5. Aim for the Sky

Part 5 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Young or old, there really is no age limit on learning – and we offer plenty of opportunities to help expand personal horizons. Want to improve on safeguarding or first aid? You could try one of our e–learning modules or find out about courses run locally.”

I could work a little harder on this of recent. I cannot actually recall the last training session I attended, probably the county training the year before last. There are so many opportunities in Guiding but sometimes fitting them into your diary can be difficult.

The County I run my Brownies in runs lots of training on first aid, safeguarding, being our best, games, outdoors, etc. I suppose what makes it a little more difficult for me is that I don’t live in that County. A Saturday morning three hour training takes five hours out of my day accounting for travel. I realise this is my own fault but it does put me off trying more things.

The upside is there is lots of e-learning on the Girlguiding website. I have done the Brownie training, the Senior Section training – to prepare me for helping our Young Leaders progress – and the branding training – to ensure our unit website was consistent.

Perhaps I shall make a commitment to complete every online training – to be as prepared as possible. I will update on my progress as I complete more training.

I am in fact signed up for one County training in a few weeks which looks at PR. I would like to be better at getting the word out about Girlguiding in local newspapers, I tried this once before and it wasn’t successful. This is completely new to me so I am very excited for it!

Personal Values – Phase 3

Phase 3 of an octant is a long-term commitment and should take at least 30 hours, can include gaining a qualification or teaching something to others. I used my phase 3 as an opportunity to gain a new skill and share it with hundreds of young members…

Phase 3: Peer Education

I decided to apply for a Peer Education training weekend as I wanted to progress my skills as a leader, and also take on a specialist subject that I could share with other groups. I attended training from 10th-12th October 2014 at Heron’s Lodge in Milton Keynes. The weekend focused on teaching us how to run a project called ‘Free Being Me’ with Brownies and Guides.

Over the weekend we covered at least 14 hours of training. We experienced the Guide session of ‘Free Being Me’, looked at communication, safeguarding, and marketing, and then ran the Brownie session in small groups. We learnt through observing, discussions and role plays.

The weekend covered ‘Free Being Me’ – a programme helping girls to feel more body confident. The issue has become something I really care about. I have since become more aware of articles discussing the topic and hope to integrate this into the sessions.

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Following the weekend I spent time revising the programme so I could confidently run the sessions. I also applied for a grant to purchase my Peer Educator t-shirt, some flipchart paper, markers and post-its to help run my first sessions. Straight away I had a list of unit leaders to contact and book meetings with. I set up a spreadsheet to show who I had contacted, when I was visiting them, whether they were Brownies or Guides and that they had confirmed the session. Between January and May 2015 I was set to run a session every week.

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I ran my first session on Thursday 15th January with my own Brownie unit. There were some issues that arose, the perfect princess task didn’t lead into discussion quite right as the Brownies all drew very different looking girls! But they enjoyed the session and one parent said that after this session her daughter put a mirror up in her bedroom and wrote ‘I am beautiful’ beneath it, so I felt this must have been a positive session.

Including my own unit I have completed the sessions with eight units, sixteen sessions, and a mixture of Brownies and Guides. I have become confident in leading discussions and talking to groups of Brownies and Guides I’ve not met before. I enjoy seeing the girls’ perceptions change as they discuss issues with the media and decide for themselves that having fun is more important, and feel proud to be part of the Free Being Me movement.

Personal Values – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I took on a very personal challenge, which had me reflecting on the past 5 years…

Phase 2: Scrapbook of Guiding activities

Since re-joining Guiding at 19 as a unit helper and then leader in training I consider Girlguiding as something I really value. I want to be able to give the girls an assortment of opportunities they would be unlikely to do otherwise, while developing myself as a person too.

Through the scrapbook I have explored the activities and adventures that I have had, and helped organise as an adult member of Girlguiding. I hope that it will also be used to inspire me in the future to continue my work within the organisation.

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I enjoyed putting together my favourite memories by scrapbook. I tried to use photos of myself involved in the activities as a reminder of the things I have done. I also like to add comments and dates around some images as reminders, especially around mountain-top moments – either for me or the girl I was assisting. I tried to choose activities that were especially the sort that myself, or the Brownies, would only experience within an organisation like this, to show why I value it as a part of my life.

Over the last year I have worked hard to complete as many aspects of Look Wider as I can, and this has led me to try new things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. As more Guiding experiences I added these to the scrapbook throughout the year to remember the experiences I have had thanks to Girlguiding. The final page was reserved for me receiving my Chief Guide Challenge!

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Personal Values – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the challenges I faced for Phase 1 of the Personal Values Octant …

Phase 1: Donate Blood

Having researched blood donation online and followed their informative guide to your first session I booked an appointment in 2011. I felt quite nervous as I didn’t know how it would feel to give blood.

First I was asked to drink a large glass of water and had a consultation with a nurse who checked I was okay to give blood that day. A small amount of blood was taken from my finger and tested. I was then sent to a waiting area before being called to a bed. After the needle was inserted it took about 10 minutes for the correct amount of blood to be taken.

I found out my blood group is A positive, this is a common blood group so lots of people will require donations of this type. I have also returned for many more donations.

I feel blood donation is an important thing to do as one day myself or my family may need to receive this from other people so feel I should give back too.

Phase 1: Understanding the new Promise with the Brownies

When Girlguiding announced a consultation would take place to discuss the Promise I made sure I gave my opinions on their survey. I felt it was important to open the Promise up to allow people of all faiths to say it without issue so was interested to see wording options that presented this.

On the revelation of the new Promise I knew we would need to have a session at Brownies explaining the new words. Some girls were initially confused by the change, especially some who were unhappy with the removal of ‘to love my God’. However we discussed how the change to the line ‘to develop my beliefs’ still meant ‘to love my God’ to those girls who choose it to, but can be open to others to promise their own beliefs.

We spent the evening doing activities to help the Brownies understand the new Promise. We held a multiply choice quiz with a range of scenarios and answers to show what the girls would do in certain situations, and therefore by doing what they think is right they were being ‘true to themselves’.

We also discussed what their beliefs might be, from environmental, friendships and religion. And also each girl wrote on post-its some ways they had helped other people that week.

Phase 1: Online course in ‘Introduction to Bullying Prevention’

With access to free online courses on ‘Universal Class’ I decided to take on a subject that could become useful as a Brownie leader. I chose ‘Introduction to Bullying Prevention’ as I felt it could be used within the unit if bullying ever became an issue, but could also be used as a subject to teach the girls about friendship and standing up to bullies.

The course first introduced the roles of a bully, a victim and a bystander. It became clear that both bullies and victims can have low self-esteem but act out in different ways.

It then explained the different ways children are bullied, from verbal and physical to online cyber-bullying.

The course is aimed at parents, teachers and people involved in children’s lives so the main bulk of the course focused on ways to prevent bullying. First was to ensure children know what bullying is, how it feels and to know it is wrong to be a bully. Talking to children about bullying, discussing it when it comes up in books and on TV and running through role plays explaining was to say to bullies were all key ideas to battle it.

One unit of the course was about building self-esteem, as children with high self-esteem are statistically less likely to be affected by the issue. This is an area I feel is important to run through with children, especially girls.

International – Phase 3

Phase 3 of an octant is a long-term commitment and should take at least 30 hours, can include gaining a qualification or teaching something to others. I used my phase 3 as an opportunity to gain another Girlguiding award…

Phase 3: Commonwealth Award

As my final year in Senior Section I hoped to complete the Commonwealth Award before it was too late.

I began in September 2014 by creating a PowerPoint presentation on the History of Guiding. This was a fun unit to work on. I bought a couple of books on Guiding, including the Centenary ‘Something for the Girls’ book, ‘How The Girl Guides Won The War’ and a Brownie Handbook from 1931. These resources, along with accounts on the internet, went into my work. I really enjoyed discovering more about the history of our organisation.

Next I looked at the Commonwealth. I practised remembering all 53 countries with help of website sporcle.com, drew up on a map of each continent where each country lies and learned a little more on the timeline.

For my chosen country to learn more about I picked South Africa. While I have family in other Commonwealth countries and previous knowledge of other Commonwealth countries I decided on South Africa as this would be completely knew to me. I made a page of scenic photos, culture photos, local crafts, and recipes on Pinterest to collect my ideas together. I then studied the cultures and religions, a day in the life of its people and guiding in South Africa.

For the practical element I first decided to look at beadcraft from South Africa and found lots of images of the types of jewellery made. I then created my own beadwork bracelets. I also wanted to try a dish from South Africa so tried cooking Bobotie. It wasn’t something I had ever tried eating before so couldn’t be sure it turned out as it should, but it looked like the images and tasted really nice!

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For my community action I continued my work with Post Pals. I chose this as I feel passionate about sharing happiness with those that might need it, and it is an action that I could fit into my busy weekly schedule.

For the two optional units I chose ‘Fit For Life’ and ‘Investigation’. I studied Yoga, starting with the theory behind it and completing Yoga 101 through Universal Class. I then tried out some online sessions to practice the asanas. I then investigated the education and conservation work of three local zoos, visited two of them to see the work in action and compared what they do the United Nations Environment Programme.

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I enjoyed working on the Commonwealth Award and found some new hobbies and interests to pursue. I think my favourite aspect was learning more about Guiding, but I also found that Yoga is something I want to continue on a regular basis and hope to find a class on a weekend morning.

Out of Doors – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I went camping for the very first time!

Phase 2: Volunteer at Wellies and Wristbands

This was my first experience of camping with guiding and volunteering at a Guide and Senior Section event. I stayed at Foxlease from Thursday 27th August to Monday 31st August, camping for four nights.

Setting up camp on the first evening was easier than I expected, and carrying my equipment up to Katherine Wilson campsite wasn’t too difficult either. I was worried about the campsite shower! But this was fine too.

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I had been assigned to the activities team and was allocated shifts at the Hot Tubs and the Cinema. I was shown how to operate, maintain and keep the girls safe around the hot tubs. This task became difficult as you needed to remember which groups had been in the longest! There were fourteen tubs to keep a watch over. The cinema wasn’t much of an outdoorsy activity, but it gave the guides a place to rest and be quiet following their more energetic activities. Whist manning this I was giving out popcorn and slushy drinks, took money and set up the film.

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Because the volunteer team were short staffed I also took on other shifts. On Friday I joined the Meet and Greet team and welcomed guide groups as they arrived at the campsites and helped direct them to their assigned area. On Saturday morning I helped set up the ‘Daily Dash’ – a group of large outdoor games – and put up decorations. I stayed on to help run some races. On Saturday afternoon I did a shift in the Foxlease shop taking money. On Sunday I spent some time running the sports day races, including egg and spoon and sack races, and I also manned some of the inflatable activities.

With my free time I explored the site and saw the great range of activities the girls could take part in. I spent some time having afternoon tea and made a beaded keyring in the craft tent. In the evening I saw some of the bands at the stage.

Over the weekend the weather changed from hot and sunny on Friday to heavy rain on Monday morning so experienced camping in different weathers. I really enjoyed the weekend, and glad I chose the experience camping rather than staying in one of the buildings.

 

Out Of Doors – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the adventures I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Out of Doors Octant …

Phase 1: Try a Segway forest trail

This was my first time riding a segway and it was much easier than I expected. Just gentle movements backwards and forwards to move, and leaning the handles from side to side to steer. This segway trail took us through the forest of Elvden, Centre Parcs in December 2013.

The activity made a usual trail through the forest a new experience. The basics of segways were easy to master, so most of this activity involved just enjoying being in the forest. The most difficult task was learning to move up and down mounds within the forest.

Phase 1: Take part in a Bush Craft session

In November 2014 I took part in a two and a half hour session of Bush Craft at Elvden, Center Parcs. The first activity was to study images of tracks left by a range of animals and to decide what they were. The expert talked us through the pictures and we became able to spot different deer by the size of their prints, the difference between rabbits and hares and also otters, dogs, cats and human.

We then headed into the forest to discover the different uses of plants. For example never burn the leaves of Elder trees as these become poisonous. We also looked at stinging nettles and was shown how to hold them without being stung. Nettles have a range of uses from tea to shampoo, plus crushing the leaves produces a liquid that will sooth the stings it causes.

I really enjoyed looking for tracks within the forest. This became easier by getting on the ground, shutting eyes and feeling the dips in the ground.

My favourite part was learning about navigation. We were shown how to use a watch as a compass, either analogue or digital, how to make a sundial, how to find the North Star and also how to navigate using any star if you cannot find the North Star.

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We were shown how to start a fire using material from trees or tree stumps. We also had a brief session discussing the different type of trees and how to identify them.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the session and would like to take it further by learning more about constellations, and being able to identify all the common trees and leaves.

Phase 1: Build a bird table and take part in RSPB Big Bird Watch

After receiving an email from Girlguiding we considered including the RSPB Big Bird Watch into our Brownie programme. The Brownies then chose Wildlife Explorer as the interest badge they wished to work towards in Spring 2015 so this became a part of our termly activities.

To be able to run the badge efficiently I studied which are common birds for our area. I was given the parts to build a bird table for Christmas 2014, and after building this on 2nd January 2015 regularly fed birds in the garden.

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The more regular visitors are woodpigeons, blackbirds, and sparrows. When I notice birds I do not recognise I use the rspb.org.uk website to identify what they are.

Using the Brownie Adventure book page 51 the Brownies made yoghurt pot bird feeders. Each girl was given a RSPB bird watch printout to know which birds to look out for. I collected all the data from the Brownies and input this to RSPB and as a unit we received a certificate for our work.

Since then we now have a bird bath beside the table and notice a lot more birds visiting the garden, including some nests in the trees.