Cork Guides among first to earn Engineering badge!

The Venue

Cuskinny Court in Cobh, Co. Cork is an old house. Outside there are large gardens and a big area for outdoor activities such as grass sledding and an obstacle course in the forest. Some of us had camped there before but this was our first time staying indoors. There is an extension with 20 dorms. Each dorm room had two, three or four beds or bunkbeds, a radiator, a cupboard and a sink. There were toilets at the end of each corridor. We prepared meals in the kitchen, and ate with our patrols in the dining room and the common room. The common room was large enough to set up extra dining tables and to do all our indoor activities and hold an indoor campfire for more than 50 people. Overall, we thought it was a great venue and we would recommend Cuskinny Court to other Guides.

Friday night

We arrived at Cuskinny Court at 7pm. When we came in the door there was a sheet on the downstairs noticeboard assigning us to our dormitories. We went straight to our dorms with our roommates, chose our beds and unpacked our belongings. We had 47 Guides from Ballincollig, Kinsale and Bandon so it was nice to meet and chat with our neighbouring Guides.

Then we were called to the common room where we were assigned our Patrols and our Patrol Leaders. Our eight Patrols were named after endangered animals so we had the Enthusiastic Elephants, Outstanding Orangutans, Glorious Gorillas, Brilliant Blue Whales, Loyal Lemurs, Super Snow Leopards, Thoughtful Tigers and Powerful Pandas. In our Patrols we made name tags and got to know each other. The Leaders told us we were doing a newspaper fashion show. The theme for the fashion show was ‘The Beast From The East’. Each Patrol got scissors, sellotape, a stapler and old newspapers. We were then told to pick a model and a narrator. Then we proceeded to make beautiful outfits and other accessories. We had 20 minutes to complete this task. Once everyone was ready, each patrol’s model walked up and down the ‘red carpet runway’ while the narrator explained the ideas and inspiration behind the design. We thoroughly enjoyed this activity.

Saturday morning

Dressed in full rain gear and boots, we were ready for our outdoor session with the Cuskinny activity staff. We were split up into two groups at the start. Some people did the assault course and some did grass sledding. In the assault course, we did mud crawling, running through water, getting over obstacles, climbing up muddy hills and crawling through water-filled tyres. It was wet, muddy, slippery and great fun.

For the grass sledging, we had to walk to the hill where we were given a safety helmet and a sled. The sleds had caterpillar tracks and brakes. We were put into pairs. One person got on the sled and the other gave them a push start. After a few rounds where everyone had a go, we moved further up the hill. Then we did relay races. On the count of three, each team sent their first racer down the hill as fast as they could. Once that team member reached the bottom of the hill, they raced back up the track dragging their sled as fast as they could to pass it to the next team member. Afterwards, we all got together to play Temple of Doom, a chasing game with giant inflated balls. Everyone enjoyed the activities and had lots of fun. We took off our muddy rain gear, cleaned up and got ready for lunch.

Engineering Badge

The first task was to discuss engineering in everyday life. Then Patrols were given two minutes to examine a picture and list as many items as possible that were designed and created by engineers. The two winning Patrols listed 37 items from traffic lights and buildings to wheelchairs and aeroplanes. Another task involved a game to match up descriptions of engineers with different types of engineering, for example electronic engineering was matched up with a picture of a person working with cameras and phones. We raced against the other Patrols to match up the six engineers with their job descriptions. Another interesting task was to consider what problems we would face in 50 years’ time and come up with a solution. Some Patrols came up with solutions to reduce pollution while others concentrated on recycling. Other problems we tackled included online schooling, teleportation jewellery and cloning and genetic modification of extinct animals (to fight rogue robots)! We had lots of fun doing this section of the badge because it made us think about future problems.

Another interesting task was to take part in an oil spill clean-up experiment, so we could study the environmental damage oil spills cause and how difficult it is for engineers to find ways to clean spills up. To begin, we watched a demonstration by our Leaders who explained how engineers used different methods to contain and clean oil spills. Once we knew what we would be doing, we worked in our Patrols. The Leaders had prepared all the equipment for us and our job was to decide how we would use it. Each Patrol had a basin of water, a feather (to represent a bird), a pom-pom ball (to represent a sea creature), a teaspoon of cooking oil, a drop of food colouring (to represent a chemical spill) and an ice-pop stick oil tanker. On each stick our Leader had written the name of an actual oil tanker involved in a spill, with the year and the amount of oil spilled into the ocean. To clean up the oil, we chose from a selection of straws, sponges, cotton wool, cloth and cardboard all cut into small pieces. To make our oil spill, we put the boat, bird and sea creature into the water. Then we added the oil and the ‘chemical’. We noticed that the oil was sitting on top of the water and the colouring spread across the surface. We had to find a way to clean up the pollutants before they reached the beaches (the sides of the basin). We found it almost impossible to remove all the oil from the water with absorbers and skimmers. In the end we added soap (washing up liquid) which formed an emulsion with the oil and water and helped us to clean up the oil.

The final big task we had was to create a mechanical hand out of recycled materials. Each Patrol had to come up with a story for the person who needed the hand. Then we had to brainstorm, draw and construct the hand. Each Patrol checked out the recycling materials – string, wool, straws, toilet roll cores, milk cartons, yogurt cartons, rubber gloves, and old newspapers. We made a list and the Patrol Leader collected what we needed. We didn’t get any instructions – just some photographs for inspiration. Our Patrol eventually finished with a hand made of a toilet roll core, straws and string. Our hand could move its fingers. We had to rush to finish our designs. Later before campfire, each Patrol presented their mechanical hand to the rest of the group, along with their design plan. It was interesting to hear the stories and compare the hands.

Night Ramble

Before campfire we decided to go for a night walk.  We all put on loads of layers and wrapped up warm, then got into pairs and we followed the path all the way to the entrance of Cuskinny.  It was so dark that when we turned off our torches we could barely see each other! Then to see if any of the Guides knew everyone’s name, we lined everyone up by a wall, picked a Guide to stand in front and then shone the flashlight on everyone’s face and they would call their name out. Everyone really enjoyed the night walk but we were also happy to get into our warm PJs and campfire blankets for indoor campfire!


All the Patrol Leaders met in one room and chose the different songs to use for the campfire.  We chose Campfire’s Burning, Tango, The Princess Pat, On my Honour, Say When, Just a Boy and a Girl, and a couple more. We planned which songs to start and finish with and gave each Unit a specific song to sing. Kinsale chose Little Red Wagon, Ballincollig chose The Bear Song, and Bandon chose Georgie. Every Patrol also had to make up a new Guide song to the tune of an old nursery rhyme. Then we got all the Guides and Leaders into a circle and we began our campfire.  The Patrol Leaders led everyone in song and we had a lovely campfire!

The food

On Friday night we had a supper of sausages and rolls, with hot juice and home-baking. The chocolate brownies were our favourite. For Saturday breakfast we had cereal, fruit salad, juice and eggy bread with Nutella or jam. For lunch we had vegetable soup and made our own sandwiches. Home-baked treats included lemon drizzle cake, flapjacks and cupcakes. Saturday night dinner was chicken curry and rice, followed by Swiss roll and custard. And, of course, more home-baking if we had any room. After campfire we had hot chocolate and, yes, more home-baking. Sunday morning was cereal, fruit salad and Nutella or jam sandwiches. Bringing the home-baking was fun, nice to share, gave us plenty of treats and reduced the shopping bill. We will do that again on our next trip.

Sunday morning

On Sunday morning us Guides and Leaders awoke, rested after an enjoyable campfire and yummy hot chocolate the night before. Encouraged by the morning sun and chirping birds, everyone fell into the Sunday morning routine of setting the tables and preparing breakfast which, as usual, were extra-large servings as the Leaders used up the food! After saying grace, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of our Guides and finishing breakfast, each Patrol began their duties. These consisted of washing up, clearing the common room, sweeping out the bedrooms and, of course, the Health Patrol had the unfortunate job of cleaning the bathrooms!

Once the duties were done and the packed bags stacked up, it was time to start thinking about Guides’ Own. Patrol Leaders and some Senior Guides were assigned the job of organising the ceremony. We chose the themes of Friendship and Nature. Each Patrol Leader chose either a song, a poem or a reading and then practised with their Patrol. As we had blue skies, we took the opportunity to have a mini photoshoot outside in the beautiful gardens of Cuskinny Court. Following our close-ups and group shots, Patrol Leaders got us all into position for our wonderful, reflective Guides’ Own, outside in the warm springtime sun. Afterwards our CO presented us with the new Guide Engineering Badge, we were very proud to be among the first Guides to earn this badge. After singing Taps, it was time for hugs and goodbyes to our new friends and old, with everyone already looking forward to our next Guiding adventure.