The making of new unit meeting activities

What's it like creating activities for a living? Amelia tells us about her role developing unit meeting activities

Amelia, Youth programmes team
27 March 2019

How does it feel creating Girlguiding activities for a living? What’s it like ‘behind-the-scenes’ as we introduce new ideas in our programme? And how do we check that everything has the right amount of fun?

We spoke to Amelia, Project Manager for our unit meeting activities (UMAs) to find out. Amelia’s team is dedicated to creating the best activities they can for all girls in guiding to enjoy.

And she tells us that in May, there'll be more unit meeting activity packs landing - so your unit will be able to complete all the hours they need to earn their Theme awards.

Amelia, can you tell us how a new unit meeting activity is created?

I work with a team of four wonderful project coordinators – they’re the programme geniuses! They bring to life activity ideas on diverse topics from survival skills to sport and DIY to performance. To date, the team have written 312 different unit meeting activities (UMAs) and we now write the guiding magazine activities too.

To develop UMAs we go through the following steps (we call this the content development process):

  • Talk to girls about UMA topic ideas - what do they want to do, explore and learn?
  • Plan and scope what should be included in the topic.
  • Seek expert partner advice to make sure our activity ideas are doable and accurate. We’ve worked with a range of experts on our activities, from WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to the National Space Centre.
  • Now we write activities! This sounds simple, but it actually involves lots of stages of copy editing and proofreading.
  • The important bit - testing the activities with girls and leaders to find out if we’ve got it right for our members.
  • Looking at all the feedback and seeing what we need to change or scrap.
  • Once the activity idea is finalised, we head into design and production to turn the idea into a UMA card.

The testing stage sounds fun! How does that work?

We use our national testing pool. We contact a random selection of units to see if they’re available. Once units accept, we then send them an activity and a feedback form. Lots of units around the country do this testing for us.

Once they’ve tried out the activity, the leader uploads their feedback online. We look at all the comments of what girls liked, didn’t like, if the instructions were clear and what could make the activity better. This is where we get the average time it took units to do the activity and we use this for the time on our UMA cards.

Not all activities make it past the testing stage and some activities change a lot from the original. All the feedback is vital in making sure the activities are the best they can be. Girls provide the approval stamp for all activities!

Your unit can join the testing pool and get involved.

Do you and your team ever try the activities yourselves?

Yes, very regularly! During our scoping phase the team think up great activity ideas, but sometimes we don’t know if the concept works. So, we give it a go ourselves. Whether that’s doing a craft activity or playing a sports game. It gives the team the opportunity to share ideas and feedback. More minds are better than one!

We also get other teams across HQ involved to see if they like our ideas and if they work. Seeing the whole Youth Programmes team create their own tap shoes to test out a tap-dancing activity was a great highlight. Everyone really enjoyed it.

Putting aside all the fun, games and craft, what do you enjoy about working on the programme?

I love the challenge of creating activities on difficult topics that we know are important to girls, but we work really hard to bring fun into all our activities as well.

I love seeing units’ feedback about girls building confidence in new areas, developing new skills and feeling inspired by the activities they’ve done.

I love consulting and testing out ideas and activities with girls – they always surprise me. They give us fabulous ideas we didn’t even think of, that’s the importance of consultation!

I love visiting units around the country, speaking to girls about what they enjoy inside and outside of guiding and making sure that‘s reflected in the activities we create. No two units are alike, so it’s certainly a challenge to create activities which appeal to our entire membership!

And what kind of skills do you need to be a part of the team?

Loads of different things - imagination, adaptability, thinking outside the box as well as strong writing, analysis and time management skills.

We have team members who have worked with young people as teachers, on cruise ships, in museums, on summer camps and doing outdoor activities. Their experiences of working with young people aged 4-18, from a range of backgrounds, make sure we have a clear understanding of what quality, fun and active activities look like.

We’re really excited to see more unit meeting activities – when will there be a new pack to try and why are the packs spread out like this?

We know units and leaders want to have more new, fun and fresh activities to add to their activity collection. And there’s still lots of topics we can cover through UMAs. So, we’re continuously developing new ones. We currently working on sport, history and performance activities.

This way units won’t be faced with buying all 3 packs at once and it helps distribute new activities throughout the year alongside the release of the magazine activities – which go out in March, July and November.

After the launch, we had to work out how many packs we could produce in a year. We calculated we can release three new UMA packs per section, per year. And with help from our members, we decided to release a new activity pack for every section for each term. January, May and September.

The next pack for each section will be released this May. This pack will mean there’s now enough activities for girls to complete the UMA Theme award hours!