Michele Hansen, a troop leader from Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, wanted her Daisies to feel prepared and informed about what’s happening in the world. Here’s how she found virtual meeting success with her young girls.
When I think about the core meaning of Girl Scouts, I think about preparing girls for the world—to be leaders in their communities and help them discover that they can become leaders today. Children have an important role to play in preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and protecting their loved ones through their own actions.
I think we underestimate how much children pick up and how much they are capable of understanding. My co-leaders and I felt like this was an important thing to discuss with them and dovetailed nicely with the Responsible for What I Say and Do petal. The pandemic is going to be a major part of their world for the next few months, and we felt they deserved to have all the facts. It's no different than how we'd make sure they were prepared with a compass, water, bug spray, and other necessities for a hike. The pandemic is a reality of the world now, and even young girls can be prepared.
So how did we prepare our Daisies for both a virtual meeting and a discussion about coronavirus? Here’s what we did.
We are privileged in that all the families in the troop have the internet at home and could join the meeting if they wanted to. I think that is an important thing to think about before scheduling a virtual meeting; consider an alternative if everyone doesn't have internet. Even if there is internet at home, there can be varying levels of ability with new technology. We sent out the Zoom information several days in advance so people could choose to download it or simply call in.
My sister, a nurse practitioner, was our guest speaker. She was a Girl Scout herself growing up and knew that it can be a powerful way for girls to discover the many paths they can go on in life. We did a test meeting with her and my daughter the day before to make sure that her presentation—which included things like social distancing and proper surgical handwashing—would be engaging for a six-year-old. Guest speakers are a great way to bring in the expertise of the many adults connected to your troop, whatever their professions or specific knowledge. Who knows—by bringing in a guest speaker, maybe you'll introduce one of your girls to her future career!
We also sent a thorough explanation of our meeting plan to the parents in advance and let them opt-in. We decided we would only proceed if we got at least five families to RSVP in advance, and we got ten. We encouraged parents to submit any questions the girls had beforehand.
After the practice, we ended up cutting down our agenda to half the scheduled time to leave plenty of time for questions, because six-year-olds are eager questioners! We took frequent question breaks in the presentation, every five minutes or so, and asked the girls to physically raise their hands if they had a question. They grasped it quickly.
I did quickly learn to "mute all" if we weren't at a question time, though, to minimize background noise. I was impressed with how engaged and attentive they were—perhaps more so than a regular meeting.
Even as Daisies, young girls understood video chat intuitively; I think because many of them are used to using FaceTime with family that live elsewhere. Several parents stayed with the girls during the meeting and were very helpful in making sure that their daughter was muted when she didn’t intend to speak. Others were working in the background behind their girl and generally available. We also allowed younger and older siblings to join the meeting, because they are also observing what is going on in the world.
We all need a sense of normalcy and calm during this unpredictable time. A virtual troop meeting was a first for them, but it had the same comforts of a normal meeting. They got to see their friends, learn something new, and earn a petal. One of the most important things we can give our girls right now is a sense of normalcy. The meetings may change, but the reasons why we do Girl Scouts don't.