When I first came back into Girlguiding, I wasn’t sure what the history of our unit was, wanted my fellow leaders to like me and did not want to tread on any toes. I really spent the first 2 terms watching. And trying to work out things like Go For Its, the new badges (there are so few now!) and the G-File. We had 5 girls who were getting older and I watched them struggle with the younger ones. There was a lot of disrepect (the younger ones to the older ones). Sometimes the older ones just did it all out of frustration.
Once I’d got myself a G-File (I use it as a reference) worked out what a Go-For-It was and had chatted with leaders, we discussed ways in which we could improve the overall atmosphere, interactions and encourage the girls to take ownership. We wanted the girls to get as much out of guiding as possible. We observed who brought the best and worst out of each other, and organised the patrols accordingly. We also wanted to have a mixture of ages in each patrol.
Then, at the beginning of this school year, we brought in something from my guiding days that I hoped would help the girls work better as patrols.
Now, one of our Guides came up to Senior Section, and this apparently is a highlight memory. “Awww! The boxes. I loved my patrol box”. (never mind when we had the Jubilee Beacon night, or went rock climbing. The plastic boxes I got 3 for £10 in Poundstretcher were the highlight – ha ha!)
The other brilliant idea that joined the patrol boxes was scrapbooks. Jo found some bargain ones in Ikea, and bought one for each patrol.
The idea behind these patrol boxes, is that the girls had a place to put their patrol things – bits of unfinished work, the Go For It or Badge resource they are working on etc. In each box I gave them a copy of our Unit Guidelines (which the girls work out and decide on together at the beginning of each year), The Guide Promise & Law and their scrapbook. We may in future put some pens in each one too! I think the night I went to get felt pen packs the shop only had one pack left.
I also made sure the boxes were exactly the same – I knew our Guides would fight/go in huff if one colour got preferred over another, so I bought 4 purple boxes.
The scrapbooks have also been great. Because of the recent ‘anniversaries’ and events like the Queen’s Jubilee, the girls have seen and heard about the history of Guiding. I’ve been encouraging the girls to document their history through the scrapbooks, explaining that one day future guides can see what Patrols did ‘back in the 2010s’.
This term I made sure to take pictures of what all the patrols were doing, and then printed photos so on the last night of term they could use the pictures in their scrapbooks however they wanted.
The difference we see in the girls since we introduced the patrol boxes has been incredible. Like it was something so simple, but the girls seem to like having their own box and it’s brought some extra unity into the patrols. It also means we leaders aren’t finding as much scribbled bits of paper and half finished work and trying to work out which patrol it belongs to!
The last thing we introduced was something I found on an old Guiding website totally by accident. GFI planning sheets. We usually get them to pick by laying out all the Go For It and similar resources (e.g. On Your Marks) on the stage. We ask the patrol leaders to take a couple at a time to take back to the patrol and help their patrol decide which one they’d like to do. Once a patrol has picked a Go For It, we give them a planning sheet, so they can plan their 4 weeks of Go For It activities. The sheet is then kept in their patrol box. This is especially great if we have a break from usual patrol nights in the middle for an activity outside the uni or there is a bank holiday – when they ask ‘What are we doing next week?‘, we can say ‘Where is your planning sheet? What did you write down?‘
We’ve also seen a notable improvement in their organisational skills, though we still need to make sure they’ve remember and written down what they need to bring – or check if they need the leaders to bring anything for them for the following week.
One of our ‘graduated’ guides is now working in our unit as a Young Leader, and she has testified to other members of the Senior Section who were in our unit that ‘the girls are so much better now’. The best thing is we’re seeing the girls take ownership and gaining confidence in leadership skills. We’re still struggling with the teamwork aspect at times, and that’s something the leaders will be taking into consideration when we have our planning meeting before the start of the next school year in August.
I hope this helps some other Guide leaders, and if you have any questions, please just ask. We’re always looking to learn as well as share the things we’ve found that work well to run a unit relatively smoothly!