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Girl Scouts navigate the virtual frontier for badges

Lily Tatro, 8, Great Barrington. (Photo contributed)

GREAT BARRINGTON — After being cooped up for the past several weeks and adhering to Gov. Charlie Baker’s “Stay at Home” advisory, Theresa and Lily Tatro gave into their wanderlust.
On Monday, the mother and daughter meandered down the streets of Paris. But unlike a traditional stroll through the City of Light, the Tatros didn’t feel cobblestones beneath their feet or pop into a café to snack on a macaron. In fact, they didn’t leave their home in Great Barrington at all — physically, at least.
The trip was a virtual one, led by the Girl Scouts. Aligning with the growing trend of taking programming virtual, the program team at Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts have begun offering digital opportunities normally offered at their leadership centers and camps. This particular trek was part of an opportunity to earn a virtual passport patch.
“We had planned a Disney Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean that was to set sail on April 17 and Lily was pretty upset. Her real passport arrived a few months ago and she was excited to use it on this trip,” said Theresa, who also serves as the Girl Scout leader for Troop 64834.
But because a real trip wasn’t an option, Lily watched the instructional video provided by the Girl Scouts to create her own passport before taking off for her virtual flight to France.
After finding a virtual tour that Theresa said was better suited for an 8-year-old, Lily donned the sailor outfit that she had originally planned to wear when she set sail on the cruise, and explored Paris. While on the tour, she drew three things that she saw. Following the tour, she was tasked with creating her very own Eiffel Tower out of her choice of materials.
And the trip, Theresa says, will be the first of many. The next trip will be to the U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.
Although Theresa has been working to set up meetings held via Zoom video conference software or Google Hangouts, she said she felt like parents are overwhelmed with figuring out school work and balancing time with children locked in. Troop 64834 currently has 12 Scouts.
“I see this as a ripe opportunity to do virtual work, yet I struggle with adding on work to my stressed parents who are trying to find boundaries with online time for their children. I have made myself available to speak with anyone in my troop who wishes to do virtual work, but I have not heard back from many parents,” she said. “My plan this week is to call each parent individually. I am also struggling with my own child, who is here alone and very sad missing her friends.”
For Troop 64834, the 12 Brownies were supposed to bridge to Juniors. Theresa says that she thinks that the bridging ceremony will be delayed for at least three months.
While all in-person activities are on hold, troop leaders continue to navigate the virtual frontier as the organization tries to support its troops.
Each week, program specialists at the Girl Scouts are releasing digital activities, one focusing on a badge and the other will be a fun activity or patch program, according to Dana Carnegie, communications manager for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.
Several other badges have emerged amidst the global pandemic, including an outdoor artist badge as well as a home scientist badge. Even a coronavirus badge that educates Scouts on the importance of hand-washing and how viruses evolve has been developed.
There will be activities available across all six Girl Scout age levels. Content, however, isn’t limited to Girl Scout members, said Carnegie.
Girl Scouts at Home, a national online platform, allows all girls and families to access free, self-guided activities from Girl Scout’s programming. To provide support to more members and families, Girl Scouts USA has been developing similar Girl Scouts at Home content in Spanish.
Because Girl Scouts is a social program, the virus has altered how the organization traditionally functions, said Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Smiley.
“Normally, we want girls and adult volunteers to spend time together and not simply interact with their world through a screen,” said Smiley in a statement. “But this is not a normal time and the most important thing that binds all Girl Scouts is our pledge to serve God and country, to help people at all times, and live by the Girl Scout Law … to be considerate and caring, courageous and strong, respect myself and others, respect authority. Girl Scouts lead in using technology and we had everything in place to help us stay connected and meet the challenge of bridging the physical distances between us.”

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