If you’ve set up a virtual troop meeting in the past few weeks (Yay, way to go you if you have! No pressure if you haven’t or don’t intend to.), chances are you’ve used Zoom to do it. Technology is a real boon in helping us stay connected. Our Brownie troop met virtually for the first time earlier this month and I loved seeing our Girl Scouts’ cheery faces pop up in the gallery view. The girls genuinely appreciated being able to connect again and goof off while working on a fun badge. On the flip side, technology also has its own challenges. (Need I say Zoombombing?) However, with some navigating, you can steer clear of those pitfalls and ensure a positive experience for everyone—read on for best practices for holding a troop meeting on Zoom.
Setting up a Zoom meeting is relatively simple. You’ll have to sign up for a Zoom account first. (It’s free!) After you’ve authenticated your account, follow the instructions on our one-pager to set up a virtual troop meeting. One of the perks of Zoom is that you don’t have to download anything in order to use it; participants just need to click on the link you send them to join the meeting.
As with any Girl Scout-related activity, safety should be paramount. Make sure that girls and guardians have signed the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge before participating in any online meetings or events. Here are a few additional safety tips when using Zoom:
- Use Zoom safety settings. When setting up your meeting, remember to check your settings to ensure your meeting is accessible only to you and your troop.
- Password protect your meeting. Enable the password requirement to join your meeting and only share the password with troop participants.
- Use the virtual waiting room feature. This enables you to admit individual participants into the meeting and controls who can and can’t be admitted.
- Enlist a co-host. If you have a co-leader or another registered adult volunteer joining in the meeting, promote them to the co-host position. This gives that adult the same meeting privileges and controls as you (the host). Your co-host can then moderate the chat box and do some general management so you can concentrate on leading the actual meeting.
- Change usernames. Once they’re in the meeting, encourage girls to rename themselves so only their first name shows up on the screen. (Alternatively, if you’re comfortable, they can assign themselves nicknames—a perfect time to use their camp names!)
Remember Your Audience: Program Grade Level Tips
Girl Scouts will inevitably have different comfort levels and experiences with using virtual tools to engage with others. Ability and savviness with technology often correspond with age, so here are some additional things to keep in mind when working with different program grade levels:
Younger Girl Scouts (Daisy–Junior)
- Girls this age tend to have shorter attention spans, so keep meeting duration on the shorter side. Zoom’s basic plan lets you host a forty-minute meeting for free, which might be the ideal length for younger girls.
- Use a simple background or blur it. When you’re not physically present, it’s easier for girls to get distracted when they’re just staring at a screen. A relatively blank background helps girls stay focused on what you’re saying and asking them to do.
- Ask her adult to be present. Girls may need assistance (with technology or with general instructions), so it’s helpful to have a parent or guardian with her to step in when necessary.
Older Girl Scouts (Cadette–Ambassador)
- Keep it girl-led. Just because your meetings have moved to a new platform doesn’t mean that girls need to forfeit leading their troop activities. Can your girls take charge of choosing a badge and creating a plan to earn it? Then let them go for it!
- Decide on virtual meeting length. Although their attention spans may be longer, your older troop may or may not want to meet for your regular meeting time. They can alternate longer meetings (potentially up to the 90-minute mark) with shorter meetings (30–40 minutes). Come up with a schedule and time frame that’s most appealing to your troop.
- Remember to allow time for simply checking-in and “hanging out.” At in-person meetings, girls this age like to spend some time catching up and simply chatting together. It’s no different in a virtual setting. Starting or ending your meetings with a troop hangout can continue to fill this social need.
Keep Everyone Engaged
When you’re not there in person, it can be a little more difficult to ensure the activities you’ve planned are meeting everyone’s individual needs. Try to vary your program to include everyone:
- Some girls may be more comfortable speaking up on a virtual call than others. Try an icebreaker question at the start of each meeting to give each person a chance to talk. Think of this as your opening circle time. Instead of going around the circle to share, have each girl “popcorn pass” to another troop member after they have shared to keep the conversation going.
- Use the breakout room feature to do pair-and-share or small group conversations. Younger troops may need an adult also assigned in each breakout room to help guide and monitor the conversation, while older girls should be okay their own. As the host, you can hop between breakout rooms to see how each group is doing.
- Attend a previously recorded live council program as a troop by sharing your screen and sharing the video. Remind your troop to use the chat box as they follow along.
While you may have been able to zip through activities and badge work in a regular in-person meeting, the flow of activities will likely change when you move to the digital realm. Some badges lend themselves better to virtual meetings than others—check our Girl Scouts at Home web page for a selection of badges that are easy to earn at home. If you’re worried about adapting our Girl Scouts River Valleys activity plans to a virtual meeting, we’ve got you covered! We’ll be rolling out virtual troop meeting plans in the near future—keep an eye out for those!
Have you used Zoom to meet with your troop virtually? What tips and tricks do you have to share? We’d love to hear!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).