Remote learning is quickly becoming the new normal as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and Girl Scouts troops nationwide are adapting to the transition to help girls, their families, and their communities stay connected.
To do this, Girl Scouts began meeting virtually, utilizing Zoom to connect with their troops as well as other troops statewide.
AnneMarie Harper, the public relations director of Girl Scouts of Colorado, said the mission in transitioning to a virtual setting is to build leaders who can navigate both the good times and times of uncertainty.
“We’ve taken this crisis and turned it into an opportunity to offer innovative and safe ways for girls to make new friends and learn life skills,” Harper added.
In the transition, Girl Scouts has added four new virtual programs that allow the Girl Scouts and their families to connect and learn collaboratively.
Luanne Maez, the Girl Scouts of Colorado Recruitment Specialist noted how socialization is a key aspect in development, and said these programs allow girls to continue socializing while staying safe.
“Our little ones that are just getting back into school aren’t allowed right now to socialize,” Maez said. “This gives them an opportunity to see other little girls, talk with them and still get excited while learning new things.”
“Make New Friends” is one of the new programs that is specifically for the ‘Daisies’ grade level which are the girls in kindergarten and first grade.
“It is a four-part series that goes over topics like the solar system, persistence, animals and pets and literacy,” Maez said.
For Girl Scouts of all ages, there are three other programs that have been introduced to the virtual meetings, the ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programming,’ ‘New Badges,’ and there is a free virtual monthly badge series.
“The ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ program has a badge that we are very excited about,” Maez said. “That program is designed to keep the whole family in mind, and to have conversations together that are very age appropriate.”
For this program, Girl Scouts of Colorado has partnered with Girl Scouts of Minneapolis, Childrens Hospital Colorado, Denver public schools and Colorado Mountain College.
“It gets some really important points across and starts to open some conversations in families that may be a sensitive topic to bring up,” Maez said. “We’re trying to ease the parents into having those conversations.”
Harper added, “This is an opportunity for families to not only have conversations about differences in race and racism, but also for caregivers and siblings to learn more about Girl Scouts’ core values.”
In July, Girl Scouts of the USA began providing girls the opportunities to practice leadership with the ‘New Badges’ program. This series allows the girls opportunities to learn new skill sets and explore career fields including those which are traditionally male dominated fields.
“Girl Scouts of the USA put out a national survey for our girls and really asked them what badges they wanted to earn,” Maez said. “Overwhelmingly, we got a large response to automotive and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The girls were really interested in these things to prepare them for their future.”
The free monthly badge series also began over the summer to teach girls career-based and life skills including coding and exploring the outdoors.
“The girls are encouraged to sign up for these different programs and we work through it with them,” Maez said. “They earn their badges by working through the different virtual programs.”
Maez noted these are age-appropriate as well, using the coding program as an example.
“We don’t have kindergarteners coding apps and games, but they teach them different aspects of it,” Maez said. “We taught the kindergarteners about the words programming and algorithm and how that ties together. We start off with the basics like that, and it piques their interest into going further with that all the way up.”
Each of these programs are available via Zoom, and in order to make this as cost effective for parents as possible the activities are based off using household items.
“We made animal masks using paper plates and crayons – whatever they had at home,” Maez said. “We don’t limit it to, ‘You have to have this,’ so the girls will still get to be involved but it isn’t a financial burden to the families.”
Throughout the process, the biggest obstacle faced Maez said, was accessibility to technology and the internet.
“We have a lot of rural areas we serve,” Maez said. “In our region, Region 3, we go all the way south to the New Mexico border and all the way east to the Kansas border. When they met in person, they could meet in a local library, church, or school and have that one-on-one interaction. But when you get that far out, it sometimes gets a little difficult.”
Girl Scouts of Colorado is following the state regulations concerning in-person meetings that can take place, but Maez said that comes with obstacles as well.
“They are allowing them to meet in person with safety guidelines in place – they have to sign waivers, the girls must wear a mask and social distance,” Maez said. “We’ve had troops of up to 30 girls and obviously at this time we are asking our troops to limit that. It was at one point 10 and under, but we’re following state guidelines at this point, and they are adjusting how they do things.”
Girl Scouts isn’t limiting the learning to the girls participating. For adults who wish to become volunteers, a program called ‘Explore More Club’ has been introduced to provide virtual training opportunities and connects volunteers state-wide.
“There are two ways to sign up for this,” Maez said. “They can go to girlscoutsofcolorado.org or they can give me a call at any time. We prefer if they call, because sometimes if you go to a website, you may have questions the website can’t answer right away. If they call we can help by answering their questions and we can connect them with other volunteers – getting into a volunteer position that can be very intimidating, but connecting with other volunteers that have done it can be very reassuring.”
The same process can be utilized to sign up to become a Girl Scout, Maez said. She can be reached by phone at 719-225-7302.
Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @smith_alexis27. Help support local journalism with a subscription to the Chieftain at chieftain.com/subscribenow.