You can find adventure everywhere in guiding
For Leader Michelle, adventure is about looking for opportunities for girls to see and experience new things in everyday places
I've taken the girls in my units pond dipping, rock pooling and on woodland walks. We make fairy homes, mermaid homes, mini rafts and shore art.
Adventures in guiding have shaped Leader Michelle's life and her work as a Countryside Ranger
Here she tells us about leading adventures with girls and how her Autism Spectrum Condition has made her more committed than ever to giving all girls and volunteers adventurous experiences.
'Like many of us, I started in guiding as a seven year-old joining my local Brownie Unit. Guiding was the one place away from my family where I could truly be me, away from constant bullying at school, where I could grow and develop and push myself to try new things no matter how scary they seemed.
'Then I moved to Guides and adventure was everywhere. During the summer term at Guides we were very rarely inside, instead we’d have cookouts on open fires or try gadget-making and put up tents in a Leader's garden.
Every week was an adventure. I don’t ever remember rain or burnt food, just the fun.
'I decided very early on that I wanted to be a Leader. Now it is a huge part of who I am and my job as a Countryside Ranger. I use my guiding skills every day at work and similarly I use my knowledge and skills from work to give the girls I lead new and different experiences.
'Last year I discovered that I have an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Nothing has changed in my ability to be a Leader and to take my units on adventures.
I am the same person that I was before my diagnosis and I don’t see my ASC as a negative.
'It is part of who I am and it is part of what gives me the ability to safely take groups on adventures. I like to make sure that everything is planned and that I am following correct procedures. I like to check that everything is right and I like to make sure I know what to expect so I tend to try out ideas before I undertake them with the Guides.
'My ASC has made me more committed than ever to ensuring that all girls have the opportunity to access guiding and that everyone is treated equally.
'As Leaders, we need to allow the girls to explore the world around them, push the boundaries of what they can do.
Children need to experience and try new things.
'With adequate supervision there is no reason why girls can’t have lots of mini-adventures even if one huge adventure isn’t possible.
'I've taken girls pond dipping, rock pooling and on woodland walks. We make fairy homes, mermaid homes, mini rafts and shore art. The girls cover themselves in mud and paint and get soaked. Younger girls make bird boxes and minibeast homes, climb at a climbing wall or simply explore a new place.
On camp I’ve taken girls on night-time bat walks and on a walk to the beach in the dark to make hot chocolate!
'Parents say that if the girls aren’t messy then they can’t have been having enough fun. I say why not! My Rainbows and Brownies created a challenge badge in partnership with the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association to help other units have as much outdoor adventure as we had.
'The girls and I have done activities with different companies such as coasteering, climbing, canoeing and kayaking. Doing these activities with special companies often costs quite a lot of money – but there are many great experiences that don’t cost much, if anything at all, like building dens, mini-raft making, leaf art, walks, charcoal making, compass-bearing and treasure hunts.
'For some Leaders, the idea of taking your unit on a night-time walk to a ruined castle for a campfire might seem terrifying but it really isn’t that different from planning your usual weekly meeting.
If you’ve never taken your girls out of doors before then start small.
'A short walk close to your meeting place, a visit to a nearby park or a mini campfire in a biscuit tin or BBQ. If you’re unsure about taking the girls on a walk then Girlguiding's Walking Scheme is fantastic and Level 1 will give you all the skills you need to get out there with your unit. And it's great fun. For the girls, a big part of the adventure is being away from their usual meeting place.
'I’m very passionate about sharing my skills with other adults so they can pass them onto the next generation in a safe and fun way. If, all those years ago, my Division Commissioner hadn’t seen my potential as a Leader, I wonder how different my life would be today.'