New Girlguiding Programme Initial Views

It has been two weeks since the big reveal of the new Girlguiding programme, I’m surprised it hasn’t been longer! There has been so much discussion online about the changes and I’d like to share my views too.

At this stage, I have only seen the new books, read some of the skills builders and browsed through the new books. I’ve also done all the e-learning modules to get my head around it all, but none of this has been put into practice yet!

I’m quite excited to get started on the new programme. I want to try it out and see how the Brownies get along with it.

Unit Activity Cards – Pros & Cons

Last year we were given a set of Unit Activity Cards, the new in unit activity instructions that we need to plan time for to allow the Brownies opportunity to earn their Theme Awards. So far our Brownies have run three of these activities and they’ve been a major success. My favourite thing about these cards is that the Brownies can lead themselves. There is little need to prep, aside from sourcing resources. Just go into the unit, give the card to a couple of girls ready to lead and let them loose.

The downside, in terms of the activities going toward Theme Awards, is that they have a preconceived amount of time allocated, and that is all the time the Brownie will get toward their four hours. We did Soapy Solutions last year and I’m sure we spent a lot longer than 15 minutes on it! It also means there actually isn’t that much by way of girl-led guiding, at some point we will need to do all the Unit Activity Cards, whether the Brownies like the idea of not, to fit in their four hours. As more cards come out we may have more than the four hours per theme.

Skills Builders – Pros & Cons

I like that the badges are set up like the Unit Activity Cards, that the Brownies will be able to lead themselves. For our unit and the number of leaders we have I cannot imagine us running more than two skill builders at a time though. I’m looking forward to giving this a try in January, and it is a good excuse to mix the Brownies up into different small groups. (It can be difficult having disruptive Brownies, their six members can get tired of their antics!)

I unfortunately have a lot more cons for skill builders at the moment, firstly the design seems rather boring in comparison to the interested badges. There is so much colour in everything else! It may have been too many different choices, but I picture young women with blankets filled with Skill Builders unable to remember if they earned their First Aid Stage 3 in Brownies or Guides, separate colour edging per section would be nice.

More importantly, my major concern is the five compulsory activities. When we ran badges in the past we would offer more clauses than required to ensure girls who missed one week could still earn the badge. Or a clause is sent home to be completed. The Skill Builders are not set up for either scenario. Having a catch up night will only work if only a handful of Brownies miss a week, and preferably the same week so they can work together in a small group! Five activities, possibly over five nights in the case of Innovate, with two groups, that is potential for ten activities to be repeated. I cannot see us keeping up with that. I also wish the five activities totalled to the same amount of time in each topic and stage, it would make planning a lot simpler.

Interest Badges – Pros and Cons

I like the design of the new badges, the fact that they’re smaller is a bonus too. It is good to see some progression with the sections. I really hope units stick to the new rules and do not run these as programmes within the unit, that’ll take away from the work of those Brownies who do make the effort to achieve something for themselves. I completed my Look Wider a few years ago, my own choice and it gave me the freedom to try new things and build my self motivation. It is exactly what I wanted to see Girlguiding implement. I wish the topics were wider ranged, so the young members could govern themselves more, it’d fit a lot better with being girl-led.

At Rainbow and Brownie age it can be difficult for some to take part in these without their parents’ support. I envision having a district badge event, where girls can use a local meeting place and resources to work on their badges on their own, with local leaders to help support with reading the syllabus and answering queries and questions. The Brownies could also then work in small groups to earnt he badge together, as mentioned in the badge book.

How will we introduce this?

Our Autumn term is taken up by a project that will fill around half the term, with the other half not being long enough to introduce the programme and run a skills builder we will probably save our first one of those for January.

Instead, we will start by talking through the new themes. I’m thinking of using the dice to get the Brownies shouting out about the topics within each theme. Then running some games around which badges & skill builders fit into which theme, like the one in the Guiding magazine. Plus an evening looking at the interest badges, explaining how they are earned and giving them a deadline for ‘badge night’, should they want to bring work in. Then doing some small activities based on the new badges to get them interested. I’m sure we will fit in some unit activity cards, led by our older girls, and then choosing which skills builder each group would like to work on in January!

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How to make slime with Brownies (UK!)

I don’t think you can spend time around a Junior school aged child and not hear about slime at the moment. It seems to be everywhere!

At Brownies we have a tradition that the girls moving up the Guides attend one final evening at the start of term and stay on for Guides straight after, a double session. We also use this as an opportunity to let the leaving girls decide the meeting’s activity, whether it be something new or repeating an old favourite.

Last summer I asked two girls due to leave at Christmas what they wanted to do, and they were excited to make slime! I was nervous as I’d tried a recipe the previous year and it did not work at all, but I wanted to be able to give them a special last session.

I did some research and found an awesome UK recipe (For lack of a better word!) using items easily found in a local supermarket.

How to make slime at Brownies!

Per four Brownies you’ll need:

The links will take you to the exact products I used, you’ll probably find similar in other shops. We gave the choice of green or pink food colouring.

  1. Split the Brownies into groups based on what colour slime they’d like to make, then group the Brownies into threes or fours depending how many bottles of glue & eye solution you have.
  2. Give each group one food container box to create their mix. Start by giving each group the 150ml of PVA glue to pour into the food container.
  3. Supervise each group as they drip a couple drops of food colour into the mix (less is more! Most of our pink slime turned out brown!) and instruct the Brownies to use the plastic spoons / wooden lolly sticks to mix the colouring into the glue.
  4. Give each group a spoon and let them put the headed teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the mix and continue mixing.
  5. Finally, a few drops at a time, add the eye lens solution / eye drops. Mix and then add more as needed. As the Brownies mix it’ll become thicker to the point they can pick it up and squish it. Keep going until it looses stickiness and becomes a solid mixture you can stretch and mould.
  6. Split the mixture between the Brownies and give each a food container to take it home in.
  7. Warn the Brownies that the mixture will become watery in a day or so unless regularly moulded, so keep it in the container!

This was such a brilliant evening, much better than I’d imagined. Many of the older Brownies had made slime at home, and were surprised at the amount of bicarbonate of soda they needed to add. But they were very pleased with how it turned out, saying it was the best slime they’d made, and were thanking me for introducing this version to them!

I wish I could show you images but they all have the Brownies very shocked and excited faces in them!

At our Brownies we split it between groups of three or four due to the cost of the eye drops, you might find cheaper so that the girls can have more slime, but I also felt working in groups helped the Brownies learn about team work.

Taking Brownies to Kidzania

Yesterday we had an awesome day out to the Kidzania centre in London, and while I was concerned about many aspects following reviews online we actually had an amazing time! Here is everything I wish I knew beforehand… even just to cure some of my worries!

Arrival:

Make sure to do the research on how to find Kidzania within Westfields, it isn’t signposted too well but there were staff around to help point us the right way. While I’d looked at the Westfields map online, being in the centre looked very different! The entrance is beside some lifts, you’re greeted in a rather small entrance that leads to escalators, after taking four of these you’re at arrivals.

The Brownies and adults are given security tags, and the Brownies are given Kidzo money and hair nets (which some will proceed to put on straight away! But they’re for the food activities and I believe they put them on before putting on helmets for the climbing and air conditioning.)

As we go into the centre we’re greeted by a staff member who explains to the Brownies how the system works, how to check how long an activity will take and whether they have to pay Kidzos to take part, or of they get paid!

The only disappointment here is that the time it takes to get your security tags is included in the 4 hours. We walked into the Kidzania town itself at 11am (our booked time slot) but were told as we started checking in at 10.45am we would finish at 2.45pm.

Setting up a base:

We decided to set up base in the Town Square, an area with tables and chairs designed for resting and eating. The Brownies dumped their bags on and under our table and as leaders we took turns staying at the table and going around the centre and seeing what the girls were up to. This meant the Brownies always knew where to find an adult, it was placed very close to the toilets, and often the Brownies would pass by anyway between, or during, their jobs.

Security tags:

A major disappoint for us was that the security tags did not work. For a start, no one even mentioned this aspect of the Kidzania experience to us, I was only aware of this from a colleague who had previously taken her daughter. At the Job Information stand, right next to where you first walk in, there is a screen. Press the green ‘tracker’ icon and then scan your wristband and you should be able to see on the map where all the young members of your group have last scanned in (those running each activity scan the kids in and out). Great for leaders and for the girls to be able to find each other, but none of our tags worked. We were told it was because we were a large group and to go to the airport to fix it. A fellow leader discussed this with a manager for a little while, it didn’t get sorted which was a shame (if it had included getting all the girls together to scan their wrists again it wouldn’t have been worth the loss of time).

Lunch:

As of when we went in Summer 2017, youth groups and schools are allowed to take packed lunches into the centre. This was great as organising 16 kids buying lunch would’ve been a nightmare! We kept their lunches at our base and the girls came and sat with us the eat their lunch when they were hungry between activities. This worked so much better than trying to collect up all 16, and meant there was more space for other families.

The Activities!:

There was so much to do! We gave our Brownies parents the list of jobs to read through before the day, and again to the girls on the journey up, so they could decide what their preferences were.

There really was activities to please everyone and our girls did such a variety. Reading reviews online I was concerned about queuing, being a sunny, hot day may have worked in our favour as the queues weren’t very bad at all. Many were just waiting for the previous group to finish and were next in. But some activities seem to have a constant queue, such as the firefighters and the chocolate factory.

Some activities were a little disappointing. A few younger ones were excited about the Smoothie Making Lab – but as ‘fruitologists’ their job seemed to be about identifying fruits rather than actually making smoothies – they did have some to taste though.

The air conditioning unit was tunnelling with tasks to do along the way, like counting up broken light bulbs.

Many were dashing around as couriers making deliveries, some were looking around for units to measure up to sell as estate agents, and some were looking after new born babies in the special care unit. Some were fashion designers and using a select number of clothes had to design an outfit for a client based on ‘tomboy’ or ‘girly girl’. Some became vets, although I was told the staff were a little unenthusiastic which made the session feel boring, I think the right staff really does make the activities as some others were fantastic.

One Brownie became a reporter and wrote an article on the dance studio, she selected the images to use and then her report was printed in front of her, hot of the press!

After a couple of the little ones went to university and got their Kidzania degree, the Brownies soon realised they would get paid more money in some jobs if they had one too! After achieving their degree they receive a little photo card which was a nice souvenir in itself.

They also figured out to make the most money they needed to become window cleaners. (I imagine this is because Kidzania actually benefits from the kids keeping their windows clean!)

By the end of the session the goal most Brownies had was to open their bank account. They need 75 Kidzos before they can make a deposit and receive their bank card, they’re given 50 on arrival to the centre and each activity earns 5-12 Kidzos. But watch them after they receive their bank cards, after queuing 15 minutes to deposit their Kidzos they’re straight at the ATMs trying to withdraw it all back out!

The only activity I was frustrated with was the Cadbury’s chocolate factory. One of our littlest Brownies queued by herself for so long for this, as she stood at the front of the queue we watched as the group before finished and left, and then another 10 minutes as the staff leisurely set up for the next group. When they’re finally let in (and you pay for this one, you don’t get paid) and they have their aprons on and wash their hands, then the official photographer came in to take a photo of each child holding a giant chocolate bar. It took so long to do anything. I’m not sure what actually happens during the activity, but when they finish they’re given a token, about A6 in size with the picture of a chocolate bar on it to hand in when they leave to receive some chocolate so we were a little disappointed when our girls who took part were given a ‘Heroes’ dairy milk! I didn’t understand why this couldn’t have just been given at the end of the activity rather than getting their hopes up!

We let the Brownies decide if they wanted to stay paired up or go it alone, though we did this thinking we could keep track of them but it actually worked out fine. Some stayed in groups the whole time, others had their own aspirations so split up for a bit, but they knew where to find a leader if they wanted to pair up with a group again.

Spending those hard earned Kidzos!:

Don’t expect to get much for your money. I tried to explain to some that this is the value of money and you have to work lots of times to buy the things you want. There is a shop, kids only, that sells pencils for 40 Kidzos, rulers for 45 Kidzos, necklaces for 120 Kidzos. But at the end of a session, if you hadn’t spent anything elsewhere, you’re likely to have about 85 Kidzos at most. The Brownies who had money didn’t even want to spend it on a pencil or a ruler, I wish I had advised them sooner to think about spending it on actual activities instead. It costs Kidzos to have your face painted or attempt the climbing wall. I believe there was a drum workshop too but I never saw it. Most of ours came home with bundles of Kidzo notes, so at least they can return with it in the future!

Departure:

About 20 minutes before our time was up we started directing girls to the shop if they wanted to spend their money. This worked as a bit of a wind down time. We queued to have our security tags taken off and it was “bye bye” Kidzania!

In Conclusion:

Great day! Very pleased that the queuing wasn’t an issue, we had a few moans but I think this was part of the lesson they learned during the session. If I’d had the option I would’ve gone for a longer session, 4 hours goes so quickly, but actually being there the girls were starting to wind down after that amount of time anyway. The security tags were a disappointment but it didn’t ruin the day, it would’ve been nice to know where they were. Also, handing out maps would be a good idea too. There were signposts but I never looked at them so doubt ten year olds would! I never saw where the pilot and cabin crew activities were, or the music workshop. The stadium, engineering and animation studio were out of the way too so many of the kids may not notice them. But overall we had a fantastic day, we had great feedback from the girls including “this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life” – you can’t beat that!

12. See the bigger picture

Part 12 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“So, when you need inspiration, think of fellow members out there. We’re all different, but through challenge, friendship, fun and adventure, we can achieve great things.”

It can be difficult sometimes to remember we’re all a part of this giant movement, and to encourage the Brownies to look wider than even our own unit.

A few years ago we took part in an exciting project at World Centre Sangaam in India. The Centre was looking to raise money by selling friendship bracelets made by girlguiding members around the world so we spent an evening making bracelets, having spent a couple weeks learning about India, and in return we received a postcard from the centre thanking us for the donation.

I wish there were more projects like this we could get involved in.

We have run international pen pals and postcard exchanges a couple times over the years and this gets the Brownies thinking about those further afield. Plus we had a lovely district day learning all about Guiding in a different region, for us we looked at Asia and learned to wear Saris and henna painting.

And me? I’m yet to have an international adventure with Guiding. I think the two biggest factors against doing it is a) the cost (if there is fundraising to do I’d rather do it for the unit or the church), b) the time away from James – it doesn’t seem fair for me to use my annual leave to go on holiday without him. So I cannot see myself taking on an overseas trip for Girlguiding any time soon. But James and I have our own adventures abroad and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

I do love seeing what goes on in Guiding around the world though, and Facebook is great for seeing this. I’m a member of a few international groups and like a few international pages, such as Free Being Me and Girlguiding South Africa, which gives me a glimpse into the life of memebrs and volunteers around the world.

11. Find the fun

Part 11 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“In tough times, a sense of humour gets us through, and it’s extremely useful for teaching those you lead new skills and tackling challenging issues.”

For this I want to reminisce over the times where I could relax being the authoritative figure and could just have a laugh with the Brownies.

Recently we had an evening making animal masks for the Friends to Animals badge. Rather than wandering the room and checking everyone was okay I found myself at a table where the newer Brownies had settled and started making a mask myself. This night was a brilliant way to get to know our new recruits. One especially is very quiet, but we spent the whole night working together and chatting about geckos like the one in Tangled. We all made up names for our alter egos while wearing our masks.

Another great time was on a Christmas sleepover. When we go to activity sites there isn’t usually time for us leaders to have a go at activities but one this day I had a go at a few things, such as caving. The Brownies had begged me to join them as some were scared and there I found myself crawling through a pitch black tunnel, but we all came out the other side sharing stories and some defeating their fears.

On the same sleepover, another lovely moment I won’t forget is the group of us, 6 Brownies and 2 leaders, having an impromptu singing of ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’, it was just a lovely moment.

The look on the Brownies faces when they saw my fellow leader and I racing to slot all the giant four in a row coins back onto the board was a treat! We just started putting the game away ready for next use and turned it into a race and the Brownies couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

I love any time that the Brownies suggest I have a go, one of the best times I took them up on it was at the ‘Spark’ nationwide event at the roller disco. Not only did I enjoy getting stuck in and having a go on roller skates for the first time in ten years I was also able to help a small Brownie skate for the first time too.

Finding the fun as leaders is essential, I have to remind myself sometimes I am a member of the unit too!

10. Take Some Me-Time

Part 10 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“When you’re leading a group, it can be all too easy to burn out – so it’s important to take care of yourself. Practise saying no, and being polite but firm.”

So this is my guilty post.

I’m glad this is on the list though, as it justifies the recent ‘No’ I handed out.

A couple months ago I was asked to consider becoming a Peer Educator Trainer, a local session was going to be run later this year and they were looked for people aged 19-30 to train to become trainers. I loved the idea of passing on my Peer Educator knowledge and a weekend away with similar aged guiding members would be fun so I said I was interested.

Then I received the email with the details of what would be expected and I was not prepared for the amount of time this commitment would take. One weekend to train in London, completing two qualifications, and then being committed to four weekends a year anywhere nationwide, for the next three years.

At first I was excited by the prospect of gaining a preparing to teach qualification. I was considering it, although it was A LOT more than I expected. I was thinking like a day or two to train and then one weekend away later in the year, and maybe one next year! I suppose I was rather naïve, and I do completely understand why Girlguiding would want that big commitment from the people it is putting their money into training.

So I discussed it with James, and talking it through really put it in perspective. One weekend away on top of the two weekends already with the Brownies, plus the occasional volunteering at a big event and many day trips through the year was already difficult for him to hear. And I hate seeing him like that. So another four was unthinkable. And he was right. One weekend every three months, plus my Brownie commitments, plus not knowing how far I would need to travel before being at work at 9am on the Monday after.

This was a time I had to put James, and my own wellbeing, first. I said No.

I have complete respect for any Girlguiding member that takes on this commitment, I had no idea how much goes into becoming a Girlguiding trainer! From what I had previously read online I thought it would be more laid back, it was a role I had thought I would progress into but it is indeed a huge commitment and that would be one thing too many for me right now.

So I’m going to focus on my Brownies, take a few steps towards helping the local Senior Section and make sure I include some me time during each week.

9. Jump right in

Part 9 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“To keep young members on their toes, try to give them at least one brand new experience to enjoy each term. It can be as small or as big as you like – whether it’s a fun sports event, a food–tasting session or an international trip – all activities are enriching in their own way.”

This is a thought provoking topic! Are we giving our girls new experiences?

It is a difficult one to judge, what we think may be a new experience for the girls could turn out to be a little run of the mill. When we invited in a yoga teacher for a session, one parent commented how much her daughters enjoy yoga. Plus kids have so many opportunities to try out archery, climbing and pedal karts that a day at an activity centre may nor be as exciting as I would’ve found it.

This won’t be for every girl, but here are some of the experiences we have offered which have been quite unique:

Watching the Paralympic athletics. I cannot say another group will ever have this opportunity with us! In 2012 we took a group of Brownies to watch the events in the stadium, while some may have seen other events that year I think this is the only activity we will never be able to repeat! (Although taking the Brownies to another sporting event could be a good idea.)

Spy night. There was a lot of buzz following this themed evening in our unit. The Brownies and leaders dressed up, everyone had code names (I was Alpha Snake) and the Brownies took on four tasks, including a laser room, to claim the four clues to the whereabouts of their Easter eggs. I think these are the rare activities the Brownies cannot experience elsewhere.

Kidzania. This summer we’re hoping to take the Brownies to this interactive indoor city for kids. I know for some they will have visited before but as Brownies we haven’t, and I know some parents want their girls to go but cannot personally take them. I hope this will be an exciting new activity.

Visiting the Police Station. I think this has been the best unit meeting trip we’ve had. The police officers were so accommodating. The Brownies were very excited to see the  vehicles, handcuffs, cells, and all aspects behind the scenes.