Preserving History: The Girl Scout Experience During COVID-19

By Theresa Andre

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Greenwich Historical Society reached out to the community to find artifacts that documented the times.

Community service and skill building went outdoors. On one of the coldest days in January, Greenwich middle school and high school Girl Scouts stood ready to demonstrate how to use shadows to determine directions without a compass. (Photo by Kimberly Sushon)

GREENWICH, CT — Documenting historical events as they happen is a critical part of human life, as it allows future generations to understand the experiences of those that came before them.

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly one of those historical events — a once in a lifetime global health crisis which has impacted nearly every facet of daily life.

When the pandemic began, the Greenwich Historical Society reached out to the community to find artifacts that reflected and documented the unprecedented times the world found itself in. Christopher Shields, library and archives curator for the Historical Society, said these artifacts are very beneficial to the community.

“We have the diaries of a young woman who lived in Greenwich during the period of the first World War, and she was a meticulous record keeper, both of things that she did, as well as things her friends did. It gives a perspective you would never be able to ge anywhere else,” Shields said.

“It gives you a perspective that’s so personal. You wouldn’t be able to get it from any other type of primary source document. It gives you almost an ability to have a conversation with that person from that period in history. There’s really no replacement for it.”

The Girl Scouts of Greenwich, which has been involved with the Historical Society over the years, submitted photos of various events that took place during the pandemic.

Girl Scouts was founded in 1912, and has provided a unique, hands-on experience for millions of girls. So when social distancing became the norm, and people were largely confined to their homes, troop leaders around the country had to pivot and adjust in order to keep the scouting experience alive.

For Frances Wu Nobay and Kimberly Sushon, Co-Heads of Greenwich Girl Scouts, the past year has perhaps been the most rewarding.

In-person meetings suddenly switched to Zoom in March of 2020, and Wu Nobay and Sushon were concerned about how they could continue the Girl Scout education and keep an eye on the girls’ psychological and emotional health.

Wu Nobay is head of Troop 50303 North Street School, which is K-5. Sushon’s troop is 50540, which has 10 girls who are in 11th grade at Greenwich High School. Overall, there are about 35 troops in Greenwich.

“The priority going into last summer was how do we give the girls an enriching experience, and how do we keep them connected with people?” Sushon said.

With schools closed last spring and into the summer, and with COVID protocols in place, troops had to find public spaces to meet up at. A small patch next to the Cos Cob Fire Station was used, or troops met at the Montgomery Pinetum or Greenwich Botanical Center.

“In a way, this pushed us to be more creative in where we could meet. That helped the girls realize that they have these local gems right around the corner and they don’t have to travel super far,” Wu Nobay said.

Sushon said that older and younger troops often teamed up to learn about jackknife and fire safety, or rocks and minerals, or how to navigate in the woods without a compass.

This in turn strengthened two of the pillars in Girl Scouts: the older girls helping the younger girls, and being involved in the outdoors.

“I feel like they learned about all the amazing resources in our community, in terms of the land, the environment, and in terms of the people,” Sushon said. “I think it’s one of the best girl scout years ever.”

Shields and the Greenwich Historical Society are still urging people to donate any artifacts from the pandemic that they feel are pertinent, whether it’s drawings, photographs, or any kind of creative work.

Shields hopes that as the pandemic slips away, more people will be willing to come forward with submissions.

To contact the Greenwich Historical Society, call 203-869-6899.

For more information on the Girl Scouts in Greenwich and to find out how to join, click here.

Richard Kaufman, Patch Staff

Posted Thu, Jun 3, 2021 at 7:15 pm ET

Visit Greenwich Patch

By Theresa Andre