The mission of Girl Scouts is to make the world a better place, by building girls of courage, confidence, and character. What originated as G.I.R.L. – Go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader – in Savannah, Georgia 109 years ago has grown to 2.5 million members, including a number of local troops in East Lansing.
Nathalie McGill, co-leader of East Lansing Girl Scout Brownie Troop 30215, was a Girl Scout when she was younger, and began volunteering again when she had her children. Now, she has helped her troop navigate the pandemic.
McGill said her troop has 18 second- and third-grade members, with about 10 to 12 members regularly participating over the past year. While many traditional in-person outings and community projects transitioned to virtual events due to the pandemic, McGill said the participation was a pleasant surprise.
“We kind of just took a pause last Spring ,” she said. “In the summer, we started doing some remote Zoom meetings, and then we did a virtual campout. It was really fun, and we actually had a lot of girls participate.”
The virtual campout took some prep work, according to McGill, who said the leaders purchased supplies for badge work and then dropped them off to the girls.
“Then throughout the weekend, we asked the parents to help the girls share pictures with us of all of their campsites they set up either in their yard or somewhere in their house,” McGill said. “We had them make s’mores with the supplies we sent them, and asked them to share videos of them singing a song, and then we did one or two Zoom meetings where we did a project together. That was fun, the girls seemed to really enjoy that.”
Although enjoyable, McGill has noticed how the increase of digital events and decrease of face-to-face interaction has impacted both her kids and other troop members. “It’s really hard, and Zoom is not a substitute at all,” she said, mentioning Zoom fatigue.
“As Girl Scouts, we talked a lot about it. We didn’t want to add to that fatigue for them, and just make it another thing they have to do online right now. But we also wanted to continue in some capacity so they could have that opportunity for socialization, even though it’s not the same as what it had been or what they really need. We tried to strike a balance with that.”
For the school year, the troop decided to host one Zoom meeting and one outdoor hike a month at local spots like Lake Lansing North and Harris Nature Center. Unfortunately, some of the hikes were canceled due to the increase of case rates in the county.
As part of the girls’ painting badge and the “Take Action Project” – a form of service learning started before the Covid-19 pandemic – McGill said the local troop linked up with the East Lansing Public Library to proudly display their latest endeavor.
“They made this mural and they wanted to display it in the community,” McGill said. “The theme is how being outdoors has helped us to be a community in the past year. As far as the art itself, we studied quilts and talked about how quilts can tell a story and have traditionally helped bring communities together. Each of the girls made a painting in the style of a quilt and we put them all together like a quilt.”
McGill said the library staff were receptive and helpful working with the troop to get the project all set up.
“They even suggested that we make photocopies of the artwork so that we could put it on the back of them and display it in the window so it’s visible from both the outside and the inside,” said McGill. “I thought that was a terrific idea, especially given the theme of it. People have different comfort levels right now, people who don’t want to go inside the library who are coming to pick books up outside, they can still see the art and enjoy it.”
Looking ahead to the summer, the troop hopes to host a socially-distanced, outdoor day camp with the girls. Despite the hurdles caused by the pandemic, the troop’s mission to create lifelong friendships and shared adventures is pressing on.
In order to meet that goal, the troop is always looking for more adult volunteers who want to assist in various Girl Scout roles.
“They don’t have to be parents of girls,” McGill said. “That’s something that I think is a common feeling among people, and something I thought as well. It just never occurred to me to volunteer with Girl Scouts until I had my own daughter who was Girl Scouts’ age, but there are many opportunities for people who want to get involved in Girl Scouts whether they have kids or not. My co-leader Jennifer Rudolph doesn’t have kids and was a Girl Scout and just loves it and wants to work with Girl Scouts.”
For more information and to find a local troop, visit the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan website.