In my work with the new material I spent a little time looking back at available program materials from various times of Scouting's past, mainly from it's Swedish hayday, the 50ies. Mostly, I was looking for good quotes, and skimmed the texts, but a few days ago I finally had the time, and the peace, to sit and read properly.
It is a lovely, naivistic story, very much of it's time, in parts reminding me of Enid Blyton's. The reader gets her own space to fill in information about her own group and it's activities, make notes and reflektions, and tips about games and activities for the girl scout patrole. In some parts it is also a document of a time, not far away, when quite a few people in Sweden were reliant on the charity of volonteers. One of the girls gets help by the group master when she can't meet the subs.The girls have a "Christmas Child" whom they help, not only with Christmas presents, but also by collecting handmedown clothes and collecting money for shoes and helping the boy's gran to pick the apples (and make apple sauce to sell to get her a new winter coat). The Girl Scout tests included map reading, knots and darning socks, a task that the group leader takes very seriously. The discipline is an imparative, but it is upheld with support and gentle guidance, and the 13-year-old has an enormous responsability, but gets wise support from her mother and from Akka, the group master.
What strikes me is that times, and equipment, and people's circumstances may have changed, but the program stays amazingly similar, as does the woes and worries of young people. What also strikes me is how empowered these girls seem to be, and how competent. (That is also why I think that Famous Five books are great for reading at camp or for a quiet time at a Cub meeting.) Children can do anything, by themselves! But we rarely let them. Scouting is better than most clubs, and scout parents are better than most parents, but still we coddle our children too much, and sometimes scare them from taking initiative and from being industrious entrepreneurs. It's a fine line between supporting and protecting and smothering and protecting. Now, this is a work of fiction, but as always there is a smidgeon of truth in everything, judging from what I've heard from older scouts and relatives.
Oh, sorry, got thrown off track here... The point of this post was originally to share some of the great games the book describes, and which I tried a few on yesterday's meeting. The Challengers are a lot older than the original target group, but what is good about scouting is that you get the opportunaty to keep playing games, and "my" Challengers really enjoy that. So yesterday we played knotting games:
One handed knots
The scouts pair up and put one arm around eachother's waists. With the free hand they do the knots on a communal rope. Practises knots, communication, coordination and colaboration
The scouts sit or stand in a ring. The leader decides on a knot and gives the group two ropes. When the music stops the people who holds the rope has to make the decided knot, swiftly and correctly. When both people have produced a correct knot, a new knot is called and the music starts again. The book suggests that the loser has to step out of the ring, but we played it with points instead. 5 people made a slightly too small ring.
With a long rope the whole patrole makes the knot together, everybody holding both hands on the knot at all times. This is fairly simple with the reef knot, but gets fun and more complex with a sheet bend and really difficult making a nice hitch around the flagpole.
The book also suggests practising knots with thick mittens and in the dark. We didn't try this, as our winter mittens are packed away in our closets and it is only really dark between 11 PM and 2 AM at the moment. There are a lot of other fun games and activities that I'm going to try at meetings and share with my collegues. It is imortant to look back at traditions, and remember our past. And old materials are good for new ideas.