Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Evolve 2014

Evolve 2014 goodie bag and badge
On Saturday I went to Evolve, which is SWE region's young guiders' conference held every couple of years for guiders aged 18 to 30. I've been to the previous two Evolve conferences in Salisbury and Bristol, and this year's was held at Exeter Golf and Country Club. I absolutely love Evolve as it's a great opportunity to meet other people of a similar age from all over the region, and share ideas and get involved in guiding at a region level.

The day started with a really inspiring talk by key note speaker Julie Bentley, Girlguiding's CEO. Her passion for the organisation was clear and it was fascinating to hear her own story of how she became a CEO.

There were then two morning sessions. We'd had a really good choice of sessions to choose from, and my first session was called "Now You're Over 18... Resource". In this session we worked together to come up with lots of ideas to be used in a new region badge resource specifically for members aged 18+. The resource will hopefully be launched next year - I can't wait!

My next session was on Free Being Me, which is the new body confidence resource delivered by Peer Educators. As the Peer Educator Coordinator for Girlguiding Gloucestershire, this session was of particular interest to me, as it gave me a chance to find out more about the resource which my team are running in the county. The session was run by a trained Peer Educator, and we had the chance to experience a few real activities from the resource, which would normally be delivered to Guides. Activities included thinking about the beauty myth, considering the impacts on girls and society of trying to conform to the the beauty ideal, and studying airbrushed images to compare them to the originals. It was a really fantastic session and I'll definitely continue to promote Free Being Me in county, as the messages were really valuable.

After lunch, we had a session with our county commissioners where we could ask questions and discuss ideas. It was then time for the final session. I'd chosen "Using Your Voice To Shape The Future", which was a session chatting with the Region Chief Commissioner, Solange Rebours. I'd attended a similar session at the previous Evolve in Bristol, so knew it would be a great opportunity to share ideas and discuss future plans for guiding within region.

I had a brilliant time at Evolve and would definitely recommend it to any other young guiders in South West England region - see you at the next one in 2016!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Mini Pack Holiday - Space Theme

Name badge and star wand"What's a 'mini' pack holiday?" I hear you ask. Well. It's basically a glorified sleepover, but I couldn't quite bring myself to call it that. Having only managed to get parents to agree to let their girls stay overnight if we reduced the weekend to one night only (apparently pack holidays are too exciting and the girls come home "too tired"!!), we rearranged the weekend so it ran from 9am Saturday to 3pm Sunday. It was disappointing considering all the work that had already gone into planning the weekend, but it was the best option we could come up with!

Our theme this year was "space" so their girls arrived at our spaceship to be met by me (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) as well as ET, Neil Armstrong, Darth Vader, Martian, The Man on the Moon, and Dalek! We were soon on to our first activity, which was archery out on the field, followed by making planet mobiles and fabulous alien masks.

Rocket biscuitAfter lunch, we did a space-themed wide game, made constellation tubes, decorated rocket biscuits, had balloon rocket races, coloured in some special space colouring sheets designed by my friend, then put on our alien masks and made bin-bag outfits for an alien fashion show!

After tea, some Guides staying on site invited us to join them for songs around their campfire (the first real campfire experience for several of our girls!), and then we headed out across the field in the dark to draw star maps using the real stars as a guide.
The day visitors then headed back to Earth and the rest of us got into our PJs and gathered around our indoor campfire for some more songs and the "midnight" feast before bed.

Sunday morning started with some dance routines, then we designed entries for the Deer Park logo competition and made pretty star wands. After lunch was the big clean up, then it was time for the girls to leave the spaceship and return to Earth. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Good Service Award and @Chelt52

Girlguiding Good Service Award
Wow! At our County Annual Review yesterday, the three members of Girlguiding Gloucestershire's social media team (me, Jen and Mary) were awarded national Good Service Awards. It was a huge surprise to receive the awards as we had no idea we'd even been nominated! We were put forward for the awards for our work on setting up and running the county's social media channels and strategy, helping train other members at events such as YOYO, and for taking part in initiatives such as @Chelt52 to help spread the word about guiding in county.

@Chelt52 is a local Twitter initiative where a different local business or organisation in Cheltenham runs the account each week. It was originally supposed to run for a year (hence the "52") but it's been such a huge succcess that they've recently announced it'll be running for a second year. Our week on the account in May was apparently the most prolific and organised (!) and various leaders and Senior Section members, including the county commissioners, took turns to tweet news and photos showing guiding and Big Brownie Birthday celebrations around the area. I even live-tweeted from my Brownie meeting that week!

All of these things have been really fun, so even though it's been hard work, I've loved every minute! A year ago, when we first put forward our social media plan for the county, we naturally faced some initial reluctance and apprehension from people concerned about the safety and suitability of social media for guiding puropses (FYI, yes it's absolutely fine to post photos on social media as long as girls have the standard online photo permission!), and from leaders for whom social media is an unfamiliar world. Since then, we've worked hard to address these worries and to help get lots of new members joining social media networks and engaging with us online. As a result, we now have a thriving online community where we can instantly reach other members (and non-members) from across the county and share news and opportunities quickly and conveniently. #awesome

You can follow us on social media by clicking the following links:
Facebook: Girlguiding Gloucestershire
Twitter: @GirlguidingGlos
Storify: GirlguidingGlos

If you're interested in what happened during our week running the @Chelt52 Twitter account, you can catch up on all our tweets on our Chelt52 Storify.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Social Media Training at YOYO

Girlguiding SWE YOYO badgeMy guiding friend Jen and I were invited down to Foxlease this weekend to run some social media trainings at YOYO (You're Only Young Once), a fun activity and training weekend for guiders and Senior Section in SWE region. I'm on Girlguiding Gloucestershire's successful social media team along with Jen and Mary, which is why we were asked to run the training.

We ran two different trainings, with two sessions of each. The first was Social Media for Beginners, which covered the basics of using Twitter and Facebook for guiding purposes. The second training was Social Media for Pros, which focused more on topics such as increasing engagement and creating a social media strategy. We were joined by Lucy from CHQ, who ran a mini session getting feedback on the new Girlguiding website.

Foxlease Coach HouseWe arrived on Friday evening and stayed in the Coach House, then ran a full day of trainings on Saturday before heading home in the evening. It was a busy weekend, but I really enjoyed meeting everyone who came along to our sessions, and we had positive feedback too, which was nice! It was also my first visit to Foxlease - I'd definitely like to go again!

To read more about our trainings and see some piccies, take a look at Lucy's write-up on the Girlguiding blog here.

You can also follow Girlguiding Gloucestershire on Twitter @GirlguidingGlos or on the Girlguiding Gloucestershire Facebook page.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Big Brownie Birthday Star Quest

At the weekend, I took my Brownies to our division Star Quest event, which was an exciting day with loads of different activities for them to take part in to earn stars and complete their star logs.

Activities included decorating hair bands, a graffiti wall, science experiments, wide games, food tasting, outdoor games, and a session in a fantastic planetarium which had been hired especially for the day. The town crier was also invited along, and announced the change-over between sessions as we rotated around the different activities.

It was really fun to do an event as a whole division, as the girls had the chance to make new friends, and the leaders got to have a catch up with each other, as some of us only ever see each other on trainings!

The day finished with campfire songs, the swapping of friendship stars and the girls getting their Star Quest badges. For us, the event marked the end of a brilliant Big Brownie Birthday year, which also saw our girls complete the Big Brownie Birthday Challenge badge, go on a Stay Away at PGL and also earn the Brownie Traditions badge.

This year has been so much fun at Brownies that it's going to be hard to beat it next year... Challenge accepted!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Guide Holiday – Harry Potter Theme

Owls and Toadstools | Harry Potter Guide Holiday
We took our Guides away on an indoor holiday at the weekend, to Deer Park in Cowley. The girls voted for a Harry Potter theme, so the patrols for the weekend were Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. My name was Moaning Myrtle. Obviously.

When the girls arrived on Friday evening, they made wizard hats out of black card, and then decorated them using foil, stickers and glitter. They also made autograph cards for everyone to sign, to keep as a souvenir of the weekend. Later in the evening after tea, we bundled up warm, grabbed our torches and went on a night walk up Bubbs Hill, where we had an absolutely fantastic view of the stars. The walk was fun but very cold and windy, so we definitely earned our hot chocolates when we got back!

Saturday was a very outdoorsy day despite a bizarre mix of snow, rain, hail, wind, sleet and sunshine! The morning started off with a brilliant session out on the low ropes course, where the instructor set team challenges for the girls. After that, the girls painted some “philosopher’s stones” magnets, and made their very own broomsticks using branches and twigs collected from our leader in training’s garden, and kindly chopped to length by her dad!

Owls and Toadstools | BroomsticksIt was then time to head back outside to do outdoor cooking in their patrols for lunch. After lunch, it was time to grab the broomsticks ready to play quidditch out on the field! We used hula hoops for goals, a football for the quaffle, and soft balls for bludgers. A tennis ball in a sock was then tucked into the waistband of an athletic Guide to be the snitch! The girls had such a fantastic time playing our version of quidditch that they’ve asked us to spend a meeting playing it again next term!

Our campfire had to be cancelled in the evening due to rain (boo hiss), so we had an indoor campfire singalong instead, with mugs of hot chocolate and lots of cake.

Sunday morning was spent doing a Harry Potter themed wide game which the leaders set up for the girls. We stuck pictures of the seven horcruxes onto different coloured card, with one set for each patrol. On the back were words which formed part of some instructions. We then tied the cards all over the field. The girls then had to work together to track down their patrol’s seven horcruxes and arrange them in order to work out the wording for the instructions. The instructions told them to use the outdoor cooking skills they learned the previous day to destroy the horcruxes. The patrols then raced to build fires and burn all seven pieces of card to win.

After lunch, the girls then made their own wands out of twigs, and wrapped coloured wool around them in patterns to personalise them.

Despite the crazy weather, we had a “magical” weekend and feedback from the girls was really good, so it was all worthwhile!

Friday, 21 March 2014

New “Free Being Me” Badge

The big announcement of the new WAGGGS “Free Being Me” badge for Brownies and Guides hit the media yesterday, generating loads of talk online (and in real life!) about the body image issue. Everywhere I’ve looked, there’s been a hugely positive reaction, and I’m not surprised!

Girls are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities and models, giving them a skewed perspective on body image, which tends to mostly feature a certain body type and “look”. This is even more the case these days than when I was a kid, as the internet puts all these images at children’s fingertips, and kids are joining social media sites at increasingly young ages. From over 10 years volunteering with Brownies and Guides, it also seems to me that girls are growing up faster in recent years, in terms of their interests and attitudes. This is why I think the introduction of the Free Being Me badge so important.

From 10 year old Guides turning up to meetings in mascara and lipgloss to Brownies innocently mentioning their “bikini bodies” when talking about their summer holidays, it’s evident to me that this badge is absolutely needed.

Growing up in the late 90s, I’d say my exposure to airbrushed images, celebrities and models was significantly less than kids’ exposure nowadays, as none of us had internet access at home (yes, I grew up in the olden days!), and celebrity magazines were for grown-ups and just weren’t on my radar. Despite this, I’ve still grown up to be a woman who would never even consider leaving the house without a full face of makeup - not even to pop out for a pint of milk.

Imagine then, if I was a tween now! Instead of starting wearing a little bit of makeup daily from the age of 16, I’d probably be wearing a lot more makeup and at a much younger age. There are 12 year old beauty bloggers out there offering advice and reviews of makeup, diets, clothes, shoes… you name it. And they’re not just kids messing around – they’re proper mini-adults who spend more money and time on their appearance than me!

Thanks to social media, there is now a culture of tweens posting pouty selfies all over the internet, judging each other’s looks and getting themselves into situations online which they’re just not mature enough to handle. An online comment which I might ignore as a grown-up may be seen as a much bigger deal to a tween with less experience of the world, and could potentially be very damaging to a young person’s self esteem. It’s important to remember that while kids these days might, on the surface, seem more grown-up and worldly than we were at that age, they’re still just children.

The new Free Being Me badge programme will be delivered by Peer Educators, who are specially trained Girlguiding members aged 14-25. Body image is one of those issues where Girlguiding’s Peer Education scheme will really come into its own. Having the body confidence message delivered by someone closer to their own age will be a zillion times more effective to Brownies and Guides than having it delivered by an older leader – it’s a complete no-brainer. Girls naturally seek reassurance and approval from their peers, so Peer Educators, seen as cool older girls, are ideally placed to offer trusted information and support on body image and body confidence.

As Girlguiding Gloucestershire’s Peer Educator Coordinator, I’ll certainly be working hard to ensure this fantastic new programme is available to all Brownies and Guides within the county!

No matter where you live in the country, if you're aged 14-25 and would like to receive free Peer Educator training to deliver the Free Being Me programme to Brownies and Guides, you can sign up here. Anyone can also sign the #BeBodyConfident pledge here.