Thursday, 30 August 2007


So, my Assistant Guider and I sorted the Brownie boxes out today.

And we filled a binbag with rubbish.

So why do we need to buy TWO MORE storage boxes than before?

Assistant (aka Parrot) now has in her garage:

  1. The every week box with the boxes of pens for each six, the It sticks, a first aid kit and room to drop in any resources needed for that week (an improvement on before where there was no room to add stuff)
  2. The craft box with paper, card, feathers, sprinkles, all sorts of crafty things.
  3. Stuff to go in a sports box - the parachute, skipping ropes etc (this needs a new box)
  4. Stuff to go in a various box - this will have everything else she keeps: scissors, glue, Badge It, cleaning up stuff, and she will reach in and pick out what is needed and drop it in the every week box as needed.

She also has in her house the accounts records for the unit, a box in itself.

I now have in the garage:

  1. A box of uniforms and other things to ebay (such as 11 fans you can decorate, we bought 30 to ensure we had enough for everyone the day we used them and as it turned out, only had 19 girls that week). So all this stuff is going on ebay and hopefully we can make somes funds for the pack.
  2. A box of stuff that we will use in the future: enough Hama (perler) beads for a craft evening, Diwali fridge magnets, that sort of thing, things we've collected along the way as bargains or scheduled but didn't need. Now we actually took stock of what we have, we will ensure it gets scheduled in.
  3. A box of clown stuff for when we do the Clown Skills badge later this term.
  4. The centrepiece box, a felt rectangle that lies in the centre of the room and each six puts their cuddly animal in the centre as we come in and we meet around it.
  5. The pack uniform box - an enormous box filled with old style Brownie uniform that the girls can borrow when they go on messy trips and pack holidays.

I now have in the house:

  1. My admin box with all current records and a folder for each of the badges/trips currently planned over the next few months. This includes permission forms etc.
  2. My badge box which includes: promise badges, promise certificates, uniform catalogues, Becoming a Brownie books, neckerchiefs, woggles, interest badges, Rights to Be badges. And a hairdryer.
  3. A doubles box - doubles because Sarah has some of the same stuff, so that we can both prep for a meeting without needing stuff from the other person. So I have a pack of card, a pack of blank greeting cards, laminating pouches, the laminator, and a few other things.
  4. Two boxes that are full of stuff that has been useful in the past, and because unlike America we stay with the section not move with the girls, we may be able to use again. Already we hope to do the Crime Prevention badge after Easter next year, because all our original girls will have left, so it is worth keeping all the stuff from that. Most of it is rubbish I should shred but hey, there's tidying up and there's going over the top. And my tidying up involves dropping things into boxes and closing them cos it looks neater.

Now, I have to admit, we both have tidier versions of what we had earlier today.

And we know what we are doing the first meeting back in detail, and what we need to bring.

But it wasn't quite the purge we were hoping for!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

four new brownie badges

Four new Brownie Guide badges for the new term: Brownie Skills, Designer, Number Fun and Healthy Heart.

My daughter has already professed her desire to do Brownie Skills, Number Fun and Healthy Heart but isn't interested in Designer. That's fine, one of the great things about the range of badges we have in our badge book is that not all will appeal to everyone, but there is plenty to appeal to most.

Must admit, the Healthy Heart one has come in for a bit of criticism for being "preachy". I personally think it is the type of thing the girls are learning at school and is a chance to advance on that knowledge in a personal way that relates to them, so I have no problem with it.

Number Fun - for a girl that doesn't like Maths, I can see that it might seem too much like school. But if you do like maths, and playing with numbers, then it looks like good fun.

And I can't fault a badge that teaches about opening a bank account, budgeting a meal or knowing how to stamp a letter. All useful skills for the future.

My personal favourite is Brownie Skills. Almost every clause is a useful skill for life, something that seems really easy to anyone who has been taught that particular skill, but someone has to teach it in the first place.

I can see this being the type of badge that we prep before hand taking 10-15 mins per clause then save for meetings that run short. That way, the girls are picking up new skills, even the most shy girl who wouldn't work on a badge at home will be likely to earn one during the meetings, and we have a time filler that is more worthwhile than whipping out colouring sheets or crosswords - current standbys along with the more popular games and outdoor fun of course.

The last one is Designer, and I must admit, like my daughter, probably I find this the least interesting. Could this be because I am raising a Mini-Me?

Anyway, I do see the merit in the badge, don't get me wrong, and I see it as a badge that a girl will be able to work on at home and then report in when she's ready. Again, the badge book includes a good range of badges that can be done as a whole unit, as a six, and as an individual and this just enhances that.

I think the 2nd clause could well be the hardest. As an adult, many people feel confident in citing a design source or influence but I think that is harder for children to grasp.

Still, as they will be working on that one at home, I think, there will be more time for them to research and cite Rothko, Proust or Mackintosh when making their final presentation for the badge.

As a balance between practical skills, healthy fun and improving the offering of more specialised badges, I think these four strike a good balance.

Another three badges are being refreshed as well, same badge but slightly different syllabus. First Aid, to reflect recent changes to CPR, Agility to offer more options (I think) and Science Investigator which has been perceived as very hard to work through. We're actually doing Science Investigator this term coming, and as the new syllabus hasn't been published will be sticking to the old one, but I have found a really great resource that the Manchester Science Museum created that talks you through the whole badge, so we're fairly confident.

still going

I am back at home for a few days (in Scotland) and went out for coffee with a school friend on Thursday night. We drove past the church we both used to go to as children, and as Brownies and Guides, and were pleasantly surprised to see Guides and Senior Section out in the grounds pitching a tent. It's good to know the unit is still running, on the same night and at the same time, and funny to think it is now 22 years since we both left!

Also, my AG and I have pinned down a date to sort through the Brownie boxes - next Thursday afternoon we shall be attempting to reduce 9 (or maybe more) boxes to 3 each!

Monday, 20 August 2007


My boss at work today, after I whinged about having to work through a print out, two computer programs and a spreadsheet to create the information needed for a project:

"But you're a Brown Owl - I picked you to do this because you must be organised and wouldn't just flit about doing whatever was easiest."

Ha - she doesn't know me that well then. If she could see my dining table, covered in stuff since last Christmas (not FOOD!), and saw me open up the leaf of the kitchen table to cram 6 people round it just so I could avoid clearing off the dining table...she'd know me better.

Sunday, 19 August 2007


I'm starting a countdown now.

I deliberately want this blog to be a positive place, it's very easy to whinge about anything and there are plenty of people prepared to whinge about aspects of Guiding.

Paperwork is always a bugbear and to be fair, CHQ (Girlguiding bosses) are working on Project Streamline to make it less onerous. But for now, some processes can take a while. So let's see!

I have a mum of one of my Brownies who has volunteered to be registered as an Occasional Helper, with a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, so that she can come away overnight with us sometimes if we can't get enough Guiders for a trip. You have to have a minimum of 3 on each overnight, fundamentally so that if something happens, one can go for help/go with the injured girl and there's still two to look after the remaining girls. You can negotiate exceptions if you are taking a very small number of girls or going somewhere with lots of other Guiders so you could call on them for help.

She said back in June she'd do it. I haven't yet succeeded in getting her and my DC (District Commissioner) together for the forms, a combination of holidays and the fact that the DC doesn't live that near us. So today I called the Division Commissioner (one up the line) who lives much closer and has said she'll be happy to do it, as long as we can wait till the first week of September, as she has her Guides to take to camp next week and has enough on her plate.

Countdown starts now: if the Div Comm and the mum get together the first week of September, how long will the CRB take? 3 weeks is the least ever. 12 weeks is the longest we've waited.

Tick tock, tick tock

Friday, 17 August 2007

Plans for autumn term

So, here's our plans for the autumn term. I'll expand on what we did once we've done it, and I'm going to keep the details of trips private till afterwards to protect the girls.

We start back the same week the schools go back and the first three weeks will be the Right to Work Together badge:  These Rights badges are fantastic, the leader resource that goes with them has so many ideas, and though the badges will only be around for 3-5 years, I can see us using them long after that. Our girls have so far done three, and what is particularly good about these is all sections can earn them, with different levels of involvement. So our sister Guide unit are earning them too. That means the girls who only earn, say, 4 before going to Guides, may be able to get the remaining 2 while at Guides.

I'm hoping doing Right to Work Together will help to integrate the 6 new girls into the unit, which is why I have picked it for so early in the term.

Then the next three weeks will be dedicated to the Science Investigator badge. We did a survey of the girls last term to find out what kind of things they wanted to do this year. A few girls said they wanted to "make stuff do stuff" which we have interpreted as science experiments after asking for some clarification!

My assistant Guider is going to lead on this one, we've got a great resource from Manchester's Science Museum which really demystifies the badge and makes it easy to work through the experiments, so that will be very useful. She only has a few sections to do on her leader warrant, so leading on this badge will help her achieve what's needed.
The new girls will need to split off and work through their Becoming a Brownie books and get ready to take their promise while the rest are doing the Science badge.
That'll take us up to halfterm and after halfterm we'll be doing Circus Skills (just for fun!), then working towards a show for Christmas (not a big thing, just a few songs and maybe some circus skills!) and the girls who want to earn their Hostess and Entertainer badges can do so at the same time by organising certain aspects, those that don't can just take part in the show. Ayone who hasn't taken their promise by then can do it at the show, if they want.
Finally, we will take part in whatever is planned for the Division at Christmas, in terms of charity fundraising, which will be our community action this term.
Trips this term: Legoland's Girlguiding Day is a definite. Six of the older girls, plus me and one of the Assistant Guiders will be going on a Santa weekend before Christmas. We also have a climbing/abseiling/archery day booked for 10 of the girls and finally we will also be paying admission to a science museum for anyone who goes on a certain date to complete their Science Investigator badge (though we'll also accept a letter from parents stating that their daughter has been to a Science Museum since the badge was started at any time during the next year to complete the badge if they can't make it that day).
I'll fill you in on everything, once it has happened!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

What are we called?

Brownie leaders have traditionally been called Brown Owl. Not necessarily now.

We tried it when we started up but with 6 of us leading Brownies and Guides between us, we couldn't remember the Owl names, let alone the girls. We had Brown Owl, Snowy Owl, Wise Owl, Little Owl...and two others, can't for the life of me remember who was who apart from Wise and Little.

So we tried a different tack: using the Guide animal patrol names. This has the advantage of little pin on badges with the animals on, so if a new girl forgets our name, they can sidle round the front of us and see what animal we are. We have Penguin (me), Parrot and Lion (assistant Guiders), Dolphin (our former Young Leader who is now off at uni) and Monkey (our unit helper).

It seems to work well. The Guide Guiders just use their first names, but Brownies like to have a "name" to call you. Doesn't stop people asking if you are the Brown Owl. Nominally yes, in that the Brown Owl is the one in charge.

By the way, I chose Penguin because I think Penguins are pretty cute. Having grown up near enough to visit Edinburgh Zoo, following the Penguin Parade was part of my childhood memories. And when I was a Brownie, my pack adopted a wallaby at the zoo, so being called the animal most associated with that zoo is kind of a throwback to being a Brownie too.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Very quiet just now, as Brownies, like school, stop for the summer.

My assistant guider and I plan to get together in the next couple of weeks and remove the NINE big boxes we have shared between our two garages and see if we can whittle them down a bit. It's only taken us three years to accumulate all this stuff, but much of it is genuinely useful. Quite a bit of it is a load of stuff pushed back into the boxes when we only used 90% of what we had bought each evening, so we should be able to get rid of some of it.

The only other thing going on over summer is a little light planning for the first few weeks we are back in September, and also answering the occasional email from my Brownies who have been set the challenge of earning American Go For Its (if they choose) during the break. I bagged a few from ebay, looked up the requirements and told the girls to email me if they wanted to have a go. I've got four girls working on them right now, so I'll probably have a few left over at the end of the summer!

Oh, and my daughter and I renewed our promise at 8am on August 1 - well, it was 9am for us as we were in France. Felt very silly doing it on our own, but knowing that at least 28 million others were doing it around the world at the same time helped! It was to mark 100 years since Robert Baden Powell founded Scouts, it was mainly a Scout celebration, but it felt good to be part of it. It's 100 years of Guiding in 2010, and I plan to be part of that - the celebrations start in September 2009 so there's a good chance. I was in Guiding for the 75th, as a Guide, and my mum was part of the 50th, and my Granny part of the 25th, so I am really keen for my daughter to be part of the 100th. She'll be an 11-12 year old Guide during that year, so the chances are good.
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