New Resources Help You Celebrate Healthy Lifestyles

November offered a lot to celebrate: Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday to name a few. But it also celebrated Healthy Lifestyles Month, which brought families, schools, and communities together to improve the health of our children.

Even if you’re already practicing healthy habits at home, school is where children spend over 1,200 hours per year! That’s why it’s imperative to make sure they are getting nutritious foods and the recommended amount of daily physical activity at school.

Evidence shows that children who attend schools that promote physical activity and healthy eating perform better academically. What’s more, healthy school environments set the stage for children to adopt a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Yet data shows several challenges schools face when it comes to implementing policies and programs that not only address childhood obesity but also enhance learning, behavior, attendance and more. Parents may want to help, but they don’t always know where to begin.

So what can you do?

Visit ParentsforHealthyKids.org, a new website from Action for Healthy Kids and National PTA, that helps parents and caregivers learn how to engage with school leaders and decision makers on health issues and find ways to help bring more physical activity and healthy eating to the school day.

In addition to providing ways to advocate for your child’s health at school, the website also provides tips, recommendations, recipes, and other ways to live a healthy lifestyle at home. This month, you can find new recipes as well as healthy holiday ideas.

In February, we’ll be announcing grants for parent-led projects, providing funds and technical support to schools and parent groups to implement health and wellness programs that include a family engagement component.

Learn more about these grants and sign up for other news here.

Parents may not fully realize what a powerful force for change they can be in schools when it comes to health and wellness. They have more of a vested interest in student health and learning than probably any other stakeholder, and they’re in a unique position to bring school staff, other parents and community partners together to improve it.

What better way to celebrate a healthy holiday season than to take action today?

Amy Moyer, MPH, RD, is the VP Field Operations with Action for Healthy Kids and mother of two girls.

 Action for Healthy Kids is a National PTA sponsor and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA.

How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

The school-year kick-off is past and holiday craziness is on the horizon. Right now it’s time to grab a pumpkin spice latte, sit back and take stock.

Did the membership year start off with a bang? Maybe a mid-year drive is in order. Plan to start right after the holidays when potential members refocus on school. What value has your PTA already delivered? What value do you plan to deliver in 2018? Call attention to your success and ask for support for the future. Position membership in your PTA as a way to support students and PTA.  Ask people to join a successful movement to improve your school community.  People want to be part of successful teams. They want to know that their dues dollars have impact. Tie PTA membership with positive results.

Will your PTA meet its goals? Now is a good time to acknowledge successes and plan next steps. No goals? It’s not too late. Gather the board and decide what can be accomplished in 2018. Focus on empowering families to support student success.  Find a community agency or organization to partner in hosting a family event. Research your school’s goals and brainstorm ways to align PTA’s efforts to achieve goals together. Concentrate on making an impact and providing value to your community.

Are a few overworked volunteers trying to do the work of many? Consider how you ask for help: “Come be part of our success” vs. “We need people” and “400 children and family members had a blast in 2017. We’re aiming at 500 this year. Help us build an even better 2018 Spring Fair” vs. “We need volunteers for the Spring Fair.” Tie volunteer opportunities to outcomes, tell people they will be part of successful events, and help volunteers feel their volunteer hours have an impact. Break down opportunities into small jobs and find ways people can help from home or with their families—look for ways to help people say, “Yes” to the opportunity.

Candy canes will soon replace candy corn and PTA thoughts will take second place to planning family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Now is the time to make plans to jump start the New Year. How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

Deborah Walsh is a National PTA Service Manager. 

Help Your Youth Leaders Prevent Bullying at Recess

The PTA’s Connect for Respect initiative recommends pulling together a team of youth leaders to address bullying. For National Bullying Prevention Month, Playworks is happy to share easy strategies that even the youngest leaders can use.

Bullying and conflicts often start on the playground. Playworks, a national nonprofit, helps schools improve recess to impact school climate. Here are 5 strategies we’ve found effective for youth leaders in upper elementary school.

1.   Become a team.

In Playworks’ youth leadership programs, small groups of older students serve as recess monitors for younger students and peers. To set the tone at recess, youth leaders need to trust each other and feel like a team. Consider a weekly meeting to play icebreaker games, learn about bullying and respect, and debrief playground experiences.

2.   Model positive language.

When older students give lots of high fives and use language like “Good job, nice try!” instead of “You’re out!”, younger kids will start to do the same. Elementary-aged children are still learning that words can hurt. Making positive language the norm can help minimize hurt feelings, frustration, and miscommunication.

3.   Solve conflicts with rock-paper-scissors.

Sometimes, bullying behavior can be hard to distinguish from still-developing conflict management skills. To address the latter, students can use rock-paper-scissors to solve small disputes. Youth leaders can remind students to “rock it out” on the playground. They can also help by letting adults know when to step in.

4.   Lead inclusive games.

As children develop social awareness and form friend groups, they may start to exclude peers. Adults can set the expectation that recess games should be open to everyone. Youth leaders can lead games and invite all students to join. They can also take responsibility for being on the lookout for students who may feel left out and inviting those children to play.

5.   Reinforce game rules.

To create an inclusive environment, all students need to know how to play common games. This means adults should review the rules, pay attention to different learning styles, and check for understanding—just like in the classroom.

Once students are on the same page, youth leaders can monitor games and make sure other students know how to play. Clear expectations make a big difference, especially for children working on social interaction. One Playworks parent shared,

“My 5-year-old twins were diagnosed with autism 3 years ago. If I had to choose one program out of the handful that help with social interaction, it would be Playworks. Playworks helps schools set parameters for all children to help them understand what is OK and what is not. I think all kids need that, but kids with special needs especially need that. Playworks immerses our twins into their community. Other children know them and are used to working with them.”

Assessing Recess Success

The PTA’s Connect for Respect initiative also recommends assessing your school’s safety and social environment. Playworks’ new Recess Checkup can help you do that on the playground. This short quiz helps you assess safety, engagement, and empowerment at recess and offers strategies for improving each.

Playworks supports schools around the country. Interested in bringing Playworks’ programming or professional development to your school? Get in touch here.

Meg Duff is the Marketing Manager at Playworks. 

Update from Florida PTA: All Children are Our Children

The following was shared by Cindy Gerhardt, President of Florida PTA.

Resilience.  That is our word for this year.  We are showing the capacity to not only recover quickly from the damage and chaos that Hurricane Irma brought to our communities, but we are being propelled back into the role of caregiver and advocate.  Only 10 days after Irma made landfall, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  While we know that many students from the Florida Keys, where schools have been extremely damaged, have been relocated to schools in Miami-Dade, we are now seeing hundreds of families from Puerto Rico migrating into areas in Central and South Florida.  We know that they are coming with very few possessions, scarce documentation and some with little mastery of English.

Here’s our call to action.  If your school is receiving these displaced families, please be mindful of what they have been and are still going through.  Most have lost everything.  If you can, put together a welcome package with basic toiletries, school supplies, spirit t-shirts, etc. – something that will help them feel some sense of normality.  Work alongside guidance counselors and other school staff to help meet other needs that may arise.  Some may be staying in short term housing, some in shelters, some with local family members.  If possible, let’s reach out and see how we can help with food, clothing and other necessities.

In the next phase, we will be working with district personnel and state decision makers to ensure that our schools are set up for success as they absorb these new families.  We’ll encourage common sense waivers and accommodations as we move forward to navigate the day-to-day curriculum and achievement expectations already in place for our schools.

Please stay tuned for more updates as we send them, and more importantly, please keep us posted on ways you and your volunteers are helping to provide a smooth and less distressing transition for these families and their children.  We will show them that our words are true, when we say ALL Children are OUR Children!

Cindy Gerhardt
President
Florida PTA

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.