Brownies: Working in Sixes – Bin Bag Fashion

An important part of the Brownie programme is working in small groups known as Sixes. Our Sixes are named after mythical creatures and each is led by a Sixer and a Second. The Sixes work together on group activities, help each other, and learn how to act as a team together. When a new girl joins our unit she is placed in a Six taking into consideration her age (we like to keep a mixture of ages) and keeping her away from best friends, sisters or cousins. Without the influence of girls she knows well the Brownies can be themselves, meet girls of different ages and make new friends too. Last night’s meeting was the perfect example of Sixes working together:

We took a break from the World Cultures badge to have a fun, team building meeting. The previous week we asked a couple of girls to plan the evening from the Brownie Adventure files and they chose a celebrity theme. They asked to try the pop star alphabet, famous faces quiz and bin bag fashion. (They also wanted us to invite a celebrity but with only a week to plan that was a no. Had I had more time I could’ve bought some one direction masks!)

So as the girls arrived they headed to their Six corners to start work on the pop star alphabet. In short, write a-z on a piece of paper and name a singer, pop band or musician for each letter. The Sixes discussed the music they knew and more ideas came along as each girl arrived at the meeting. Some girls got stuck and started naming anyone they could thinking of – Alan Titchmatch! – and as well as One Direction, Little Mix and Katy Perry we had Abba and The Beatles too.

Next the girls tried the famous faces quiz. I’d spent a little time cutting out Brownie uniforms from the uniform catalogues and famous faces and merging the two to make a collage of famous Brownies. The likes of Rebecca Adlington, Andy Murray and David Cameron were dressed up. My favourite was Prince George as a Rainbow. The only face that no one could guess was Clyde, the Commonwealth Games Mascot.

We then moved onto the main event of the evening. Bin Bag fashion! The Sixes were briefed of their task, using bin bags, newspaper and selotape they must create a fashion masterpiece with accessories included. I always think an activity must be good when the Guides are just as excited to start helping as the Brownies are to start creating. The girls were given 40 minutes, during which time we marked their quizzes and looked on at their genius ideas. Here are the results:

bin bags

(The photo just cannot do them justice!)

On the first outfit I liked the full length black dress made from two bags taped together with a newspaper belt. They also worked hard on a large newspaper hairclip but couldn’t get it to stay in.

The second outfit was very creative with the one shoulder look and plenty of newspaper accessories including a crown, handbag, bracelet and necklace.

The third outfit was very practical. The newspaper tote bag was filled with newspaper to bulge it out and the fitted shoes has some lovely bows on top.

At the end of the evening the models paraded around the circle. When I said they could take it all off now they decided not to! They wanted to go home like it!

The Sixes worked together by assigning different jobs to each member. One had to be the model, one focused on cutting the dress, another may have been making shoes while another made a bag. All their ideas came together and they discussed the best ones to go with. The Sixers took a leading role in directing the other girls in their Six, whenever a Brownie would come up to me with a suggestion I would take it up with her Sixer and they decided together. At the end of the task I got each Six together for a photo as I ask them to they all squeeze in together and cheer ‘BROWNIES’ and I feel it helps cement the bond they have created during their task together.



Grease Sing a Long

For a belated Christmas get together some colleagues and I visited a local theatre to watch and participate in a Grease Sing a Long. At £15.50 it was an expensive cinema trip but had the added bonus of an interactive sing along, including a goodie bag of items to help share in the experience.

Dressing up was highly encouraged so I spent a part of Friday perfecting my outfit. I did not want to buy anything new so went for a coral dress, not quite long enough for 50s, and a black leather jacket. I tied my hair into a high ponytail, wore nude tights to match the summer setting and wore my converse with white ankle socks, which I was shocked to find I own! (The socks, not the converse, they are always on my feet.) Many of my colleagues wore similar outfits, pink ladies jackets, red wigs, 50s dresses and lots of leather jackets. Most people in the audience dressed up and it gave quite the community feel. Lots of children attended too.

On our way into the auditorium we were given a brown paper bag with a selection of random items. A tissue, some pretzels, a balloon, a party popper and a race flag. Before the film a warm up lady came on and asked members of the audience who were dressed up to take to the stage to show off their costumes. Sat near the back and without a specific character in mind we stayed seated. We then found out what our random items were for. Waving the tissue during ‘Hopelessly devoted’, starting of the race with the flag, and a party popper to end the film with a bang. My favourite though was the bag itself. During ‘Beauty School Dropout’ these were placed on our heads to represent the backing dancers. One was still on my colleagues head as we left the theatre due to the rain!

Disco lights indicated the songs they wanted everyone to get up and dance to. The song lyrics came on the screen for us to sing along to with added animations to enhance the songs. It was a real party and everyone was singing at the top of their lungs.

We all came away buzzing and determined to find another similar experience.  The company we saw this through were called singalonga and they run shows at all different theatres. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!

The misunderstandings of Girlguiding

As a former Brownie and Guide, and daughter of a Brownie leader my view on Girlguiding has never been distorted. That is why I find it hard to see what other people see. In the last couple of years I have had conversations with people that show me that there are some major misunderstandings when it comes to the charity. The only way to change these is by showing people what we really do. So where do these misunderstands come from?

New recruits

A friend of mine recently started volunteering with a Guide unit, neither of us realising our common interest for a full term. We had a catch up and I worried I would explode in Girlguiding information. However I found that even after being welcomed as a volunteer she still had a lot of questions. What is Senior Section? What is the difference between Scouts and Guides?

Those reading the media

I’ve gone into detail on how the media have on occasions got Girlguiding and Scouting wrong. My Dad used the article of the boy ‘banned from Scouts’ as another problem with Christianity. I explained my viewpoint as a Brownie leader and the fact that Girlguiding is not a Christian Organisation and his argument quickly moved onto other areas. But this proved my point that even a seasoned football fan who knows full well not to trust ‘what the papers say’ took misguided information from the media.

Little previous knowledge

One person I met with a very uninformed view on Brownies was a party leader at our local bowling alley. She asked me what Brownies was and I explained the sort of activities we do. She was surprised and had believed it was something that children and their parents did together. It is likely she had a friend who was a Brownie and her Mum was a leader and being her only experience gave her this impression.

Influence from other cultures

Some American TV Sitcoms show Girl Scouts and these run differently from UK units. The Girl Scout units I’ve had correspondence with run as smaller groups. With as few as 5 girls their leader is often one of the girls parents and they meet in one of their houses. All the girls move up through Sparks, Brownies, Juniors, together and stay with the same group of girls. Perhaps this view is also where the bowling alley girl got her idea from.

But I hold nothing against this girl or anyone who doesn’t understand what we do, why should they research who we are? What does annoy me though is misinformed information being stated as fact and with comments on newspaper articles peoples opinions are much easier to come by.

The following are common comments made against Girlguiding;

Not allowing boys into Guides is discriminatory.

The aim of guiding is to help girls and young women develop emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, so that they can make a positive contribution to their community and the wider world, as stated in the Royal Charter. One of the ways we do this is by giving the children a girl only space to allow them to grow without the pressures of having boys around. I completely agree that boys should have the option of a boy only space too and am gutted this is no longer an option in Scouts.

Girlguiding is still a charity and people give their time and money to help the development of girls and young women. Anyone has the option to give their time and money to any charity and if you do not agree with the cause then please choose another to support. Girlguiding is not the only charity that focuses its resources on women.

Girls are now in scouts because its more exciting, you actually go out and do things.

I’ll admit, I’m sure there are units that don’t spend as much time as they could be outdoors, trying adventurous activities, games amongst the trees and learning fun skills, but don’t go pretending no units put the effort in. I actually get offended by this. If a unit is run correctly the girls have their input and choose what they want to do.

When parents have this problem with their own child’s unit you want to know what to do? Organise something! The leaders may be exhausted and in need of some help! A few years ago we had a parent complain of the lack of trips her daughter had through our unit, this was put to our District commissioner who pointed out we were volunteers and if she had anything she would like to contribute she was more than welcome.  What the parents were not aware of was that my Grandmother was very ill and my Mum and I could not attend meetings let alone organise trips. This fell to our other leader who also had to look after her Mother so it was a difficult time for all of us. Had this Brownie Mum come to us and had a chat we would’ve asked if she could lead something, but this never came about. We got through it and within weeks had a scavenger hunt in the park and a day trip in London.

If you think your daughter’s Brownie unit isn’t a suitable fit then try another if there is space, speak to the District commissioner and give your input. The leaders are volunteers at the end of it all and each gives as much time as they can to make it an adventure for girls.

The Guides is very much outdated.

Learning first aid is outdated. Being active in your community in outdated. Learning about other cultures that are becoming more custom in our country is outdated.

I think this sort of comment comes from someone who was involved in the charity in the nineties. At this time badges still included Chess, Birdwatcher and Thrift. I loved these badges, I learned to play Chess, I got outdoors and looked for wildlife and I still use my thrifty skill today turning old t-shirts into cushion covers. Others at the time would have preferred the options available today, the hobbies badge covers any kind of hobby imaginable.

Some may not realise the changes that Girlguiding has been through. There is more focus on science badges, we are encouraged to go outdoors and be more active and most importantly we give girls the choice. How can it be outdated if the girls are choosing their activities?

I was kicked out of Brownies anyway.

The amount of people ‘kicked out of Brownies’ astounds me. I heard this in person from a colleague and was in shock. Why would you be so open to the fact you were a bully of a child? In no other circumstance do adults boast about being hurtful to other people. No child would ever be ‘kicked out of Brownies’ unless they were a physical or mental threat to the other children and there was no means to change her behaviour. In which case these would probably be the same kids expelled from school. I never hear the same people boast about that.

Sometimes I think these people are trying to prove a point. They were too cool for Brownies. They didn’t want to work hard on badges or didn’t have their uniform smart enough, and believe that you can be ‘kicked out of Brownies’ for those reasons.

In conclusion, don’t comment on what you don’t know.

Come and find out! Girlguiding is a vibrant, active, happy charity that was founded to help build girls’ and young women’s character and self-esteem. I’ve learnt so much from Girlguiding as an adult that the affect this charity has doesn’t just stay with the young members. You might just be surprised at what we get up to.

Celebrate! The Girlguiding way

I’m so very much excited for the coming Brownie year. I could burst with anticipation. This is worse than Christmas. I just want to do everything in our Brownie calendar now!

I have just returned home from a Girlguiding training day preparing volunteers for the activities of ‘Celebrate!’, the country’s largest Thinking Day event.


There are so many activities on offer that no one could get bored and everyone’s needs are catered for. Meet the animals at the petting farm, discover engineering with Rolls Royce, try pyrography, photography and Zumba. The science of bubbles and fingerprints, wear a sari, make some body scrub, paint henna designs on your friend and eat candy floss. Seriously this doesn’t even scratch the surface of activities on offer. Many are led by professionals bringing along their inflatable bungee and playbus but the rest are down to us and that is why we were called in for training.

We’ve discovered the six zones, tested out some volunteer led activities and put our names down for our favourites. I cannot wait to hear more and get my activity confirmed. Plus we are taking 10 Brownies on the second day too and I expect to see some shocked faces as they enter the giant arena that is Ally Pally.

And this is just one event on our 2014 calendar. So far we have a weekend Brownie Stay Away at a local scout campsite. The girls will try out adventurous activities they haven’t tried before. They will also plan their own birthday party to earn the Hostess badge and take part in a evening campfire.

This term the girls are earning their World Cultures badge. Activities will not be decided until next week but carnival masks, sushi and volleyball are all options. Plus they will earn their limited edition ‘100 years’ version of the badge. We’ll have an Agility badge test this term too.

Next term we will try the Big Brownie Birthday Challenge which puts the girls in charge of the term. (Though they already are.) Hopefully they will pick some exciting new challenges to face.

And we already have a trip to our local Pets at Home planned, the girls get to meet the animals and learn how to look after a pet. I’m also in discussion with Hobby Craft for some kind of decopatch session. I love getting the girls out into the community.

We need a unit day trip decided on for the summer and I’m hoping to keep costs below £12.00 including travel. Lots of London ideas, maybe a treasure hunt at Southend, but I’ll put this to the girls nearer the time.

I’m also considering a small scale sleepover in the early Autumn term to encourage younger Brownies. A cheaper, shorter, closer to home event to give girls the skills to cope with a weekend holiday. No on site activities so may have to fit two badges into the weekend. My original thoughts are:
Mad Scientists: Stargazer and Science Investigator badges
100 years of Brownies: Brownie Skills and Brownie Traditions
Brownies keep fit: Cook and Healthy Heart

It is our turn to host the Nativity this year so the girls need to get dramatic in the winter term. I’m considering a trip to our local theatre to go behind the scenes. We’ve already had thoughts on our production as we want it to show how amazing our year has been.

Argh I cannot wait for next Thursday to get this year started! And I hope many years like this are yet to follow.

5k+ Speed

Since I received my new running gear over Christmas I’ve had the urge to go on another run. Today was my first day back at work and with a short shift (9-4pm) I had it in mind all day that I’d head out for a run once I was home.

As I drove home I considered which podcast to listen to and had the sudden idea to try out the Couch to 5k+ Speed podcast. This is a shorter run but with intervals of increased speed. I like a new challenge.


This podcast uses AudioFuel – a system of using music with a certain number of beats per minute to give you a rhythm to run to. This doesn’t work for me. Partly I believe because I run faster than the podcast allows and partly because I cannot hit the right beat. I’m not very musical but I did spend a few years playing the drums so the beat isn’t usually a problem for me, but on this podcast it is.

I was okay with the 5 minute warm up but when the first 5 minute regular run began I quickly decided to just run my regular pace. It is difficult to run properly when ‘Laura’ counts one, two, three, four, rather slowly so I tried to ignore this.

After 5 minutes my first 1 minute interval of fast running arrived. I began by trying to keep with the podcasts pace but decided again to do my own thing and run as fast as I consistently could. This was followed by a minute regular run for a total of 6 intervals.

I’ll admit it, by the third interval I walked rather than ran when I slowed down for the recovery minute. Not for long but I needed it. This run was VERY reminiscent of the early days. I hadn’t done interval training since then and suddenly running is now a recovery! I loved thinking how times have changed.

I’ll do this podcast again. I want to run the whole thing without any sneaky walking breaks and I want to improve my speed. I’ll have to be patient as I was in weeks 1 and 2 of Couch 2 5k and record my progress here.

2013 in reflection

We had so many unforgettable adventures this year, and by that I mean just James and I. I won’t even be going into my Brownie experiences in this post. Here are a few highlights.


During 2013 we finally took the plunge and purchased Merlin passes, including discount on food we have saved £387.00 after visiting Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park – Fright Nights, Alton Towers – Scarefest, Chessington, The Dungeons in London and Blackpool, the Blackpool Aquarium, Blackpool Madame Tussards, Blackpool Tower, Ballroom and Circus and the London Eye! We still have three months left too.

We also learned that city breaks are not for us, but we look back on Rome with fond memories. We visited some of the great monuments in Roman history and learned an awful lot too.

The Merlin pass took us into London but we also attended some great shows. Derren Brown was a different kind of event altogether and Jimmy Carr had us in stitches. It was strange to enter Brixton Academy for a seated show, and also quite nostalgic of my teenage days to be back at one of my regular gig venues.

Our most recent adventure was to Center Parcs where we took on archery, paintballing and segways, three exciting experiences. Another new experience this year was car drifting, this was a James only activity as playing around in cars isn’t really my thing but I’d be interested in giving it at go next time.

How will 2014 compare with this? We don’t know yet but we will give it our best try!