Girl Scouts adapt to pandemic lifestyle

Girl+Scouts+of+all+levels+have+experienced+significant+changes+due+to+COVID-19.

Chelsea Plunkett

Girl Scouts of all levels have experienced significant changes due to COVID-19.

The Girl Scouts of Northern California have been finding new ways to meet and earn awards while abiding by COVID-19 restrictions. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Girl Scout troops of all levels have adapted to the new restrictions they must follow to continue safely learning and growing. 

“Pretty much anything we would do offline, we do online now,” Emma Reeder, a sophomore and Girl Scout senior, said. 

Girl Scout troops must abide by two different sets of rules: the rules set by the Girl Scouts of Northern California and the county’s safety guidelines. 

“Our COVID-19 response team stays up to date with state guidelines, which is how Girl Scouts of Northern California creates the guidelines that we have in place for our troops and service unit teams,” Sapna Tandel, a worker at Girl Scouts of Northern California, said. “However, just because the Council has these guidelines doesn’t mean that troops are able to just go out and meet again. There are county-specific guidelines as well.”

The California Department of Public Health created a color-coded system representing the transmission levels of COVID-19. “There’s purple, red, orange, and yellow,” Tandel said.

In San Mateo County, Girl Scout troops are allowed to gather if the county is in the orange and yellow tiers. These are the lower tiers when COVID-19 cases are not high/hazardous.

“We started out in the purple or red, and it wasn’t until we were able to get the county down into orange that we started saying, ‘hey, now we would be allowed to go have outdoor, masked, socially distanced, in-person, Girl Scout activities,'” said Suzanne Emerson, a Senior Girl Scout leader, and a member of the steering committee of Girl Scout Day Camp.  

During this short period, when the county was in the orange tier, Emerson’s troop could do an in-person activity. 

“We were able to go on one mountain bike ride as a troop,” Emerson said. 

Janina Reeder, a Brownie Girl Scout troop leader, also explained her experience with in-person activities.

“We had one meeting while we were in the orange zone,” Janina Reeder said. “We met outdoors at Arundel [Elementary School], and we had them bring … a towel or a blanket to sit on, and we spaced those apart, and they were obviously wearing masks. We just played some games outdoors. That worked out pretty well.”

However, other troops haven’t been as lucky.

Emma Reeder’s High Adventure Troop had planned on attending a high ropes adventure course in Mount Hermon. 

“Essentially, everyone would drive there by themselves with a parent, and then we’d stay there for a couple hours and do the adventure course, with masks … and then we would all go home,” Emma Reeder said. “But that got canceled since we went into the purple tier.”

Some troops have abandoned meetings altogether.

“We haven’t had any in-person meetings, and the girls decided not to do Zoom meetings,” Theresa Fuentes, a Senior Girl Scout leader, said. “[The Girl Scouts] spend a lot of time already on Zoom doing school work and homework and trying to interact. So I think for them, what they really like about Girl Scouts is the ability to get together and do things out in the community.” 

In the future, Girl Scouts of Northern California are working hard to organize the fan-favorite Girl Scout Cookie sales that take place in winter and spring. 

“It’s kind of difficult to know exactly what it’s going to look like,” Tandel said. “We don’t know what the chances are of there being public booths … something that’s a guarantee is that it will be very much virtual.”

So just like everything else these days, customers will most likely be ordering online. 

“They [Girl Scouts of Northern California] are really encouraging everybody this year to have customers order their cookies on the digital platform, and then either pay extra for shipping… or push the buttons saying they want the scout to deliver the cookies,” Emerson said. “[The Girls Scouts] are not doing the kind of door-to-door sales scouts have been doing for generations.”

Chelsea Plunkett

Overall, most Girl Scouts said that they had some key takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Finding ways I can help out [in the community] … has been a huge bump in the road, but also a really good learning lesson,” Arianna Behrendt, a sophomore, and Girl Scout Senior, said. “I’m [also] an orchestra student, so I would help out by mentoring and programs, volunteering in any way that I can.” 

“The pandemic has taught me to value working on my own more,” Emma Reeder said. “Also, I’ve learned to be more flexible. With events often being canceled or delayed due to COVID-19, you have to be more capable of dealing with things as they come up.”

Troop leaders agree that their Girl Scouts have learned a lot from the pandemic experience. 

“[The pandemic] helps reinforce the message of being flexible and resilient … so I think the Scouts are learning ways to do things differently … but seeking to achieve the same goals that they’d had been working on since before the pandemic,” Emerson said. 

“They’ve certainly gained a lot of computer skills they probably wouldn’t have at that age yet,” Janina Reeder said. “It’s going to teach them, in the long term, a lot about resilience and being more self-reliant.”

Although many things are uncertain for the Girl Scouts, they have remained positive and hope for a brighter future.

“Girl Scouts is a fabulous organization,” Fuentes said. “I hope that the pandemic didn’t stymie things too much and that we’ll be able to recover from it and continue with all the great work the Girl Scouts do.”

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