Ask a leader
Need a hand navigating unit meetings at the moment? Get great advice from other experienced volunteers
Is there something you’ve been unsure about over the last few months?
Perhaps you’d usually ask a friend’s advice when you meet up, but the pandemic has meant you haven’t been able to. Now, you can ask a leader.
Every month, a group of leaders will be sharing their advice and ideas by answering questions submitted by you. So, if you have a question you’d like to put to another leader, send it to us by emailing [email protected] and it could feature in next month’s Ask a leader blog.
How do you keep girls engaged in virtual meetings?
Kara-Jane Senior, leader at 8th Swindon Guides and Rangers and South West England lones:
Keep things varied and break up talking with games or simple crafts. Guest speakers and activity leaders can add interest and enable you to do something a bit different and give leaders a break. I’ve found breakout rooms are really good for girls to chat and interact in smaller groups, where they often feel more confident to do so.
Jayne Carman, leader at 2nd Blackrod Rainbows, 82nd Bolton Brownies and 82nd Bolton Guides:
Ensure each girl is spoken to, given the opportunity to answer questions or referred to during the meeting. Play games which require them to get up and move about.
Teresa Collins, leader at 4th Staines Guides and 4th Staines Rainbows:
Cap the meeting to an hour. The parents are happy that it’s not too much extra screen time. Some of the older girls lead some of the discussion, just as in a “normal meeting.” I found things I thought would take ages were completed quickly and others I thought wouldn’t take long took the hour.
What are your top tips for running online meetings with different sections?
At the end of every term I send out a feedback survey to find out what activities they enjoyed and what they'd like to do the next term. We've continued running programme activities online as some of our girls are keen to gain theme awards. We mix it up with fun challenge badges. Activities involving making things, be it crafts or food, are popular - a good break from schoolwork and everything else going on. Some of our members have mentioned that it can be difficult to speak in a big group on Zoom as you can't read social cues, so we use breakout rooms for many activities.
For Rainbows we meet for 45 minutes every week. We play games at the beginning and at the end and our activity is usually for 30 minutes. We use PowerPoints with good pictures to engage Rainbows.
For Brownies we meet for an hour and a half. We usually go straight into the activity after I have spoken to each girl. We try and use breakout rooms whenever we can so we can meet in a Six and work closer together. We use scavenger hunts to get girls moving if they're restless.
For Guides we give the girls as much opportunity as possible for interaction by offering discussion. We play games at the end of each week. We do unit meeting activities and skills builders and we’ve had visitors join us.
The Rainbows love a scavenger hunt and quite like some of the YouTube quizzes. We've completed one Skills builder a term and lots of unit meeting activities. I've used the Girlguiding videos for those!
Charlotte Morris, a leader at 1st Kinnerton Rainbows:
We meet with Rainbows every week for an hour. I usually plan two activities to provide some variation and appeal to different girls. We've posted activities and badges and the girls love to get post addressed to them with activities that are to be opened during our meeting.
If you met outdoors last year when restrictions allowed, what advice would you give to other volunteers hoping to meet in person soon?
Every outdoor meeting place is different and the girls and parents are different. You know the venue and your girls the best, do what you feel is the right thing for your unit. Also, don’t forget your local district commissioner is there to help, ask them.
What are your top tips for completing risk assessments?
Risk management often gets thought of as a drag but it's something we all do anyway naturally. I use the risk assessment like a checklist. Try not to go down rabbit holes of every eventuality that could happen. Focus on the main things in the environment or activity that have potential to cause harm. Use the templates available, but make sure you remove anything that isn't relevant.
Involving other volunteers is very useful to make sure the important things are covered and also means the responsibility really is shared. The girls themselves could even be involved in identifying hazards if you're planning an outdoor meeting, which could be quite empowering for them to take some leadership on their collective safety.
If you are unsure on any point, pick up the phone and talk to your district commissioner. They’re the one who has to sign it off. I’m sure they would rather talk it through with you than send it back asking you to redo parts of it!
We’ve all found this time difficult and know that many people are struggling with their wellbeing. Is there anything that’s helped your wellbeing?
Ensuring I'm doing things I enjoy and that make me happy, which for me includes pilates, yoga, dance and (usually virtual) socials with friends.
Doing the online meetings and seeing the girls on a weekly basis has helped me. They were a little stressful at the beginning, not knowing what I should do or how to run an online meeting or work the software. With the help from the Guides I have learned something new.
I’ve found committing to provide weekly Rainbows sessions has helped my own wellbeing. It's provided structure to my week and a sense of achievement when activities work well and some entertainment when things didn't go quite like they should!
Ask your question
Don’t forget to send us your questions for next month’s blog.
Maybe you’d like some advice on activities to run outside or perhaps you have a particular challenge you’d like some help with. Email your questions to [email protected]