You want what’s best for your girls, and with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you’ve probably made the tough decision to cancel upcoming troop meetings and cookie booth sales. But maintaining a sense of normalcy is so important right now for girls and their families; how do you keep the Girl Scout spirit going strong when your troop can’t actually meet face-to-face?
Even as we all practice social distancing (avoiding close contact with people by staying home or standing at least six feet away from others when you do need to go out), Girl Scouts is still a place where girls can feel supported and share honest conversations about what they’re feeling. Knowing that there are tens of thousands of other troops in this sisterhood that are also figuring things out can be comforting to many girls.
Which means that you, troop leader, are also not alone in figuring everything out during this stressful time. Here are just a few suggestions, from fellow troop leaders like you, about how to keep your troop moving forward while staying safe and healthy.
Decide how you’ll stay connected. Depending on their ages, ask your girls how they’d like to connect outside their usual troop meeting. Don't worry if they’re using a web or social platform you’re not as familiar with, because you’ll learn alongside them!
If your girls are younger or looking for guidance about how to stay in touch, check out companies offering free webinar services for groups. Try services from Google, Adobe, or Zoom, among many others, and see what works best for your troop.
And if connecting virtually isn’t a possibility, you can still show your girls what it means to be a sister to every Girl Scout by giving them a quick phone call to let them know you’re there for them.
Keep your troop traditions going. There's comfort in what’s familiar, and by continuing troop traditions—whatever they may be—you remind your girls that they’re still on solid ground, no matter what headlines they’re reading.
If your troop usually opens meetings by reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law, be sure to do the same with any online meetings you hold. Ask your girls what a virtual friendship circle might look like; instead of squeezing hands, they could share something good that happened in the past week or something they admire about another member. Or you might have the girls sing their favorite Girl Scout song! It’s hard not to smile while singing, and some girls might really need that positivity boost right now.
Keep it girl-led. Having your girls take the lead is more important than ever. When they’re empowered to make troop decisions, they can gain a sense of control through this uncertain time.
If your older girls are each leading the efforts to earn a badge, for instance, ask them how they plan to adapt it for virtual participation, or how they could complete a service project remotely. For younger girls, ask what they’d like to work on next or how they might “be the expert” at home and teach their families something they learned in Girl Scouts. If an activity can only be completed in person, help the girls brainstorm when they might reschedule it and how they can prepare for it in the meantime.
And be sure to check out Girl Scouts at Home for an array of virtual activity ideas!
Engage families. What’s true throughout the troop year is still true now: family support goes a long way in keeping the troop running smoothly. Let families know they have what it takes to support Girl Scouting at home, and give them clear ways to do so.
Depending on the size of your troop, you might set up a virtual parent meeting, give caregivers a quick phone call, or email some tips on how their girl can stay connected with her troop during this time. Share how the troop will be moving forward in the coming weeks, what they can do with their girls at home, and your advice for keeping activities girl-led. And be ready to listen; you don’t know what each family is going through right now. Remember that families just want what’s best for their girls, and by working as a team, you’ll show them that they have a network of caring adults who want them to thrive.
If you haven’t already done so, ask families which skills they can lend to the troop. For instance, if a troop caregiver loves to camp, you might ask them to record themselves discussing their camp packing list or demonstrating how to pack for an overnight. Bonus: you just might give them the break they needed from everything going on right now!
Expand her world. Keep encouraging her sense of wonder and excitement for the world around her, even if it might seem a bit scary right now. Help your girls organize a “field trip,” and take them to places they might not see in person. Cultural institutions across the globe are now offering free virtual tours of their spaces or livestreaming performances, so you’re likely to find something that will excite your entire troop.
And if you didn’t have a guest speaker booked for the spring, chances are that members of your community are looking for ways to connect too! Could your favorite yoga instructor lead an online class for your girls? Could your local park ranger record a video in which she points out local wildlife? If you can connect a virtual activity to a badge or goal the girls wanted to achieve during the troop year, you’ll restore that sense of normalcy and remind them that everything will indeed be OK—because it will be.
The most important thing you can do to keep that Girl Scout spirit strong?
Be open with your girls. They need reassurance right now, and one of the best things you can do is foster a space where they can navigate their feelings. Remember: you don’t have to know all the answers. What’s most important is that you’re open with your girls and remind them that you’re all in this together, as are their Girl Scout sisters across the country. And you’ve all got this.