Rainbows on the farm

Guiding magazine joined the 6th Clapham Rainbows as they tended to the flora and fauna of Stepney City Farm in East London

guiding magazine
29 July 2019

Twelve eager Rainbows clamoured at the gate of a pen, keen to get in and start feeding the goats merrily bleating within. This is one of the many jobs that ‘farmer’ Siobhan Brown, learning coordinator at Stepney City Farm in East London, planned for the girls to help out with.

Sophie Alcock, Leader, 6th Clapham Rainbows, believes that these experiences are not only great for showing girls how they can support their local communities, but crucial for group bonding.

‘Taking them out on trips like this is so important,’ she said. ‘We only have an hour with them on a Friday, so this is an opportunity to really get to know them. These kinds of activities help them understand each other better, as well as learn how to interact with people outside of their circle.’

The first group of intrepid Rainbows took handfuls of grain and made their way over to the goats, who stopped their leaping to nuzzle at the food.

It was okay feeding the goats, but I think it would be better if they did tricks, like stand on their back feet - Eleanor (6)

Having fed the goats, they moved on to the sheep, where Chloe, five years old, took some time to reflect...

I think these sheep made friends with us. I think they liked me - Chloe (5)

The favourite job of the day by far was the chicken coop. Gathered around the back of the hutch, Siobhan explained that, when they lifted up the latch, they’d discover whether or not the chickens had been busy laying.

The girls raised the wooden lid to a combined joyous shout of ‘EGGS!’ They instantly recognised how different they looked to the shop-bought variety, commenting on their range of colours and how warm and dirty they were.

Spotting the opportunity for a mini biology lesson, Siobhan explained that, if you hold a light up to the shell, you can see if it could turn into a chick. Isabella, six-years-old, proudly clutched her hand-collected stash to her chest.

It was really cool seeing the eggs. I knew how eggs were made from TV but had never seen it in real life. I was very surprised - Isabella (6)

Soon it was time to help on the veggie patch, so Siobhan took the girls to the garden to expand their minds with a spot of salad picking. They tentatively picked and tried some claytonia and kale leaves, and agreed that they taste like peas. Next, they tried sage, mint and parsley, with mint coming out as the firm favourite.

Sophie reflected on the communication skills the girls had learned, and on how bringing them into the Girlguiding family at this age results in a stronger connection to guiding.

When they start as Rainbows, they tend to stay with us, and we get to know the parents, who become more committed too. I started as a Brownie myself, and was just awarded for 20 years’ service as a leader. Guiding also inspired me to become a primary school teacher, and now I’m a deputy head. It shows how reaching out makes a difference for future generations - Sophie, Leader, 6th Clapham Rainbows

This article was originally published in guiding magazine Summer 2019. All farm photography by Gareth Iwan Jones.