National PTA Art Award Program Enters 50th Year


This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National PTA Reflections program! Reflections was established in 1969 by National PTA Board member and past Colorado PTA President, Mary Lou Anderson. She was a huge advocate of arts education, and truly understood the value arts education brought to the lives of students. We’re thrilled that fifty years later, we’re continuing to further this important work!

What makes Reflections standout, unlike other awards programs, is that students from ALL grades are encouraged to explore ALL areas of the creative arts. This includes dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. We also offer a special artist division for students requiring special accommodations. Reflections encourages students to use their imagination and creativity to create original works inspired by the annual theme. We welcome all grades, all arts and all abilities.  This year’s theme is Heroes Around Me.

This is especially important because each art form offers unique benefits and skill-building opportunities. Reflections awards and exhibitions also support students by building their confidence and making personal connections to their school and community.

Celebrating the National PTA Reflections 50th Year

To commemorate the start of our 50th anniversary year, here are some ideas, tips and tools for encouraging all students to explore and be involved in the arts. It’s our goal this year to highlight stories of success throughout the program’s fifty years and we have a favor to ask – we want to hear from you! Please share your favorite Reflections stories with us using the hashtag #PTAReflections.

 Reflecting on this year’s theme: Heroes Around Me

It’s important to provide dedicated time and space for students to reflect on the theme. Choose a safe place where students can feel welcomed to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions about the world around them. Each reflection is unique based on individual experiences – where we live, what we do and who inspires us. And that’s what makes creative expression fun! Thinking outside the box and developing a personal voice through art.

Not only does our world influence our interpretations but the theme is also a way to see new perspectives and make new connections.

  • You can start a conversation with a group of students before/after school or lead a discussion with your family around the dinner table.
  • Teachers are also welcomed to use the theme in their classroom to engage students in their lessons or offer extended learning opportunities. Schools can also use the theme to support a grade-wide or school-wide theme.

 Promoting your Reflections Program

We encourage you to promote the theme in visible places across your school and community – Register at PTA.org/Reflections and use our toolkit to promote the theme and your local call for entries. Posters for the school lobby, community library; Video for morning announcements and enewsletters; and use the image bank to have fun creating your own fliers and invitations. Be sure to register at PTA.org/Reflections and visit your state program’s page for all rules, forms and deadlines. These are best shared on bulletin boards and displays in the school lobby, cafeteria, library or any classroom.

 Ideas for Hosting Reflections Events in School and at Home

Here are some ideas on how you can host Reflections events at your school and at home.

Hosting In School

  • Offer a Reflections Club
  • Invite the Whole Family to Your Meeting
  • Host a Family Art Night
  • Setup a Back to School Reflections Table

Hosting At Home.

  • Discover Cultural Heritage through Folk and Traditional Arts
  • Lead a Family Arts Club
  • Host a Party for Kids
  • Take a Family Field Trip

Contact to your state PTA’s Reflections program for all rules, forms and deadlines and register at PTA.org/Reflections to share your participation in the program. Questions? Reach out to your state PTA or email Info@PTA.org.

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.