Guiding doesn't have to stop in the school holidays!

Written by Louise Thompson, assistant leader, 1st Rochester West Rainbows

We try and do at least one 'fun day' during each of the longer school holidays. As a district we have a fun day once a year, and the girls loved gaining the extra badges, having a reference point for some of the fun things we've done and talking about what they remember doing 'in the woods' or 'with the guides'. I decided to start adding to that and getting them involved in the holidays too.

Over Easter we did the Girlguiding LaSER RSPB Paw Print. We went to our district's camping area and made bird boxes and bird feeders, played games and learnt about taking care of our environment. We incorporated a UMA into this as it fit with the activities we were doing, but usually we just focus on challenge badges and leave the programme for term time.

This summer we have six fun days planned. So far we have done a llama themed day and a science day! The girls and parents were particularly keen on the idea of doing something sciencey, and I'm a big believer in getting girls interested in STEM topics.

Over the rest of the holidays we are doing two more days in the camping area, focusing on bushcraft, arts and crafts with natural objects, a Harry Potter day and a walk around our local area with parents to find fairy doors that have been hidden around the shops. We also have one girl's Guide sister coming along to our fairy trail afternoon! I've sourced badges from an unofficial challenge badge group, and my girls particularly enjoy the Girlguiding LaSER Growing Up Wild badges.

Parents really appreciate all the fun days too and it has led to them getting excited about guiding - I've had newer parents call their friends as they leave to ask if they also want to sign their daughters up! A lot of my parents either work during the holidays or have much younger children and so it gives them a chance to get on with things they need to be doing while they know their daughters are having fun.

Over summer, all girls have been invited to take part in the Growing Up Wild In Summer Paw Print. I sent parents the activity pack and all the girls are very excited to get out and about over summer, knowing that our first session back will be dedicated to showing off all the fun things we have been doing over summer. It's a way for the girls to feel involved over summer even if they can't make any of the fun days.

It's a little bit of extra work for me, but it's worth it to know that I'm giving them a good guiding experience even through the long holidays where attendance often drops.

Our unit size is actually growing in September from 16 to 22, and it's been steadily increasing all year.

We have a couple of girls with specific needs, including a couple of members who have hearing impairments. We try and use signing, especially when we are singing, to normalise different forms of communication. When we first statted the new programme, we started with Communicate Level 1 for the same reason. While none of our girls use signing as an exclusive method of communication, we thought it was important to think about how there are lots of ways to communicate. Sometimes we sign, sometimes we might learn a few words of a new language, and we have chosen a lot of new programme activities that are based around a broad range of communication methods. There are a lot in the new programme for Rainbows!

I've also found that for girls who might struggle in school, Rainbows gives them the chance they get to lead their own programme and to go and enjoy being outside in our camping grounds, and it has really done them some good.

Are you doing something a bit different in your unit that is helping keep your girls engaged, or helping to recruit young members and volunteers? We'd love to hear from you!

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