Support Families and School Communities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are facing an unprecedented crisis. The islands were heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma, and before they had a chance to recover, Hurricane Maria hit and devastated any remaining structures and supports.

Families and school communities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands need our support now more than ever.

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria were the strongest storms to hit the islands in decades—families remain without power and access to basic necessities and schools remain closed. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families, educators, schools and communities affected, particularly all of our PTA families. We acknowledge the leadership of Puerto Rico PTA President Vivian Ruiz and Virgin Islands PTA President Richard Muhammad during this difficult time. We are deeply concerned for everyone impacted and encourage all of our members to rally together to assist families and help restore communities and learning environments as quickly as possible.

We urge everyone to donate to our association’s Disaster Relief Fund, which was established to respond to tragedies that grievously disrupt a school or education system. One hundred percent of donations to the fund will go directly to PTAs and schools in need and will help provide important supplies for students and teachers when schools reopen.

We also encourage our members to donate basic necessities and/or make a financial contribution to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster or other similar organizations to help the children and families that need it most.

Please share this message with PTAs, members and families in your state to help spread the word about ways to support families and school communities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in their efforts to rebuild and recover. Please watch for more information on additional ways to support the recovery efforts.

The need to give has never been greater and our mission at PTA has become that much more important.

Jim Accomando is the president at National PTA. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

 

Q Your School: Free Epinephrine Auto-Injectors for Public Elementary Schools

(Sponsored Post)

As parents and teachers, you know how important it is to create a healthy environment for children to learn, grow and thrive. At kaléo, where we put patients first, we feel the same way. However, approximately six million children in the U.S. live with life-threatening allergies, meaning that an encounter with a peanut in the lunchroom or a bee sting during recess could trigger anaphylaxis to those at risk.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can happen quickly and may cause death. Anaphylaxis can occur as a result of exposure to allergens including tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, insect bites, latex and medication, among other allergens, depending on what the person is allergic to.

One study suggests that as many as one-fifth of school-aged food-allergic children have had at least 1 reaction in school within the past 2 years.1 It is crucial for school administrators, teachers, and nurses to be prepared for a potential allergic emergency.

A company founded by patients for patients, we focus on providing solutions for life-threatening medical conditions, including life-threatening allergies – a medical condition that affects our founders and their families as well. To help ensure that children living with this condition are treated during an anaphylaxis emergency that occurs in the school setting, we at kaléo have created a new charitable product donation program, “Q Your School,” offering U.S. public elementary schools AUVI-Q® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-injectors free of charge. AUVI-Q is a FDA-approved prescription medicine used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, in people who are at risk for or have a history of serious allergic reactions.

“Q Your School” provides up to four AUVI-Q cartons (each carton contains two epinephrine auto-injectors and a Trainer) per academic year, as well as access to educational materials on how to use AUVI-Q. There are no obligations, such as marketing or product exclusivity requirements, attached to the “Q Your School” program.

This program is an important step in helping to treat children with life-threatening allergies during an anaphylaxis emergency while they are at school. Our hope is that this program gives parents, teachers and school administrators access to epinephrine auto-injectors should an anaphylactic emergency occur in the school setting. AUVI-Q is not a substitute for emergency medical care.

To learn how to enroll your school in the “Q Your School” program, visit KaleoPharma.com/who-we-are/kaleo-cares/. To learn more about AUVI-Q, please visit AUVI-Q.com.

Indication

AUVI-Q (epinephrine injection, USP) is a prescription medicine used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, in people who are at risk for or have a history of serious allergic reactions.

Important Safety Information

AUVI-Q is for immediate self (or caregiver) administration and does not take the place of emergency medical care. Seek immediate medical treatment after use. Each AUVI-Q contains a single dose of epinephrine. AUVI-Q should only be injected into your outer thigh, through clothing if necessary. If you inject a young child with AUVI-Q, hold their leg firmly in place before and during the injection to prevent injuries. Do not inject into veins, buttocks, fingers, toes, hands, or feet. If you accidentally inject AUVI-Q into any other part of your body, seek immediate medical treatment.

Rarely, patients who use AUVI-Q may develop infections at the injection site within a few days of an injection. Some of these infections can be serious. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms at an injection site: redness that does not go away, swelling, tenderness, or the area feels warm to the touch.

If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have more or longer lasting side effects when you use AUVI-Q. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. Also tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, especially if you have asthma, a history of depression, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart problems or high blood pressure, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Epinephrine should be used with caution if you have heart disease or are taking certain medicines that can cause heart-related (cardiac) symptoms.

Common side effects include fast, irregular or ‘pounding’ heartbeat, sweating, shakiness, headache, paleness, feelings of over excitement, nervousness, or anxiety, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, or breathing problems. These side effects usually go away quickly, especially if you rest. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Please click here to see the full Prescribing Information and the Patient Information at AUVI-Q.com.

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

Spencer Williamson is the president and CEO of kaléo.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service.

References:

  1. Nowak-Wegrzyn A, Conover-Walker MK, Wood RA. Food-Allergic Reactions in Schools and Preschools. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155(7):790-795. doi:10.1001/archpedi.155.7.790

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service.

Celebrate the Holidays Safely

The kids are back to school and the holidays are around the corner. It’s an exciting time to gather with family and friends. Unfortunately, holiday festivities can present unique fire hazards. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more residential fires happen during the colder months than any other time of year, primarily caused by cooking, heating and electrical malfunctions.

Don’t let a fire ruin your holiday! Stay safe with these simple tips:

  1. Cook with Care

Remain in the kitchen when you’re cooking and keep pan lids close by so that if a fire starts in the pan you can quickly cover it with the lid and smother the flame. Remember to turn off the burners and the oven when you’re done.

  1. Pay Attention to Indoor Decorations

Be sure to test your lights and cords, and replace anything faulty. Hang indoor lights with clips instead of nails, and never use decorations inside that were intended for outdoor use only. Place Christmas trees or plants at least three feet away from heat sources, turn off decorative lights when not at home or sleeping, and remember to water live trees. Be careful to keep burning candles away from children, and remember to always extinguish them before leaving the room or going to sleep.

  1. Use Outdoor Light Displays Responsibly

When decorating outside, only use electrical decorations and cords manufactured for outdoor use. Keep them away from snow or standing water and avoid pinching them in doors or windows, which could damage their insulation.

  1. Don’t Forget Fire Starting Materials

Keep lighters, matches, etc. away from children. Make sure guests who smoke go outside and properly dispose of cigarette butts and ashes (e.g., dampening cigarette butts before throwing them in the trash.)

Exercise caution if you use a fireplace:

  • Have your chimney inspected prior to use.
  • Only burn dry firewood.
  • Never hang decorations in front of a working fireplace.

You are key to your family’s safety.

Although fire safety is serious, you can make it easy to talk about. Visit TheHartford.com/JFMParent to learn more.

 

Information and links from this article are provided for your convenience only. Neither references to third parties nor the provision of any link imply an endorsement or association between The Hartford and the third party or non-Hartford site, respectively. The Hartford is not responsible for and makes no representation or warranty regarding the contents, completeness or accuracy or security of any material within this article or on such sites. Your use of information and access to such non-Hartford sites is at your own risk.

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