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Innovations During Covid-19

Rudy Lautner     July 28, 2020     OA Today

Two scouts working on a project with a computer.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus brought with it national and global implications. At home and abroad, industries have been undertaking intensive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, including ceasing operation. Naturally, the Scouting community has been impacted by this as well. The Order of the Arrow has been no exception. Across the country, events spanning from lodge to national scales in magnitude have been cancelled and/or postponed to keep Arrowmen safe. That being said, the spirit of innovation has shown itself once again within the OA, with lodges throughout the country adapting to the circumstances in these challenging times. This has materialized in a variety of ways, including the adoption of Zoom and other services for remote communication, the use of social media to engage and connect Arrowmen, and the creation of lodge resources to guide in the successful transition to online functions.

The use of Zoom, an online conferencing platform, has increased dramatically in schools, businesses, and of course, Scouting. As lodge functions transition to online, strategies are being implemented to not only engage active Arrowmen, but to also welcome in potential candidates. On March 25, the OA approved lodges to hold virtual unit elections, which can be located here, and lodges have been quick at adapting to these new possibilities. In Kansas, the Tamegonit Lodge hosted their first virtual unit election, electing seven brand new ordeal candidates who will soon begin their path of cheerful service. This demonstrates that although mitigation measures may be preventing in-person elections from occurring, the OA still has the potential to grow and welcome new members. For those who are currently members, lodges have also been devising strategies to connect Arrowmen in an online setting. Orca Lodge in California held their first of many game nights via Zoom, playing a variety of online games and providing much needed fellowship for Arrowmen separated by distance. While these examples demonstrate successful initiatives using online conferencing, social media platforms have once again proved beneficial in providing unique ways of engaging Arrowmen in these trying times.

Lodges have consistently employed social media as a tool for outreach and sharing information. With the transition to virtual operations, lodges have found creative ways of utilizing various platforms beyond traditional use. Nampa-Tsi Lodge in Missouri, for example, has exemplified certain innovative practices. In early April, the Lodge held a live Fortnite tournament, using the popular online battle royale game, with a cash prize for the winner. Open to youth Arrowmen throughout the country, this demonstrated the possibilities of engaging Arrowmen not just in a single lodge, but across the country as well. The Lodge will be holding a similar function at the end of April, this time being their first ever online Jeopardy competition. Similarly, Nampa-Tsi has joined other lodges, including Ittawamba Lodge from Western Tennessee, in hosting Facebook Live events for lodge members. Simple yet effective, Ittawamba in particular held a livestream hosted by their Lodge Chief, providing the over 200 hundred who viewed it a much needed chance to simply interact with each other virtually. Finally, both in and out of Scouting, Instagram Bingo has been materializing, with lodges - including some sections -  creating virtual Bingo cards with a variety of activities for Arrowmen to tick off if they’ve done them, and then pass along to their friends. Lodges such as Tuku’ut and Amangi Nacha in California have also created Bingo cards, including card tiles such as “Danced at a Lodge event”, “Served as an Elangomat” and “Forgot your sash”. This novel method of utilizing social media platforms demonstrates the plethora of unique options available in keeping the OA an active part of Arrowmen’s lives.

To assist with the transition to online Scouting, some lodges have created resources and guides for unit elections and other virtual functions. Recently, California’s Malibu Lodge created a document detailing guidance for holding virtual chapter meetings. This comprehensive guide they created features everything from how to host a Zoom call, various online games a lodge or chapter can play, to recent publications from the BSA and the OA. Some of the activities outlined in the guide include holding Netflix parties for your lodge, playing an online drawing game, and conducting a virtual scavenger hunt. Similarly, Madockawanda Lodge up in Maine created an informational video with resources for conducting online unit elections. Key elements include an email template for unit leaders, a form for the election ballot, and guidance for coordinating and conducting the actual elections. While this resource in particular is directed for usage in Madockawanda Lodge, it can certainly serve as a model for other lodges and chapters to utilize to their benefit.

Providing guides and information on how to best adapt to this new situation can not only support one’s own lodge, but also prove to be an asset for other lodges to take advantage of and generate successful practices across the country. Innovation, however, has not been limited to just the lodge level. Not only have unit elections and fellowships been moved online, but virtual section conclaves have been emerging as well. While most spring conclaves have been postponed or cancelled, Section C-5B decided to adapt to the circumstances and in mid April, held the section's first ever virtual conclave - The Tornado Alley Rally. This online event featured all the aspects of a normal conclave, including shows, leadership training, and national and region chief addresses. Beyond the section, the regions have also been engaging the lodges within their boundaries, with the Central and Northeast Regions initiating social media spirit weeks. These spirit weeks challenge Arrowmen to show off their Scouting pride with a diverse set of themes pertaining to NOAC and other OA functions. It is clear that innovation is seen throughout all levels of the Order of the Arrow. When lodges, sections, and regions step up to the challenge of providing a meaningful and successful program, the numerous capabilities of the OA can shine through. These innovations truly attest to our collective ability to adapt to challenging circumstances and continue to thrive in and out of our lodges.