Parents Unite to Support America’s Healthiest Schools

When we drop our children off at school, we put great trust in the teachers and staff. Aside from home, kids spend the majority of their time at school, making it one of the most influential places in their most formative years.

As parents, we look to schools to support our children in reaching their full academic potential. At Shore Acres Elementary—my sons’ school where I serve as PTA president—that pursuit starts with being a healthy school.

We’re not your average healthy school. We’re one of America’s Healthiest Schools, a distinction earned through our work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. We’ve transformed Shore Acres into a school where students eat healthier and move more, and staff are healthy role models.

Parents, teachers, students and community members played a major role in our achievement—but that doesn’t mean it happened overnight. Our transformation was fueled by commitment, teamwork and persistence. We did it, and you can, too! Here are three steps to consider:

  1. Start Small

Two years ago, we chose two PTA parents to serve on our school’s health and wellness committee. They worked alongside teachers and administrators to set new health and wellness goals for our school. While there were many things we wanted to improve, we knew we had to start small.

Using Healthier Generation’s Assessment tool as a guide, our PTA made small changes to support Shore Acres’ wellness transformation, like trading our annual chocolate fundraiser for a “fun run.” The event has become so successful that, last year, we used funds raised to provide recess activity bags, a school garden and even a new playground!

  1. Build Your Cadre of Wellness Champions

It takes a village to raise a child…and also to become one of America’s Healthiest Schools. Creating a strong network of wellness champions is essential to achieving your goals. Our PTA serves as a strong ally to Shore Acres, from connecting the school with a parent that leads school mindfulness programs to identifying local sponsors to fund health initiatives.

Our greatest victory, however, came when we tried to add recess back to the school day. Unfortunately many schools in Florida were no longer providing recess because of an increased focus on testing. But we were well aware of the research around health and academic performance—when kids are physically active, test scores go up; it’s that simple.

Determined to make our voices heard, we worked with the Florida PTA and school PTAs from around the state to advocate for a bill requiring 20 minutes of daily recess for public elementary school students. Through our strong cadre of PTA champions and many trips to Tallahassee, the bill was passed in 2017, restoring this critical play time for thousands of students across the Sunshine State!

  1. Be Steadfast and Consistent

Persistence paid off in our quest to bring recess back into the school day and so, too, did it in our mission to improve foods served and sold at school. We used Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner to ensure food served met the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School guidelines. We eliminated food-based fundraisers, instead favoring more creative ways to secure necessary funds. We worked to ensure staff felt supported and empowered to be healthy role models. Staff members participate in our run club, hold pedometer step contests and encourage students to stay active through class brain breaks.

The results of our concerted efforts have been nothing short of amazing. Teachers are healthier, student behavior has improved and parent involvement has increased. According to a recent district health screening, the number of obese and overweight students has decreased.

When it comes to school health, parents are a powerful force that can create healthier schools through actions big and small. From advocating for recess at the state level to creating healthier school events on the PTA calendar, we can have a major impact.

Ready to help your child’s school become one of America’s Healthiest Schools? Enroll the school in the Healthy Schools Program – or join its existing wellness team – to access free guidance, tools and trainings today!

Stephanie Cox is the PTA president at Shore Acres Elementary School in Pinellas County, FL, which was recently named to the 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Clever and Fun Ways to Get Your Child Math-Ready

Students often lose academic ground in the summer, especially in math. Researchers have found that students on average lose more than two months of math learning over the summer.

To help children feel confident in math at the start of the new school year, try some math activities at home. That may seem like a challenge, but kids can practice math in lots of fun, unexpected ways. For example, inexpensive board games that offer children experience with numbers on a die, counting, money collection and distribution are all wonderful, non-traditional ways to sharpen your child’s math skills. Card games are another great option!

Try a few of the activities below to ensure your child hits the ground running this school year.

Make 10

This card game helps build math fluency by identifying number pairs in a deck that add up to 10, a key skill in mental addition and subtraction. Players line cards face up in a row of 10 and search for the pairs that add up to 10. When they spot such a pair, they call it and collect the cards. New cards go in the line. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins.

Basic Number Battle and Variations

The classic card game, also known as War, builds fluency with numbers by having players compare them. During each turn, the player with the card of greatest value facing up gets to keep the cards in the playing area. The winner is the player with the most cards at the end of the designated playing time or the person who has all the cards when play is over.

Hit the Target

This game helps reinforce the understanding of basic operations and the order of operations and helps children exercise mathematical reasoning skills. Using the cards in their hand, players write expressions on a piece of paper that equal a target number the dealer selects. The more cards players use in their expressions, the more points they earn. The player with the highest number of points at the end of the designated playing time or after a set number of rounds wins.

Art Project

Creating art can be mathematical as well as fun. Give your child precut shapes, and ask her to use them to make a recognizable object, such as the top view of a turtle made of squares and triangles shown below. After your child has composed the figure, use a ruler to measure the figure’s perimeter, and then calculate its area. Young learners can calculate the area by simply counting the squares and triangles and giving the area as the total number of squares. Note that two triangles make one square. Older learners can calculate the area by finding the area of each component shape and then adding those areas together.

Track How Things Change Over Time.

If you still have access to a swimming pool, consider monitoring the distance between the water and the top of the pool each day. You can also measure the height of a plant in the garden each week or the temperature every hour throughout the day. Your child can track these measurements in a graph or a table and find the average rate of change over a set period. Help your child stay active by timing multiple runs from home plate to first base or from your home’s front door to the corner. Then calculate the average time, or evaluate how your child’s times changed from the first run to the last.

Add Math to Activities Your Child Enjoys.

Have your child plan a weekend outing to the movies or to play miniature golf. They could tally the admission fees, mileage, and gas consumption and ultimately find the total cost per person. Have them try calculating the expenses for an extended family trip in the same way.

Regardless of the activity, bringing numbers and numerical thought into conversations and family activities can help get students ready for school. And you don’t need to be a mathematician or a magician to pull it off. You just need to be up for some fun and games and a little learning along the way.

Danielle Goedel is a lead curriculum writer for Eureka Math™, developed by the nonprofit Great Minds®. She previously taught Grade 8 students, as well as advanced learners in Algebra I, for 15 years in Sherburne, NY.

 

Go Back-to-School with National PTA

Dear fellow PTA members,
As your 55th National PTA President, it is an honor to welcome you to another exciting school year. As we begin an energizing new school year, I ask that you stay laser-focused on our PTA mission. We must ensure that all children have equity and quality in learning, and that they have access to a first-class public school education.
National PTA’s resources, guides and tips can help you achieve our mission.
Help us celebrate the 2017 Back-to-School Season! Join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram by using #PTAB2S or #PTAProud.

Happy new school year!

JimAccomandoSignature.jpg
James L. Accomando
National PTA President

Becoming a National PTA School of Excellence

Have you ever wondered what PTAs have done to help their schools become nationally-recognized Schools of Excellence? Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2017-18 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA – FL

Through the School of Excellence program, the Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA created the Kindness Project with the mission to foster kindness and respect in our student body by engaging students, parents and faculty alike. All students worked together during their art classes to create art while focusing on 8 core values: Citizenship, Cooperation, Responsibility, Integrity, Fairness, Kindness, Respect and Honesty. Furthermore, families were encouraged to work one-on-one with their children at home by coming up with examples on how they could be kind at school.

The PTA communicated this program by reaching out to all faculty members via emails and educating the faculty at their Faculty Meetings. Parents and students were sent home “kindness contracts” to fill out and work on together. “Kindness Necklaces” were given out to all students “caught” being kind in the classroom and during lunch. Each week, winners were chosen by teachers and faculty members and children were asked to make a special appearance on the school’s television stations so that they could be recognized for their kind acts. At the close of school year, the classes with the most participation throughout the process were awarded with a cookie party. The Kindness Project was so successful that the pilot event will become a permanent program at the school.

Thomas B. Chinn PTA – MO

As a Title 1 school with 41% free and reduced families, Chinn Elementary PTA chose the goal of increasing access to the arts so that all of their students had access, regardless of their economic situation. The PTA met one of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, Collaborating with Community, by making connections with a local ballet school to host workshops for the students. The ballet school introduced the history of ballet and demonstrated ballet moves.  The students were then challenged to do moves themselves, gifting many of the students their very first dance class.  At the end of the week, the ballet studio performed the Nutcracker Ballet for the whole school community, including family members, again, bringing the arts to many whom may never see a ballet. One of the students summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve NEVER seen a ballet before…. and it was BEAUTIFUL!”

Floranada Elementary PTA – FL

The Floranada Elementary PTA worked to increase male role model participation by creating the Floranada Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program enlisting male family role models to volunteer at least one full school day during the year. The program was promoted by having the Watch D.O.G. and the students he represented wear designated t-shirts during the volunteer day and having their picture taken for a Wall of Fame. The Watch D.O.G. started the day by greeting families in the car line at drop off, then joining in on classroom activities, specials and even field trips, and closing out the day with the children at dismissal. Most importantly, the Watch D.O.G.s were encouraged to pay particular attention to children who demonstrate a need for male role model interaction and act as a mentor to those children. The program was so successful that it increased exponentially by mid-year through student recommendation.

Johns Creek High School PTSA – GA

Johns Creek High School supported student success through a College and Career Fair, with over 60 college representatives to provide hundreds of students information to assist them in their college and career planning.  They welcomed all of our diverse families by displaying a welcome banner created by the PTSA.  JCHS PTSA spoke up and advocated for every child by holding registration drives, attending PTA Advocacy Day at the Capitol and hosting a Voter Information Night and Candidate forum open to the entire community. JCHS PTSA collaborated with their community by bringing in community members to speak with students during the PTSA sponsored Red Ribbon Week (to address issues of drug and alcohol abuse) and for Wellness Week (to promote mindfulness and stress management).

Enroll now to start the process in becoming a School of Excellence! Visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence, contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Start the School Year Right With Healthy Habits

(Sponsored Post) Help Protect Your Children From Germs This Back-To-School Season

With school bells ringing and teachers diving into their lesson plans, help your children focus on what matters most during the school year – learning! As part of the Healthy Habits Program, Lysol alongside the National Parent Teacher Association hope to spread the word on healthy habits, starting with simple yet effective tips to help keep germs at bay and help prevent your children from getting sick, whether in the classroom or at home!

Set your children up for a successful and healthy school year with the following tips:

  • Kick-Off The Year and The Germs: Start the 2017 school year by stocking classrooms with disinfectant cleaning product. Using Lysol products, such as Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, kill bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces in your home and classroom. If you’re one of many parents who collect Box Tops for your children’s school, you’re in luck! Now all Lysol products are eligible for Box Tops for Education redemption, so you can continue to help earn cash for your school.
  • Get A Good Night Sleep: With homework, soccer practice and science projects filling up your children’s schedule, it’s important that they get an adequate amount of sleep each night. A good rule of thumb is 9 to 12 hours for children ages 6-12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1]
  • Reinforce Healthy Habits: The third week of September marks Healthy Habits Week. Use this time as your reminder to start the school year off on a healthy note by teaching your children to use proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing to help keep sick days to a minimum! Make sure they’re frequently handwashing at home and at school too –use warm water and soap to create a nice lather – scrubbing for at least 20 seconds!

Visit Lysol.com for more information and tips to help keep your family healthy and always check with your school before bringing products to the classroom.

 

Rory Tait is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives the Lysol Healthy Habits campaign, a program focused on educating parents across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices.

Box Tops for Education and associated words and designs are trademarks of General Mills, used under license. ©General Mills

[1] CDC.gov. “Are you getting enough sleep?” (April 24, 2017)

Enroll in the 2017-18 School of Excellence Program

Maybe you are looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements. Maybe something meaningful is already happening between your PTA and school, and you would like to see that recognized. In either case, National PTA’s School of Excellence program offers customized tools to help you to make a substantial, positive impact on school and student success, and to earn recognition for your PTA and school.

By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment to identify and implement an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

Throughout the school year, you will use tools, resources and support provided by National PTA to bring positive change in family engagement. In the final step of the program, your work be evaluated through a Final Application. Those resulting in a stronger family-school partnership, will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction and recognition that comes with an honor of this caliber.

The steps in the program are as follows:

Step #1: Enroll and Gain Support (Enroll by Oct. 1)

Enroll at PTA.org/Excellence and start to build your Excellence Team to improve family-school partnerships through the school year.

Step #2: Deploy Baseline Survey (September-November)

Use National PTA’s Baseline Survey to gain feedback on current family-school partnerships at your school.

Step #3: Set a Shared Objective (September-November)

After you’ve compiled your survey feedback, work with your Excellence Team and school administrator to choose one focus area and objective to concentrate on in the coming school year.

Step #4: Complete Initial Application (Submit by Nov. 1)

You will then complete an online Initial Application. Upon receipt, National PTA will provide you with a Roadmap to Excellence guide that contains specific recommendations that respond directly to the survey results and focus area you identified.

Step #5: Follow Roadmap to Excellence (Throughout School Year)

Using your Roadmap to Excellence, you and your Excellence team will develop an action plan to address barriers and expand methods for effective family and community engagement throughout the school year.

Step #6: Deploy Final Survey (March-June)

Towards the end of the school year, you will conduct a second survey to gather feedback from your school community to evaluate your progress over the school year.

Step #7: Complete Final Application (Submit by June 1)

With the Final Survey results, you will complete a Final Application online to receive a new Roadmap to Excellence to continue the momentum you have gained in engaging families the following school year.

Step #8: Celebrate Your Excellence (August)

In August, Schools of Excellence will be named and honored with this two-year designation. If awarded, you will receive information on how to plan your school and community celebrations as well as a banner to hang prominently at your school.

Join the ranks of over 500 PTAs who have earned this prestigious distinction. You too can achieve excellence and be known as leading the nation in effective family-school partnerships.

Enrollment for the 2017-18 School of Excellence is open. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Top things to do in Las Vegas | #PTACon17

I have lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years with my husband and four children.  I am very excited to have the 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo in my home town this year and to share a few ideas for things to do while you are here!

Las Vegas is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week town.  There is something for everyone at all hours of the day and night.  Whether you are coming into town early before Convention, have a few spare hours in the evenings or staying a few extra days after, there is plenty of fun to be had.

If you love to shop, everything you could ever want is right here.  From high end designers to discount outlets, there are four malls within a 15 minute walk of the Paris Hotel and even more shopping experiences just a short drive away.  Several malls are even open until midnight, if you still have the energy to walk around a mall after the Convention day is over. See my full list of activities below.

Even though it will be hot here in June, there are still fun activities to be had in the great outdoors. You can choose from two water parks, if splashing in the hotel pool is not enough fun.  Hiking, rock climbing, bouldering and  scenic drives are just 30-40 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon Conservation area or a one hour drive to Mt. Charleston, where it can be 20 degrees cooler than the strip. Need more adventure?  Jump from a plane, kayak the Colorado river, four wheel through the desert, or ride in a hot air balloon. If there is an adventure to be had, you can probably do it here in Las Vegas.

Believe it or not we have many family friendly and fun activities that keep you inside with the air conditioner blowing.  If museums are your bag, we have everything from The Mob Museum, Natural History, Children’s, Atomic Testing, wax figures, old cars, old neon signs, pinball machines, and several quirky museums you could only find in a town like Las Vegas.  There is an indoor amusement park and many arcades on and off the strip to keep big and little kids entertained.

If you have little time and little money there are free activities up and down the strip.  Watch the Volcano show at the Mirage, the dancing waters at the Bellagio Fountains or stroll through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can check out all things candy at the M&Ms World or at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas is known for the many shows available at venues all over town.  Singers, bands, magicians, comedians, impersonators, Cirque du Soliel shows, variety shows  and even the occasional Broadway show.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if possible as many shows sell out.

Last but not least is the food.  You could eat at a different restaurant for every meal, every day of your stay and you will not put a dent in the number of great restaurants in Las Vegas offering every kind of cuisine.  Buffets and four star restaurants can be found all along the strip and you can also find food being prepared by famous chefs in small shopping centers away from the strip.  Choose a cuisine, check out the reviews and enjoy amazing food from around the world.

A few tips as you are having fun.  Drink way more water than you usually do at home. It will be hot and the humidity is usually around 10%, so it is easy to get dehydrated here.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The hotel buildings are huge and much farther away than you realize.  Try not to pay full price for anything. Check the internet or your favorite coupon app for available discounts.

Have a great time at convention learning, networking, and sharing all things PTA and then in your free time, enjoy all of the things Las Vegas has to offer!

Linda Johnson is a national service representative at National PTA.

Shopping:
Grand Bazaar– just north of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in front of Bally’s.
Miracle Mile Shops– just south of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace– About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to Caesars Palace. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street.
Linq Promenade – About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to the High Roller observation wheel located at the end of the promenade.
Las Vegas North-Premium Outlets–  13 min drive
Fashion Show Mall– 8 min drive

Adventure:
Sky Jump Las Vegas– Jump off the Stratosphere tower
Slotzilla Zipline through the Fremont Street Experience
Flight Linez Bootleg Canyon
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area– this is best done first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  If you are not into hiking, you can just drive the 13 mile scenic loop.

Family Friendly Activities
WetnWild Las Vegas
Cowabunga Bay
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Game Works at Town Square
Pinball Hall of Fame

Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Bellagio Fountains
Take your Picture at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Hershey’s Chocolate World
M&M’s World Las Vegas
Volcano at the Mirage

10 Ways to Supply and Support Teachers in 2017

This post was originally featured in Mediaplanet

Teachers deliver so much to our nation’s children — inspiration, motivation and, ultimately, their futures. Among the many ways teachers go the extra mile, they often spend their own money to ensure students have access to supplies and resources that will enable them to receive the best possible education.

To help empower teachers and ensure a successful school year, it is vital to be a partner in children’s learning and give back whenever possible. Here are 10 ways families can partner with and support teachers:

1. Get to know one another

Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him or her often.

2. Make a connection

Find out the best way and time to contact teachers and provide teachers with the best way to contact you.

3. Keep everyone in the loop

Supply information that will help your child’s teachers get to know him or her as an individual, such as allergies, behavior or learning issues, or changes in family life.

4. Work as a team

Set learning goals with your child and his or her teacher, and foster the achievement of those goals.

5. Monitor progress

Review your child’s notes to ensure he or she is on track.

6. Stay involved and ask questions

Look in your child’s backpack every day and frequently view the parent portal for assignments, grades and important information from teachers and the school.

7. Be available at home

Assist your children with his or her homework and talk about school matters at home.

8. Donate time

Actively participate at school when possible and volunteer in the classroom or at school events.

9. Do some legwork

Contribute your talents and skills, and aid teachers with tasks that will assist them in the classroom, like cutting out materials for class projects or helping create pieces for bulletin boards.

10. Provide for the classroom

Donate school supplies — pencils, markers, paper, scissors, crayons, tissues, disinfecting wipes — to help make sure teachers and students have the resources they need for teaching and learning, and to keep classrooms healthy.

Each year, the first full week of May marks Teacher Appreciation Week. This week is an important time to thank and celebrate teachers for their hard work and dedication to ensuring every child succeeds, but remember that every day is an opportunity to partner with and support teachers.

Laura Bay is president of National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA), a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement.

The Who’s Who of #PTACon17

The 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo is right around the corner and we have an amazing lineup of education leaders and experts who are traveling to Las Vegas to connect with PTA advocates across the country.

We are pleased to welcome the following keynote speakers:

Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization, with 350 member stations throughout the country.

Steve Pemberton, author and motivational speaker who shares his personal story of beating the odds and overcoming childhood trauma through the power of education.

Rosalind Wiseman, author and internationally recognizes expert on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice and ethical leadership.

In addition to hearing from these influential leaders, attendees will have the special opportunity to take part in exciting events like the National PTA Awards and Reflections Celebration dinner – a night filled with awards and entertainment for the entire family.

This year, we are thrilled to announce that Le PeTiT CiRqUe will be performing during the awards celebration on Saturday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Winner of 16 National Youth Awards, Le PeTiT CiRqUe has entertained audiences across the U.S. and internationally in Dubai and Canada. They have performed for world leaders including the Dalai Lama and the Sultan of Brunei and are the only all-kid prodigies cirque company in the world! You’ve seen them all over national television—they appeared on NBC’s “LITTLE BIG SHOTS” as featured guest stars on March 26, 2017.

Register for the National PTA Convention & Expo by going to PTA.com/Convention and be sure to get your tickets for the Awards and Reflections Celebration event too.

We can’t wait to see you in Vegas!

Ashley Collier is the associate manager of digital communications at National PTA.

5 Simple Tips for Engaging Your Family in Reading

This piece was originally featured in Mediaplanet

Reading and literacy skills are critical to children’s academic, social and emotional achievement. Families play an essential role in helping children develop their literacy skills and fostering a love of reading.

Research shows that when families read together, children do better in school and beyond. Reading with children provides an opportunity to expose them to more complex words and stories than they would normally encounter on their own. Research also demonstrates that children who frequently read with their families tend to have a strong belief that reading is both important and enjoyable.

Here are five tips for family reading:

1. Establish a reading area in your home 

Designating a special space in your home where you read together can help inspire your family to sit down and get lost in books. Creating a reading space with children is also a great way to enjoy quality time together.

2. Spend 30 minutes each day reading together

Even if your child is more interested in reading on their own, sit together and read something side-by-side. Then, ask questions about what they are reading.

3. Make it fun

Reading shouldn’t be a chore; it should be an adventure. If your attitude reflects the joy you feel from getting lost in a book, it’s easier for your children to feel that way too.

4. Look for interesting, reading level-appropriate books

For young readers, find books with illustrations or photos that bring words to life and provide context clues for new vocabulary. For adolescents, find books about subjects that interest your child or introduce new experiences or opportunities.

5. Books make great holiday presents

Giving books as gifts, especially on topics children love, will help encourage and support their interest in reading.

During the holidays and all year-round, it is so important to share the joy and importance of reading with children while making family memories.

Laura Bay is president of National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA), a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement.

For more tips on how to how to grow children who love to read, or how to host a PTA Family Reading Experience, visit: www.PTA.org/Reading.