A Uniontown Girl Scouts troop co-leader connected scouts to new opportunities and to one another during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kathleen Bryner, a leader at St. John the Evangelist Regional Catholic School’s Girl Scout Troop, led virtual meetings for the girls in home badges and fun badges. The troop returned to in-person meetings as school reconvened, with some changes to accommodate for social distancing.
Meetings were paused until about mid-April so the scouts could focus on their changes in school.
When Bryner started the virtual meetings, she slotted 30 minutes of the two-hour meetings for the girls to socialize with each other virtually.
“They weren’t really given a lot of time to see their friends. I would give them the last 30 minutes to just have at it with their friends. I would just walk away,” she said. “Part of Girl Scouts is socialization, and that was the only way I could think to help.”
The scouts worked virtually on their badges. Bryner was able to lead scouts in cooking badges, which she could not do in person because they don’t have access to a kitchen. She asked the scouts to make recipes, and they would send her photos of the finished product.
Bryner wanted to make the meetings fun and interactive, so she would lead scavenger hunts where the girls would find items in the house to spell out the letters of their level, such as Daisies or Brownies.
The girls also made a COVID-19 time capsule, which included answering questions about themselves at the time the pandemic hit, historical facts and interviewing a family member about their feelings, things that have changed and things that stayed the same.
“I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot, where I was when the Challenger exploded. This generation has, ‘I was alive in 2020,’” she said.
The scouts also sent homemade cards to a person in a nursing home. If any of the girls did not have supplies at home for an activity, Bryner would drop them off on their porches.
“I would say, ‘Hey, go check out your porch!’ It would kind of lift their spirits,” Bryner said.
The national council also led large, virtual meetings, connecting troops to others across the country. A troop in Hawaii led a meeting for a fun badge with programmers from Minecraft. The programmers instructed the scouts how to build things in the game and gave them tips.
“In person, you don’t get to do those kinds of things, unless you’re in Hawaii,” she said.
She noted the lockdown hit in the middle of their cookie sales, and she had just ordered a new batch of cookies. The parents and scouts agreed they wanted to donate the cookies to Uniontown Hospital, and a group of parents paid the troop $500 for the lost profit.
The scouts were able to meet their friends in person again for the first time with an ice cream social after the region moved to the green phase.
“They were a little awkward at first with each other, but then within 20 minutes or so, everything just changed,” she said. “They realized nothing had really changed with their friends. Some got a little taller, but nothing had actually changed.”