National PTA is #PublicSchoolProud March 25-29, 2019

Public Schools Week is a time to celebrate our nation’s public schools, our students and the professionals who work each day to make every child’s potential a reality. This year, Public Schools Week will take place March 25-29, 2019 with a broad group of education associations hosting events on the importance of public education. On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington D.C. will also speak on the need for a strong public education system for the future of our country’s economic strength. National PTA is proud to join our organizational partners in the week’s events and encourages everyone to get involved.

Public schools serve as the foundation of our nation’s democracy. It is our public schools that will provide the educated, innovative and creative workforce of tomorrow—the entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, artists and political leaders who will ensure that our nation will flourish in an increasingly competitive global economy. Nine out of every 10 students in the United States attend a public school. By strengthening the public-school system, we strengthen the democracy of our country.

Public schools welcome every child—regardless of ability, race, wealth, language, country of origin or needs. Despite the mounting challenges facing the public education system, public schools continue to provide opportunities for the more than 50 million students who are learning and growing inside our nation’s school buildings. There is no better time than now to speak out about the value of public education. #PublicSchoolProud creates a platform for Americans to join together and express their support for public education. We encourage everyone to use this hashtag to ask our policymakers to invest in our students and families to help ensure every child’s potential becomes a reality.

National PTA recognizes that when our public schools succeed, so too do our communities. The success of our children and the future leaders of our nation is critically dependent on the support we give to public education. That’s why National PTA has long advocated for the strengthening of the public education system and will continue to do so with the new 116th Congress. We urge policymakers to support a public schools week resolution, increase federal investments in public education and prioritize family engagement in federal education legislation and programs.

Every child deserves to learn in an environment that is safe and to have the opportunity to grow into a happy and healthy adult. We need public school champions in government to support Public Schools Week and to solidify that support through appropriate policies. Read more about National PTA’s legislative priorities and how they support public schools.  

So, what can you do to show your support for our students, teachers, principals, and all the educators and support staff that serve in our public schools during Public Schools Week? First, read more about Public Schools Week 2019 on the Learning First Alliance’s website. Then, use the tools on the Public Schools Week webpage. You’ll find easy-to-use templates to write op-ed pieces on public schools, tips on advocating for public education with local or state lawmakers, and more. You can also find ideas on how to engage local businesses and community organizations in your Public Schools Week events. Finally, make sure to use the social media toolkit before and during Public Schools Week to publicly highlight your support for public education with your friends and family.

We also want to hear from you! Share your story about the impact public education has had on your life.  It will help us continue to advocate for investments in quality public education for all children. Join us in celebrating our public education system March 25-29, 2019 and beyond—We are #PublicSchoolProud!

5 Proven, Hassle-Free Elementary School Fundraising Ideas

 

Let’s face it: most schools don’t like fundraising. But no matter what elementary school community you’re a part of, nearly every school needs help raising funds. And if you’ve ever served on a volunteer parent group, you’re always on the lookout for elementary school fundraising ideas that line up with your school’s priorities.

We didn’t like fundraising either, so we reimagined something completely different and schools LOVED it.  In fact, thousands of schools have trusted Boosterthon to increase funds and inspire students through our remarkable fitness and character program. But we didn’t just stop there. Over the years we’ve developed a number of fundraising programs that are proven to get results. Here are five proven, must-try school fundraising ideas.

School Fundraising Ideas
Boosterthon Fun Run

The Boosterthon Fun Run is our signature nine-day program that consists of four main parts: Pep Rally, Team Huddles, Fun Run, and Collection. Over the past 16 years, we’ve completed over 10,000 programs and helped our elementary school partners profit more than $200,000,000. In the process, we’ve perfected a fundraiser that’s been proven to raise our partners 60% more funds (on avg.) than their best previous fundraiser. It’s one of the many reasons why 3,000+ schools happily choose Booster year after year. But we know that every school has unique needs. That’s why we offer the Boosterthon Fun Run at four different service levels.

School Fundraising Ideas #1
Boosterthon LIVE

Boosterthon LIVE is our full-service, all-in-one fundraising program. Our enthusiastic team visits your campus daily, handling every aspect of the program. This hassle-free experience is the same Boosterthon program that thousands of principals and PTA leaders all across the country are RAVING about.

Boosterthon LIVE is perfect for schools that…

  • Love in-person customer service
  • Value a fun, professional team leading every program and collection detail
  • Want a magical student experience at every turn—from the Pep Rally, to character lessons, to the Fun Run

School Fundraising Ideas #2
Boosterthon EVENT

Boosterthon EVENT unites the enthusiastic Boosterthon team with your energetic school volunteers! Our team is on campus for the Pep Rally and Fun Run events, allowing you the freedom to uniquely customize the lessons and rewards in between.

Boosterthon EVENT is perfect for schools that…

  • Want a greater level of flexibility
  • Are willing to put in some work to receive higher profit
  • Want the energy, fun, and showmanship of the Boosterthon team for the Pep Rally and Fun Run

School Fundraising Ideas #3
Fun Run YOU

A favorite of many schools, Fun Run YOU is perfect for schools that want the benefits of Boosterthon’s expertise, technology, and reporting, with the perks of a self-run event.

Fun Run YOU is perfect for schools that…

  • Organize their own jog-a-thon but want to take it to the next level
  • Want to keep a higher percentage of funds
  • Have an involved volunteer team to help with daily logistics

School Fundraising Ideas #4
Boosterthon Color Run

One of our favorite school fundraising ideas, the Color Run is a fun way to boost your Fun Run experience for older grades. Students run laps around the Fun Run Speedway while getting periodically “colorized” with FDA/EPA-approved colored powder. The experience is safe, fun, and designed specifically for older students.

School Fundraising Ideas #5
Boosterthon Glow Run

If you live in a colder climate but you’re still looking for fun school fundraising idea, then look no further. The Glow Run transforms your gym into a pulsing neon celebration complete with rope lights, disco lights, and black lights. With Boosterthon’s Glow Run, rain, snow, and cold can’t hold back the fun—it rocks in any weather.

Interested in learning more about one of these school fundraising ideas? Click here to find out if Boosterthon is right for your school!

 

David’s Law: A Texas PTA Story

Texas PTA first became involved in the work to reduce bullying in 2011, when we worked with legislators to pass a law strengthening guidelines for dealing with bullying in the schools. At that time, cell phones were still scarce in the schools, and administrators were reluctant to support laws that required schools to confront cyberbullying, but we saw where things were heading. We knew that while this legislation was a necessary first step, the issue was evolving, and we needed to stay on top of it. So, Texas PTA continued to monitor the prevalence of cyberbullying among students and developed programs to educate parents about the emerging phenomena and how to deal with it at home.

Then, in 2016, with suicide on the rise among victims of cyberbullying, Texas PTA began to plan a more focused bill. “David’s Law” honors the memory of David Molak, a 16-year-old student from San Antonio who committed suicide in January 2016 following relentless online harassment. David’s family was determined to do everything they could to eliminate cyberbullying. They formed David’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying by educating communities about the harmful effects of cyber abuse, providing support for victims, promoting kindness, and supporting legislation that prohibits cyberbullying of minors.

The Molaks led the charge to pass legislation strengthening the law passed in 2011, so that school leaders would have clarity on their responsibility in investigating allegations, informing both law enforcement and parents of suspected cyberbullying, and, when appropriate, disciplining the cyberbully. From nearly the beginning, Texas PTA joined forces with the Molaks—working side-by-side leading up to the legislative session to ensure passage of a new bill. This was no easy task. While it was clear that cyberbullying had become an epidemic, there was still opposition to the bill.

To gain the support necessary for the bill to pass, we spent many hours in meetings with legislators and advocacy groups and made a few changes to the bill’s language on their recommendations. Leadership within Texas PTA testified multiple times at committee hearings, prepared and distributed background information, participated in press conferences, and wrote op-eds and letters to legislators. Grassroot members participated in multiple action alerts to urge support for David’s Law. At Texas PTA’s Rally Day in February 2017, PTA members advocated for David’s Law in meetings and even on the steps of the state capitol.

The new law made many changes to how schools could and should operate:

  • Schools in Texas now have the authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus;
  • They must notify a victim’s parents of the incident within three business days after it has been reported and notify the parents of the aggressor within a reasonable amount of time;
  • They must create procedures for students to anonymously report incidents;
  • They may expel students who engage in serious bullying, including bullying that encourages a student to commit suicide, incites violence against another student, or involves releasing indecent photos of another student;
  • They have strong protections from civil or criminal liabilities when reporting criminal bullying to law enforcement officials;
  • They must provide mental health education;
  • They must expand the role of school counselors to include mediating conflicts among students.

We hope that other state PTAs will consider working to support similar legislation to protect our nation’s most valuable resource—our children. Texas PTA was proud to work with the Molaks to pass David’s Law and we have continued with this partnership. The Molaks regularly present at Texas PTA conferences and provide information about David’s Law through PTA communications.

Getting the Lead Out: An Illinois PTA Advocacy Story

 

When it comes to PTA advocacy, it’s important to remember a few things. First, pay close attention to what your state legislature is doing—it’s up to you to be a watchdog for all children. Next, finding an issue that resonates with your membership is important—making a difference requires a surprising amount of grunt work, so it’s important to stay passionate. And finally, even a handful of PTA advocates can make a big difference. Those are the lessons Illinois PTA learned in 2016.

Senate Bill 550 (SB 550) began as a technical change to the Nuclear Facility Safety Act and wandered through committees for over a year until an amendment in May 2016 completely changed the bill. The bill was now one that would require testing every unique drinking water source in all Illinois public, private, charter and parochial schools for lead. Illinois PTA noticed the change and filed online witness slips in support of the bill. SB 550 passed the Senate on May 31, the last day of the legislative session, and headed to the House where it was assigned to the Rules Committee—a place where bills languish and die from lack of support.

Advocacy Day 2016

Illinois PTA decided to reboot our Advocacy Day in 2016 by moving it to Nov. 16, the first day of the fall veto session. We focused our advocacy on three topics:

  • Adopting a state budget, as Illinois was in the second year without.
  • Supporting a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors based on a PTA resolution.
  • Supporting SB 550, now known as the Lead in Drinking Water Prevention Act.

About a dozen people showed up for Advocacy Day in Springfield, and few were able to get meetings with their actual legislators, so we visited as many legislative aides as possible. As we visited, it became apparent that just about every advocacy organization and lobbyist in Springfield that day was talking about the budget. Mention the budget, and the aide’s eyes would glaze over, and they would just nod along.

But when we mentioned SB 550 and testing for lead in school drinking water, they perked up. We shifted our pitch from focusing on the budget to advocating for SB 550, and by the end of the day, we had personally spoken with 79 legislators and staff. Something else happened that day as well—by that evening, SB 550 had suddenly picked up three new co-sponsors.

Leveraging Voter Voice

Illinois PTA knew that traveling to Springfield would be difficult for some people, so we had also run a “Virtual Advocacy Day” on Nov. 16 using Voter Voice to encourage those who were unable to attend to contact their legislators.

We followed up the next day on our blog, One Voice Illinois, encouraging members to continue to contact their legislators. Throughout the veto session, the bill continued to add co-sponsors, passed through committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, and had its second reading in the House (all Illinois bills are required to be read on three separate days). There, the bill stalled at the end of the veto session. In a normal year, that would have been the end, but the legislature planned to come back for a lame duck session in January just before the legislators elected in 2016 were sworn in.

So, Illinois PTA decided to really push on SB 550. A blog post on the issue prior to the holidays also went out in our Weekend Update email blast. Contacting legislators in support of SB 550 was one of our four New Year’s resolutions for PTA leaders. A new call to action through Voter Voice had a huge response from our members, and a whopping 78% of our members responding to the call were first-timers.

During the lame duck session, SB 550 added over a dozen new co-sponsors, though an amendment that scaled back the lead testing to schools up through grade 5. The amended bill passed the House with only one no vote and one member voting present, and the Senate concurred with the amended version unanimously. The governor signed the bill into law on Jan. 17.

Results

So what has been the result of SB 550 becoming law? School districts across the state have been testing lead levels and begun dealing with those drinking water sources with dangerously high levels that have been harming children for decades. Illinois PTA highlighted news reports from just a few of the districts that were taking action.

There’s still more to be done—Illinois PTA would like to see mandated testing at the middle and high school levels as well—but with the passage of SB 550, families are being notified when high lead levels are found, and many school districts are already undertaking that testing in middle and high schools on their own.

New Partnership Equips Parents to Advocate for Safer Schools

I can still remember the fear and guilt that washed through me when I first heard a gunman entered my daughter’s elementary school.

Fear because only two months earlier, at a parent-teacher conference, I made comments to my husband about the flaws in the school’s security system. Guilt because I buried the pit in my stomach, despite knowing my child’s safety was in danger, and dismissed my concerns altogether. Guilt because I remember thinking the words, That would never happen here.  Not only did it happen a few months later, my daughter, Emilie, would be one of the victims who would not survive.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I vowed to never silence my voice again.  This was the beginning of my journey towards becoming a school safety advocate and co-founding Safe and Sound Schools.

As I travel across the country sharing my story, I am always approached by parents, just like me, who are concerned about their child’s school and feel completely lost about what to do. School communities everywhere were lacking in resources for parents who also wanted to get involved in school safety, and I knew from personal experience how intimidating the process could be.

Safe and Sound Schools is proud to have National PTAs support in helping to launch the Parents for Safe Schools program.  This program is designed for parents who want a more hands-on approach to school safety, from learning more to getting involved, or even becoming an advocate for school safety. Parents for Safe Schools can guide you and members of the PTA on how to get started, and empower you to play a role in protecting your children.

Over the years, I have seen how incredibly powerful the voices of parents advocating for their child can be. There is so much to be done, and Safe and Sound Schools invites you to join our mission. Together we can make our schools safe and sound.


 

Alissa Parker is Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools and a national school safety advocate.  Inspired by her daughter, Emilie who was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, Alissa has joined fellow Sandy Hook mom, Michele Gay in building a legacy of safety for school communities across the country.

Growing Our Membership Every Month

Membership is a year-round effort.  It never ends.  As PTA ambassadors, leaders are to constantly promote the value of PTA, and with it, ignite interest in our mission for people to join in.  Our PTA voice is more powerful, and our PTA advocacy is stronger the more members we have.

 The new year is full of additional opportunities to invite everyone to join PTA this second half of the National PTA membership year (7/1-6/30.)  What are those opportunities?

  •  To begin with, all of your remaining meetings and activities in your PTA calendar for this year.
  • To continue, all National PTA programs and activities to celebrate Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW). Choose one of the National PTA program categories (Health & Safety, Literacy, Digital Learning, STEM) to plan your event and create a theme for your week.  On February 17, 2018, PTA celebrates 122 years of existence advocating to improve the education and well-being of all children.  At your Take Your Family to School Week activities, enthusiastically and confidently invite everyone in your community to “Be part of our PTA history and join our PTA.”
  • In March, take advantage of our PTA Family Reading Experience resources available at PTA.org/FRE to celebrate National Reading Month. This is a great opportunity to work with your local librarians to get families (adults and children) to visit their local public libraries, encourage them to sign up to obtain their library cards and borrow books to read at home. In the process, don’t forget to invite all families and community members to support similar PTA efforts by joining your PTA.
  • Our PTA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit and the PTAKit.org guide for organizing a PTA Program are great resources to help you plan and celebrate national awareness on issues such as:

 These are only possible ideas for which multiple resources are already available.  In the end, all will depend on what the needs of your students and school community are, as PTA you want to be relevant.  If your families need to be empowered to help their children with test taking, that should be your focus at that time; look at our PTA resources on assessment and coordinate with your school administrators. Making our PTA mission relevant to your students and your community by responding to their needs should be the north that guides the focus of your work.

Just remember to always have a way of inviting all to support our PTA work with their PTA membership.  And then, share your work with your state congress PTA. They have multiple ways to recognize your membership and mission advancement efforts.  So, reach out to them, and share and celebrate your accomplishments with all of us for the benefit of all children.

Thank you for all you do to grow membership “To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.”

National PTA’s Art Program Turns 50

 

Did you know we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National PTA Reflections Program this year? For the past 50 years, the National PTA Reflections program has encouraged students of all ages to explore and be involved in the arts. Through the program, National PTA and over 4,000 PTAs across the country encourage all students with all abilities to create and submit original works of art in the medium of their choice—dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography or visual arts—that reflect on the annual theme.

As a kick off to our celebration, we’re thrilled to announce we had the pleasure of interviewing three past participants, including our newest additions to the National PTA Reflections staff! Read the interviews below to learn more about the profound impact the Reflections program had on these women and how the arts are still a huge part of their lives!



Ellie Miller
comes from Chesapeake, VA and is now a specialist for our Programs & Partnerships department here at National PTA. She is also a practicing visual artist and spends her free time creating stunning works of art. When we learned she had previously participated in the Reflections program we knew we had to learn more!

Where and when did you participate in the National PTA Reflections program?

I participated in the Reflections program at Hickory Middle School in Chesapeake, VA. In 2008, when I participated, the theme was “I wonder why…”

What category did you participate in?

Photography!

What did the program at your school look like?

The program was announced throughout the school on the morning announcements. The PTA coordinated with interested teachers to plug the program to students who were “artistic” or who showed interest. I submitted my piece and then heard back about placement at a celebration event in the morning. The PTA invited my parents as a surprise and announced my placement at the event in the cafeteria.

What was your experience in (arts category) prior to participating in the Reflections program?

I had a little experience in photography at the time of participating. I used the program to test my interest in photography.

Did you participate in this program independently? Were your parents involved? How involved was your school/community?

This was probably the only activity I participated with the PTA, and in middle school. My parents helped with my art and attended the celebration to support me but were not involved in PTA past that.

How large of an impact did the Reflections program have on your interest with photography and visual arts?

The biggest impact Reflections had on my interest in art was the validation I received for just being an artist. As you get older it’s easier to understand the impact art has on you in terms of relaxation/mental health. But when you are a child and are still figuring out who you want to be as a person it is easy to get become discouraged. A program that leads to the validation and praise from adults encourages students to continue their work in the arts.

I came back to art later in my life and one of the memories that really encouraged me to get back into art was my experience with Reflections. The vivid memories I have of the process for creating my piece and the celebration for placing really impacted my sentiments towards art. The program has a certain amount of innocence in it that is sheltered from the more draining parts of art such as self-consciousness about skills and building the confidence to talk about your art. I can think about on this innocence when I feel discouraged about having few followers on Instagram or worrying what the point is in painting new pieces and holding onto them. This really encourages me and keeps me coming back to painting new pieces and trying to grow my skill.

If you’d like to view more of Ellie’s artwork, follow her Instrgram page, @oneina_millerion



Anabel Martinez-Pauline
participated in the Reflections program as a 6th grader in Orange County, CA. While she participated in the literature and photography categories, Anabel credits this experience with opening her up to all artistic genres and is now a professional musician and educator in Orange County. Earlier this year she made her Carnegie Hall debut as a chorister with two of southern California’s premier music organizations, Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. She currently teaches choir at Los Amigos High School and was recently awarded October’s Employee of the Month at Garden Grove Unified School District!

What year did you participate in the National PTA Reflections program?

I participated in the 2001-02 program year. The theme was “I hold in my hand…”

What category did you participate in?

I participated in both the Literature and Visual Arts categories.

What did the program at your school look like?

It was a big deal at my school. They advertised it a lot. It was encouraged by our teachers and they incorporated it into class time.

How large of an impact did the Reflections program have on your interest with the arts?

Sixth grade was my favorite year of elementary school. I remember my school took a holistic approach to the curriculum in the sense that everything that we studied or did was connected or related to the arts. When I participated in the Reflections program, it fed creativity that kept up throughout the year. It made me feel like the arts were an integral part of what we did at school. It reinforced both my identity as a creative person and my value as a creative person. I remember being so excited by the Reflections program I ended up submitting four entries! Getting to submit to multiple categories empowered my creativity and the Reflections program helped reinforce the view to me that I was a creative person, which really opened the door to pursue music as I got older.



April Maddox
participated in the Reflections program while growing up in Salt Lake City. She credits the Reflections program as a major inspiration to develop her musical skills and eventually went on to receive a BA in Music and Political Science from the George Washington University in 2000. She then attended The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and earned a JD in 2003. In her youth, April played with the Utah Youth Symphony. She also served as principal cellist with the Rocky Mountain Camarata (which toured the Western United States each year), the Jordan Youth Symphony, the Utah All-State Orchestra, and the Brighton High School Orchestra.

Currently, April is employed as an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, DC. When she’s not practicing law, April is still an active participant in the arts. Not only does she play cello in Cherry Blossom String Quartet (a professional quartet in the DMV area), she is also chair of the Arlington County Reflections program! She, her husband Joel, and their twin sons, Paul and Ben, live in Arlington, VA.

Where and when did you participate in the National PTA Reflections program?

I participated very heavily from 5th-8th grade in Salt Lake City, UT between 1988-1992. In the 8th grade, I made it to the State Level.

What categories did you participate in?

In my first year of participation, I only entered a submission to the music category and ended up winning an award. After the success of my first year, I was motivated to enter submissions to all four existing categories. Our school’s program gave Rainbow Ribbons to students who participated in all four categories, which also helped encourage my participation.

How large of an impact did the Reflections program have on your interest with music?

My participation was a big confidence builder. I was never good at sports and a lot of my pride at school came from being recognized by the Reflections program. I’ve always felt that with the arts you don’t always get much validation at school. Growing up, there were much more opportunities for recognition with sports in school and the Reflections program provided a very unique and special opportunity.

What impact has your participation in the Reflections had on your adult and/or professional life? Do you remain at all in the arts today?

The Reflections program really inspired me to develop my musical skills. I ended up going to college and majoring in music. Now I’m running the Reflections program at my kids’ elementary school and at the district level in Arlington, VA. Today, I still play cello regularly and play professionally with a string quartet called Cherry Blossom strings. Additionally, I still enjoy photography as a hobby. When you’re recognized for your artistic ability as a child, it gives you more confidence to pursue it as an adult.

How does your experience participating in the Reflections program as a child influence your decision to participate as a PTA leader?

I wouldn’t have stepped up to volunteer if I hadn’t done this as a kid. I remembered what a positive experience it was for me and wanted to create that positive experience for other children.

Click here to learn more about April’s string quartet!

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Game Nights are so special because they are family based. The experience is extremely fun for kids and exciting for parents as well, especially when it’s a new theme or a hands-on activity like playing ThinkFun games. Family members play together – kind of like a large home game night where kids are trying to beat their parents and vice versa. The games are a focal point. They are high quality in design, materials, texture, and colors and enjoyable to play!

We hosted our event in the cafeteria and served pizza, muffins, and drinks. Our local PTA members decorated with balloons, colorful tablecloths, and we had every game station set up with colorful standing signs and ample space to spread out. The sample guidelines on the NPTA website was our main source of recommendation when setting up for the event. We also enlisted middle school student volunteers to welcome families and guide them through game rules.

In total we had about 130 people attend our event. We also invited the PTA members of our sister school to participate. Our attendance was robust for the midweek day and the time frame. A lot of our students are in extracurricular activities, so we were pleased to see several make time to attend!

The main reason for our great turnout was our marketing methods, which we have nailed down! We usually have sizable attendance at our PTA-sponsored school events (e.g. festivals, carnivals, at-school programs). All students were invited and welcomed. We advertised the event early and often, using several methods including flyers, the school website, weekly newsletter, morning and marquee board announcements, posters (lobby, hall, and cafeteria), and parent emails.

But even a great event doesn’t happen without a few lessons to learn from. We would have liked a little bit more time with volunteers prior to the start of the event to review game rules and handling the games. After the event ended, in the process of repackaging games, we ended up losing a few small pieces here and there. Having a larger number of each game would have been helpful as well. The number of games combined with our great turnout created longer than expected waiting lines that were not anticipated. My take is that families wanted a bit more time than 15 minutes between game rotations, perhaps 20 minutes would have been better.

Overall, we just absolutely LOVED the games!!! It was such a treat watching families get excited about finding solutions to the puzzles and choosing their favorite games as the night went on. I remember the younger kids enjoying Balance Beans a lot, while some families found Color Cube Sudoku the most challenging, and Gravity Maze was very popular among all ages.

The highlight of the night was being able to give away games as prizes. The NPTA Tip Sheet went a long way in helping us prepare and in my opinion, the best tip was the STEM Tournament Prize Suggestions. The kids who won the game prizes (On the Brink and Clue Master) were very excited to have won such fancy gifts – they were beaming, and their parents were, too!

Looking ahead, we are currently organizing another STEM-based Game Night due to the level of success. In a 2018 school PTA Parent Survey, when asked what new enrichment opportunities families would like to see this coming year, many requested more STEM related events. Several parents noted how much they enjoyed our ThinkFun STEM Game Night. As our students’ advocates, we like to ask, listen, and respond to the needs of our families. We want to ensure our students, at all grade levels, have access to STEM offerings, and the STEM enrichment opportunities are relatable to their families, are interactive, fun, and if possible, scheduled after-school.

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

About the Guest Contributor, Isabel C. Materon, PhD: Isabel C. Materon, PhD is the CWE PTA Event Organizer at Commonwealth Elementary School in Sugarland, Texas.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Maplewood STEM/ThinkFun Game Night is something I spearheaded after a very meager turn out the previous year that our school put together. I am a firm believer of getting out of something what you put into it. So, in this case as a PTA we wanted to “Do Better.”

We try to apply for grants for our school and students, which will help fulfill the expanding budgetary gaps that our school, like many others, are facing. Our school is a Title 1 School and for us parental involvement can be very difficult. Our PTA has more staff than parent members, but us parents work hard to help in any way that we can. Providing family events is one of the greatest gifts the PTA can provide to students and their families, which is why STEM, Game, and Family Nights are so important.

When planning events, we like to have a committee, but in reality, it is often one person with occasional helpers that put our events together. The key is scheduling volunteers so that you maximize their time. No one gets discouraged faster than a busy parent that comes to help only to be left confused or feeling unappreciated for what they do.

Start planning early so you don’t get overwhelmed. Our main strategy with inclusion for any event is having something that appeals to a variety of ages, and both boys or girls. For STEM, it’s important to stress that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is universal. It holds no boundaries and these nights help pull families into discussions and activities about subjects that will carry over throughout the students’ academic paths into their futures. Since our PTA had to purchase all supplies with a limited budget I researched STEM activities that were inexpensive but would span multiple grade ranges. We were also the recipients of the ThinkFun Games Grant last year, which provided our school with Balance Beans, Clue Master, Color Cube, Gravity Maze, Laser Maze, Laser Maze Jr., Math Dice, Math Dice Jr., and Rush Hour to use at our STEM Game Night.  The games helped provide STEM Night with new life, which is sometimes all you need to make a huge difference.

In preparation I printed out the ThinkFun game directions, along with directions for the activities that included the definitions of the STEM they would be learning about and had a meeting with teachers and staff armed with a signup sheet to address questions and concerns. We ended up with an activity for each grade with teachers’ support, in addition to having an Hour of Code that was hosted in the Library with our Librarian and a demo from Winnetonka’s Robotics team (our local high school). Our PTA pulled together to create activity boxes for each room with the supplies bundled or bagged and then delivered to each classroom the day of the event.

Getting the word out is important so we utilize all our outlets; both the PTA and our school’s Facebook Page, sending multiple flyers home, and phone blasts from our Principal. Parental involvement can be tricky for working parents with no time to attend evening events, so the PTA voted to provide dinner for our families. We purchased pizza, veggies, cookies, chips, and drinks, which were served by our school’s staff members to families in shifts. Pairing that with our ThinkFun Games as Door Prizes made it a huge incentive for families to step through our door. Families were immediately greeted by PTA at our sign-in table where they were entered in the Door Prize drawing, handed a STEM Night Map along with a Dinner Time Ticket (we had 4 different dinner shifts that were announced throughout the evening to ensure a smooth transition.)

Families were allowed to come and go as they pleased, picking the activity or game that interested them the most. The clear winners were the Slime Room, Balance Beans from ThinkFun for the younger grades and Gravity Maze for the older ones. My favorite moment of the night was a family at the end of the night that said they had just planned to come, eat and then leave but they got so caught up in all the fun and games that they had totally lost track of time. Strengthening relationships between school and students’ families is what PTA is all about. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a parent or grandparent sitting with their kids laughing, building and creating not just experiments but lasting memories. So yes, I am already planning our next STEM Night and will be utilizing our ThinkFun Games!

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

About the Guest Contributor, Sondra Miller: Sondra Miller is the PTA Treasurer at Maplewood Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri. Mom of one, trying to do it all one small step at a time.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

 

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Our local PTA had a problem: We needed a way to get our teachers involved in our PTA events. Thankfully, we heard about the National PTA STEM + Families Game Nights and thought it presented a perfect opportunity! We were fortunate to win a bundle of ~50 ThinkFun games during the 2017-2018 school year.

Our goal for the school year was to get our school community out and interacting, and winning the games was a perfect opportunity to have a fun, low-cost community night. This game night was definitely a winner and we’ll be hosting it again this year! Here are a few of the biggest lessons we learned.

Getting Teachers Excited Gets Students Excited

We believe one of the best decisions we made about running the event was asking our teachers to sign up to run the games. The teachers who participated learned the game prior to the event and ran the tables to teach the participants how to play. In exchange, the teachers received a classroom set (four copies) of the game they chose. Teachers also encouraged their kids to come to the event to play games.

Event Marketing

In addition to event marketing via teacher excitement, we advertised the event by sending home flyers and creating huge colorful dice and large dominoes out of donated boxes. These large colorful game props caught the eye of parents as they dropped their kids off and served as a great reminder as the event approached.

Attendance, Prizes and Favorites

Overall, we had around 250 people in attendance at the event. It was very fulfilling and encouraging to see the full room at the event. Families moved from table to table to play games—if kids got bored they could move on, and if they were having fun they could play the same game all night! All event participants (adults and children) filled out an event survey and the surveys filled out by the children were used as a drawing entry to win the extra games. There were a few favorite games among our attendees—Clue Master, Gravity Maze, and Math Dice. The enthusiasm of the teachers running the tables definitely drove the interest levels in the games!

Overall Costs

For the event, we chose to offer pizza slices and water for sale. Our overall costs were recovered through families buying the pizza and water, but we did overbuy pizzas and were giving away whole pizzas by the end of the night.

Conclusions

Fun PTA events don’t need to be extravagant or complicated. Often a simple event can be the most fun. Remember that along the way there can be hiccups like extra pizza remaining or that a few game pieces go missing, but one of the most important parts of running a successful PTA event is the feeling that the participants walk away with afterward—a feeling of being included and supported in a vibrant, diverse, and active community.

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

 

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/family-game-night-anyone-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/member-growth-huge-turnout-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/creating-lasting-memories-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/parents-and-kids-join-forces-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

About the Guest Contributor, Amy Jorde: Amy Jorde is the PTA President at Pearl Zanker Elementary School in Milpitas, California.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.