Girls at the cutting edge

The 1st Bispham Brownies.
The 1st Bispham Brownies.

WHEN Lord Baden-Powell created the Girl Guiding movement in 1910, he probably did not envisage sending a text, operating Microsoft Word and detecting a computer virus would be criteria for a badge.

How could he, given such things were more the stuff of science fiction than what you would have to learn for topics to earn a coveted Brownie badge.

Nowadays, Brownies and Guides are internet-savvy, technology-minded youngsters who know what’s what when it comes to the modern world.

Ahead of The Gazette’s Girls In The Lead supplement, featuring Rainbows, Brownies and Guides across the Fylde coast, we took a look at just what they get up to.

Rachel Webster, Snowy Owl at the 1st Bispham Brownies, who meet at the Devonshire Road hut, said: “The badges have changed tremendously.

“It’s all about healthy lifestyles, as well as new technology.

“There’s now a communicator badge, where they have to send an email, use a mobile phone, and create a computer document.”

And their aptitude at all things technological – which used to be the remit of the working man while his wife stayed at home – is a far cry from when the guides started out.

Ahead of their official formation, girls desperately trying to sneak into the male Scout meetings, which begun in 1907, were told in no uncertain terms to leave.

But after continual pressure the authorities caved and Girl Guides became official with younger ages, initially called the Rosebuds, later Brownies, accommodated for in 1914.

But now, things have swayed even further towards equality, with Brownies able to join their equivalent boys’ group, the Cub Scouts, but the boys being kept firmly out of Brownies.

Miss Webster added: “It’s good girls are allowed to join, although none of our girls have chosen to join the Cubs or Scouts.

“The newest badges, which weren’t about when I was a Brownie, really make the children familiar with things they need to know to get on in life.”

If you thought the computer element was hard, Brownies, aged between seven and 10, can complete a Science Investigator badge, which involves testing food dyes on sugar-coated sweets using chromatography, and making an acid indicator using red cabbage.

But don’t worry, Rachel’s mum, Julie – the Brown Owl of the troop – is on hand to bring the Brownies back to basics.

Mrs Webster, who has been involved with Brownies for almost 50 years, said: “All last week we showed them the traditions we used to have, and I bought in some of the items we would use.

“I do think the badges are a little easier to pass nowadays, it’s not such a rigorous test.

“There aren’t as many of the traditional things we used to do, like how to polish brass, and how to be a home-maker.

“So, we decided to have a traditional week last week, with baking, polishing pennies and I showed them how we used to sew our own badges on a blanket.

“They loved it, they were so interested, as it’s not something they’re used to, and I think all Brownies should learn more about the old days.”

Tiegan Holmes, seven, said: “We have been looking at what Brown Owl used to do, and it’s really fun.

“We’re going to do some baking and she showed us the sewing she did.”

Ellie Sykes, eight, added: “All the old photos were interesting, they used to wear totally different uniforms, and they used to cycle more and make toys.”

For those who like tradition, modern Brownies still have the Brownie Traditions badge, which include tying a reef knot, drawing the Union Jack and learning the national anthem.

Some of the more modern badges:

Point four of five of Computer requires:

n Understand the importance of the Brownie web safe code.

n Log on to the internet and visit Girlguiding UK’s website, find out two facts and email them to the tester.

n Visit two websites, explain which is your favourite and save it to bookmark.

And the Communicator badge requires the Brownie to:

n Make a poster, audio-tape or video-tape advert for Brownies.

n Send an email or letter to the tester or the Brownie Web Team saying what you would like to do on Brownie camp or holiday.

n Using your Brownie web safe code, take part in a live web event, such as World Thinking Day on the internet.

The traditional badges:

The Home Safety badge asks:

n Make a hot drink.

n Know how to fill a bath safely.

The Brownie

Traditions point two requires:

n Tie a reef knot and know when it can be used. Tie a bow in your shoelaces. Make a single plait with thin rope or cord.

n Show how Brownies used to tie their scarf.

n Safely light a candle using a

match.