TUPELO • Local Girl Scouts are still earning badges and staying engaged with their troops thanks to the Girl Scout Digital Experience.

Girl Scouts Heart of the South is adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 by shifting its services over to virtual badges and virtual meetings, said Chief Community Engagement Officer Jenny Jones.

“We didn’t want our troops and girls to completely stop their Girl Scout experience just because they were moving indoors, so our program team looked at different badges and virtual activities that would be easy to move (online),” Jones said.

The mission was to still serve, connect and support troop leaders, Girl Scouts and families. Jones said it was important Girl Scouts “don’t forget they are part of a worldwide sisterhood of girls.”

When guidelines around sheltering in place were first implemented by state and local governments, Girl Scouts leadership sent communication to all troop leaders about virtual platforms they could use to continue to meet with girls face-to-face in a virtual way.

“We didn’t want them to lose that connection. The troop experience really is a connecting, relational type of experience,” Jones said.

Digital programming allows girls to be self-guided with the badges they can pursue. For most of the programs, girls use a Google Classroom with its own special code, which will have everything they need to complete activities. Activities are available for every grade level K through 12. There are also family activities, environmental projects and service projects listed for volunteers. Official Girl Scout badges are only available to members, but there is a STEAM series that anyone can access that features science, engineering and the world of math, among others.

Girl Scouts have also held several Facebook Live events featuring staff, hosted private troop Zoom meetings and posted virtual videos teaching various skills and completing activities such as campfire building, Earth Day storytime, knot tying, and at-home spa.

Girls and groups have been receptive to the virtual offerings and see it as a great way to stay engaged, Jones said. Since launching the Digital Experience page in March, they’ve had more than 2,700 page views. It has also served parents by providing an outlet for kids during the period of time when many were home from school and were searching for a way to keep their children engaged.

Girl Scouts Heart of the South will continue using and developing the Digital Experience as a resource even after COVID-19 restrictions lift.

“It’s good for girls to be able to go to (the Digital Experience) anytime in between troop meetings or in the summer when troops are less likely to meet,” Jones said.

Girl Scouts Heart of the South serves 59 counties in East Arkansas, North Mississippi and West Tennessee. The organization is paying attention to CDC, state and local guidelines around the region before deciding when they can begin hosting in-person activities again. Jones said they would like to be able to get in-person meetings, summer camp or end-of-the-year awards during the summer in order to honor girls for their achievements.

“We’re hoping to be able to be together soon and (we’re) just watching for advisement from officials,” Jones said.

Information about the Girl Scout Digital Experience can be found at https://www.girlscoutshs.org/en/events/girl-scout-digital-experience.html.

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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