Celebrating Arts & Humanities through the School of Excellence

National PTA and the School of Excellence program recognize that schools and PTAs can take an active role in supporting of arts education. Throughout the country, arts education programming is being slashed, leaving all students, artists or not, without a creative outlet to explore their own experiences and identities.

Understanding this, some of our School of Excellence participants take up the mantle of supporting the arts in their school communities no matter how difficult. In honor of their hard work and Arts & Humanities month, let us explore how some of the 2019-2021 School of Excellence designees used the arts to enhance their family-school partnerships.

Centerville Elementary PTA, Utah           

Centerville Elementary PTA’s School of Excellence team, in collaboration with a group of parent advocates, chose to focus on increasing student access to the arts. Centerville Elementary PTA’s work demonstrates not only a dedication to the arts, but a dedication to their community. Their work in supporting the arts was in direct response to several parents who advocated for students to have an art program at Centerville Elementary.

The Excellence Team set to work early in the year, meeting to share ideas, set priorities, and discuss available resources. Their first task was to create a choir program. The Excellence team sent out an interest survey and received a huge response in favor of the choir program.  Close to 100 students joined the choir program (approximately ¼ of the student population) and had a phenomenal experience. The program truly brought to life the idea of family-engagement, with several parents volunteering with the program including the choir teacher, a parent who is also a highly qualified choral instructor. The choir put on a very well attended concert at the end of the school year that brought many parents and families that typically did not attend school events.

 

In truth, family engagement was incorporated into all the work Centerville Elementary PTA did. The PTA relied on their parent volunteers to weave arts education throughout the school. For example, one volunteer recognized the waste of a classroom set of ukuleles that had been left sitting in a storage room at the school. The parent coordinated Monday morning ukulele classes. The classes held an array of participants from the principal to the custodian to a technology specialist. The parent volunteer taught these school leaders to play the ukulele in hopes that they would then be able to bring the instrument to students in the school. And they did just that during the school talent show on the last day of school.

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA, Virginia

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA also focused on supporting the arts in their school community. Their work, in fact, likely could not have been as successful if it were not for their work with community members. Recognizing a lack of art supplies, the Excellence Team and PTA partnered with a local organization to run a successful art fundraiser. With assistance from the school art teacher, students created visual art pieces that could be transformed into a variety of keepsake items that parents could purchase. The funds raised through this went directly to the art teacher at Grafton Village Elementary School which allowed her to purchase more art supplies like clay, paint, and markers for her classroom. Recognizing that not all parents could choose to purchase the keepsakes, the art teacher allowed all students to take their original pieces home so all students could feel a part of the fundraiser.

In another example of community engagement, the PTA partnered with a local boy scout troop and had an Eagle Scout candidate build shelves in the art room for his Eagle Scout project.  The PTA paid for all shelving supplies, while the Eagle Scout candidate provided all the labor and construction. The end result was a beautiful set of shelves to display and dry student’s artwork.

Finally, the Grafton Village Excellence Team partnered with middle and high school students and parents to host a very successful talent show. Student and parent volunteers came to the after-school rehearsals and helped prepare talent show participants so they could shine in the final performance. During the night of the show, volunteers helped to welcome families, hand out programs, serve refreshments, and take photos so participants could remember the night. The final talent show, and all the support from volunteers, highlighted the deep commitment Grafton Village Elementary had not only for supporting the arts, but also further integrating their PTA into the school and local community.

Four Corners PTA, WI   

Four Corners PTA’s greatest accomplishment in strengthening family-school partnerships was the creation of a series of unique art focused activities that helped deepen the PTA and community’s connection to the arts. Four Corners PTA began by hosting a Create Art Night, a new activity for school, with the goal of inviting students and their families to school to create holiday gifts. The event was free to attend and included dinner which severed well over 100 people from the school community.

Four Corners PTA and the school music teacher also partnered with Little Opera of the North to give students the opportunity to perform in an opera. All of the students in the school, Pre-K through fifth grade, watched the final afternoon performance. Parents, families and community members were invited and enjoyed watching the students perform as well. The opera show was a first for many and provided the community with a new way to experience the arts. This was not the only event Four Corners PTA hosted that brought together their community through the arts. One of the art teachers at Four Corners volunteered to lead a Cookies and Canvas night at school for students and family members. Moms, Dads, Aunts and Grandmas followed step-by-step instructions provided by the teachers to create beautiful take home paintings.

The PTA also sponsored events just for the student community. The Spring Fever Family Dance Party was hosted by volunteer parents, including a local DJ and a dance instructor. Between the DJ and the instructor, students learned dances and were helped to feel more comfortable on the dance floor. The PTA also sponsored a weeklong Artist in Residency program as part of their interactive learning initiative. Working with two puppet artists from ArtStart, all grade levels made puppets and participated in a puppet performance piece. The event concluded with an evening puppet show for families that included a free dinner.

The Excellence Team at Four Corners PTA truly saw the benefits of their investment. Their focus in family engagement changed the school community by increasing student, teacher, family and community participation in the family-oriented art events that we held. The PTA saw an increase in membership, volunteers and attendance at school events. Through their focus on community and the arts, more people in the community know and understand the PTA’s mission “to make every child’s potential a reality.”

These are just a few of the School of Excellence designees who made huge strides in embedding arts education into their school communities. If you’re interested in advancing the arts in your community check out all the available resources from the hosts of Arts & Humanities and our partners at Americans for the Arts here. You can also read and download our ArtsEd Guide which provides useful ways for PTAs to explore the arts and incorporate them into their school programming.

And don’t forget to get involved with the School of Excellence program! You can use your work to advance the arts to become a School of Excellence and gain recognition for the work your PTA does to bring transformative family engagement and the arts to your school! Enroll here by October 15 and support the arts in your community!


By: Ellie Miller, Reflections Specialist

 

Family Safety with Uber

Using Uber With Family? Health & Safety Tips To Keep In Mind

As cities start to recover and reopen and kids go back to school whether in-person or virtually, many families are relying on rideshare and delivery apps like Uber and Uber Eats. Whether it’s going to an appointment, helping your college student move around campus, or ordering lunch or dinner while working from home – we want Uber to continue being a convenient option that makes safety a top priority for parents, caregivers and families.

For the past two years, Uber has been collaborating with the National PTA to deliver important rideshare safety tips and information to families across the country.

When using Uber with family members young and old, we realize that peace of mind is what’s top of mind, especially during a pandemic. So it’s important for parents and families to be aware and understand both the policies and the safety features you can expect when using the app.

The New Rideshare Normal

Since the start of the pandemic, Uber has been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and medical specialists to ensure that our decisions, policies and processes are guided by health experts. We also have a dedicated team available 24-7 that has been collaborating with public health officials across the country.

We launched a redesign of the Uber app experience from start to finish to encourage safety and allocated $50 million to provide free masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray for drivers and delivery people.

Working with the CDC, we developed these health and safety tips when using rideshare:

  • Wash, Wear, Air – As more people are going back to work and school, we’re deploying a comprehensive education campaign to encourage people to follow this 3-step ritual when using Uber:
    • 1) Wash your hands
    • 2) Wear a mask and
    • 3) Air out the car by opening a window during a trip to help keep the air flowing.
  • No Mask, No Ride – Uber requires all riders, drivers and delivery people using the app to wear a mask. We’ve built innovative technology to verify that a mask is being worn by prompting users to take a selfie before starting a trip. If your driver is not wearing a face cover or mask, you can cancel the trip
  • Sit in the Back Seat: To encourage social distancing, we recommend riders always sit in the back seat. And remember, we have limited the number of people in the car to 3 for UberX and Comfort and 5 for UberXL to make sure the front seat stays empty.
  • Handle your own belongings: Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, avoid letting your driver load and unload your personal belongings into the trunk of the car. Handle those items yourself to help reduce the risk of exposure.

Uber With Family Basics

In addition, here are some general rideshare safety tips if you plan to use Uber with family that outline how to use the app appropriately so you can have a safe and reliable experience:

  • Is Your Child Under 18? Keep Tabs in a Positive Way – Remember that riders need to be over 18 years old to have an Uber account and kids under 18 are not allowed to ride unaccompanied or order food on Uber Eats. Make it a habit of checking your trip order history in the top left
  • Track Loved Ones – Set up a Family Profile. When one of your family members takes a trip, you will be automatically notified and can track the trip in real time. For peace of mind, have your college-aged kids and other adults use the Trusted Contacts feature so they can be prompted to share their trip status with friends or family. Riders can choose to share all trips, night-time only trips, or none at all.
  • Check Your Ride – When the car arrives, double check that the driver’s name, photo and license plate information matches what’s in the app. It’s a great reminder for everyone from your college-aged kids to older adults that they can only request a ride with Uber by using the app, and should never accept a ride from someone claiming to be a driver.
  • Call About a Car Seat – Car seats are generally required by law for young children in vehicles. If you are bringing your own car seat with your little one, call the driver in advance to let them know. Drivers may cancel a trip if proper restraints aren’t available for every rider or if they are not comfortable with a rider installing a seat in their car. Here is a resource* that discusses car seat laws by state.
  • Help Your Caregiver Out – Using the Request for a Guest feature, Uber users can order rides for loved ones over 18 who do not have an Uber account – whether it’s arranging a ride for grandparents at the airport or getting a caregiver home.
  • Study Up on Safety – Uber’s Safety Center, which riders can find by pushing the shield icon in the app during a trip, contains key safety information including tips built in partnership with law enforcement, information on driver background screenings, insurance protections and our Community Guidelines.

We know that helping cities recover starts with supporting people who need it most or who may be struggling. So Uber committed to provide 10 million free rides and food deliveries to healthcare workers, first responders, seniors and other underserved groups for transportation and access to meals.

Uber can be a convenient and reliable tool for the ever changing needs of busy families and their loved ones, especially during this challenging time. We know that family members are your most precious cargo so when it comes to safety, we know our work is never done. Wherever you’re traveling, we are committed to helping make every trip and delivery safe for all.

 

Increasing Family Engagement in Diverse Schools

I know first hand what it is like to grow up as an English-language learner and saw what a difference it made to have parents who were able to connect and engage with teachers. On a very personal level I understood what we now know from decades of academic research: That family engagement is the key to greater learning outcomes.

As an adult, I have made it my life’s purpose to remove the barriers to family engagement. In 2015, I founded TalkingPoints, a non-profit whose mission is to drive student success by unlocking  the potential of families to fuel their children’s learning, especially in under-resourced, multilingual communities. We do this through a multilingual platform that helps teachers and families communicate in 100 different languages through two-way translated messages and personalized content.

One in four US children is born to an immigrant or refugee family. Over the course of our work in partnership with teachers, schools, and districts, we have learned a lot about increasing family engagement in diverse schools. These lessons are especially critical now that so many schools have shifted to remote learning. In fact, in our most recent TalkingPoints survey, the vast majority of respondents — 73% of families and 93% of teachers — said regular communications between teachers and families were more important now than ever.  (You can download the report detailing survey findings, Family Engagement and Covid-19 Distance Learning: Data & Insights from the Field,  here.)

Below are practical tips to help build stronger, more meaningful relationships in your school community:

  1. Two-way communications channels are critical. You cannot drive family engagement by relying on one-way communications channels. That’s not how relationships work. Families need to be able to respond, ask questions, express concerns, and provide feedback. They need to feel understood and heard. Encourage families to share information with teachers – 83% of teachers believe that because of their relationships with parents they are better informed about their students’ needs.
  2. Personalization is key. If your school community includes immigrant or refugee families or families from different backgrounds, remember that they are often used to feeling like outsiders in our schools because of the significant cultural, language or even educational barriers. They may assume or feel as if the flyers and messages meant for parents in general are not really meant for them in particular. Any efforts to personalize outreach and make individual families feel as if the message is intended for them, personally, is likely to pay off in spades.
  3. Text is best. If you want to reach all families, SMS texts are the most accessible approach. Older parents or those with white collar jobs might be used to responding to email, but younger families or those with limited devices are far more likely to respond to texts. In the TalkingPoints survey referenced above, we found that almost two-thirds of families preferred text messages when receiving communications from teachers. And while 33% of English-speaking families said that they preferred email, only 22% of Spanish speakers reported a preference for email. Spanish speakers were also more likely to prefer phone calls (9%) or video calls (6%) than English speakers (phone 4%; video 2%).
  4. Don’t let the language barrier (or perfectionism!) get in the way. Any communication is better than none. Families are usually quite grateful for any effort to communicate in their language. They feel heard, seen and cared for. If your school or district doesn’t offer easy communication methods or multilingual resources, encourage your teachers to at least try TalkingPoints when reaching out to parents. It is free for teachers. Check with your principal and district, too. TalkingPoints is already deployed across dozens of districts and schools nationwide and may already be available to your school.

Last spring’s distance learning has taught us more about the power of family engagement and strong home-school connections than the mountains of academic research papers written on the subject. Distance learning blurred the lines between teachers and families and increased empathy and understanding. Thrust into a more active role to help with their children’s online learning, parents realized teaching is harder than it looks. Teachers developed more empathy toward parents, too. Some had to wear their professional teacher hat while supporting their own children’s learning at home. Others got a better understanding of their students’ life circumstances after reaching out to ask about device and WiFi accessibility. Teachers learned which families had lost jobs and were struggling to keep kids fed and which were working double shifts and unable to provide supervision. Many teachers forwarded information on food banks; some even dropped off groceries. Remote learning underlined what we suspected all along: When it comes to raising and educating children, we are all in this together. And the “family engagement” muscle we all built this spring is the silver lining that will help us drive better student outcomes this fall and beyond.

Announcing our Newest Proud National PTA Sponsor… BAND!

Just in time for the start of this unusual and challenging school year, BAND has signed on to become National PTA’s newest Proud National Sponsor.

Band is a free app that helps facilitate and improve two-way communication for groups. Over 40 million groups and 8 million coaches, teachers & leaders are already using BAND, including youth sports teams, small businesses, schools, and other groups.

It turns out that BAND may be a perfect match for many PTAs, too—especially now.

“Technology like BAND is helping to make it more convenient for families to be involved in their children’s education and strengthening family-school partnerships. This is more critical than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many families and schools are continuing with remote learning,” said Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA.

As a PTA leader, you can use BAND to communicate with your officers, parents, teachers and school staff, etc., on one platform through features like group messaging, notifications, calendars, RSVPs, pictures & videos, polls, video calls and more.

At a time when many PTAs are paying monthly or yearly subscriptions for various digital platforms and services, such as to host virtual meetings and livestream events, switching to the BAND app may allow you to reduce or eliminate some of these expenses.

So, you might be wondering, how will BAND specifically be supporting National PTA and what can you expect to see in the years ahead from this collaboration?

On the practical side, there soon will be a PTA BAND for PTA leaders across the country to connect, share tips and resources, and help each other improve how they operate. In addition, PTA and BAND will create educational resources on ways to increase and improve two-way communication between home and school, and how to use the BAND app itself safely and effectively.

On the heartfelt side, BAND especially wants to honor our nation’s hardworking parent volunteer leaders, teachers, and students through the alliance with PTA. BAND has pledged to support Reflections as well as Teacher Appreciation Week, and there are some fun surprises and helpful enhancements in the works as a result of this new sponsorship. (Stay tuned!)

“National PTA is thankful to BAND for helping us celebrate, recognize and honor our nation’s teachers and student artists,” notes President Boggs. “It will be great to see and share all the creative ways that PTAs use BAND to communicate, coordinate and celebrate, even when we can’t come together in person as we normally do.”

BAND is available for free on iOS, Android, and the web.

For more information, visit https://about.band.us.


BAND is a Proud National PTA Sponsor and receives promotional consideration, such as this blog post, as part of their sponsorship benefits. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement of BAND is implied.

Life360 Location Sharing Saved My Injured Son

Our guest blogger David has been a Life360 member for the past two years. Here, he shares how he used the family safety app when their outdoorsy summer vacation took an unexpected turn.

I wanted to take my kids on one last summer adventure before the new school year began. We woke everyone up early in the morning, packed the car, and drove three hours north to a town with a popular ATV park. My wife and I both grew up ATVing, and enjoyed sharing it with our two sons over the years. This particular park was our favorite — an old rock quarry with over 1,000 acres of forested areas and sand dunes.

After we’d ridden for half the day, I stopped to help my youngest son with his dirt bike. That’s when my eldest son decided to take a solo ride.

After 30 minutes passed and he didn’t return, we started to worry. We checked Life360 and saw that he wasn’t moving and we became extremely concerned.

Life360 pinpointed my son’s location in a large green area on the map and I knew he was somewhere in the forest. I jumped back on my ATV and headed towards him using the Life360 map to guide me. After about 2 miles over multiple rivers and through steep valleys, I finally reached him. He had crashed into a tree and been launched into a nearby ravine.

He was disoriented from the crash and his knee was dislocated, so he couldn’t walk. If it hadn’t been for Life360, we would have had to hire a search party and comb through 1,000 acres.

My family downloaded Life360 a couple years ago after my brother suggested it to me — and we’ll never take it off of our phones. Since we live in a rural area, our kids often arrive home before my wife and I are finished commuting. We love the security of knowing that they’ve arrived safely. And in those moments when every second counts, Life360 has always been there for us.

Learn more about Life360 membership and find the plan that fits your family at Life360.com.

 

Meet the 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Winner

This summer, National PTA honored Mark Twain Elementary PTA in Lawndale, California with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award for Outstanding Family-School Partnership. This award is given to top National PTA School of Excellence designees for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvements.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA proved again and again to be incredibly deserving of the designation and this award. Their work throughout the School of Excellence program truly highlighted the positive impacts that can be achieved with hard work and dedication to strengthening family-school partnership.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA began their work in the summer by forming an Excellence Team composed of PTA members, the principal and student support services staff, district communications staff, and bilingual speakers. The PTA was extremely intentional in creating a team that aligned with the school community as well as the district office.

This intentional team-building proved vital in the end. Working with the principal gave the team an important advocate who assisted throughout the School of Excellence program process, while the bilingual speakers, who represented the English language learners (35% of the student population), allowed the Excellence Team to embed Inclusiveness, one of Four I’s of Transformative Family Engagement, into the program planning.

After selecting their Excellence Team and sending out National PTA’s Baseline Survey, Mark Twain Elementary PTA began analyzing the results and setting goals. The team was determined to approach the survey results critically and to use the information gathered to develop a plan that would create tangible change in their community – a critical step to success in the School of Excellence program. While every program participant must survey their community, Mark Twain Elementary PTA made sure to use the survey as a tool to embed one of the Four I’s – Individualized – into their program. By tailoring their program to the survey results, the Excellence Team ensured that their work would benefit their school community thoroughly and intentionally.

The Baseline Survey results indicated that their school community was generally pleased, but that there was a need to focus on improving education and do more with college and career readiness. With generally positive results revealed, Mark Twain Elementary PTA built their action plan around making things better rather than starting from scratch. Using the survey results, they learned what was already working, where families were already showing up and how families were interacting with one another. For example, the Excellence Team noticed that 49% of their survey responses were received by paper. To the team, this showed a community willing to give feedback but one that may benefit from a refreshed and more efficient communication strategy.

As the survey revealed to the Excellence Team that college and career readiness was an area for improvement in their community, Mark Twain Elementary PTA launched their first PTA College and Career Readiness Month. As a first step, the PTA invited parents and caregivers to read books and speak about their careers. With a female-heavy volunteer base, the PTA was pleased that four new dads joined this effort and promised they would return again next year. This increase in male volunteer support was just another example of Mark Twain Elementary PTA embedding inclusion into their School of Excellence program.

The new PTA College and Career Readiness Month also coincided with Spirit Week. Mark Twain Elementary PTA partnered with student support services who helped students write their future career plans on miniature squares. The color-coded squares then created a muraled billboard that aligned current grade levels to a high school graduation year. Many students said this was the first time they thought about their graduation. It was small moments like these – students discussing graduation for the first time or father’s volunteering where they previously had not – that showed the Excellence Team that their work was not falling short. Rather they were, in fact, creating real, positive and long-lasting change.

To close out College and Career Readiness Month, Mark Twain Elementary PTA rebranded one of their biggest traditions to JOG-A-THON 2019: Run Toward Your Future. During the run students wore college gear or clothing that expressed their desired career path. The color-coded mural also made an appearance to remind students about their educational goal and beyond.

While all these events were going on, the PTA made sure to send home bilingual communication about district PSAT workshops, local resources and experiences including STEM Nights and science festivals as well as college scholarships. This ensured that even families and children not present at the events were receiving useful information and resources. They did this purposefully with Inclusion and the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships of “Welcoming all Families” and “Communicating Effectively” in mind. In the end, the thoughtfulness and success led to the declaration that College and Career Readiness Month would be an annual event. Making the event annual allowed Mark Twain Elementary PTA to incorporate another of the vital Four I’s of Transformative Family Engagement – Integration.

At the end of the year, Mark Twain Elementary PTA’s hard work truly paid off. Through the deployment of National PTA’s Final Survey, the PTA saw 11% increase in the number of surveys submitted and a 100% increase in the ‘always’ rating in their survey responses. The PTA also moved the needle in every category and made significant leaps relative to Welcoming All Families (‘always’ up 5%-21%), Supporting Student Success (‘always’ up 5%-18%), Communicating Effectively (‘always’ up 8%-16%), and Speaking Up for Every Child (‘always’ up 6%-17%). Most importantly, the PTA witnessed their highest levels of engagement ever – with more thankful families, increased event attendance, and new volunteers.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA ended the year with much pride in their work and showed they were truly committed to making a positive change in their school community. Before even earning the designation, much less the top honor, the PTA leaders decided that, regardless of their School of Excellence designation, they were going to celebrate their year because they had accomplished so much. The Excellence Team even noted that they accomplished only small portion of all their goals and that they would continue to use the School of Excellence program to drive positive change in their school and community.

You too can see amazing changes in your school community with hard work and support from the School of Excellence program. Learn more about the program at PTA.org/Excellence and make sure to enroll by October 1 to secure your spot on the path to excellence.


Ellie Miller is a programs specialist for National PTA.

Help Protect your Family as Businesses Begin to Reopen

Important tips to follow if your family decides to make an outing

As restaurant, retail businesses and other family-centric locations – like amusement parks – across the country begin to reopen, you may wonder how to best protect yourself and loved ones from getting sick if you decide to dine out or run some extra errands. While there is risk involved with any public outing, following the below guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If your family decides to venture outside the home and into public spaces, Lysol® and National PTA encourage you to follow these simple and easy guidelines:

  • Practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering: COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period. Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart from people who are not members of your immediate household and wear a cloth face covering every time you are out in public where you may end up closer than six feet to others.[i]
  • Research COVID-19 levels in your area: With many states seeing surges in cases, it is important to be aware if your area is seeing an increase in cases and make your best judgement on the safety of going out.[ii]
  • Check restaurants’ COVID-19 prevention policies: If you decide to go out to eat, check the restaurant’s website for updated COVID-19 prevention policies and procedures. Make sure that staff will be wearing face coverings and wear your own face coverings when entering and leaving the restaurant and when not eating. When possible, sit outside at tables spaced six or more feet apart.[iii]
  • Make appointments: Whether booking a spot at the gym, the hair salon or the dentist, make sure to call ahead to reserve your spot, check on policies and ensure that capacity limits will be met. Limit attendance at indoor group activities such as training sessions, and always wash your hands upon returning home.[iv]
  • Avoid public transit if possible: If public transportation is necessary, make sure to avoid touching surfaces, wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Wash your hands before and after taking public transportation. Even in your car, be sure to frequently disinfect commonly touched areas, such as the steering wheel and seats, with a product like Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes[v], or Lysol Disinfecting Spray (both approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19)[vi].
  • Stick to outdoor activities where possible: Whether dining outdoors, hosting a barbeque or going hiking, outdoor activities pose less risk than indoor activities for transmitting COVID-19, as they allow for more social distancing and air flow.[vii]

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit Lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.


[i] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html
[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[iv] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[v] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/using-transportation.html
[vi] https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/07/health/epa-lysol-disinfectant-covid-19-trnd/index.html
[vii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/visitors.html

At Home Activities for Summer 2020

Summer may look and feel a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean that you and your family can’t still have fun and make the most of the season. Though some vacations may be postponed and children’s day camps may be closed, there are still plenty of activities to do with your children from home that are sure to keep them entertained and smiling. Now more than ever, it is important to continue practicing and teaching healthy habits to your children. Lysol® and National PTA suggest the following social distancing activities for a fun, and more importantly, safe, summer:

  • Get outside and get active: Your family can still enjoy the nice weather, but the CDC recommends wearing masks in public, staying out of crowded places, and keeping at least 6 feet apart from other people.[1] Whether biking, hiking, walking in your neighborhood or playing t-ball in your backyard, your family can still keep busy and active with outdoor activities.
  • Keep learning: Keep your children’s minds active throughout the summer by continuing education at home. Lysol® created Resources for Teaching at Home materials and lesson plans to help parents teach children about healthy habits and lifestyles in a fun and engaging way.
  • Make a fort: Build a pillow and blanket fort with your kids, then camp out inside with popcorn and blankets for a cozy movie night.
  • Institute a cleaning calendar: What better time to update your chart! Assign everyone in the family a few simple tasks to do each day (like picking up toys or making their beds). It will give everyone something to do, plus take a few chores off mom and dad’s plates, as well.
  • Indulge in a staycation: Just because you can’t go on a physical vacation, doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a week off! Create a staycation for your family by canceling external work and activities for the week, ordering takeout from a new restaurant and spending time relaxing together at home.
  • Learn a new skill: Take a virtual cooking class with your family or learn a new craft like painting or knitting. This will give everyone a project to focus on, while also spending quality time together.

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.

[1] CDC.gov. “How to Protect Yourself & Others.”

How to Make Joining PTA Easy

Now more than ever, people want to connect with each other and know what is happening at their child’s school. Your PTA can fulfill the universal need to connect and belong, during this dark time. You should seek to not only renew current members, but to reach out to new audiences, grow your PTA and build an even stronger community. Actions, such as reaching out just to check in on someone’s well-being, build real engagement with current and future PTA members.

We need to think about membership differently. Traditionally, many PTAs have membership tables at several school or PTA events in the beginning of the year to start off their membership campaign. But it is unclear if all school buildings will open at the start of this next school year, so this strategy may not be viable.

Now is a good time to rethink how your PTA will promote membership next year, especially if schools are still remote when they start in the fall. Here are some ideas to start your discussion. (Psst…make sure you read to the end for a surprise reveal from National PTA.)

For Local PTAs Who Don’t Yet Offer Online Join

Setting up online join and renewal isn’t as complicated as it sounds! First check with your state PTA, as more than 30 state PTAs offer an online database that their local units can use, for free! If this is an option, get set up right away, get trained, sign up for online pay and you will be on your way. If your state doesn’t currently offer an online option, there are still lots of free and/or inexpensive options you can put into place easily:

  • Develop an easy to use online membership form that people can fill out (like a Smartsheet or Google Forms) and have a required field to select a payment option.
  • Set up an online payment option like PayPal or Square.

Have fun. Create a fun visual with the link imbedded to join virtually. Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, Facebook page, Twitter, in your PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc. On social media, tag the school or use school hashtags so anyone who follows the school will see your PTA posts.

  • Reach out to everyone who joined last year and ask them to renew their membership by sending them the link. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like the new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership.
  • Ask your school to post PTA membership information in their newsletters and or on their website
  • Can’t figure out online join but need a way for people to join your PTA/PTSA remotely? Set up a P.O. Box for people to send their membership forms and payments. Require checks only via this method as you don’t want people sending cash in the mail and you don’t ever want there to be a question of cash missing.

For Local PTAs Who Already Offer Online Join

First, congrats on already offering online join! If your online join is linked to a membership database, now is the time to use all the tools available to you so, no matter what happens in the fall, you can stay connected to your community. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Send an email to everyone who is a member in 2019-2020 and ask them to “Stay connected over the summer by joining PTA now” and provide the link to join. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like, “The new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership today.”
  • If you have had your online system for more than a year, reach out to everyone who was a member two or more years ago and ask them to “Come back to PTA” and send the link to join.
  • If your database system offers a communication tool, use it to connect with your members. Use it to share information like upcoming meetings, programs in the works, volunteer opportunities or simply use it to ask for feedback on the issues they want the PTA to focus on in the coming school year.
  • Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, on Facebook, in PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc.
  • Get the word out beyond your current membership–ask the school to include your online join link in their communications or in the Parent Resources section of their website.

For State PTAs

  • If you have an online database, develop a unit look-up option that can go on your state website that allows people to join your local PTAs. Share the link with your local PTAs so if they don’t have a website, they can promote your link in all their messaging. This increases your traffic on your state website and makes it easy for the person and the local PTA. A win-win for all!
    • Check it out in action by visiting https://nyspta.org/ and click on the Join button in the blue ribbon.
  • If you don’t have an online database yet, talk to other state PTAs to see what is working for them and put a plan in place to move to an online membership system. This will make things easier at the state level and is a great new benefit for your local PTAs.
  • List state-level contacts in a prominent area on your website so visitors can quickly find someone in their area if they membership need help. Remember to include all the District/Council/Region PTA contacts and website information too.
  • Make sure there is a membership and/or join button on your website in a very visible place.
  • If you have an online database and not all your units are using it, now is the time to promote the benefits of enrolling. Here are some example benefits your database/state may offer:
    • First – it’s free, and so is training!
    • People join and pay online – easy, safe and saves time for new members and leaders.
    • No need to type membership info into a local tracking tool as the leaders will have access to their full membership data.
    • Reduce the need to print forms, to collect cash and checks or to make multiple trips to the bank.
    • Communication tools to quickly create newsletters and send within the database system.
    • Some online platforms also offer the ability to send text messages or create calendars, volunteer sign-ups, a school directory, fundraisers, events, an e-store, etc.
  • Help your local PTAs by encouraging them to promote membership as the school year gets closer…
    • If you have an online database, suggest they send an email welcoming everyone to a new school year and ask them if they have not yet renewed their membership to join their PTA again this year with a link to join and a link to any online PTA resources like their website, Facebook page, etc.
    • If you do not have a database, but local units manually collect people’s information that includes emails, suggest they send everyone a welcome to the new school year, ask them to join their PTA again this year, include a couple of key links to resources on your state website and let them know they should be hearing more information from their local PTA soon.
  • Try promoting a “PTA unit of the month” on your webpage. Highlight a unit and its accomplishments on your website with a link to join that PTA online. If you do not have a database yet, look to set up on online form (like SmartSheet or GoogleForm) and an online pay option like PayPal or Square.
  • Plan Now for accounts receivable! If your local units have people enter their information online but pay by check, first encourage them to move to online pay. Then, for those that still opt to accept payments via check, develop a process to collect those dollars if they don’t come in within a few weeks. If your state has a database linked with your local PTA’s, you should be able to see them¾create a process to reach out and collect the missing dues payments.

Do you have other ideas on how to promote and sell PTA membership in virtual world? Email us at Membership@pta.org

Psst…National PTA is getting ready to roll out a new membership marketing campaign for you! It will have all sorts of amazing graphics, you can highlight your local work, local people and more. We will offer some free online “how to incorporate it into your work and messaging” training as well. Stay tuned at PTA.org.

 


 

Suzan Yungner is the Director of Membership and Field Service for National PTA.

The Importance of Daily Recess When Schools Return From COVID-19 Lockdowns

Over the past few months, parents have been faced with the seemingly impossible tasks of sheltering in place, working from home or at essential jobs, and homeschooling their children; all while managing the emotional, logistical, and financial challenges that have come with the recent global pandemic. As we look forward to the fall, schools are developing plans for how to resume public education while adhering to best practice recommendations from public health officials. Although recess is often elementary students’ favorite time of the school day, currently, there is limited discussion about recess in school re-opening. Recess is more than just fun and games; it is through play that children grow and the unstructured recess space is an important site for students to reconnect with their peers after months of isolation. Rather than cancelling recess or closing playgrounds,[1] at this critical time, recess should be prioritized in school re-opening plans.

Providing children with regular opportunities to play, socialize, rest, and re-energize through recess is imperative. High quality recess breaks improve mood, well-being, school engagement, behavior, learning, focus, attendance, and overall school climate. The time for social and emotional healing and growth is essential in this unprecedented time. Data show that children’s physical and psychological health are negatively impacted during quarantine[2], and that trauma symptoms increase for those in quarantine[3]. When children experience stress and trauma, it is difficult for them to access the portions of the brain that support thinking and reasoning,[4] thus recess and outdoor break times should be integral to any strategy aimed at providing a safe and supportive learning environment.

In considering a return to school, recess is the ideal space to promote health and healing. It is a time period that is intentionally unstructured, attends to students’ social, emotional, physical and intellectual development, and often takes place outdoors. Current data show[5] that transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is much less likely to happen in outdoor environments; and that outdoor recreation can facilitate social distancing efforts relative to time spent in indoor environments.[6]

Parents can play a key role in addressing the importance of recess as children return to school buildings. As many school districts and state education boards are seeking input from parent stakeholders, we encourage parents and local PTA’s to advocate for children’s right to play[7] and to ensure recess is available to every child, every day that they are physically at school. To help equip parents, educators, and policymakers on the both the importance of recess, and strategies to keep recess safe during (and beyond) the pandemic, The Global Recess Alliance – a group of international researchers, educators, and health professionals – has created list of suggested adaptations for recess based on the best available research evidence[8]. Among the recommendations are to:

  • Offer recess daily for children when they are physically present at school, outdoors if possible;
  • Count recess as instructional time;
  • Advise recess staff so they are prepared to support students who may be more energetic, aggressive, or withdrawn; or have less capacity to self-regulate, resolve their own conflicts, and figure out how to play together;
  • Maintain disinfecting practices for equipment and do not allow students to bring equipment from home;
  • Add handwashing stations and model their use;
  • Limit the number of children at recess at one time and create different play areas for activities to further reduce their interactions;
  • Avoid structured or sedentary activities—like watching movies or activity break videos that do not provide students free choice and peer interactions—which are not substitutes for recess; and
  • Given the many physical, social and emotional benefits of recess, do not withhold recess as punishment for any reason (e.g. as a consequence for missed schoolwork or misbehavior).

Parents and PTAs can utilize this available evidence to help schools develop plans to create safe and healthy play opportunities for child in both the near, and long-term future.


William Massey, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. His line of research focused on the intersection of play, physical activity, and child development.

Rebecca London is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on understanding the challenges faced by disadvantaged children and youth and the ways that communities and community organizations support young people to be healthy and successful.

[1] U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Considerations for schools.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html

[2] Sprang G, Silman M. Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents and youth after health-related disasters. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013;7:105–110

[3] Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet. 2020;395(10227):912‐920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8

[4] Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2015). School readiness and self-regulation: A developmental psychobiological approach. Annual Review of Psychology, 66(1), 711–731.

[5] Qian H, Miao T, LIU L, Zheng X, Luo D, Li Y. Indoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2. medRxiv. 2020;(17202719):2020.04.04.20053058. doi:10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058

[6] Venter ZS, Barton DN, Gundersen V, Figari H. Urban nature in a time of crisis : recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo , Norway

[7] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” IPAworld, May 1, 2012, http://ipaworld.org/childs-right-to-play/uncrc-article-31/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-1/.

[8] Global Recess Alliance. School Reopening? Make Sure Children Have Daily Time for Recess. 7 May 2020. https://globalrecessalliance.org/.