It is fun to hear about all the creative ways troops are staying connected right now. Virtual troop meetings are great, but sometimes another Zoom meeting feels like just another video call added to a list of many. Now might be the perfect time to do something a little different—like holding a virtual troop “overnight” or backyard campout!
At the end of March, my Ambassador troop had our first virtual troop meeting. We met over Zoom and used the time to say hello, chat about all.the.feels., and decide how (and if) we wanted to meet virtually while in-person Girl Scout activities were on hold. Our pre-pandemic calendar had an overnight planned at the Sagata Troop House in late April. We decided to keep our overnight on the calendar and meet virtually instead. Those who joined us from their own homes and yards on that brisk but sunny Saturday evening had a blast. We shared stories. We ate food. We watched a movie together. It felt different compared to the school week that was filled with distance learning activities, and just what the group needed.
Here at Girl Scouts River Valleys, we have been hearing from other troops and Girl Scouts trying their own take on backyard campouts. Whether it’s a solo event with family or virtual troop camping extravaganza, we love hearing about it!
Here are four things to consider when planning a virtual “overnight” or campout with your troop.
To Zoom or Not to Zoom?
For my troop’s virtual “overnight” we met over Zoom all at the same time. But that doesn’t mean you have to use a video conferencing app during your fun overnight adventures. Brownie Troop 18480 is encouraging its members to camp in their backyard while staying safe at home. Then, they plan to get together via a Zoom meeting in the future to talk about their experience. This is great for troops who want a little flexibility on when they plan their backyard campout (Sunny day, yes please! Rainy day, no thanks.). If you do choose to Zoom, it may be helpful to set an end time (particularly for younger Girl Scouts). Just because it’s an “overnight,” doesn’t mean you have to Zoom all night long.
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Give options for your troop campout adventure—it’s a great way to keep it girl-led! Encourage everyone to participate in a spot that works best for them, whether it’s a tent in the backyard, a fort in the living room, an outdoor hammock, or snuggled up with blankets on the couch. There is no right or wrong way to plan a virtual overnight. Challenge the troop to see who can make the most creative sleeping space! This Scandinavian retailer put together fun instructions that may inspire your next fort building masterpiece.
During multi-level Troop 55385’s recent event, some camped outside while others opted to stay indoors. Each girl had a chance to show off where they were going to sleep and even introduced their siblings over Zoom.
What’s a Campout Without Food?
Sharing a meal together is a great Girl Scout tradition. Even though you are not in the same space, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect over food! You could share a favorite troop snack recipe that everyone makes ahead of time (GORP, anyone?). Maybe someone will choose to cook over a fire in the backyard. Whether it’s dinner, snacks, or even microwave s’mores, eating together (even while apart) is a great way to keep the fun going. Fun tip—if you have any extra boxes of Thanks-A-Lots lying around, just add a marshmallow and you have a s’more–Girl Scout cookie-style!
Make it a Movie Night
At our in-person troop overnights, we love to watch a movie that relates (even if loosely) to the badge or Journey we are working on. When we were Cadettes, we watched Night at the Museum with our Night Owl badge and the movie Up for our Senior Sky badge. We decided to keep the movie night tradition going for our virtual event. We spent the first hour chatting and eating dinner, then we watched Troop Zero over our Zoom call together. (Great film, but maybe not quite right for Daisies or Brownies. If you are unsure if a movie is right for you age group, check out this resource for age recommendations and always get parental permission first). It was easy to stream the movie over Zoom, and the group even used the chat feature to comment on parts they liked or were surprised about. Netflix Party is a streaming tool to use for virtual movie nights, but everyone does need to have a Netflix account, so check with families ahead of time to make sure all can be included. Otherwise, stick to streaming video over your troop-only video call.
As the weather warms up and the school year draws to an end, now may be the perfect time to plan a virtual campout with your troop. If you do, be sure to tell us about it, we love hearing your stories. If you want a summer adventure delivered to your doorstep, explore our virtual camp opportunities offered this summer (registration opens May 27). And for those who sleep outdoors, don’t forget to request your Every Girl in a Tent patch!
Emily Schmall – Emily is the Senior Manager of Program Resources at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from the University of Minnesota and has a background in visual arts, education, curriculum development, and volunteer management. Emily was a Girl Scout growing up and now leads her daughter’s troop of spirited teenagers. She lives in the St. Paul area where she enjoys hanging with the fam and going on adventures with their rescue dog, Dory. In her (non-Girl Scout related) free time, Emily enjoys photography, playing the ukulele, and attending the Minnesota State Fair.