Believe it or not, it is absolutely possible to run a Girl Scout Troop from home! I am a leader for Daisy troop 62650, and we have been having virtual meetings for two weeks now. When the schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted my girls to be able to stay connected in a difficult time. Routines are soothing, and I want to able to see their smiling faces, just as I have every other week! But changing up Girl Scout troop meeting can feel a little daunting, so I’ve put together some of my best tips on how to get your virtual meetings going.
Save it for later!
Sign Up for an Online Meeting Platform that Suits Your Needs.
There’s a ton of free ways to video chat with your Girl Scouts out there. Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Skype are a few, but I settled on Zoom. The only drawback to Zoom is the 40-minute time limit for the free version, but it keeps me moving the meeting forward. Zoom can be used through an app on your Android or iPhone, your computer, or even dialing in on a telephone. You can sign up and download the platform on their website. Practice setting up and holding a meeting with a friend so you can get used to the controls and help guide your girls and parents when they get to try. You can also watch online tutorials to become more familiar with the platform.
Educate the Families about the Online Meeting Platform.
Let your troop (and the parents) know the details of your new meetings, and how to log in. Reassure them that this is an easy way to stay connected and keep their girls occupied while they’re stuck indoors. Parents have enough on their plate without adding one more complicated thing to the list! Make sure to review the online safety guidelines with your girls as well, helping them navigate their increasingly digital world safely.
Pro Tip: Some of your parents or volunteers might not be as familiar with online communication and platforms. Share with them GSNorCal’s Girl Scout Guide to the Internet: Volunteer Edition to build their confidence with online navigation.
Plan Your Agenda Ahead of Time.
Keep your meetings focused on the Girl Scout troop meeting fundamentals: the Girl Scout Promise, troop business, discussion, and closing. Activities are best left for the girls to work on their own outside of the meeting. It would take a long time to show them how to fold an origami crane on videochat, when they could watch a YouTube tutorial after the meeting and practice on their own. You and they can share pictures of their completed projects online, whether it’s on a troop Facebook page or just via email. My Scouts are 6-7 years old and have loved using technology in new ways.
Pro Tip: What makes a successful troop meeting work? These six tips will make your agenda a cinch.
Give Yourself Room to Make Mistakes.
This is a big change to be making, so you’ll naturally make some mistakes, whether it’s with the new tech or ideas that will keep girls engaged remotely. Allow yourself the fumbles. Things won’t always run smoothly, you won’t always get to do what you wanted, but you can be creative with giving the girls different opportunities. Be gentle with yourself and the girls, and keep trying new things! Don’t forget to think ahead about accommodations as well. Not all of this new system or technology is built well for everyone. Remember the Girl Scouts in your troop that need accommodations, and talk with the parents about how you can meet their needs at this time.
Let the Girls Take the Lead
Our first virtual meeting was definitely a learning experience. There was quite a bit of background noise and I was nervous. I wanted to give the girls space to talk about what was going on, but it turns out they just wanted to have a normal meeting, singing songs and planning for camping trips. If they want to talk about the “normal for now,” I’ve read up on how to talk about coronavirus with kids to prepare for the conversation.
I wear my leader uniform for continuity and I still have the girls take turns with kapers (modified of course). Our second meeting, we learned about video chat etiquette and how to turn the mute button on and off when you want to speak. In discussion, I make sure to call the girls by their name so everyone can be involved, if they choose. I plan activities that can be done with common items around the house.
I’ve moved the meetings from twice a month to every week so everyone has the opportunity to participate. Understandably, only about half the girls have joined the virtual meetings, but I expect more to join as the shelter-in-place order continues. It takes a bit of time, but I try to make videos for the girls that can’t make it. There’s an amazing amount of resources online right now to stay connected with the community in many new ways: virtual tours, online classes, sing-alongs, Netflix parties, scavenger hunts. Reach out and bring the ideas to your troop and let them start a new adventure.
What to do next
- Check out GSNorCal’s online resources for keeping your Girl Scout active at home with Girl Scout activities and earning awards.
- Teach your Girl Scouts about how to use the internet safely and with a Girl Scout mentality.
- Keep on planning your Girl Scout year as circumstances change with the Girl Scout Playbook and a Full year of Girl Scout Meeting Ideas.
- Keep your girls active and engaged indoors with these spring and summer activities, or help them learn to mindfully reduce stress as they adapt to their new normal.
Talena Gray—Talena is a first-time troop leader for Daisy troop 62650. She enjoys teaching STEM, crocheting, and singing. She looks forward to getting the troop back out into nature soon.