We chatted to leaders who run their unit on the weekend to find out their top tips and why it works so well for them.
Shirley and Inga run 1st Inverkeilor Rainbows and 1st Inverkeilor Brownies in Angus at the same time on a Saturday from 11am to 3pm.
Due to the lack of leaders and also work commitments I was struggling to keep the units running. Then COVID hit and the unit meetings were cancelled. Once outdoor meetings were allowed we decided to meet monthly either in a park or beach and combine the hours so the girls had a decent length of time to explore. This worked really well and as COVID restrictions lifted we realised that meeting monthly for 4 hours was much more manageable and fits really well with the Rainbow programme and badge work.
We chose a Sunday as this suited the girls and parents best. We are 2 small rural units with no other activity in the village so this definitely helped keep the girls coming. Over the past year we have had good attendance and only one enquiry who did not wish to attend over a weekend.
The benefits are that we can almost complete a full badge in one meeting. We spend the same amount of time working through the badge work, it might just feel longer because it’s spread over 2-3 sessions/months.
If we decide to meet out with the regular meeting place it does not change our timings which suits the girls and parents. The girls get a decent time together and feel the time less rushed that with an hour meeting. We have 4 year olds and they cope really well with the length of time.
The parents love having 4 hours to themselves once a month too!
We plan our meetings 2 to 3 months in advance so parents can plan. We meet from 11am until 3pm asking girls to bring their own packed lunch and drinks. This works well for us and gives them a break throughout the meeting. The meeting still flies past and we often still run out of time – maybe my time skills need improving!
Vicky is the leader for 1st Castlecraig Brownies in Scottish Borders, who meet monthly on Sundays from 3.30pm to 6.30pm.
We started a weekend group originally as I had to move my group to meeting monthly due to other commitments. I am doing my PhD and didn’t have any other leaders, so meetings once a month on the weekend felt like a good solution. At the time I also had a lot of girls who travelled some distance and weekly evening meetings was just too much for them, so all this worked together.
I now work closely with another Brownie unit – we follow the same programme and join together for bigger activities. I also have support from this leader as I assist on her weekly meetings and she is able to assist on my monthly meetings.
I now have 9 girls, with 3 waiting to join, hopefully I will see them this month! All the girls love monthly meetings, we get through tonnes of activities as we get a good momentum going in the 3 hours.
The best thing about this experience was ‘merging’ – really just shadowing the other unit so we don’t have to double plan. Having support from another leader was also really helpful for me as I didn’t have this when I was meeting weekly.
Hilda runs 5th Cumbernauld Rainbows in North Lanarkshire, who meet every Saturday from 10am to 11.30am.
Our halls were booked up every night and the only free time was a Saturday morning. The benefits of being on a Saturday is that we can have the girls for longer than during the week and the girls are not tired as they would be at the end of the school day. It also helps when planning trips and sleepover as the girls are used to spending time with us at the weekend. The parents are also happier as they can have more time on their own and know the girls are having fun.
A tip would be not to have it too early or too late. We are from 10am to 11.30am, which suits as everybody has the rest of Saturday to do other things. Also, don’t get downhearted if you have a small group. We had a really small group of 5 in the past, but they still got a lot from it. And now we have grown to 16 girls!
Lesley is the leader of 2nd Ellon Rainbows in Gordon, who meet every Saturday from 10am to 11.30am.
This has been a Saturday unit since before my time. I took over when my daughter was in the unit and there was the potential it may close as leaders were retiring or moving on.
I have now been in the unit for 15 years this year and love what we do with the girls!
For me it is very convenient to be on a Saturday as I work full time and it would have been a challenge to run a unit during the week. The other Rainbow units in my area start around 4.30pm midweek, which is hard to do with a full time job.
In my experience there are no real challenges specifically to being a weekend unit. Of course, there can be clashes with things like swimming lessons, but there are clashes for the units during the week with other clubs and activities.
A benefit of meeting on Saturday mornings is it doesn’t eat into the whole day of family time for the parents. We also have close links with the other Rainbow units in our district, so can find girls a place in a different unit if a Saturday just doesn’t work for them.
I would say if you’re thinking of setting up a weekend unit and the demand is there, absolutely go for it!
If you think flexible guiding is for you or you would like to know more you can contact our development worker Reann at email@example.com.