Take-home activity kits help a local Girl Scout troop stay engaged over Zoom. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Take-home activity kits help a local Girl Scout troop stay engaged over Zoom. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Where are the cookies? Girl Scouts different during pandemic

The girls aren’t camping, horseback riding or hiking because of COVID-19. But they’re still Scouting.

This March, you might have noticed something missing at your local grocery store: Girl Scouts selling cookies by the front door. Due to COVID-19, cookie sales are happening entirely online. That’s not the only way Scouting looks different right now.

My troop of sixth-grade Cadettes has met online every Monday evening over Zoom for 20 minutes. It’s hard to complete badges in just 20 minutes, but my co-leader and I learned last spring that keeping things short and sweet was the best way for our girls to avoid Zoom-burnout.

I’ve been a Girl Scout almost my entire life, and I’ve never done Girl Scouting like this. Over the summer, I created take-home kits for the girls that store under their beds in plastic boxes. Each week’s Zoom information is pasted on envelopes with all of the supplies inside. When Monday evening rolls around, they take out the envelope, log into Zoom and start having fun.

Together over Zoom, we’ve learned about comics, interviewed a graphic designer, studied book artistry, met a high school debate champion from Arlington, practiced conflict resolution, thrown an epic holiday party complete with presents, and tackled tough issues like peer conflict and bullying.

A favorite activity was when we earned the New Cuisines badge by assembling five meals from regions all over the world that the girls could pop in the freezer for later.

But the things we haven’t done sting. There’s been no camping, horseback riding or hiking. The last trip we went on was in January 2020 when we visited Port Townsend. We can’t gather around a fire and roast marshmallows. We can’t even sing rounds together because singing over Zoom sounds horrible.

I miss being able to end meetings by gathering in a circle, holding hands and passing “the squeeze” along in silence. There’s a new girl in my troop and she has never held our hands. I’ve never welcomed her into my home for a noisy in-person meeting. She doesn’t know that during normal Girl Scout meetings, someone needs to be in charge of my poodle or he’ll run out the front door.

Sometimes I ask myself, “Is this still Girl Scouts? What would Juliette Gordon Low say?” But then I remember how tirelessly she worked to support girls and help them become leaders. She never gave up — even when things were difficult. I want the girls in my troop to have that level of perseverance, too.

A return to in-person Scouting is on the horizon, and we just need to hold on until we get there. In the meantime, there are girls from my troop living with immunocompromised family members that we need to protect.

Over the past six and a half years of Girl Scouting, my troop has done memorable things. We’ve cooked dinner for foster families, we’ve camped in 35-degree weather, we’ve gone on behind-the-scenes tours at the police station, the frozen yogurt shop, art galleries and the library. But most of all, we’ve formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I know that because they’ve already survived the pandemic.

If you would like to support Girl Scouts by buying a box of cookies, visit www.girlscoutsww.org.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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