We all have made changes in the past few months, one of these changes has been to hold more virtual meeting. Virtual meetings create the challenge of helping the girls stay engaged while not physical near each other.
Your troop is a place where the girls will feel supported and connected. This means you as the troop leader are now working harder to keep them engaged while participating virtually.
Luckily you are not alone, there are thousands of volunteers working through this process as well. Here are a few suggestions about how to engage your girls virtually while staying safe and sane.
- Keep your virtual meetings at the same time as in-person meetings. It can be tempting to change the time to during the day, but girls could have school work, caregivers may be working from home or helping other children.
- Treat your virtual meetings as you would an in-person meeting. Set up expectations and rules, especially for the zoom chat. It is very tempting for the girls to have side conversations instead of listening. A couple rules that will help limit the chaos are stay muted until called on, raise your hand, and no spamming the chat.
- Have an opening, announcements, and closing. Reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law, Pledge of Allegiance, and singing “Make New Friends” can be tricky with the audio delay that can happen with the video. You can have the girls stay muted and have one girl lead unmuted, or use a YouTube video for them to follow along with. Creating videos with girls from our council to link to.
- To adapt your closing circle for zoom, you can do a virtual high-five. Have your girls high-five the girl whose picture was next to them. You can help facilitate this by calling the girls’ names, “Lutricia to Sarah” then “Sarah to Colleen”, then “Colleen to Casey” until it comes back to the first girl. Then end with everyone says, “Good night, Girl Scouts.”
- Be sure to have the girls and their families download and test the meeting platform you are using on their devices before the meeting. Some of the devices they get from school are set up to block programs that aren’t connected to the school, so the girls will need to use a family device.
- Make sure your platform allows the girls to join in using a phone only. This is important because not all girls are going to have access to reliable internet.
- Be sure to send the families the URL and directions to call in well ahead of the meeting.
- Remind girls to log in early so they can work out any issues before the start of the meeting, 5-10 minutes is usually good.
- We like Zoom, families don’t need to download any program on their computer, just click the link or call in at the right time to join in. Zoom has a free option, that limits your meeting time to 40 minutes, and for younger girls, that can be enough. There is an option to purchase a license that gives you extended meeting times, phone dial-in, and larger group sizes. GSHPA is offering our volunteers the option to purchase a Zoom license for $36 a year. There are three forms you need to fill out, here they are:
Change it up:
- Make a point to encourage girls to share their ideas and experiences, they like to talk and give them the time to do it. Girls are more likely to participate if they had a hand in the planning
- Girls aren’t going to want to sit the whole time it is a good idea to let them get up and move around.
- Social Activity
- Program Activity
- Chat leaders: chose one or two girls to be the conversation leaders, talk with them ahead of the meeting to let them know they will be the ones to ask questions to get the conversations going. Give some examples of what the topics will be so they can prepare ahead of time if they want.
- Keep them connected: you will have fun working on badges and other steps but remember to take time every meeting to be silly and relax. This will help the girls’ relationships grow stronger especially when they can be together in person.
Keep it simple and flexible
- You know your troop best, you know what they are going to want to work on, are they over badge work, do they want to work on Journeys, or do they want to work on getting to know each other? Give them time to share what is going on in their lives and how they are doing.
- Supplies: not all families are going to have access to the same supplies, keep it basic – crayons, paper, scissors, and glue. Give the families plenty of notice if they are going to need something more specialized, or if the troop is going to provide the supplies make sure you have enough time to get them to all the girls.
- Timing: you might plan for a one-hour meeting but find you are done at 45 minutes. That is ok, you can end the meeting early, and especially if you have finished all the activities you had planned.
- Let the girls chat and visit, or just end. Younger girls are going to stay focused for only about 15-20 min at a time, so shorter activities with brain breaks in between will help.
- “Brain Break” a break of a few minutes to do something completely different, have the girls get up and do jumping jacks, or stretches. Have them run and get a drink. The purpose of the brain break is to get them moving away from the screen.
GSHPA Virtual activities:
- Don’t try and reinvent the wheel when there are options out there. GSUSA, GSHPA and other councils have been working hard to create exciting and engaging activities you can do virtually. Take a look at what we are offering and see how it can fit into your schedule.
- GSHPA Event Calendar
- GSHPA Facebook
- We are offering the Virtual STEAM Mobile to all members of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pa, register here.
And finally, be open with your girls. Everyone needs reassurance right now, be honest, and create a space where your girls can express their feelings.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to have all the answers. Let me say that again, you don’t need all the answers! The most important this is that you are open with your girls and remind them that you are all in it together. This is the opportunity to include them in the discussion, invite them to come up with ideas, plan and follow through. As you work together you will find the path that works best for your troop and families, it will take some testing and adjustment, you got this!