The Big Brownie Birthday Star Quest

This year has been an extra-special year for those involved in Girlguiding, and an extra-extra-special year for all Brownies as we've been celebrating the centenary of the Brownie section.

In mid-June we had our last big event of the year, our Star Quest event.  Just like the Stay Away we had in May, there were broad national guidelines produced as to how to run the event, what to include etc so that all children who attended these events had a similar experience.  Obviously there are going to be great differences in events, but it was good to think that we were on a Star Quest, and so many other people had been too!

Our Star Quest was organised by our County, and there were around 800 children on site!  I thought organising a one-night residential event for 120 girls was hard work, so I really do take my hat off to the organising team for this event!  They did a sterling job.

We met at a local school to wait for our coach, as we waited we gave each Brownie two wristbands with a leader's contact details on, one for her wrist in case she got lost, and another for her bag in case that got lost!  We made sure everyone was slathered in suncream (it was looking like it was going to be a gorgeous day), was wearing a sunhat, and had a refillable water bottle.  We also collected in fruit and veg donations for the local animal sanctuary (first time I've put carrots on a kit list!).  We were travelling as a district, so there were girls from all four units in my district, plus a good handful of leaders.  We all wore district neckers, the idea being that our girls are easier to spot in a crowd...and with 800 girls, we knew a lot of the day would be spent doing head counts!

As with all Brownie events, most of the photos I've taken of the day have got children in, so can't be shared here...but they show lots of happy children, and lots of happy leaders too!  (One of my favourite photos from the event is of three leaders going down the slide on mats...brilliant action shot!)

The idea behind Star Quest is that all the stars above New Zealand (where it is currently night time) have disappeared...Brownies have to take part in activities in three different time zones (Past, Present, Future) in order to retrieve the stars and put them back before it is night time here in the UK and the stars disappear forever.

Our event was held on the grounds of a large college - we had access to indoor space and a lot of outdoor space!  After an introductory session we were quickly sent off to the different zones.  We had 90 minutes in each zone, with time for moving between zones and also for lunch.

Each zone was set up to allow the girls freedom to choose what they wanted to do.  In each zone us leaders put our stuff down in one place (along with large boxes we had brought along to put girls' finished craft items in) and explained to our Brownies that at least one leader from our district would be there at all times.  The girls could then go off and explore with the zone, and do whatever they wanted.  The site was secure, meaning only people affiliated with the event were on site, so the girls could wander freely about within their zones. There were plenty of activities to choose from, some lasting 5-10 minutes, some 20-30.  Some activities had long queues (abseiling!) whilst others were quicker to wait for.  At the end of each activity they got a star sticker in their activity passport.  It was up to the girls to decide what they wanted to do.  Some did just one or two activities, others did lots and kept coming back with yet more things for our craft box! Some just enjoyed wandering around in the sun with their friends.  

When it was time to move on we did yet another head count ("girls, stop moving! PLEASE stand stilll!") and made sure our waterbottles and suncream were topped up.  Then we went off to the Past zone, which turned out to be our favourite of the day.  

There was a horse carousel (look at that gorgeous sky!), one of those slides you slide down on a mat, old uniforms to try on, peg dolls to make, peppermint creams to make and eat, a harp to listen to (and attempt to play!) and handbells.  Reading through the options of what to do in this zone, a few of my girls were unimpressed.  "Fluffy Owl, we've made peppermint creams before.  Fluffy Owl, going on a slide's boring.  Fluffy Owl, it's too hot to try on clothes."  Well, that soon changed!  Queues for this zone were much shorter, as there was quite a high speed to taking turns - you can fit a lot of girls on a carousel!  Despite saying they didn't want to do anything to begin with, this is the one zone in which barely any of the girls came back to talk to the leaders!  They loved the carousel and the slide, they loved making peg dolls (when they realised what was one) and who doesn't like peppermint creams?!  Much as I love doing adventurous activities with Brownies, such as abseiling, I equally love seeing them embrace 'old-fashioned' things, things which don't require modern technology, such as simply going on slides and making peg dolls.  Smiley happy Brownies!

It was then lunch time, we found a shady spot and sat down to eat and rest for a bit.  Then we were off to the Present zone.  A few girls by this point were quite tired, but soon perked up in the silent disco!  None of them had ever been to a silent disco before (for those who don't know, a silent disco is when each person has headphones and can choose from a selection of channels to listen you can have thirty people all dancing to a variety of songs in silence, it's great to watch!) but were soon dancing away under the gazebo!  

Another leader, S, and I went off to explore and when we found a table making marshmallow rabbits had a few empty seats, we asked very politely if we could have a go and the leader agreed!

Now, before you say anything, I know this marshmallow rabbit is not one of my finest craft moments.  The icing was very runny (it was very hot in that room!) and I couldn't tie a bow in the ribbon and S and I were giggling so much I'm surprised we even managed to get this far!  The rabbit stayed intact long enough for a photo and then was quickly eaten.

At one table you could decorate a small pot and plant some sunflower seeds, as it was towards the end of the day and they had lots left, I was allowed to do two, one for me and one for Ben.  There weren't many decorative bits left, though, so I went with the minimalist approach.  Then wondered just how I was going to get all the girls' sunflower pots home on the coach without them falling over...

At the end of the day the Brownies took off into space and returned the stars to their rightful place in the sky...phew!  They didn't disappear forever!  There wasn't enough room for leaders to also go into space, so I can't actually say what went on in that activity, but all our girls were returned to us in the coach park, commenting on the activity leaders' acting skills...some of my Brownies sadly no longer believe in magic.

We got the coach home, and returned lots of tired Brownies to their parents.  They had lots of crafts to take home (most of the sunflower pots survived intact!) and lots of stories to tell.  Thankfully no children were sunburnt, although a few of the leaders were a bit pink - I spent so much time nagging the girls to drink more water and put on more suncream, but I probably should have listened to my own advice, I'd done my legs and face but somehow forgotten my arms...I have a lovely watch mark now, anyway!

One of the activities in the Present zone was to help build part of a rocket to help the stars get back in the sky.  The Brownies succeeded in their mission! Here is to a fabulous 100 year history of Brownies, and to the next hundred years - and beyond!


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