Like so many things this year, our Girl Scouting experience has seen big changes. But Girl Scouts isn’t just a place for girls to grow and learn and face new challenges—as a troop leader, I’m doing all of these things too.
When the pandemic first struck, our Girl Scout Brownie and Junior troop pivoted to Zoom troop meetings. I was worried. My girls are busy, wiggly, active, do-ers—how would this work remotely? Distributing materials required some additional planning and lead time (Just getting materials was tricky for a while!), but we had some wonderful meetings sharing puppets, making fairy gardens, doing a paint-along, participating in a virtual service unit parade, and designing our own Girl Scout floats. We decorated cupcakes and did some science experiments. We met on our normal schedule and continued earning badges and patches.
To be honest, during these meetings, I was concerned about filling time and providing enough to do. But it turns out, I didn’t need to. When things got slow, the girls were always excited to offer a game, room tour, show and tell, or initiate a scavenger hunt. We’ve probably had more girl-led interactions during this time as they’re getting confident in their own spaces and feel empowered on camera.
Eventually, Girl Scouts River Valleys gave the green light for troops to meet in-person again (following certain guidelines, of course). But personally, I wasn’t comfortable returning to in-person meetings. My family is mostly still “in” and avoiding others. There were other factors I had to consider too. My troop is evenly split with half in physical school and the other half in distance learning. Some of our Girl Scouts, and their families, have medical conditions that might prohibit them from participating. Inclusion is very important to me—how could we balance all of this?
It required a different framework:
- Small steps
- Big communication
From the start, I’ve been blessed with an awesome group of parents. I’m honest with them about what I need as a troop leader to make things work, and they have never let me down. We all work together to give our girls these experiences.
For us, expectations for safety and COVID-19 preparedness start in emails. Families can read the plan and decide if it works for them. This ensures we’re all on the same page and makes it easier to remind and reinforce safety steps in the moment.
How did our in-person troop meetings turn out? At one of our socially distanced fun troop meetings, we carved pumpkins. Knife skills demand distancing (Hello, safety circle!) and the girls were excited to celebrate the season and get creative (and a little messy). Separate tables and supplies for each girl helped us stay safe and far enough apart.
We recently snuck in our final outdoor meeting for a while—horseback riding! We broke into two smaller groups (that’s where flexibility comes in) and utilized a recommended vendor (Bunker Hills Stables). It was chilly but wonderful.
Editor’s note: This upcoming Girl Scout year will likely be different than years past. Planning for the 2020–2021 can sometimes feel overwhelming and tricky, but as Heather has shown, girls yearn for and benefit so much from getting together in any form, be it virtually or in-person (or a mix of both). How are you staying connected with your troop while adjusting to COVID-19? We’ve love to hear—share your story with us.
Heather Fairbanks – Heather Fairbanks leads Troop 57948 out of the Woodbury Service Unit. She is a calm, bookish, “indoor” person finding her way with a multi-school crew of energetic Girl Scout Juniors (and one bonus Brownie). Pre-pandemic, she owned a traveling boutique specializing in children’s costumes, but now, like so many, she is pivoting into worlds unknown and works in a downtown office. She lives in Cottage Grove with her husband and daughter.