Summer Term at Brownies – Version 2

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My other Brownies also had a lot of fun in the Summer term.

In the first half of the term we did a number of random things, including making igloos out of marshmallows (many of which lacked a roof, but who cares about that?).

There was a minor earthquake just before this picture was taken.

There was a minor earthquake just before this picture was taken.

We also made edible campfires.

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We had a lovely evening out at our local campsite. There is a lot of overlap between the leaders of the Rainbows, Brownies, and Guides, so instead of rushing backwards and forwards between our normal hall and the field, it made much more sense to just have everyone there.

We had them one section at a time, not overlapping, but over the course of the evening there were about 70 girls there. Very efficient use of a campfire!

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The Brownies enjoyed making s’mores (let’s face it, who doesn’t?), singing round the campfire and playing parachute games. There was also a reasonable amount of running around like a lunatic.

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Side note: I recently read a post about a s’mores making competition.  I’m intrigued, and I’ve asked for more detail!

In the second half of the term we did the Science Investigator badge.

Among other things, we made compasses from needles, magnets and bowl of water.  That had variable success, but all of them were pointing in mostly the right direction.

We also blew things up.  We took some old film canisters and filled them with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, and then put the lid on.

Balance it on it’s lid in the middle of an easy-to-clean space. Wait a little, stand well back, and soon the pressure builds up and the whole thing pops off.  We managed to hit the ceiling with some of them!

I decided that there wasn’t enough investigation in the science investigator badge, so I made the Brownies run that activity as an experiment. I told them that I knew you had to add these two things, but I didn’t know what proportions would work best.

Each group came up with several different recipes, and then we tried them out.

In case you’re interested, about 3/4 teaspoon of bicarb and 2 teaspoons of vinegar seemed to work pretty well. (Although, to be fair, it may have been slightly less than that because some of it went on the floor). And if you give it a little shake after you’ve put the lid on so the ingredients are good and mixed, that also helps.

The grand finale of the badge was our visitor. Unfortunately I had to go away on a work trip, so I missed it, but I’m told it was really good.

One of the Brownie’s parents works on the Bloodhound project, and he does science things for schools. He came in and told them about it, and they all made balloon rocket cars. I’m sad I missed it!

Summer term at Brownies – Version 1

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The summer term at Brownies we did a right old mixture of things.

I asked the girls to choose a badge, and they failed utterly to pick just one.  They couldn’t choose between two, and there was a lone hold-out vote for a third, so we decided to try for all of them.

So, last term we were working on the Agility badge, and the Royal Baby Challenge Badge, and we tried for Environment too.

I’m quite entertained by the Agility badge.  The girls kept telling me I was doing it wrong – because some of them have very old badge books, and some of them have quite new ones, and none of them seem to have the same syllabus as the one on the internet!

Mind you, I told them they were doing it wrong, too, so I suppose it evens out.  None of them can do a press-up to save their lives!

Skipping and throwing balls at walls seemed surprisingly popular, though.

For the Royal Baby badge, we made some name plates for nursery doors out of recycled materials, wrote a lullaby, and designed a baby-friendly restaurant.

China for the adult, plastic for the child. Well thought out!

The baby restaurants were so much fun that we were quarter of an hour late in finishing that evening.  It’s a good job nobody uses the room after us!

One group decided to do a “Dragons Den” style presentation of their restaurant.  They even made the Leaders be the judges.  They wanted to put in an automatic nappy-changing machine, and have all the waiters dressed like giant teddy bears.

Other popular ideas included a (supervised) ball pit so the parents could have “boring adult conversations without boring the children”, “yummy” food, and separate adult and child menus.

We also wrote letters to the new princess – and she wrote back!  Or, more accurately, someone wrote back on her behalf.  After all, she’s pretty small still.  They even included a separate note for each Brownie – I’m so impressed!

I was sneaking the environment in by stealth. We learnt about recycling facilities while cleaning up after using recyclable materials for craft. We talked about pesticides while discussing what kind of food the baby restaurants should have. We didn’t manage the whole syllabus by the end of term, but we gave it a good shot.  The one or two that actually wanted it can finish it at home, or perhaps I’ll try to fit a little more of it in the autumn term.

Our final baby challenge was to make up a game that younger children might enjoy playing. We tested a couple of them out by inviting some Rainbows to join us for the evening. It was sunny, too, so we had the whole meeting outside. Good times!

And for added bonus, they had just put out the Shaun the Sheep statue in the park, so we all got to have a look at it.

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Pamper Camp

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Last year, on our May camp, we asked the Brownies what theme they would like for this year.  They opted for “Pamper and Relaxation”.  I think they were hoping for a longer rest hour and more relaxed pace!

What they actually got was crafts themed around pampering, for example making body scrub and face masks.

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And the Healthy Heart badge, which clearly is all relaxing, with all the running around and so on…

We also went grass sledging and tunnelling, which we chose to classify as “relaxation” because they didn’t involve much in the way of preparation for the leaders!

Don't go into the light!

Don’t go into the light!

One day, we went on a public bus to the nearest town to walk a town trail.  It was really well done – Brown Owl had found it on the internet somewhere, and it had the girls following clues to move around.  I think my favourite was “look for the flying hedgehog”.

Each clue got them a word, and at the end there was a little puzzle to do, in order to get the four digit code which would stop the evil maniac from blowing up the museum!

Other fun things on the camp were the ducks, which helped us tidy up and deal with any waste food.

Nom nom nom nom nom

Nom nom nom nom nom

Also, rolling down hills and building towers out of yoghurt pots at lunch time.

Version 2

Another year of successful camping, and another year of having fun and building friendships with other Brownie units.

I like our May camps, because they always involve at least three different Brownie units.  The leaders are all friends, but we now do Guiding in very different areas – everything from the posh children whose parents throw money at any problems and assume they will go away, to the dock-workers children who have third- or fourth-hand uniform, and everything in between.

I think it’s good for the girls to meet people from other areas, and realise that they all have Brownies in common.

On this occasion we even went one step further.  The campsite has a pack holiday house, too, and the Brownies staying there joined us for our campfire.

They brought popcorn, which of course means they were instantly popular, and they taught us some new songs, which always goes down well.

I love camping.

A non-Guiding holiday

95% of what we do is not as dramatic as this.
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Yes, it’s true.

I do, in fact, have time for a life outside of Guiding.

But, to be fair, only because I make time.  On this occasion, I organised for another leader to cover my unit one week and I headed off into the wilds of Europe.

I’m making that sound more dramatic than it was.

I went to Sicily for a Shorinji Kempo seminar.  Shorinji Kempo is a Japanese martial art.  It’s reasonably obscure, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it!

95% of what we do is not as dramatic as this.

95% of what we do is not as dramatic as this.

The seminar I went to in Sicily involved a contingent from various bits of the UK, some Italians, some Spaniards, and some Japanese.  There may have been the odd person here or there from other places, but that was the bulk of it.

It was quite entertaining dealing with all the languages.  The Italians and Spaniard were mostly getting on by talking their own language and relying on similarities.  I speak Spanish, so I managed reasonably well.

And then there were the Japanese.  Some of whom spoke English and some of whom didn’t.  There are no similarities between Japanese and any of the European languages, so you would think that it would be a problem.

How do you teach a class when you have no language commonalities?

Well, what you do is you speak Japanese, demonstrate lots, and have a black belt who understands the principles of the art standing nearby to explain the finer points.  If that black belt has a few words of Japanese in his head it helps, but there were times when that wasn’t the case!

The ripple of translation going around the room was fun, especially since people weren’t standing in language groups – we were standing with whomever we happened to be next to when Sensei decided to speak.  So everything got translated several times, in several different ways.

I actually found it really helpful, because I got the explanation in several different sets of words.

Really, we're not dramatic at all.  I promise.

Really, we’re not dramatic at all. I promise.

We did train a lot, but training wasn’t the only thing we did.  We had a reasonable siesta at midday, and in the evenings the Italian hosts put on entertainment for us.

They looked after us very well – picked us up from the airport and took us sightseeing when we first arrived, provided very good food, and plenty of friendship and talking.

One evening we had a formal sit-down meal, with eight or nine courses.  That was exhausting.  But very, very tasty.

Another night they took us to a local tavern, and we were treated to traditional sweets and cakes, a traditional band playing tarantella, and some dancing.

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A very satisfying weekend, it was.

After the seminar was over, flight times meant I had a day to get from Messina to Catania airport – about an hour and a half’s drive.

I did the thing my mother hates, which is turn up at the start with very little idea of how I was actually going to get back to the airport at the end.

I was reasonably confident that something would work itself out, and it did.

One of the UK contingent is actually French, so he’s used to driving on the wrong side of the road.  He’d hired a car, so a few of us went for a little sightseeing tour.  We went to Taormina and hung around there for the day.

View from Taormina

View from Taormina

Wonderful views, and a very relaxing end to the weekend.

Spring Term at Guides

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Third and final “spring term” post – for the Guides this time.

We started the spring term with Go For It! badge work.  The girls planned out their activities and ran the weeks themselves.  The only help they needed was someone to go with them when they went on a penny hike.

Very relaxing!

Planning for GFIs.  If you want the template for this, visit the Downloads section!

Planning for GFIs. If you want the template for this, visit the Downloads section!

I particularly enjoyed the efforts of the Experiment patrol, who made an impressive whirlpool effect in a bottle.

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There was also a lot of fun had dropping eggs from great height with home-made parachutes, and some very impressive plays, mimes and raps.

IMG_6727After a few weeks of GFIs, the Guides were ready for some Leader-led things.  I think they like running themselves, but they don’t want to do it all the time.

For our interest badge this term we did Traditions of Guiding.

They had to fold flags, put up tents, learn the national anthem, and safely light a match (which clearly then needed to be used for cooking… in this case, pancakes on a tin can).

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Yes, that is a Brownie arm.  We had some visitors doing Brownies GFI that evening.

Yes, that is a Brownie arm. We had some visitors doing Brownies GFI that evening.

After the half term holiday, we had an international evening run by our Baden-Powell Award group.  Highlights involved eating german sausage, learning about the Chinese new year, and doing some turkish belly-dancing.

Belly dancing.

Belly dancing.

Then we started on another badge – craft this time.  We painted some plates and made candles, among other things.

A pretty action packed term, I think.

Spring Term at Brownies – Part 2

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My other Brownies were also doing activities from the Adventure book and the craft badge.

Considering that they were working on the same badges, the two units were doing very different things.  That’s what happens when you let the girls choose the activities!

For crafts we did glass painting, fabric decorating, and using collages to design your ideal bedroom.

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We also had an evening of “lets pull all of the half-finished crafts and spare activity packs out of the cupboard and see how many we can get rid of”.  Always entertaining for the sheer volume of random stuff you find, but slightly stressful when there’s only one of something and everyone wants to do it.

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For Adventure activities, we did all sorts of things.

I took the easy route in the spring term, because I was trying to concentrate on studying for my last exam, so I had the Becoming a Brownie group.  I’ve done that enough times that there’s no planning or preparation involved.  Pick a Promise activity from the cupboard and run it.  Tell the Brownie Story (hands up if you know it off by heart?).

I did take a few minutes to see what the others were doing.  One group made gingerbread (although without the stress that my other unit had!).

One group did the “global grub” activity.  We’re quite lucky that we have a shop very close to the meeting place, so that group went out to see what food they were selling from other countries.  Then they came back and made croissant sandwiches for everyone, among other things.

We also did this, which seemed to involve thinking a lot, but I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what the activity was.

Thinking Very Hard

Thinking Very Hard

Later in the term when it started to get warmer, we also went on a bit of a safari around the local area.  We were looking for a Zebra, Fish, Giraffe, Squid, and an invisible Christmas Tree, among other things.

Yes, all of those things were possible in our local area.  And we didn’t even need to go near the zoo.

Some of the girls weren’t impressed by my bad puns though.  They groaned when they found the zebra (crossing) and the fish (and chip shop).

For those who are curious, the giraffe was a statue, the squid was the name of a local restaurant, and the invisible Christmas tree was the park where the tree was during the winter.

Spring Term at Brownies – Part 1

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My Brownies had lots of fun in the Spring Term.

We’ve been doing a number of activities from the Adventure book, as chosen by the girls themselves.

We made gingerbread, which was a whole adventure in itself.  One of my Brownies is horribly allergic to eggs and dairy, and both Brownie and Mum are understandably nervous about things involving food.

I got around this problem by getting mum to come in and help that evening.

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She even provided the ingredients and equipment so there was absolutely no chance of cross-contamination.  And, as a bonus, she turned out to be very good at dealing with large numbers of children.  I wonder if I can recruit her…

The Adventure group did the “I am unique” activity, which had them playing detective to match up fingerprints and find out who did the crime, and made rubbings of tree bark to make into pictures.

The Adventure On group made a feeling wheel and learnt some sign language.  We didn’t get quite far enough that they were silent for the rest of the evening though!

And the More Adventures group learnt about fire safety while using a flint and steel to set fire to cotton wool balls, which we then used to make tiny little s’mores with mini marshmallows and animal biscuits.

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They also tried to make beads, but that didn’t go very well, because they didn’t squeeze enough water out and they just would not dry!

We’ve also done lots of crafty things – we did the Craft badge.  The girls enjoyed marbling the most, I think, although we also decorated pots and then planted things in them, made Easter eggs and Easter gardens, and made thank you cards for a leader who was leaving us.

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