PTA Reflections: Within Reach

PTA Reflections is a national program that sparks students’ imagination, curiosity and participation in the arts! Each PTA partners with their school and community to offer activities, events and awards for families to enjoy. Check out these fun ideas on how to bring Reflections to your community—in school and at home.

Reflections at School

Reflections will empower students to take charge of their own learning and make personal connections across their community. Share these ideas with teachers and school leaders to help increase student engagement and deepen learning.

TIP 1: Introduce Reflections at a faculty meeting early in the school year to offer ideas on how the annual theme can align with school and classroom goals.

TIP 2: Connect with student leaders and club sponsors who may be able to offer support to interested students before/after school or during school lunch/recess times.

Offer a Reflections Club. Host a series of after-school workshops for students to explore each arts category. Allow teachers, teaching-artists and community artists to inspire students and lend their expertise in guiding creative ideas and supporting technical skills. Coordinate with your visiting instructors ahead of time to align their activity with this year’s annual theme. Choose a time that doesn’t conflict with curricular and extra-curricular activities and provide supplies for students. Reflections activities can also be hosted by school and community partners (e.g. libraries, scout troops, YMCAs, BGCs, etc.)

Invite the Whole Family to Your Meeting. Dedicate space and provide supplies for students to have fun. Ask student leaders to share their artistic talents and inspire students to use supplies to create their own original works. Provide time at the end of your meeting for students to share their interpretations on the theme. If any works are still in progress, ask students to share their ideas/plans. Don’t forget to send everyone home with an entry form and an invitation to your Reflections celebration!

Host a Family Art Night. Welcome families to explore Reflections, together! Invite teachers, teaching artists and community artists to help you lead art-making activities based on the annual theme. Start small by offering one or two activities (e.g. Visual Arts; Literature). Or, go big by offering all six activities (e.g. Dance Choreography; Film Production; Literature; Music Composition; Photography; Visual Arts). Start the evening by announcing the theme and introducing your station leaders. End the evening by announcing your submission deadline, passing out entry forms and collecting any finished works.

Set Up a Back-to-School Reflections Table. Make sure everyone knows about Reflections when they come back to school! Inspire participation by showcasing past winning works in highly visible locations. Also, dedicate space for distributing materials and collecting entries. Consider displaying a virtual gallery or hosting student performances to draw greater attention to your Reflections station and assign a student leader or parent volunteer to help answer any questions on how to participate.

Reflections at Home 

Share these ideas with parents/guardians to help students find inspiration at home and around their community. Creative sparks can happen anywhere and sometimes all it takes is a little space and time to stretch the imagination and start the arts.

TIP: Dedicate a safe place in your home/community where students can feel welcomed to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Discover Cultural Heritage through Folk and Traditional Arts. The Folk and Traditional Arts remind us of who we are and what we believe as a family or community. They are deeply rooted in history, tradition and culture, allowing us to explore our heritage, language, religion, occupation and geographic region. Discuss your traditions and have a conversation about the types of music, dance, crafts and/or oral expression your family have created and enjoyed across generations.

Lead a Family Arts Club. Whether it’s a structured like a book club or just a discussion around the dinner table, start a conversation about the annual Reflections theme. Yes—that means fun for the adults too! Give your family members an assignment to explore what the theme means to them. Feeling ambitious? Explore an arts category each week leading up to your local entry deadline.

Host a Party for Kids. Whether it’s a birthday celebration or a simple get-together, ask your child to invite their peers to join them for an “art party.” Throughout the party, offer activities. Allow kids to share their art with each other and send them home with a treat bag. When the party ends, ask parents to complete their child’s entry form and ensure works are submitted on time.

Take a Family Field Trip. Bring the Reflections theme with you on your next family escapade! Consider places that help kids explore their world, including museums, history centers, art galleries, performance venues, libraries, cultural centers and religious institutions. You can also bring the theme with you to sporting events, playgrounds, parks and even the grocery store. Wherever you go, it’s important to help your family make connections among what they’ve learned or experienced and to the theme.

For more ideas and to access your free digital kit, visit PTA.org/Reflections!

Ethan Clark is the Manager of Education and Arts Initiatives at National PTA. 

Park West Gallery: Art Education Matters

Students create self portraits through the Turnaround Arts program.

(Sponsored Post) Knowledge is power, and there are few things more powerful than art.

Despite art’s connection to human emotion, we at the Park West Gallery understand the art world can be intimidating for those who feel they aren’t “in-the-know,” so we strive to make art accessible for people of all ages by demystifying it. We emphasize the importance of art education by hosting regular free educational seminars and sponsoring enrichment programs through our nonprofit organization, the Park West Foundation.

Exposure to the arts is a critical part of a child’s development. After all, some of the world’s greatest artists had their start at a young age, including:

  • Rembrandt van Rijn—Considered the great master of the Baroque Age, Rembrandt had an inclination toward painting as a boy and apprenticed under a painter at the age of 14.
  • Pablo Picasso—Perhaps the most famous modern artist, Picasso received formal artistic training starting at age seven. It is said that Picasso’s first word was “piz,” short for “pencil” in Spanish.

In 2016, the Park West Foundation began its “Museum Spotlight” program. The program sponsored museum exhibitions featuring some of today’s leading contemporary artists, including Yaacov Agam, Peter Max, Autumn de Forest, and Anatole Krasnyansky. These exhibitions were held in such prestigious institutions as the Tampa Museum of Art and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.

Autumn demonstrates “pull painting” to students with Turnaround Arts. (Photo courtesy of Doug de Forest)

Visit us online to see where we bring the creative endeavors of artists to collectors in the hope that current and future generations will be inspired. We connect people to art in a fun, educational and welcoming experience through our art auctions aboard more than 100 cruise ships around the world.

Chris Gray is a senior writer for Park West Gallery.

10 Ways to Get Kids Reading this Summer

This blog was originally posted on the Great Schools blog.

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School’s out, the days are longer, and suddenly kids have time on their hands, and you’d like them to put down their tablet and pick up a book. After all, studies show children who read when they’re out of school do better academically than those who avoid cracking open a book.

California Library Association is asking patrons across the state to encourage their local libraries to be a part of the Five Book Summer Reading Challenge. CLA has innovative programs to share or seek at least a calculation of how many books were read. Reading just five books during the summer reduce summer learning loss–significantly more than three or four books. Here are 10 ways to get even the most reluctant reader started on a reading adventure.

  1. Get inspired by Hollywood

    Movies can be a great way to get kids excited about reading, so kick-start summer with film adaptations of popular children’s books. Parents might Netflix Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), based on a book by Roald Dahl. If kids warm up to Mr. Fox, you’ll be able to introduce them to the book version  as well as other titles by the author, such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG.

  2. Take a book-themed vacation

    “I can go anywhere!” — or so says the theme song to the PBS show Reading Rainbow. Parents could do a lot worse than taking those songsmiths to heart and helping children plan a vacation inspired by a book they love. To start, try reading Liz Garton Scanlon’s picture book All the World while planning a trip to the beach. New Englanders might visit Providence, R.I., after reading the historical young adult novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

  3. Meet the authors

    Kids of all ages can benefit from attending an in-person literary event. Authors routinely make appearances at bookstores to read their latest work, and these events are often sparsely attended. Seeing the person behind the words could inspire kids to try a new book. For dates and times, check local news and bookstore websites.

  4. Get cookin’ with books

    Parents of kids who aren’t interested in the more traditional children’s books might want to steer their offspring toward other genres. Cookbooks can encourage kids to master practical skills while providing a delicious payoff at the end. The American Grandparents Association recommends 12 cookbooks for kids 3 and older. And children who branch out into the world of food blogs will find endless reasons to keep reading.

  5. Wise up on magazines

    Magazines cater to many interests and can inspire kids to read deeply on subjects they enjoy. Among magazines suitable for younger readers, several well-known magazines, such as Sports Illustrated and National Geographic, offer “kids” editions. Parents’ Choice has a list of spring 2015 winners here. Teens in particular may want something for the more mature: Seventeen, Teen Vogue, ESPN or MAD — and most magazines are available for electronic readers such as Kindle and Nook.

  6. Create a readers’ theater

    Parents can bring books to life by staging scenes from favorite stories. Act out characters, read scenes aloud, try funny voices, and use props from around the house — do whatever it takes to get kids excited about the story. By imagining themselves in the roles of their favorite characters, children can make a deeper connection to what they’re reading.

  7. Listen to your books

    Parents might not realize that audiobooks are freely available for checkout at most public libraries. Take your children to the library (or iTunes), and pick out the perfect summer tale, then set aside some time to listen to the audiobook together.

  8. Throw a blog party

    Make reading social by helping your kids — or, more likely, having them help you — set up a reading blog on sites such as Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, or Tumblr. While getting them set up should be relatively painless, kids might need encouragement to keep writing, so make sure you help them stick to a schedule. For even more online fun, see if you can get your children’s friends involved as well.

  9. Organize a summer series

    With school out, children have extra time to get sucked in by the compelling narratives of popular series. For the youngest set, start with picture books such as Babar. Genre books can be particularly addictive for older kids: The Lord of the Rings is a classic — and one of the best.

  10. Be strong and read hard!

    It’s especially important for parents to model the behavior they want to see in their children. Some parents only read after their kids are in bed, but summer is a great time to take the books off the bedside table and make them part of vacation or leisure time. Whether that means booting up the Kindle or dusting off old Anna K, show your kids you still love a good read, too.

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Summer Tips for Incoming PTA Leaders

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Summer vacation is here! While these months can be filled with road trips to the beach, summer camps, long nights and lots of “R&R” time—summer is also an opportunity to plan a smooth transition into the upcoming school year. Just as teachers must plan the next school year’s curriculum, PTA leaders have an assignment of their own, too.

At the end of their term, outgoing leaders transfer their procedures books to the incoming leaders. Even if an outgoing leader thinks the information is of no value, with these books you will have a better idea of what was done in the past and how the PTA went about doing it. Outgoing leaders can also offer valuable insight on things yet to be done, what they would do better and suggestions on how to be more effective and efficient in the performance of your new duties. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Start planning now for your own smooth transition into office. Here are a few tips for incoming local leaders to consider:

Share contact information with outgoing leaders and set up a directory to be and remain connected. With previous leaders’ contact information, you’ll be able to reach out for additional support throughout the year or to ask for insight as problems arise.

Review procedures books given to you from outgoing leaders. If there are none, do not worry; start one by getting and reading your local unit bylaws. The PTA unit’s secretary should have a copy. If you can’t find it, call your state/congress office; they’ll be happy to mail or email you one.

Visit PTAKit.org and review the sections that may apply to your new position.  If you don’t see your position listed, the information this website contains is of value to the entire PTA board.  Even if you’re an experienced PTA leader, it is worth reviewing every year as it is updated with the most current information and trends to help you and your unit to be successful.

Check out your state PTA’s website.  They may have information that can start you off on the right foot for the year. For example, templates, training opportunities, resources, program materials, newsletters, etc. You might find ways to connect with your state through Facebook, Instagram, Legislative Alerts, Twitter, etc.

Take advantage of the e-learning courses. National PTA offers online training courses to help you grow as a leader at PTA.org/eLearning. Although you may want to start with what you’ll need for your own PTA position, please take all courses. As a board member, it’s important to know the role of each position and what to expect.

Meet with your school principal to learn about school goals and objectives for the incoming year. Share with the principal the programs the PTA would like to hold (Reflections, Family Reading Experience Powered by Kindle, Healthy Lifestyles, Fire Up Your Feet, Take Your Family to School Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Connect for Respect, etc.) and how these programs will support the goals and objectives of the school. Think about becoming a School of Excellence in the process!

Set up a communications plan. Newsletters and social media keep everyone informed, engaged and proud of what the PTA is doing. Go through your PTA’s goals, identify specific strategies your PTA or committee will use to achieve each goal and then create a step-by-step plan for each strategy. This is key to growing membership and gaining members and community support.

Have a successful PTA year and thank you so much for your dedication and commitment to the mission of PTA!


Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative at National PTA.

 

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“The World Would Be a Better Place If …”: National PTA and ED Honor Student Artists

This blog post was originally published on U.S. Department of Education’s Homeroom blog.

On the inside of high-schooler Maria Quiles’ right wrist is the neatly crafted tattoo of a treble clef, surrounded by notes. Having epilepsy, she relies on the tattoo, coupled with her musical passion, for courage during seizures.

Maria was at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in January to be honored for her musical composition, which won an award in the 2014–15 National PTA Reflections competition celebrating arts learning in schools across the country. Each year hundreds of thousands of entrants from preschool through grade 12 reflect on a common theme to create original art in six mediums — dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. Maria’s composition responded to this year’s theme, “The World Would Be a Better Place If … ‘’

ED hosted the National PTA awards ceremony for the ninth year, which this year drew 35 honorees from 21 states and 200 other attendees — families, teachers and school leaders, National PTA staff, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other arts leaders, and ED staff. The ceremony ended with a signature ribbon-cutting to officially open the exhibit of Reflections visual arts and literature winners, on display through the end of February.

Maria, from Oviedo, Fla., was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 13; she has endured bullying, depression, and thoughts of suicide. The world would be a better place, she believes, if compassion trumped hurtful nicknames. Through the years, Maria has turned her despair into songs of hope. When a seizure is imminent, she and her mother together grasp Maria’s tattooed wrist and sing or hum her winning composition, which concludes, “Everything will be ok. . . . No matter what’s in my way, I’ll just stay, I’ll Just Stay.” Soon the seizure subsides.

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Maria Quiles and her mother at the opening ceremony to honor Maria and 205 other winners of the 2014–15 National PTA Reflections competition.

Ted Mitchell, ED’s under secretary of education, spoke of “the transformational power of art,” as reflected in Maria’s story:

“Art has a particular ability to raise the volume on the possible, to give us images
and sounds, pictures, words that help describe a world that might not exist yet, but
can, and more importantly, ought to. … Art enables us to create an experience
before we can explain it, and it’s that movement from the experience to the explanation, to the development of work that … is our life’s journey.”

Beyond discovery, educators lauded many other merits of art in education. Jane Chu, NEA chairwoman, cited research indicating that arts-infused schools correlate with improved social skills, higher grades and test scores, better attendance, lower dropout rates, and increased college enrollment. These outcomes are particularly pronounced for low-income students.

Laura Bay, the National PTA president, named additional benefits. Artists learn to create, problem-solve, persevere, and communicate. Art can be woven throughout all academic areas, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), to clarify, illuminate, stimulate the imagination, and develop innovations.
Honorees interpreted this year’s competition theme in myriad ways. For example, “The World Would Be a Better Place If … ”

“… [P]eople came together and focused on their similarities, not their differences. The joy of music creates a common bond that brings people together, even people who do not know one another. …If more people focused on the joyous parts of life, like music, the world would have less hatred and would be a better place.” — Kyle Gatesman, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology [Virginia] student, who composed and performed “The Joy of Music” on his keyboard.

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Kyle Gatesman performs his original composition for keyboard, “The Joy of Music.”

“… [W]e all set down our cell phones and got to know each other face-to-face.” —Hanna La Londe, Shawnee Mission West [Kansas] High School student, who choreographed and performed the dance “Losing Touch” to the music of Prince Ea.

Hanna La Londe performs the award-winning dance she choreographed, “Losing Touch.”

Hanna La Londe performs the award-winning dance she choreographed, “Losing Touch.”

“… I could march through life with my brother.” —10-year-old Jarom Garner [Briarwood, Wash.], who, accompanied by his 12-year-old sibling, Adam, performed a cello duet of Jarom’s prize-winning composition, “The Brothers’ March.”

 

 

Jarom Garner, left, and his sibling Adam perform Jarom’s winning musical composition for cello, “The Brothers’ March.”

Jarom Garner, left, and his sibling Adam perform Jarom’s winning musical composition for cello, “The Brothers’ March.”

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Honorees cut the ribbon at the opening of the Reflections art exhibit featuring some 60 pieces of visual art and a collection of literature.


Nancy Paulu is an editor and writer in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Joshua Hoover. More photos from the event may be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/albums/72157663336481071

The Department’s
 Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov.

Celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month Poem

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Reflections Artwork by Leroux Julien

There once was child who sat in class very jaded
He was upset at test taking and always being graded.
The teacher noticed that he was not the only one
All the students in the class did not have much fun.
So the teacher began to think about what she should do
To get her class to participate and have fun in school, too.
She woke up early one morning to start on her plan
To engage her students in class and keep their attention span.
A light bulb went off and she immediately knew
“I think incorporating the arts is the thing to do!”
So she wrote out a unit plan incorporating the arts
“These lessons should be sure to capture my students’ hearts.”

The weekend came and went and Monday morning was here.
A math lesson with music, and dance would make her students’ boredom disappear.
A history lesson with art and photography was also captivating.
Creative writing, film, science, and reading became engaging.
This teacher was ecstatic, the class was now amused.
Those annoying little worksheets have now gone unused.
Her students were happy, and enjoyed coming to school
Because the students now knew that the arts are really cool.

The kids had too much fun, and the parents were concerned.
So the students put on a play about the stuff that they learned.
This play was going to be big, the teacher was much stressed
But the students were excellent and the parents were impressed.
The school Principal was excited and Assistant Principal was delighted.
The students’ passion for learning had now been ignited.

I wrote this short poem to tell you this fact
that the arts and humanities in education can keep students on track.
Celebrating the arts and humanities is sure to imbue
Happy National Arts and Humanities day to your students and you!

Happy National Arts and Humanities Month to you!


Quanice Floyd is the arts fellow at National PTA.

The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success

Action-Agenda-CoverIt’s official: school is back in session! Bright yellow school buses are once again roaming the streets, teachers have made the final touches to lesson plans and backpack-laden kids are making their way to new schools, new teachers and new friends.

­­­As parents, much is likely on your mind. What should I pack for healthy lunches that my child will actually eat? How can I build a good relationship with the teachers? And, perhaps, most importantly, how can I do ensure that my child has the best possible education this year and every year?

But have you considered whether or not your child’s school is providing a complete and competitive education that include the arts? Decades of research collected by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) have shown that the arts are an essential component for providing all children the foundation to succeed in school, work and life.

With that in mind, Congress has set aside a time each year to consider and celebrate the role of the arts in our schools and communities by establishing this week as National Arts in Education Week. To assist parents, teachers, school leaders and policymakers in exploring the role of the arts in education, AEP recently released The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success: A 2020 Action Agenda for Advancing the Arts in Education.

This Action Agenda outlines a set of goals and strategies by which the arts can be employed as AEP’s 100+ partner organizations collectively respond to and inform four high priority areas of action needed to effectively address educational inequities, and level the playing field for academic achievement and student success. These four areas are:

  • To raise student achievement and success through the adoption and implementation of higher learning standards and effective accountability systems
  • To support effective educators and school leaders through improved preparation, support, and evaluation systems
  • To transform the teaching and learning environment through student-centered strategies for using time, resources, and technology in new and innovative ways
  • To build leadership capacity and knowledge by providing all arts and education leaders with the knowledge and resources necessary to engage the arts as an essential component of a complete and competitive education for all students

Join AEP as we work to achieve the Action Agenda’s aspirational goal that, by the year 2020, every young person in America, at every grade level, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, will have equitable access to high quality arts learning opportunities, both during the school day and in out-of-school time.


SJ-Web-Pic-rsz1Scott D. Jones is the senior associate for research and policy at the Arts Education Partnership.

Encourage Creativity: Teach the Arts

As parents and members of the PTA, our role is to advocate for the best educational experience possible for our kids and I firmly believe that the best education possible includes the arts. Painting, dancing, acting and singing provide our children with numerous benefits.

For instance, did you know students involved in the arts have a dropout rate five times lower than their peers?

Did you know that 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they’re looking for when hiring?

So what can we do to encourage creativity in our schools? As the arts education program manager at Americans for the Arts, I oversee the creation of tools and resources to help parents understand the benefits of arts education and to then, in turn, convey that importance to our principals, school board members and elected officials.

This year, Americans for the Arts launched a suite of tools called “Encourage Creativity: Teach the Arts.” The site includes four distinct videos that show the important role of the arts in every child’s education. The videos are inspirational, visually stunning and emotionally and intellectually compelling.

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Encourage Creativity Image by Scott Cronan Photography

And since this week (September 13 – 19) is National Arts in Education Week, there’s no time like the present to get started with using the Encourage Creativity suite! This year marks the 5th anniversary of National Arts in Education Week—a national celebration recognizing the importance of dance, media arts, music, theater and visual arts to a well-rounded education. Through House Resolution 275, the week of the second Sunday in September is designated to bring attention of this cause to our educational decision makers.

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You can download and use this logo for free at: NationalArtsInEducationWeek.org

Not sure how to join in the celebration of National Arts in Education Week? Here are three easy ideas:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the tools. We’ve built an entire suite of tools to help you celebrate National Arts in Education Week and Encourage Creativity in your school communities. Parents can use all of our tools in tandem—you could prepare talking points via our Facts & Figures e-book and then inspire your school leaders with one of the videos.
  2. Host an event or make a presentation. Local events are a great way to bring attention to the cause of arts education. You could host a performance, exhibit or open house. Or you could prepare a presentation for a town hall, PTA meeting or school board meeting. We’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to use the Encourage Creativity tools for any of these scenarios.
  3. Join the conversation. You can see what other parents and educators are doing to Encourage Creativity in their schools by following the #ArtsEdWeek hashtag all week long: September 13 – 19. You can add your story to the conversation using the following hashtags: Share a picture of student artwork or a performance and tag it with #EncourageCreativity. Or tell a story about an arts educator who has made a difference in your school community and tag it with #TeachTheArts.

Get creative! Watch the videos, share your stories and join in this celebration of National Arts in Education Week. Help spread the idea that the best way to encourage creativity in our schools is to teach the arts!

Encourage Creativity Image by Scott Cronan Photography

Encourage Creativity Image by Scott Cronan Photography


Kristen Engebretsen is the arts education program manager for Americans for the Arts. She also is a member of the Takoma Park Elementary PTA in Maryland.

A Great Learning Experience

Reflections Student Art by Vy Nguyen (Grade 5)

Reflections Student Art by Vy Nguyen (Grade 5)

Creating art is a valuable learning process. Artistic exploration and expression enhance and develop intellectual, social and physical skills.

When children express themselves through words, pictures, music, photography and other art forms, they grow intellectually. The National PTA Reflections program helps parents encourage and recognize the continuous self-discovery process of their children.

With art, children learn to analyze their thoughts, feelings and ideas; look at objects, people and experiences in a fresh and exciting way; and develop curiosity for the ideas and works of others.

There are four skills students demonstrate and enhance through their artwork in the Reflections program:

  1. Critical Thinking—Students draw upon many skills and explore the creative process while reflecting on the annual Reflections’ theme. Oftentimes, students solve problems to real-world global issues or identify opportunities and strategies that really work.
  2. Communication—Students hone their writing and communication skills by articulating their thoughts and ideas in an artist statement that is shared with their peers and the greater school community. Reflections will give students a voice (using art) to inform, persuade, motivate and inspire others.
  3. Collaboration—Families and classrooms have fun discussing the annual theme and exploring new art-making techniques. A student choreographer or film director will cultivate leadership skills while working with their peers, and a Reflections Art Night will offer time and space for the whole family. Student leadership and ownership are key for a successful Reflections submission.
  4. Creativity—Students find themselves at the epicenter of their imagination. Reflections artwork is a product of mastering the creative process. Students must brainstorm multiple ideas and even combinations of them by elaborating, refining, analyzing and evaluating. The process allows students to think outside the box and create a tangible, useful work of art that inspires others to be engaged in their own learning.

It’s programs like PTA Reflections that allow students to cultivate and curate creative skills that give them an academic advantage.

Students who participate in arts programs like Reflections show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement, especially for those in underserved communities. Arts education has the ability to level the playing field because it provides a safe learning environment where students take risks, explore ideas and express their individuality. Students also learn to support their peers in a positive way by breaking down communication barriersprobably because the arts are a universal language (ArtsEdSearch.org).

Reflections is designed to enhance arts education. It provides opportunities for students to express themselves and to receive positive recognition for their artistic efforts. Family members, school personnel and the community all play a critical role in fostering a positive learning environment for children. Supporting a Reflections program in your community is one way adults can help maintain that environment.

I encourage you to support student learning through the arts so that today’s Reflections artists can find their voice and continue to explore their world in creative ways.

Learn more and get started at PTA.org/Reflections.


Ethan Clark is the Manager of Education and Arts Initiatives at National PTA.

Encourage Creativity During #ArtsEdWeek

ArtsEdWeekThis September 14-18, PTAs and schools nationwide encourage creativity during National Arts in Education Week to raise awareness of the value the arts bring to a high-quality, comprehensive education.

The weeklong initiative is designed to celebrate the arts, spotlight the importance of arts education and encourage participation in arts programs and activities like PTA Reflections.

The timing of the week honors National Arts in Education Week as designated by the U.S. House of Representatives, but also serves as the official kickoff celebration for the 2015-2016 National PTA Reflections program.

Each day of the Sept. 14-18 school week, PTAs across the country and in U.S. schools overseas will celebrate arts education by hosting school-wide arts activities based on the 2015-2016 PTA Reflections program theme, Let Your Imagination Fly.

PTA Reflections encourages students to create original artwork that reflects their interpretation on the annual theme and acquire many educational and life-long benefits.

You can introduce the theme at school or at home by starting a conversation. Try these questions to help students explore their world as it relates to the theme.

  • What would happen if you let your imagination fly?
  • Where does your imagination take you?
  • How/when do you use your imagination?
  • Why is your imagination important to you?

Give students time and space to reflect on the theme and offer arts supplies and materials for them to explore the following PTA Reflections categories each day during National Arts in Education Week. Consider the following ideas to encourage creativity:

Monday – Dance Choreography: Choose a time during the school day and invite everyone to dance together. Choose a story based on the theme that is read aloud or song based on the theme and have students create movements to phrases that communicate the theme.

Tuesday – Film Production: Have students create a storyboard/comic based on their interpretation of the theme. Set up a place where students can rehearse and record their skits.

Wednesday – Literature: Students may write a poem/short story related to the theme. Consider inviting a guest author to talk about how they use their imagination.

Thursday – Music Composition: Host time and space for students to participate in a music making activity using instruments or found objects. Provide studio time where students explore sounds/instruments and record their compositions.

Friday – Photography & Visual Arts: Encourage students to take photos of their peers using their imagination to be more creative in class and at home. Have students post their photos on a designated wall that promotes the Reflections theme.

Throughout #ArtsEdWeek, share photos and videos of your #PTAReflections program encouraging creativity in your school. For inspiration, share this video and visit the online art exhibit featuring student interpretations on past years’ themes.

After National Arts in Education Week is over, the fun continues! Family and peer encouragement is key to a student’s success in school and in life and this is what PTA Reflections is all about.

To get involved, join your PTA and visit PTA.org/Reflections to get started! And for more info on National Arts in Education Week, visit PTA.org/ArtsEdWeek.