Recently, we posted a blog called Troop Meetings 101, and we discussed some resources for navigating both in-person and virtual troop meetings during this challenging year. However, sometimes it’s best to hear about different ideas and resources from an experienced troop leader. That’s why we’ve interviewed one of our troop leaders, Mary Ward, to get her insight on leading both virtual and in-person troop meetings. Mary currently leads three troops – a Daisy troop, Brownie troop, and Junior troop – and while one troop meets primarily in-person, the other two troops meet mostly virtually. Read on below for Mary’s answers and some tips and tricks for some of our most frequently asked questions.
How did you decide which meeting style would work best for each of your troops?
For the older two troops, it took a few Google Form surveys with the parents to get input from them on their comfort level and what they were expecting from meetings this year. This was the best way for me to see where everyone’s thoughts were at and find something that fit with both their and my comfort levels. We also looked at ways that in-person meetings could be held without organizing something that would spread the virus. For the Brownie and Junior troops, we decided to meet mostly online.
For the new Daisy troop, part of the formation of the troop involved a socially-distanced meeting with all of the parents who were interested in joining the troop. We decided what to do with the troop and set expectations for what that would look like. For this troop, we decided to purposely limit the troop to 10 people or less, because we knew that we wanted to meet in person. At the time, they had started out in virtual school and hadn’t made connections in-person with their classmates yet. So we found a way to meet and set expectations.
Let’s talk about the virtual troops first. What platform do you prefer for virtual troop meetings?
Zoom has definitely worked the best for our troops. I do have my own paid account, because I run 3 troops. Each Service Unit has access to a paid account for troops to use as well though. The breakout rooms have been especially helpful with the older girls.
For troop leaders who are thinking about going virtual for their meetings, what are your best tips for getting started?
Normally, I try to let the girls have some input on which badges we work on, but I had to look at the badges that would work well virtually or independently. Finding the “My Best Self” or “Cooking” badges were great options because those are the kinds of things that the girls could be doing at home with their families as well. I still let my girls vote on which badges they would like to do, but I narrowed the field to some badges that would work well at home first.
Another thing that has helped me is preparing to give a little more instruction for some of the activities ahead of time. Some things take a little more explaining or instruction via a computer, so I try to figure out which activities I can lead well virtually and stick with those.
For activities, how do you make sure everyone has the right materials?
Our troops are pretty close and many of the girls live in or around the same neighborhoods, so I drop off the supplies for the girls ahead of time. Now that some of them are in school again, that also makes it easier to meet up with some of the parents and drop off supplies there too.
Now let’s talk about your troop that’s meeting in-person. What steps do you take to ensure that everyone feels comfortable meeting in person?
When we initially met to form this Daisy troop, we set expectations for meetings. We decided ahead of time that we wouldn’t bring a child to an in-person meeting if they were feeling sick at all. We also meet outside, everyone wears masks, and we bring plenty of hand sanitizer.
To help keep everyone distanced, we sit in a circle. It’s a small group, so this works really well for us! I measured some different colored ribbons that are 6 feet long, and I place them between each girl in the circle. We also use hula hoops, so every girl has her own little space in the circle. We still do other activities like going for walks, outdoor art, etc., but everyone keeps their masks on and we still try to keep some distance.
Where do you meet?
We meet at a church lawn (which used to be our old inside meeting spot), we meet in parks, and when available, we try to reserve the pavilions at the parks to use. One challenge with meeting outside is that we have to pay extra attention to the weather beforehand and be flexible with meeting times.
What is your advice to troop leaders who are trying to decide how to meet?
Have those initial meetings with the parents or send out surveys to them to get everyone’s input on their comfort levels. Although you can’t always accommodate everyone, deciding should still be a troop decision.
Another piece of advice is not to try to do it all on your own! Utilize resources like virtual field trips or organized activities with different organizations like museums or science centers, bring in guest speakers, or involve other parents in the troop with meetings. Find others to help and resources that would be fun for your troop!
Thank you to Mary Ward for sharing her experience with leading both in-person and virtual troop meetings! Do you have some tips and insight that you would like to share with other leaders? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your troop’s story!