Virtual meetings and events are here to stay! One of the best parts about Girl Scouts are all of the amazing hands-on activities, from STEM projects to crafts to cooking together: things that are really hard to experience on a video call! But the convenience of a virtual event has its merits, so it’s up to volunteers to make the best out of every special event. If you are creative and can muster some energy, you can find ways to make any virtual event engaging, even for the youngest girls.
Save it for later!
My troop was able to have several amazing and entirely virtual events, such as a bridging ceremony and virtual sleepover. Here’s how we did it, plus my best tips for planning your own event!
Scavenger Hunt Bridging Ceremony
When the pandemic hit, my Daisy troop was ready to bridge to Brownies, and I couldn’t bear the idea of skipping this important ceremony, or even postponing it. The girls were so excited to be Brownies!
For our bridging ceremony, we had a virtual sleepover followed by the bridging ceremony completed by each girl and her family in person, not together as a group. For the bridging portion, there was an all-day scavenger hunt that ended in my front yard with a surprise: a small bridge that Service Unit 671 of Sunnyvale has on hand for troops to borrow.
For the scavenger hunt, girls could “opt in” by giving me the location where they would leave a message in chalk on the ground or hang a poster on a garage or front door. The message needed to include our troop number but could say anything else. I wrote up clues, then the kids hard to find the messages. (Parents were given the answer key). Some folks didn’t feel comfortable doing this at their own homes so they were welcome to do a chalk drawing on the local school blacktop or two parks within a 3-mile radius. Everything was within the three-mile radius so they could do this on bikes or drive around. It was really fun to enjoy the same spaces over the course of one day in a safe way! It was also good for helping the girls start learning to read a map.
We made sure to let parents know that this has to be completed only with their own family and not as a group with any other girls! The final stop was my house, where the kids had a photo-op on the bridge. Parents had secretly purchased the Brownie vests in advance, and attached the patches, so they brought them along for the photo. One of our troop members had made a home-made brownie for each girl, and they were provided for safe pick-up at a table.
It was so cool seeing photos of each girl in the same places throughout Saturday but at different times! It was a way to share the same space but stay apart. We ran into a few folks but kept our distance to be respectful.
The virtual sleepover the night before the Bridging event was fun for the girls. I had prepared a bag of treats and activities to do together from 5 PM to 8 PM (with an hour break in the middle to eat their own pizza and bake brownies from a boxed brownie mix that was provided in the treat bag). The girls set up tents, sleeping bags or pillow forts for the night, then logged on for the party.
The activities for the sleepover were suggested on one of the helpful Facebook groups I visit, GS Leaders Junior Think Tank, which is run by Girl Scout volunteers. A Girl Scout troop leader, Jen Wall, included her plans for a virtual sleepover for her junior troop. I modified it to work for my troop of first graders, but mostly stuck to her plans.
Activities included writing letters to troop friends using pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes, playing minute-to-win-it games, and making a rainbow loom bracelet with a plastic fork as the loom. The treat bag included fun snacks, a brownie mix and breakfast (an orange, shelf-stable milk, cereal and OJ). After calling it a night at 8 PM, we met up at 10 AM the next morning to eat together (I encouraged them to eat outside, if possible) and then do a YouTube yoga video together. It was a great experience for all, even if we could not be in-person. Although planning it took some time, it was worth the effort!
Top Virtual Event Tips
Include Wiggle Breaks
It’s really hard for young kids to sit for long stretches. When planning your event, include movement like games that get kids moving! Have them do ten jumping jacks and run around the house, or put on a YouTube video for them to dance along to.
Downtime is Important Too
When the pandemic first hit last year, my Cadette troop still wanted to meet but my co-leader and I were struggling to figure out what kind of meetings to hold. Plus, we were adjusting to changing roles at home. Instead of focusing events solely on badge work, we decided to host monthly game nights led by the girls for pure fun! They used Board Game Arena (high-quality board games online) and other apps. This school year, we are slowly getting back to badge work and trying to find ways to make virtual meetings and events work for all of us. At a recent meeting, my co-leader delivered embroidery floss to each girl, then the girls taught each other unique friendship bracelet techniques.
Pro-Tip: Consider some virtual icebreakers and games to engage your girls, especially at the beginning of an event to get the conversation flowing and work out the bugs of any new video system.
Check With Parents about Stamina
If your troop is on the younger side, check with parents to find out how much stamina they have to be on a video call! Recently, one of my Brownies said she was having a hard time during the video call because her eyes were hurting and politely asked to leave early so she could play with her siblings. I was proud that she felt empowered to ask for what she needed.
Use the Co-Op Model
Now may be the best time to switch to a co-op model and ask every family to plan an event or meeting, as opposed to a troop leader taking the lead all the time. Older girls may be able to plan a meeting without help, and you may be surprised at how much the girls do without a parent’s help! Many of them have become incredibly tech-savvy with Zoom, Google slideshows, Kahoots and more.
Virtual events can often take more energy than in-person ones to plan! Troops usually try to meet twice a month, but that may not be realistic for you or your troop. It’s OK to scale back.
When you meet on Zoom, keep meetings short and sweet, or offer an event with on- and offline segments, like my troop’s virtual bridging event. You can provide supplies for a craft or STEM project with porch pick-ups, then use part of meeting time to explain the project, then have cameras off for most of the meeting, then meet up for the last ten minutes to share the results.
Meet With Another Troop to Keep Things Interesting
Consider reaching out to some other troops nearby, perhaps troops in your service unit or based at your local elementary school, to keep the girls engaged and try to make some new friends, even if on Zoom! You can even mix up ages and troop levels for an engaging experience for everyone.
My troop recently celebrated World Thinking Day using one of Jen Wall’s resources from GS Leaders Juniors Think Tank Facebook page. I invited a new kindergarten troop that is in our neighborhood to join the meeting. It was very fun to experience the energy of the other troop, even if on Zoom!
We had randomized breakout rooms to mix up the troops to discuss peacemaking with friends and family, and my awesome 7th-grader Ainsley and 6th-grader Maggie, both Girl Scouts, led out. (The younger girls adore seeing big kids who are also Girl Scouts). Thanks to Jen Wall for doing so much of the hard work of planning the meeting for a Zoom call, we had a very efficient, fun and educational World Thinking Day in one hour!
Find Out Your Troop’s Interest
Every troop is different! I co-lead two troops: Brownies and Cadettes. I had to figure out how to plan meetings with each group in mind. The Cadettes have much longer school days on Zoom and are less interested in meeting on Zoom, but the younger group seems to be enjoying meeting every two weeks.
Join Facebook Groups
Consider joining various parent-run or GSNorCal-run Facebook groups for incredible ideas on offering virtual events. The groups have been a godsend to me during the shutdown, with leaders sharing more ideas than ever before. I have found an amazing curriculum to use on video chats with very specific advice about how to implement in the comments. Some even share Google Slides that you can use as-is or edit to suit your troop!
One particularly amazing experience was finding a Girl Scout who was working on her Silver award and was offering an hour-long class on Zoom for Brownies to learn beginner sign language. My troop of second-graders had an incredible time during the Zoom call, and it helped my troop towards earning the Senses Badge, which we finished at a later meeting. It was also nice to talk about the Silver Award with my Brownies, so they can start thinking of their own ideas.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas about how to plan a few fun meetings in the virtual world!
What to do next
- Explore your resources! GSNorCal and GSUSA have different tips and guides for how to support at-home Girl Scout fun.
- Check out further strategies for your virtual troop meetings.
Heather Osborn-Ng—Heather co-leads a traditional Junior troop and a co-op Daisy troop in Sunnyvale, CA. A former newspaper reporter and a law school graduate, she now spends her days as a modern homemaker, chasing around three daughters, a cute dog and energetic husband. She loves all things Girl Scouts, but especially crafts and camporee.