On Sunday 29th January 2023 Malissa from the growth and development team attended the Basingstoke East Squirrel taster session day, here's what Malissa had to say

"Yesterday I supported the Basingstoke East Team to deliver a Squirrel Taster session… actually not one but 3. Each session had over 30 families attending!!

When I had initially got involved we were hoping to open Dreys in Bramley and Chineham but as there was so much interest in Squirrels the District Team had convinced 1st Basingstoke, 8th Basingstoke and Popley to join the Squirrel party.

The team were brilliant with the young people and started the session with the Squirrel story and then led a game whilst the management team and myself spoke with parents. The families were then invited to rotate through 5 different activities all based on scouting activities. During this time Jack (DC), Harrison and myself spoke with families about how they would like to get involved. I would say that virtually every family (I spoke to) was happy to get involved in some way to support the group, either helping at sessions, Exec Committee or ad hoc help with fundraising, hikes etc. Jack now has the unenviable task of trying to fit them all in to the dreys that are setting up.

It was a masterclass in engagement and I was really proud to be part of it."

Squirrels are the new branch of the Scouts family tree and our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people are having the best time.

In Hampshire, our mission is to open a Squirrels drey in every group. We know it's an ambitious goal - but we're enthusiastic and determined to make it happen.

It will take time, but we are prepared to give it everything we have to make it happen.

Is your group interested in opening a Squirrels drey? Get in touch with Amanda Wallace, our lead volunteer for Squirrels in Hampshire, by emailing: [email protected]

Find out more about Squirrels at a recent fun day we held in Hampshire below...

The Scouts have a new member of our family tree - Squirrel Scouts for 4 and 5 year olds! It is the Scout's first new section in 19 years and our first new age group in 35 years!

So what does this mean for you, a volunteer in Hampshire? Let us answer some of your questions.

The basics - Who are squirrels?

Squirrels is a new section for 4 and 5 year olds. They meet in 'Dreys', wear a red jumper and have a programme based on having fun, getting outdoors and make friends.

They earn badges just like the older sections including activity badges (exploring outdoors and feel good are just two of the twelve), challenge awards (All Together is one of the four) and a top award - the Chief Scout's Acorn Award. They can also earn staged activity badges.

The ideas were tested during the two years of pilot groups and built on the working of professionals in Early Years, in Northern Ireland where Squirrels have been running separate to the Scouts for 25 years and from what parents thought. There were a number of these pilot groups, known as Hedgehogs, in Hampshire.

Why now?

The idea first came from the Skills for Life plan in 2018 and pilots began the next year to test and see if it would work. The Scouts managed to get funding from key supporters to make this happen.

They found that the earlier you start, the bigger impact the Scout method has on young people. The pilots were deliberately started in very diverse areas and where families with the lowest income live. These are some of the people the Scouts have struggled to connect with before. If Squirrels could work in these areas, they would work everywhere.

The pandemic proved this even more than before. Scouts are bouncing back and the groups in Hampshire have seen how the launch of Squirrels has invigorated their area and brought more people back to Scouting.

Where will the leaders come from?

Firstly there is no deadline to work towards - Groups aren't being forced to open Squirrels Dreys immediately.

The pilots have helped us answer this question already. The new groups were very successful in bringing new people into Scouting, parents who didn't feel confident in helping the older sections were comfortable helping with their own 4 and 5 year old. They reached groups of people we weren't before.

Even better, lots of these new helpers and volunteers stuck around after their child moved up to Beavers - either helping in other sections or still in Squirrels. So with the Scouts currently registering interest across the country it is easy to sweet talk the parents once there are enough interested people.

What support is there to start a Drey?

There is a clear process those who are interested can follow.

Those who are leading the Drey won't be alone. They'll join nine other Dreys in a support cohort with a coach to help get them started with programme help and support so they get off to a flying start.

Hampshire are also ready with our first Squirrels Advisors. Donna Bennett is our lead and is helped by Amanda Wallace, Kerry Budd and Heidi Heidrich.

Where can I find more?

We'll be keeping our own website up to date; take a look at our Squirrels pages.

Want an overview? - scouts.org.uk/squirrels

Want the overview from the Scouts? All you need to know about Squirrels in one place.

Excited to get started? Learn about the trail to Squirrels for groups, districts and county.

Launching a Drey and want logos, templates and pictures? - Scouts Brand centre

Shopping for Squirrels uniforms or fun items? Scout Store have you covered.

What did we learn from the pilots? Summary here.

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