to admit defeat and go to bed.

Coming up with a theme

I love a good holiday theme.  I’m sure you don’t need telling this, but a theme draws a holiday together and gives you ideas.  It’s great fun when the leaders and girls really go with it, and it leads you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.  It can also make a holiday more memorable, especially if you go to the same venue a lot.

When I wrote the post totting up my nights away with guiding, it brought back happy memories of the themes we used.  One thing it got me thinking about was where the ideas came from.  This of course isn’t a definitive guide; just a few of my stories!

Ask the girls

I’ve got to put this first: guiding is girl-led and what better way to find a theme they’ll like than to ask them to choose?

Sometimes it might be completely random.  A few years ago, Unit Leader was chatting to a few Guides in a meeting and asked them what they thought the next camp theme should be.  One blurted out “Grease” and we liked the idea so much that Grease it was.

For a district Brownie holiday, the leader in charge chose three options (and included activity ides) and asked each unit to vote for their favourite.  That was interesting, as the winner (Ancient Egypt) was the random wildcard that the leader threw in without expecting it to be popular.  Which just proves that we can’t always predict what girls will like; we have to ask them!

Here are some other places where my groups have found ideas:

Location

Does the place where you’re staying remind you of anything?  One pack holiday was in a wood, so we chose a Robin Hood theme (Winnie-the-Pooh would be another option).  This summer, my Guides are camping next to a building with a wooden porch that reminds us of a cowboy town, so we decided to have a Wild West theme.  The most tenuously-linked theme I’ve done was a weekend camp in a leader’s back garden.  Unit Leader mentioned beforehand that the staircase in the house reminded her of the one in The Sound of Music, and based on that we made that the theme.  None of the Guides (or I!) ever went inside the house to actually see the staircase, but it was a fun weekend.

Current events

Is there a memorable event going on while you’re away?  Examples: the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Girlguiding’s Centenary.

Badges

Are the girls keen to gain an interest badge or challenge badge?  A holiday gives you the chance to spend quality time on it and do bigger/longer activities that you can’t do in normal meetings.  And everyone gets an extra badge as a souvenir!  I’ve done the Circus Skills badge on holidays with Brownies and Guides.

It worked before…

Once we had a weekend Guide camp where most of the planning was done in the summer holidays and we left it quite late to choose a theme.  Unit Guider had recently helped at an Alice in Wonderland-themed pack holiday so she had plenty of fresh ideas (and a costume) from that.  We thought the Guides would enjoy it as much as the Brownies, so Alice it was, and very good it was too.

Where have you got your themes from?

Pack holiday planning

Last year on a First Response course, I met an old friend from school and Brownies who had returned to the area. She was doing guiding not far from where I live (my Guides are in a different town), so I offered my services if she needed an extra pair of hands occasionally.

This year, she invited me to a Brownie holiday (with Rainbow sleepover on the last night) as they needed extra leaders. I said yes, and a couple of weeks ago I went along to their planning meeting.

The holiday is in August, finishing the day before my Guides’ camp starts – yay for the quick turnaround! – and is in the same place!

It was nice to meet leaders I’d only had email contact with before. They were very welcoming and it sounds like their units are great fun. We talked about the usual things – programme, food, roles, sleeping arrangements etc. – and I chipped in a few activity ideas which I think were well received. I’m quite excited about going away with them, and about the theme, which is “Down on the farm”. In fact, I’m stealing a few ideas for my Guides’ wild west-themed camp, as there’s a bit of overlap in terms of horses and cows.