Be A Learning Hero

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(Photo Credit: BeALearningHero.org)

It’s hard to believe, but a new school year is here!

At PTA, we know the importance of family engagement at every level of education to support children’s achievement. We also know every parent wants the best for their child; they want to be heroes. And as students head back to school, we want to arm families with tools and resources to help their children start strong and stay on track to success.

We’re excited to collaborate with Scholastic, Common Sense Media, GreatSchools and many more of the country’s most trusted education organizations to empower parents with the information and tools they need to be “learning heroes” for their children and support their success this and every school year.

Through a new website, BeALearningHero.org, parents can find tips, fast facts, videos, guides and other resources specific to their children’s needs—all for free! These include:

  • Super 5: The Learning Heroes Back-to-School Toolkit for Parents, which provides five important practical steps parents can take to prepare for the new school year
  • Skill Builders, which are designed to help improve children’s skills in areas where they need support
  • Learning Tools in English and Spanish from trusted sources to help parents help their children succeed in math and English Language Arts—searchable by grade, subject and content type
  • Homework Help Desk, through which parents can get one-on-one support from trained teachers to help their children with their homework assignments

As part of the launch of BeALearningHero.org, I participated in a radio media tour on August 17. During the tour, I spoke with radio stations across the country about the initiative and the resources available to families to help them support their children’s learning and development. Listen to an interview that aired on the nationally-syndicated USA Radio Network.

I encourage you to visit BeALearningHero.org and sign up to receive regular updates with tips, tools and resources as well as share the website with fellow parents to help them “Be A Learning Hero” and ensure a successful school year.

“At my PTA”

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(Photo Credit: Dee Heinz)

If you are a parent or educator, then you probably have a story to tell that begins with, “At my PTA…”

This week, one of those stories gained major media attention for a PTA that took an innovative approach to fundraising—often called a “non-fundraiser.” You may have seen it on Facebook or media outlets like CNN. The Facebook post celebrates the humor PTA leaders had in addressing what most family-school organizations (and all nonprofits) have to do to operate—raise money. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s creative, real and admittedly, hilarious. It’s certainly relevant to today’s busy parents, grandparents and educators.

I have a story too. At my PTA, we’re using the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to guide our approach to membership, events and yes—even fundraising.

Using these standards to guide your PTA plan is one of the things that makes PTA different than other family-school organizations. In fact, our National PTA Schools of Excellence program has proven that when these standards are used, families feel more welcomed and valued, more involved in supporting their child’s academic success, and more informed about and engaged in improving the school. They also feel more connected in their community.

Family School Partnerships croppedPTA’s National Standards shift a PTA board from planning around a calendar to focusing the plan on the needs of your students, teachers and school. By the time you get to the calendar stage of planning, every PTA effort and the calendar itself reflects the standards in action:

  1. Membership recruitment ideas that make all families feel welcome and valued;
  2. Communication strategies that allow your families and teachers to plan their involvement in PTA, and encourage ongoing feedback about PTA’s efforts;
  3. Educational PTA programs and events that link to learning and guide families on the ways to support student success;
  4. Advocacy efforts that speak up on behalf of every child’s needs and improve the school as a whole;
  5. Shared decision-making about the mix of fundraising activities that will support these school improvements;
  6. Fun, family experiences that create pride and school spirit, while connecting families to other people and resources in their community.

At my PTA, we began our planning process by sending out a survey to families and teachers that helped us to understand what they perceived about our efforts. Then we canvassed the community—sharing the most frequent feedback we heard—and we asked more questions about what we still needed to know. All of the feedback has resulted in a drumbeat of reoccurring messages explaining how we will:

  • Support our students and teachers by…
  • Improve our school by…
  • Create a welcoming and supportive school community by…

Once we determined our objectives, we sat down with the calendar and made sure everything on it achieved one of the bullets above. Will we fundraise? Oh yes, we will. We are a nonprofit advocacy organization—we have to in order to fulfill our mission! But when we do fundraise, everyone will know how the money raised will make the school a better place for our kids. At my PTA, that’s what we care about most.

Do you have an “At My PTA” story you want to share? Email Programs@PTA.org. We want to hear it and highlight you in one of our future blogs, e-newsletters or magazine articles!


Mary Pat King, MS is the director of programs & partnerships at National PTA. She is also a vice president for her local PTA.

New Poll Shows Little Appetite for Vouchers but a Craving for Resources

 

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This week, PDK and Gallup released the results from the 2015 Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. In the season of presidential campaigning when it feels like Americans are constantly pitted against each other, it is a welcome respite to find widespread agreement on some issues related to public education.

The poll conducted 3,499 interviews via telephone and internet and found that the majority of public school parents are opposed to using public funds to finance private education. In fact, the national opinion on school vouchers is in line with National PTA’s longstanding position of opposing vouchers that divert critical public funds to private or sectarian schools. National PTA has repeatedly opposed vouchers—or public school portability—in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which some policymakers continue to advocate for despite a majority of Americans disfavoring them. National PTA also released a statement in response to the poll.

Perhaps the most unsurprising finding from the poll was nearly half of those questioned stated that a lack of financial support was the biggest problem facing American schools. Funding for public education has consistently been at the top of the list of issues impacting schools for the past 10 years. The answers could be in response to the continued cuts to education at the federal, state and local levels, which were exacerbated during the Great Recession.

National PTA—along with dozens of other organizations—routinely advocates to congress for increased investment for education programs. Despite the massive funding cuts, when respondents were asked about schools in their own areas, they were much more likely to have a favorable opinion of their schools compared to schools nationally. This is analogous to voters disapproving of the job congress is doing, but continue to approve of their own members of congress.

The poll also revealed that:

  • 67% of public school parents believe there is too much emphasis on standardized tests in schools in the United States.
  • 65% of public school parents overall said they wouldn’t excuse their own child from exams.
  • African-American and Hispanic parents being less likely to say they would excuse their child from standardized test compared to their white peers.

National PTA’s position on assessing students is supported by the poll results which found that “when asked to select from four approaches that would provide the most accurate picture of a public school student’s academic progress, standardized testing was again at the bottom of the list when compared with three other indicators of progress.” Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Dr. Daniel Koretz, recently told the Christian Science Monitor, “True accountability would include many unstandardized measures of student and teacher performance, everything from portfolios to observations, and that a limited amount of standardized testing then could be part of the oversight system to make sure teachers were applying appropriate standards.”

National PTA believes valid assessment does not consist of a single test score, and that at no time should a single test be considered the sole determinant of a student’s academic or vocational future. Rather, policy alternatives to social promotion and grade retention must be established.

Stay in the loop! Sign-up to get our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and visit our Takes Action Network for the latest advocacy news and legislative updates.


Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator 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.

How to help your kids at school — even if you don’t understand what they are doing

It’s back-to-school time, and it’s not just kids feeling the anxiety. Parents have their own set of worries with a new school year starting, so, here is some help from Laura Bay, an educator from Washington state who is the president of the National PTA. She offers some words of advice on how to help your kids at school — even if you don’t understand what they are doing.

This blog post was featured in Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet” blog. Read the full post.

Back-to-school is a stressful time. There are new people to meet, and there is pressure to fit in. There is new material to learn, and it seems to get more challenging every year. Then there are the stakes, which couldn’t be higher.

And I’m just talking about the parents.

The elephant in the room for many parents is that the expectations for our children are different than when we were in school. Students are now focusing more on critical thinking, analyzing, and problem solving, and some parents have grown unsure about how—and whether—they can help their children in this new environment.

The answer for parents is clear—yes, we can.

To help parents help their children, the National PTA is trying something different this year. Along with other national organizations such as Scholastic, National Council of La Raza, GreatSchools, and Common Sense Media, we’re helping launch Be a Learning Hero — a public service partnership designed to support parents to be learning heroes for their kids at back to school and throughout the school year.

The new site, Be A Learning Hero, acknowledges that education has changed. It doesn’t opine, and it doesn’t advocate. Lots of parents don’t have time for that anyway. Instead, Be A Learning Hero takes a practical stance and addresses this question: if our education system is evolving, and therefore impacting how teachers teach and how students learn, how can we best help parents support their children?

We’re not talking about supporting children with new back-to-school outfits or school supplies. We’re talking about simple, actionable steps all parents can take to help their children succeed in school. BeALearningHero.org has just released the five steps called the SUPER 5, that empower parents to support their children’s learning and development for back to school:

1. Learn what the specific learning goals are for your child’s new grade.

2. Know where your child excels and where there is room to grow.

3. Spend time in your child’s school and be in regular contact with his or her teacher. Given that not all parents’ schedules always align with the school day, parents can also use phone calls, text messages, emails and school websites and apps to keep in touch with their child’s educators.

4. Promote your child’s emotional intelligence — it matters for academic success.

5. Make home another space for learning, and get tools for boosting your child’s math and English skills at the kitchen table.

Parents can visit BeALearningHero.org for practical, trusted resources to turn these tips into action at home. We want our children to be successful, and we want to feel like we’re contributing to our children’s success. Even if we don’t remember the Pythagorean theorem and haven’t recently read any books by Roald Dahl or Judy Blume, we can still help our children succeed by understanding their learning goals, monitoring their progress and knowing how to help.


Laura Bay is National PTA President.

3 Steps Forward for Our Children’s Mental Health

shutterstock_75904627It is always an exciting time when children head back to school. They are excited to see old friends and make new ones, and everyone loves getting a fresh start with a clean slate each year.

I raised four children myself and often think back to the day my younger daughter began first grade. I remember how worried she was about going off to school that first day. I asked her why she was so upset, and she cried, “Because I don’t know how to do any first-grade work yet!” I said, “But that’s what first grade is for—to teach you how to do first-grade work.” “Oh,” she replied after a pause, and headed out the door to catch the bus.

Most of our children’s anxieties are just that easy to resolve. They are real but relatively minor, and it takes a little listening, a reassuring response and some modest encouragement to get them out the door and on their way.

At Mental Health America, we can help. We offer a set of Back-to-School surveys, fact sheets, tips and other materials that can help children and parents navigate almost any challenge that they will face.

But sometimes, we need more than that. My son was starting fifth grade the same day my daughter started first, and he eagerly and happily left the house, looking forward to the school year. Despite his enthusiasm and optimism, he began displaying serious signs of mental illness before the school year was over. He attempted suicide, was then hospitalized and eventually diagnosed with a serious mental illness. It’s not really possible to predict which child will have a serious mental health problem and which one will turn out to have nothing more than a passing concern. We hope any issues our children will face will be minor, but it’s a good idea to plan our strategy in case they turn out not to be.

Let’s take three steps forward to give all of our children the best chance for success in school and in life:

  1. Treat mental health problems as seriously as we do every other health issue. Believe it or not, half of all mental illnesses emerge by the age of 14. These are not small anxieties that pass on their own, like the one that my six-year-old daughter had. These can be significant illnesses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and even psychosis. It is critical that you respond to mental health concerns quickly because that can make all the difference in restoring a child’s health and well-being.
  1. Understand that “mental illness” is not just one condition. Identifying the correct condition early is the key to developing the right plan to treat it. At Mental Health America, we have created a website, MHAscreening.org, with simple, easy-to-use screening tools to determine whether that low mood is a sign of depression, or that worry over homework and grades is a sign of anxiety, or whether changes in sleeping, bathing and eating patterns is a sign of something more serious. These tools won’t make a diagnosis for you, but they will give you either the reassurance that what you’re experiencing is typical or the information you need to follow up with professionals.
  1. Follow-up. Parents and teachers should talk together about how to meet the needs of children who do experience or live with mental illnesses, including whether special education or other services might be necessary. And they should always include a child’s clinicians in any discussion of how to meet those child’s needs in school and at home.

This made all the difference for me when my son was in the fifth grade. Despite all he went through, he managed to get through the school year successfully. As for my daughter, she aced first grade and was all set for second grade the following year!


Paul Gionfriddo is president and CEO of Mental Health America. He is also the author of “Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia” (Columbia University Press, 2014).

Markers? Check! Notebook? Check! Anaphylaxis Action Plan? Check.

Markers? Check! Notebook? Check! Anaphylaxis Action Plan? Check.(Sponsored Post) Food allergies are on the rise. In fact, an estimated one in 13 U.S. children lives with a food allergy. Do you, or does someone you know, have food allergies? If so, as school routines begin again, be sure to have an anaphylaxis action plan in place.

For “Project Runway” judge, Marie Claire Creative Director and mom Nina Garcia; “Girl Meets World” actor Auggie Maturo; and Chef Amanda Freitag having a plan in place to manage potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies is number one on their check list anytime of the year.

Each of them, and anyone affected by severe allergies, should have an anaphylaxis action plan that includes:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Recognizing signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
  • Having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® (epinephrine injection) Auto-Injectors, at all times
  • Seeking immediate emergency medical care if anaphylaxis occurs

Learn more at EpiPenOnLocation.com.

EpiPen® On Location™ is a national call-to-action for those living with severe allergies and their caregivers to understand the importance of avoiding allergic triggers and having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors, at all times – whether at home, school, work or on vacation.

Nina Garcia, Amanda Freitag and Auggie Maturo are paid spokespeople of Mylan.

Indications
EpiPen® (epinephrine injection) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors are for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) caused by allergens, exercise, or unknown triggers; and for people who are at increased risk for these reactions. EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are intended for immediate administration as emergency supportive therapy only. Seek immediate emergency medical help right away.

Important Safety Information
EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors contain a single dose of epinephrine, which you (or your caregiver or others who may be in a position to administer EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr®) inject into the middle of your outer thigh (upper leg) (through clothing, if necessary). Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. Only a health care professional should give additional doses of epinephrine if you need more than two injections for a single anaphylactic episode. DO NOT INJECT INTO YOUR VEINS, BUTTOCKS, FINGERS, TOES, HANDS OR FEET. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment. Epinephrine should be used with caution if you have heart disease or are taking certain medicines that can cause heart-related (cardiac) symptoms.

Tell your doctor if you have certain medical conditions such as asthma, depression, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Be sure to also tell your doctor all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have longer lasting side effects when you use EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr®.

The most common side effects may include increase in heart rate, stronger or irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, paleness, dizziness, weakness, shakiness, headache, apprehension, nervousness or anxiety. These side effects may go away if you rest. Tell your health care professional if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Please see the full Prescribing Information and Patient Information.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA.
Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

For additional information, please contact us at 800-395-3376.

EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are registered trademarks of Mylan Inc. licensed exclusively to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mylan Specialty L.P. ON LOCATION™ is a trademark of Mylan Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

© 2015 Mylan Specialty L.P. All rights reserved.

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For Children Living with Diabetes, Heading Back to School is a Team Effort

iStock_000008132646XSmallIt’s back to school month and everyone is gearing up for another school year by shopping for clothes and school supplies. However, for parents of children living with diabetes, back to school season involves more in-depth planning with school officials. Diabetes management is 24/7—it doesn’t take a break when a child boards the school bus. Federal and state laws help to ensure these needs are met at school and school personnel must be prepared.

After my daughter, Devin, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I made it my job to advocate on behalf of her and all children with diabetes. In 1999, the first successful school diabetes care legislation passed in the Virginia General Assembly, which resulted in improved standards of care for students with diabetes in many other states. Now, 30 states meet the American Diabetes Association’s requirement of our three Safe at School tenets:

  • School staff administering insulin
  • School staff managing glucagon
  • Capable students being allowed to self-manage their diabetes

Since going through school and college, Devin has become an advocate of her own. She recently began working as a registered nurse (RN) at a Northern Virginia hospital. After her own experience in the school system, she was inspired to become a role model for others affected by diabetes. Her school nurses set a great example and were knowledgeable about her diabetes, understood all her needs and were supportive of self-management at an early grade.

Devin understands that supporting someone with diabetes is a team effort which includes parents, teachers and nurses. Thankfully, the American Diabetes Association offers training resources for non-medical school staff.

To give these parents peace of mind knowing their children’s diabetes needs are met, the Association started the Safe at School campaign. Launched in 2004, the campaign helps parents ensure their children with diabetes are medically safe in the classroom and during school activities. The program also offers guidance for overcoming obstacles and discrimination when things don’t go according to plan.

Things have come a long way since Devin was a little girl. With proper planning and resources, children with diabetes can take advantage of all of the same school opportunities as their peers.

As you prepare your child with diabetes for the new school year, think about the following:

  • Plan out care before school starts
  • Approach the school with the spirit of cooperation
  • Make sure there are plenty of diabetes supplies available
  • Confirm all contact information with school administration
  • Update your child’s 504 plan (templates available in English and Spanish)

If you’re interested in learning about various state legislations concerning children with diabetes and schools, read about Safe at School victories. You can also help or stay informed by becoming a diabetes advocate to help fight for your child’s rights.

For more info about the Safe at School campaign and to learn how you can help keep your child with diabetes medically safe, visit Diabetes.org/SafeAtSchool or call 1 (800)-DIABETES for help.


Crystal Jackson is the mother of a daughter, Devin, living with Type 1 diabetes and is the director of Safe at School for the American Diabetes Association. She is also a former PTA officer with Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia.

Ending the Use of Restraint and Seclusion

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against a sheriff’s department in Kentucky after an eight-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl with ADHD and additional disabilities were handcuffed by the deputy sheriff for conduct related to their disabilities. The deputy sheriff used the handcuffs as a restraint on the students by positioning the handcuffs on the student’s biceps locking their arms behind their back, which the ACLU argues is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At the 2015 annual convention, National PTA recently approved a resolution against the use of restraint and seclusion on students that:

  • Limits the use of restraint and seclusion on students only to be used as a last resort in emergency[i] situations
  • Seeks to educate the school community and parents about the risks of excessive and/or inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion by untrained school personnel.

National PTA also promotes the use of positive or non-aversive interventions for school discipline.

There is overwhelming evidence that the use of restraint and seclusion on children is dangerous, life-threatening and not an effective technique for discipline. This also continues to be used across many states and school districts.

For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Education, students with disabilities represent 12% of public school students, but are 75% of all students subject to physical restraint and 58% of students subject to seclusion. The 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection found the use of restraint and seclusion to be significant with over 110,000 student cases documented, absent of data entries from multiple states and districts that do not report on restraint and seclusion.

In 2009, the United States Congress introduced legislation to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools across the nation, but no federal legislation has become statute. National PTA has supported the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the last few Congresses and will continue to support legislation that reduces the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The lack of federal action has led many states to create their own restraint and seclusion statutes and guidelines that vary widely. The Autism National Committee captured the legal landscape of restraint and seclusion laws nationwide in a recent report that found that only 25 states have laws providing meaningful protections against restraint and seclusion for all children and 35 states provide protections for children with disabilities.

Kentucky was one of the states that fell under both categories of meaningful protections, but there are many caveats and exceptions that limit children’s protections under state laws—such as room descriptions, types of restraints and seclusion, and what constitutes emergency and life-threatening situations compared to everyday actions. Many states do not even require parental notification when restraints or seclusion has been used on a child, limiting the parent’s ability to take action and correct the problem so that their child can learn in a safe environment.

National PTA will continue to support evidence-based alternatives to seclusion and restraint— such as positive behavioral interventions—that work to improve a child’s actions in school. We encourage parents and families to be aware of their school’s discipline policies and the restraint and seclusion laws of their state in order to help create a safe a supportive school environment for all children.

Stay in the loop! Sign-up to get our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and visit our Takes Action Network for the latest advocacy news and legislative updates.

[i] Emergency is defined as an unanticipated and already occurring event that is placing the individual or others in imminent danger of physical harm.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

San Diego Unified Council PTA Mobilizes Community-Based Resources for Low-Income Preschool Families

Preschool teachers from the participating sites at a professional development training at Whitman Elementary.

Preschool teachers from the participating sites at a professional development training at Whitman Elementary.

In January 2014, the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs (SDUCPTA) discovered there was an opportunity for a $10,000 Smart from the Start Community Outreach Grant sponsored by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.

SDUCPTA serves to support nearly 80 units within the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), which is the second largest school district in California with 200 schools and over 130, 000 students enrolled in grades K-12. This district also has over 4,200 students enrolled in nearly 60 low-income state preschool and child development centers.

I was inspired to apply on behalf of SDUCPTA because of California State PTA’s advocacy in early childhood education, as well as being a mother of three children. We were pleased to receive one of the 10 grants awarded to PTA councils, regions and districts.

Materials provided by SDUCPTA given to preschool teachers to carry out activities in the curriculum.

Materials provided by SDUCPTA given to preschool teachers to carry out activities in the curriculum.

We spent time researching selected sites that would most likely be able to commit to be a part of the project as well as conduct field research on the various types of community-based events that would engage families. Four state preschool sites were identified and marketed to pilot the Pre-K Energy Balance Curriculum from Together Counts™, which teaches kids ages 3-5 about the importance of energy balance: balancing the calories we consume through eating and drinking with the calories we burn through physical activity.

Each of the preschool sites were given a hardcopy of the curriculum available in English and Spanish as well as “Starter Kits.” Professional development trainings provided the preschool teachers with insight on implementing the activities in the curriculum. Preschool teachers were asked to participate in an exercise to read a lesson, share what they liked about it and how they would carry out the activity. They were also asked to share their input on ideas for a parent engagement activity.

Parents at Baker Elementary making “Veggie Superhero” capes.

Parents at Baker Elementary making “Veggie Superhero” capes.

While the preschool teachers started to implement and incorporate the materials and lessons of the curriculum into their classroom, the next phase of the project was to organize a parent engagement event focusing on healthy lifestyles that included:

  • Community-based organizations’ invitation to participate in an Energy Balance Fair.
  • Parents given the opportunity to take a nutrition class titled “Rethink your Drink” led by Social Advocacy for Youth of San Diego (SAY San Diego).
  • Families given the opportunity to visit different booths and participate in games and arts and crafts.

While most of the funding was geared towards materials and resources for the Energy Balance Fairs in the school district, the remaining funds will be used to invite the families to participate in a summer program in an effort to continue and reinforce the concepts of energy balance.

Each of the four preschool sites were given assets that they could keep should they want to make this an annual event such as a custom banner and “ChooseMyPlate” themed games.

Each of the four preschool sites were given assets that they could keep should they want to make this an annual event such as a custom banner and “ChooseMyPlate” themed games.

This program includes a nutrition and cooking class led by SAY San Diego, an interactive grocery store tour and encourages families to participate in the Summer Fun Café program offered by the Food Services of SDUSD. This fall, I will continue to engage with the teachers by creating an online forum for them to share and support ideas for the curriculum.

Overall, the project was a success! We reached nearly 200 students by introducing them to the energy balance curriculum and nearly 90 families participated in each of the Energy Balance fairs.

Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki (center) with the teachers that piloted the curriculum.

Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki (center) with the teachers that piloted the curriculum.


Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki has been a member of PTA for nearly 10 years and has served as a PTA local leader for four years prior to serving as a board member of the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs. She is now serving as the president of San Diego Unified Council of PTAs for the 2015-2017 term and strives to continue to support and advocate for all children as well as to strengthen and leverage existing partnerships to build a stronger community.