How Boosterthon Turned This Skeptical Dad into a Fan

I hate school fundraisers with a passion. You see, I have three kids in school, from seventh grade all the way down to third grade. We’ve reluctantly participated in our share of school fundraisers over the years and will likely face many more in the next decade or so to come. Each time we’ve done so, I’ve cringed. While I understand that fundraisers are a necessary evil for many public schools, I’d much rather cut a check at the beginning of the school year and never have someone tell my kids that if they’ll only sell X amount of stuff that no one wants, then they can have this cheap trinket and the school will make a percentage of those sales dollars… much less have to try to sell 3X as a family so each kid can have a cheap trinket that will get lost, broken, or trashed before the week is out.

This is coming from a guy who serves in key positions with a number of local fundraising organizations. Included in that mix is my role on my youngest daughter’s elementary school PTA board as the school Watch D.O.G.S. chairman. It has been my experience that I am not alone in my disdain for student fundraising, as reflected last fall when it came time to talk about fundraising options for the current school year. Oh, joy! Do we decide to sell this or to sell that?

This school year, a newer member of the PTA board suggested taking a different approach. Prior to moving to the district, her children had participated in a Boosterthon Fun Run at their previous school district. She mentioned that it had both gone over really well with everyone involved–students, families, and school staff–and saw better participation and results than a lot of more traditional (read: “sales”) fundraisers they had done in the past.

Boosterthon Malachi Story

I was skeptical. “They do all the work and we get paid” has never played out that way for me in my fundraising experience. But, I kept my mouth shut. Anything that didn’t involve asking grandparents, neighbors, and co-workers to buy something (especially with Girl Scout cookie sales going on at that same time of year) was the lesser evil, in my opinion. Additionally, I wasn’t confident that the school’s administration and teachers would be cool with someone not connected to the school district coming in and telling them how this fundraiser was going to go and taking a portion of their instructional time. Principals and teachers tend to be Type-A personalities. Even if we moved forward as a PTA board, there was still a chance this would be murdered somewhere down the line.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with how well our first Boosterthon program went.

How Boosterthon Worked

Our PTA board leaders and building principal sat down with a Boosterthon representative and selected a date for the Fun Run, which in our case was Thursday, January 18, 2018. A pair of Boosterthon team members arrived on Monday, January 8 to begin setup. Over the next eight school days (which was interrupted by a holiday and multiple-day school closing due to winter weather), the pair got students pumped up for the run by sharing Boosterthon’s “Castle Quest” character-focused curriculum. Their presentations were high-energy (as a parent of a child with sensory processing issues, I was, yes, skeptical of the approach) and effective. From day one of the lead up to the Fun Run, my daughter was excited.

Just as importantly–if not more important–the teachers were excited as well.

Boosterthon school

Instructions were sent home that walked parents through using Boosterthon’s online tools to create a donation page for each child and share instantly on a number of major social media networks. Donors could choose to make a flat donation or a per-lap donation. Boosterthon caps the number of laps a child can receive credit for at 35, so per-lap donors can do a little math and keep their donation within their budget.

One of the great things about the Boosterthon Fun Run is that every student gets to run, regardless of donations received. With other fundraisers, students who don’t sell whatever have to watch while much-coveted trash and trinkets are distributed to the top sellers among their classmates. Nothing like drilling the ol’, “Put that half-pint of milk down. Milk’s for closers.” mentality into them while they’re young, right? Everyone runs during the Boosterthon fun run, and all the laps are counted, even if they’re run for free.

On the day of the event, additional Boosterthon staff arrived and transformed our school gym into a track/rave/party room. String lights marked the inside and outside lanes of the track. Tents were erected and audio equipment set up in the infield. Parents were invited to come and cheer on their students, who arrived at the gym bearing their class-designed flag and entered through an inflatable tunnel. Once the rules were laid out, the students walked a half of a lap to get warmed up, the gym lights were turned off, and the kids were turned loose.

Boosterthon Glow Run 2

As volunteers, this is the only part of the process where we had to do any real work. Adult volunteers were lined up at the lap marker with Sharpies. Each runner had a sticker on his or her back, and as they completed a lap, they slowed down and their stickers were marked for the corresponding lap number. With so many kids running and with the number of volunteers we had, that meant that the runners got a chance to catch their collective breaths for a few seconds as they worked their way through the line. Periodically during the run, the Boosterthon DJ would slow it down and have the kids walk a couple of laps, which still counted toward their goal of 35 laps, in order to keep anyone from going all out and getting overheated.

Our school chose to have students run during their related arts hours, to minimize the impact on classroom instruction. Even with a two-hour late start on the day of the event (remember that winter weather I told you about?), all students who were present were able to participate over the course of that single-day event.

What Were the Financial Results?

That’s all great, you say. The PTA and volunteers didn’t have to do too much. You didn’t have to go out and sell a bunch of stuff that nobody wants or needs. Everyone got to participate and no one brought home a cheap squeeze toy or one of those sticky things you throw at the wall that “walks” down and ends up covered in pet hair. Good for you. How much money did the Fun Run raise for your school?

The goal for our school was to raise enough money to cover Boosterthon’s take (around $2,000 or so, for setting up, promoting, handling the donations, and hosting the event… your school’s cost may differ) and net the school $10,000 to cover the final costs for the greenhouse project. Was that a realistic goal? We didn’t know, but the Boosterthon folks suggested that for a school with our enrollment numbers, it wasn’t unrealistic. It all came down to donor participation.

4 Reasons Why We Choose Boosterthon Every Year

Because we had a holiday and two days of school closing due to weather, Boosterthon extended our donation deadline by a few additional days. As I type this article, we have raised nearly $15,000 from the event, exceeding our goal by around 30%. With enrollment around 640 students, that’s a per-student average between $20 and $25 (which doesn’t tell the whole story, when about 40% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunches). To say that this event was successful beyond anything even the least skeptical among us could have hoped for is an understatement.

Conclusion

That evening, our PTA held our annual Winterfest, which was scheduled to serve as a wrap up for the fun run activities. Parents shared with me and others that they were thrilled with this fundraiser, even without knowing the final numbers. The overwhelming sentiment was that parents and students very much enjoyed the idea of the kids getting character instruction and running laps during the school day over the thought of having to sell a whole lot of something in order to reach some unattainable goal to get an upgraded piece-of-junk prize, then being upset when they didn’t sell that crazy amount in order to get what cost pennies if ordered in bulk from Oriental Trading or some such source.

Barring some unforeseen change, we expect to bring Boosterthon back again next school year.

If you are tired of your child being used to move product for a company not connected with your school or community in order for your school to get a relatively small piece of the pie, you might consider attending a PTA meeting–or, gasp!, joining the PTA and volunteering–and suggesting that your child’s school take a look at Boosterthon.


Note: This post was written by Joey Mills and originally appeared on GeekDad.com. National PTA or Boosterthon did not ask for nor influence his review in any way. 

Step Up Your Family Engagement

Dance can be a powerful way to foster Social Emotional Learning (SEL), celebrate cultural diversity and promote parent involvement.

Many parents are reluctant to participate in school activities, possibly due to feeling intimidated by the school building or not feeling they have enough spare time to attend. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a parent whose heart doesn’t melt the day their own child invites them to dance as their partner.

As a PTA leader, offering programs that promote community engagement through healthy, culturally-enriching events should be one of your primary goals. Though it’s often overlooked, dance has the power to engage students, parents/caregivers and school staff in an activity that creates joy and unity.

Beyond the obvious health and cultural benefits, research indicates a strong connection between dance and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The most successful SEL programs use active forms of learning to teach students, and evidence suggests that dance out-paces other forms of physical activity AND other forms of arts learning when it comes to measurable SEL outcomes.

How Dance Connects to SEL

Schools across the country are prioritizing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and looking for ways to embed SEL into all aspects of school culture and climate. Dance is a proven strategy for fostering positive outcomes in the three major dimensions of SEL.

  1. Intrapersonal SEL Skills: Self-Awareness and Self-Management are fundamentally rooted in the body, making dance an excellent tool for building such competencies as emotional awareness, accurate self-perception, and impulse control.
  2. Interpersonal SEL Skills: Many dance and movement activities promote teamwork and cooperation and provide rich opportunities for developing Relationship Skills and Social Awareness.
  3. Responsible Decision-Making: Dance and movement can also be a wonderful way for students work on problem-solving, develop the ability to evaluate and reflect, and consider their responsibility to help make the world a better place.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Considerations

When choosing resources to use for dance or movement-based activities, keep in mind that cultural dance, in particular, can be useful in fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect. By studying dance forms that originate in other parts of the world, students gain understanding of the history, identities and values of others.

Dance can also help students and their families overcome cultural and linguistic obstacles due to its focus on nonverbal communication. For English language learners in particular, dance provides the opportunity to express oneself through the body and is shown to bolster self-esteem.

Two Left Feet? No Problem!

In many schools, the greatest barrier to bringing in a dance program is a lack of comfort with dance on the part of the adults in charge. For most students, permission to move—and especially moving to music—offers considerable stress relief and an immediate boost to their sense of optimism and joy.

Using dance and movement activities to foster learning is not as hard as it sounds, and a number of resources exist to take the pressure off of teachers and program facilitators to lead the activities.

One such program, EduMotion: SEL Journeys, is a digital experience that allows groups of participants to explore the world while focusing on themes like diversity, empathy and kindness. Each journey starts with participants choosing a cultural destination and then following along to learn simple movements inspired by a dance from the selected culture. By the end of the journey, participants are engaged with one another in movement, playing the roles of “Joymaker” and “Peacemaker” as they dance together.

How Your PTA Can Integrate Cultural Dance

With the right approach, dance can contribute to a positive school culture through integration during the school day as well as during out-of-school time and family engagement events. Your PTA can be an ideal catalyst to introduce a dance program into your school that benefits the entire community.

During the School Day

Invite teachers to be part of the experience. Provide resources like EduMotion that enable them to explore, learn and/or create a dance with their students without placing pressure on them to teach dance steps. Classroom teachers can include this activity in morning meetings, during social studies or at another transition time. It can also be a great end-of-week reward (Friday dance party, anyone?). Physical education and music/art teachers are the most likely advocates for a community engagement-oriented dance program, so try reaching out to them first!

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? Teachers who embrace this strategy will see a boost in student morale, improved peer relationships and better academic performance. Multiple studies prove that active students learn better, so the time teachers take to integrate dance into the weekly schedule is time well-invested.

SHARE THE EXPERIENCE…

  • Classroom Dance-Along: Teachers can invite parents or another classroom in for an interactive dance exchange.
  • Assembly program: Classrooms can practice and present different dances in an assembly program. Most parents won’t pass up an opportunity to see their child perform!

After-School & Family Engagement Events

Your PTA can host an after-school club or incorporate dance into an existing after-school program. Working with a community partner who specializes in dance is one common solution. Alternately, a program like EduMotion: SEL Journeys offers online content that a parent volunteer or OST program leader can facilitate easily—no dance experience required!

For special events, you can host a parent-child dance, or incorporate a dance activity station at an event such as a Multicultural/International Night, Health Fair, etc. Dance can even connect to STEMyou’re your next STEM + Families event, encourage students to think about coding as a series of dance steps they can put together to create different outcomes. With a little imagination, you can connect dance to all kinds of themed events you may host throughout the year!

Just like trying anything new at your school, the first few steps are often the hardest. While adding dance and movement to your programming may sound intimidating, the potential benefits are well worth it. Please reach out and connect if you’d like some moral support to make it happen in your school!


NATIONAL PTA EXCLUSIVE OFFER: EduMotion has a special offer available for PTA program leaders. Click to learn more!

Margot Toppen is an educator who works at the intersection of SEL, arts and physical education. In 2006, she developed Dancing with Class, a program delivered to hundreds of schools each year.

By The Numbers: A PTA Connected Event

At Middlebrook PTA, we realize that technology and social media are a part of our lives. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to ensure our children know how to use these tools safely and respectfully. We had:

  • 4 teacher volunteers join other parent volunteers in leading 6 sessions for our Kindergarten-5th grade school.
  • 1 critical partnership in our Technology Integration Specialist to get her support and ask her colleagues to join her in leading a breakout session.
  • 1 Director of Digital Learning to lead the first session with all who attended that night.

Having the “agree/disagree” cards for parents and students was an effective way to see differences of opinions in the school and offered a kinesthetic learning moment for all. It was reported to be a favorite activity by many who attended and the energy in the room was high. It set a great tone for the night and both parents and students felt engaged in the material and with each other.

Melissa Larzo, PTA President for Towne Acres PTA, agrees with Middlebrook PTA.

Our event served as a family engagement night for our school.  It came on the heels of a presentation with similar subject matter that had just been held for the area middle schools in response to those incidents, so our event was tailored to capture those families with younger children.  We had:

  • Multiple outlets of promotion, but primarily through online promotion on our school’s PTA Facebook page.
  • 1 principal and many of our teachers to come out and show their support
  • 1 supervisor of safety and mental health for our school system as our guest speaker
  • 150 people in attendance that night, which was better than we expected given the busy time of the year it was.

The information we were able to deliver to the audience that night helped to begin the discussion within families, it seemed to ease some of the fears that many families had, and it helped us to feel more like a team as we tackle these issues together.

Visit PTA Connected to get made-for-PTA resources on hosting digital safety events and apply for grant funding to host your own event night. PTA.org/Grants


About the Authors: Ruth Fontilla is from Middlebrook PTA and Melissa Larzo is from Towne Acres PTA

Why Do PTA’s Need Insurance?

Sponsored Post:

Being part of your local PTA is a great way to be involved and bettering the community is a very noble cause. What most people outside this network don’t know is, its hard work!! And there are an endless amount unseen details required for every field trip, every fundraiser and nearly every decision a PTA has to make. In the end, your PTA is run like a small business and takes on liability for all these decisions.

So why does your PTA need insurance? Did you know that you as an individual member of the PTA or officer of the PTA could be help personally liable for an accident that occurs at one of your events? Your board, your members and your volunteers work hard for every dollar and every event, so protecting your money, your people and your property is not something to be overlooked.

Your Events

Event Insurance (General Liability)
Fact: if a child is injured at an event put on by your PTA, you could be held personally liable, along with your PTA, for the accident and legally sued. School insurance typically does not extend to the PTA and even when it does many activities of the PTA are NOT covered.

In addition to injuries, PTA’s have liability for property damage sustained during PTA events which is also covered by General Liability. Most PTA’s don’t have the time or money to support a lawsuit, so its HIGHLY advisable to seek coverage which can be obtained for less than the cost of 1 hour with an attorney!

Your Money

Embezzlement Insurance (Fidelity Bond)
Embezzlement. Most PTA members believe that no one would ever steal from their PTA but sadly, embezzlement is overtaking General Liability as one of the most common claims. It usually happens over a period of time and by the time the PTA becomes aware, what started as $50 here and there, turns into thousands of missing dollars.

Fidelity Bond coverage protects your money. Make sure you secure coverage that offers protection for theft by anyone in your organization, not just theft by a treasurer.

Your Property

Property Insurance
Oftentimes it’s a group’s own personal property that, while at an event or in storage, becomes damaged. Popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, fundraising merchandise, spirit wear, game prizes, silent auction items… PTA’s often take responsibility for thousands of dollars in personal property. What most PTA’s don’t consider is how they would recoup these costs in the event of theft or damage.

Fortunately, Property Insurance can be obtained very affordably for a little as $10,000 in limit.

Your Directors & Officers

Directors and Officers Liability
The Directors & Officers of your PTA are tasked with making big decisions in addition to keeping the peace in times of differing opinions. PTA’s often wonder whether they can be sued for these decisions as a whole or individually and the answer is both.

If someone decides to sue an officer or director of a PTA for mismanagement, misrepresentation, dissemination of false or misleading information or inappropriate actions, Directors and Officers Liability coverage will pay to defend them personally, in addition to the PTA as a whole.

AIM Insurance has been helping PTA’s for over 30 years and hopes to spread awareness on the importance of protecting your PTA. To learn more click here.


Any reference in this website to any person, or organization, or activities, products, or services related to such person or organization, or any linkages from this web site to the web site of another party, do not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring.

 

Things To Do in Columbus While at #PTACon19

The 2019 National PTA Convention & Expo will be hosted in Columbus June 20-23. Ohio’s capital city has a large and diverse community with many things that you and your family can do. Maybe you want to get hands-on with science or eat some of the Midwest’s best food. Either way, both options (and many more) are possible. When you are not at #PTACon19, consider going to some of these places to explore the city and all that it has to offer.

 

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to thousands of animals from all over the world, ranging from things like fish and stingrays in the aquarium, to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) in the zoo. Along with animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has an 18-hole golf course called Safari Park and an expansive water park called Zoombezi Bay as well. Admission to the water park includes admission to the zoo but admission for golf is separate from the rest of the facilities.

 

COSI

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is a science museum and research center filled with hands-on exhibits and displays that are fun for kids and adults. Some current exhibits include the Dinosaur Gallery, the Planetarium, Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited and the Giant Screen Theater which currently features movies about Apollo 11 and D-Day.

 

Columbus Museum of Art

               The Columbus Museum of Art features late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American and European modern works of art. Some exhibitions that will be open during the convention include Blacklight Magic, which celebrates the role blacklight posters played in artwork during the late 1960s and early 1970s American counterculture, and the works of Jim Hodges, a highly regarded figure in contemporary art.

 

Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons is a six-acre park in downtown Columbus that features different events that are fun for all ages. During the convention, the Commons will host Commons for Kids, which features family friendly activities for you and your kids, and will play Mary Poppins Returns for a free movie night.

 

Here are some Restaurants to Check Out as Well!

Little Eater in the North Market http://littleeater.com/restaurants/north-market/

Max and Erma’s https://www.maxandermas.com/

Paulie G’s https://pauliegee.com/short-north/

Donato’s https://www.donatos.com/locations/downtown-columbus

Condado Tacos http://www.condadotacos.com/

Jeni’s in the North Market http://www.condadotacos.com/

Creating a New Dialogue Around Math with a STEM + Families Math Night SPOTLIGHT: Steven Millard Elementary PTA (Fremont, Calif.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received STEM + Families Mathnasium Math Night grants. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

We hosted our STEM + Families Math Night Jan. 24 with over 400 attendants. Our school had never done anything like these events prior—which made our high attendance that much more exciting.

We anticipated a hesitant reaction from kids and parents, so we started to market the event early in November. The most effective form of marketing was word of mouth. A core group of volunteers began engaging in one-on-one conversations with parents. We kept talking about it and asking people about it whenever we were onsite at school and were able to spark curiosity among the parents—people wanted to know what the night was all about! Most initial reactions were that they weren’t into math—but as we sparked new dialogue around the topic of math, popularity grew.

By the time we were a couple weeks out from the event, we had spoken to most parents at the school, so we changed our approach a little bit. We emphasized the games and talked about the prizes. For the last round of event reminders, we led with the food! As those are typically the elements that push people to come, we were able to attractive those that don’t typically attend events.

Included in the attendance was the school principal and about four to five teachers. We engaged the teachers by asking them to share event during class announcements. One teacher told her first grade students that she would be attending, and she was looking forward to seeing them all there. Her class got 100% attendance.

For set up we used a large multi-purpose room, placed the tables around the perimeter of the room, and had a welcome desk at the entrance. We made sure to have multiple volunteers at the welcome desk to explain the structure of the event. They explained how the event works, where to pick up your goodie bag, collecting a raffle ticket and where to find the snacks located in an adjoining room. This was helpful as everyone knew what to expect the moment they arrived.

Big hits of the night were the goodie bags and the raffle prizes. Goodie bags helped a lot—it is a great motivator for kids and it’s such an easy thing for us to organize. Mathnasium also helped by bring everyone a little gift. If they didn’t win a raffle prize, everyone still got a little reward for participating. The raffle prizes were donated to us by ThinkFun, and we had them on display during the night.

When giving out the raffle prizes we addressed the whole room and reminded them that events like these come together only because of volunteer time and donations to the PTA. If families attended and felt they got value out of the experience—we want to encourage them to help volunteer and donate, so we can continue this amazing work!

Fueled by the success of that night, we recently hosted a Science Night March 26. We will absolutely be hosting another Math Night next year. We developed a great partnership with our local Mathnasium. I cannot say enough good things about them—they were amazing to work with.

Supriya Desai is a parent of 2 boys in grades 1&4, a full-time working professional at a Global Silicon Valley Tech Giant and a committed PTA Board member focused on widening the circle of engaged parents at school and bringing new programs to directly benefit students. 


Franchise Feature: Karen Losing (Mathnasium of 4S Ranch San Diego, CA)

Our most recent Math Night had over 300 students and 550 participants total. A strong math message in general is important, but specific event communication from the school to the parents was essential. Externally, we provided photos and social media assets for Facebook, created an email flyer to stay green and reach 100% of the parents, we placed Math Night yard signs in the carpool lanes one week out. Internally, the teachers talked up the event with their students, challenged them to games that night, and created job responsibilities for student leaders to assist in the execution of the program.

Math Nights are an excellent tool to invite families to showcase the importance of math and families! It is a great opportunity to have the student who feels defeated by math see if can be fun, or the student looking to have a challenge can play at a higher level. This is an opportunity for the PTA to give something back to the parents without dipping into their limited resources!

Karen’s Pro-Tips

  • Plan ahead! We had two quick and easy meetings because we were prepared. The math teachers and the PTA board were involved. We created a “Look Book” for our schools to visualize what Math Night will look like, spacing, and math topics. They saw what the welcome table looked like, passports and goodie bags, volunteers in action and general flow of the evening. The meetings we filled with energy, so the buildup was fantastic!
  • Mathnasium is here to help! My team will do most of the work! We make sure everything is planned out. I look to the PTA to get administrative approval, date on the calendar, help promote to the student body and recruit 15 volunteers. Then my team takes it from there!
  • Order doesn’t matter! When playing the games, people are linear thinkers and want to start at Station 1 then go to the next station. The order doesn’t matter, so go to a table that looks fun or less crowded.
  • Have a distinct start and finish! Have a distinction Welcome Desk and a distinctive Finished Desk. It is confusing to have both on the table once the event gets popping! I’ve done game tables in a circle format or down the entire length of the hallway. Either works. Anticipating attendance and what a room can handle is important. The 550-person event was held in the main hallway from the office area down through the classrooms.

Karen is a multi-center owner with lots of experience as a center owner. She has done several Math Nights and is a good proponent. She does business in both Southern California and now Arizona and has a unique perspective from two different areas.

Take Action:

Disclosure: Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 2018–2019 National PTA STEM + Families math grant, sponsored by Mathnasium. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

Families + Math + PTA = Great Fun! With a STEM + Families Math Night SPOTLIGHT: Midvalley PTA (Midvale, Utah)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received STEM + Families Mathnasium Math Night grants. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

Imagine an evening activity at your school—you want to have families attend, you want it to be fun and memorable, you want everyone to be so excited that the “fear of missing out” gets everyone through the door! When you sit down to plan this activity, is your first thought about math? Probably not! But I’m here to tell you that the most exciting activity hosted this year at our elementary school was just that—a math night.

Our math night journey started after we were awarded a grant, but a math night can be accessible to any school.  Our hope was that this activity would be a way to show kids and parents that math can be fun with a few simple games they could play together. We were pleased to have around 400-500 attendees. It was hard to get a count because once people came it just got crazy, but it was a big activity for our school!

We had tremendous support from our principal, teachers, and staff. All our teachers attended, and we had them working our game stations. That increased the kids’ excitement—they love their teachers!

We had a pizza dinner before starting games in the gym, where there were two tracks: K-2 on one side and 3+ on the other. Each track had 9 stations. It was crowded!

Despite the crazy mass of people, the kids and parents were engaged and having fun, even when they had to wait a while to play the games. The best games were those that could be played quickly and were reasonably simple to understand (the card games are a good example). The last station had families put in for a prize raffle—we had talked to local businesses to get donated prizes, with a total retail value of around $1,000. Even if they didn’t win the raffle, each student got some cards and dice to take home to use in playing the math games to keep the learning going!

If you are thinking of hosting a math night or other similar event, our school suggests the following:

  1. If you can offer food, even if it isn’t fancy, you will have better attendance.
  2. Prizes, like game or movie night baskets for families, are a nice bonus.
  3. Find a large indoor space or an appropriate outdoor space to spread people out.
  4. Ensure the games are fun, fast and age-appropriate.
  5. Reach out to your community to find partners who will support your event with donations.

Kirsti Raleigh is the President of the Midvalley Elementary PTA.


Franchise Feature: Geoff and Kim Dingle (Mathnasium of North Marietta, Ga.)

Geoff and Kim’s biggest key to hosting a successful Math Night is to find a way to determine a reasonably accurate estimation of expected attendance—whether by way of a RSVP count, having the school/PTA offer to sell food (as fundraising) or asking parents to order ahead of time.

This makes sure there are enough games, space, supplies and volunteers. Their very first Math Night was attended by over 450 parents and students. Since Geoff and Kim had requested RSVPs ahead of time, they avoided a catastrophe by having enough games and volunteers. The only feedback they received on how they could have made it better was from a student who replied, “kittens.”

Geoff’s pro-tips:

  • Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers: Mathnasium is here to take over the stressful coordination of the event. The biggest logistical item that PTAs have to plan is arranging volunteers to help run the event and lead the games at each station. Geoff’s crew will come ready with games, supplies, goody bags and more!
  • Market the event as a fun family event: Make sure families know this is a great event where they can spend a few hours without distractions of technology, phones and electronic games.
  • Have a planning meeting with PTA and Mathnasium ahead of the event: This will help make sure everyone is ready and on the same page prior to night-of setup. Geoff recommends splitting up grades between K-2 and 3-5 making it easy for all age groups to navigate the different stations.

Geoff and Kim are great proponents for Math Nights. Geoff was a franchise partner in the Math Night session at Mathnasium’s convention in 2018.

Take Action:

Disclosure: Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 2018 – 2019 National PTA STEM + Families Math Grant, sponsored by Mathnasium. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

Celebrating our 2018 Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grantees

As we open the 2019 Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant cycle, we are reminded of the many arts education projects that this grant opportunity has funded. Most recently, the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant honored high quality arts learning programs at Harvest Hill PTA in California and Tiffany Park Elementary PTA in Washington with $1000 in matching grant funds.

Harvest Hill PTA hosted a free Family Art Night in collaboration with community partners to kick off their inaugural Reflections program. The Family Art Night invited all families to come in the evening to learn about the Reflections program, while also introducing families to new artistic mediums. Families had the opportunity to participate in a variety of art stations including; playdough for 3D art, Charcoal, Paint Markers and Watercolor pencils. Gina Jahn, Harvest Hill PTA President, explains:

“The best part was seeing all of the families spend the evening together bonding over art and interacting with each other away from electronics. It was a memorable night that the families appreciated and knowing that the PTA hosted and sponsored the night allowed for the families to get a glimpse into how the PTA can impact the school.”

Harvest Hill’s inaugural Reflections program went on to receive over 22 submissions of which 5 went on to Council judging and 2 moved on to the District-wide level.  Harvest Hill PTA believes that their initial Family Art Night set the foundation for many future years of arts education and participation in the Reflections program.

Tiffany Park Elementary PTA had a similarly successful event funded in part by the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant. Tiffany Park hosted an Art Appreciation Night with a “Heroes Around Me” theme to kick off the Reflections program and engage the community in the arts. The event included a free dinner, remarks from the school Vice Principal and the District Reflections Chair, and an introduction to the Reflections program and theme. Families also had the opportunity to visit stations ran by volunteer community members that held professions in the each of the Reflections arts categories (visual arts, photography, literature, music, dance, and film) to learn about the art form.

Tiffany Park PTA believes their project has strengthened relationships and connections within their school as well as outside community partners, nearby schools and alumni. As a small, Title 1 school with a $550 budget for arts appreciation and 62% of their population receiving free and reduced lunch, the Tiffany Park PTA was extremely grateful for the grant opportunity and contributions from local organizations and businesses. Stephanie Ferran-Herrara, Tiffany Park’s Art Appreciation Chair, explains:

“It was an occasion for all of our families to come out and learn about different genres of art. Staff and community members were able to have a conversation about the importance of art for our students and we were able to encourage participating in Reflections in a fun and active way.”

In addition to the successful event, Tiffany Park PTA received 26 eligible entries for Reflections and advanced 14 to district level judging. Ferran-Herrara shared, “This project has demonstrated to our Tiffany Park students and teachers that academic AND creative endeavors are valued. We feel it has broadened the definition of what it means to be successful at school.”

Special thanks to Harvest Hill PTA and Tiffany Park Elementary PTA for supporting their students and families through such impactful arts in education programs.  For more information about the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant, visit PTA.org/ArtsEd.

 

 

 

 

Super Parents, Super Readers!

Every year, PTAs across the nation host Take Your Family to School Week events to celebrate National PTA’s Founder’s Day.

This year, with the support of Office Depot OfficeMax, National PTA awarded $1,000 to 15 local PTAs to host a National PTA program during Take Your Family to School Week, Feb. 10-17. Congratulations to the 2019 Take Your Family to School Week Grant Recipients who hosted a variety of successful events.

One of the great events held during this year’s Take Your Family to School Week is Stringtown Elementary PTA’s superhero-themed reading night, “Super Family Literacy Night.” This event offered a book giveaway for every family, a free meal, reading activities and more. All of the night’s activities encouraged every family member to consider themselves “super readers.”

As the event was the of its kind, Stringtown Elementary PTA didn’t know what to expect. But turnout was higher than expected, with around 150 people in attendance! Many of the parents expressed initial hesitation to attend because of their own discomfort with reading, but that didn’t stop them from having a great time once they arrived! Some families even surprised themselves with how much fun they had.

One mom shared that she normally just brings her daughter to school dances or the school carnival. She almost didn’t come to the literacy night since she thought her daughter might not find it fun. But, by the end of the night, the mom shared with a PTA leader that the event “was is the most fun we’ve had out of ALL the events we have been to at our school! My daughter doesn’t want to leave!”

In addition to increasing the confidence and interest in reading among both parents and students, the event was an opportunity to bring more exposure to the great work of Stringtown Elementary PTA. The PTA officers were able to connect non-PTA families at the school with opportunities for future PTA involvement, something families were requesting by the end of the night.

The Stringtown Elementary PTA plans to host another literacy night because, as Jenny Howard, a PTA teacher liaison and board member, explained, “It only takes one event to help build the bridge between school and family, and this is the one that did it for us!”

This Family Reading Experience was a huge success for Stringtown Elementary—and it can be for your PTA as well! You can host a literacy event at your elementary school by visiting PTA.org/Reading to access tips and resources for hosting your event as well as Reading Is Fundamental’s PTA Portal for suggested book lists and accompanying activities.

 

Then & Now: 50 Years of Reflections Award Winners

 

I had the recent pleasure of exhibiting at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) National Convention in beautiful Boston, Mass., to promote the National PTA Reflections program to over 5,700 arts professionals across the country.

At the booth I was greeted by art educators who have led the Reflections program at their school, partnered with PTA on Reflections and those that have served as Reflections judges over the rich 50-year course of the program. I was also able to share the beautiful artwork of Massachusetts PTA Reflections artists which drew future Reflections partners in to learn more about Reflections and how they too can become arts advocates with PTA.

The best part about my time at NAEA was hearing so many stories about how Reflections has been such a huge asset to so many schools across the nation and has impacted so many students over the years. I was even able to meet several past Reflections winners who now serve as Reflections and school leaders, proving that participation in the arts leads to success in life! I’d like to introduce you to some of these amazing individuals.

Meet Mikki Wilson!

Mikki Wilson was a 1991-1992 Reflections state-level winner for her work in Visual Arts that responded to the theme “Exploring New Beginnings”. Like many Reflections winners across the country, Mikki was awarded a medal and written about in her local newspaper.

Mikki went on to submit work the following year and earned a winning medal at the local level as well (photo-Mikki medal 92). What is significant about Mikki’s story is that she now serves as the state Reflections chair and board director for Massachusetts PTA, promoting advocacy for all children, arts education and Reflections participation throughout her state! Mikki was instrumental in collecting and displaying Massachusetts PTA student artwork at NAEA and sharing information about her experiences with Reflections and how to get programs started. Thank you, Mikki!

Meet Nicole Cunningham!

I also had the pleasure of chatting with Nicole Cunningham, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and now serves as an account manager at Square 1 Art, LLC in Atlanta, Ga. She was just strolling through the exhibit hall at the NAEA National Convention and saw that the National PTA Reflections Program was exhibiting. Nicole beelined over to our booth just to share her story and positive experience with Reflections. Nicole was supported by Gwinnett County Georgia PTA to become a 1996-1997 state-level Visual Arts Reflections winner for a painting. It was so fun to meet you, Nicole.

And last, but not least, meet Ruth Savage Crittendon!

It was a distinct honor to meet Ruth Savage Crittendon, who was a 1971-1972 national-level Reflections winner from Arkansas PTA. Ruth’s watercolor that interpreted the theme America, The Beautiful, The Ugly was part of the National PTA student arts exhibit that traveled to National PTA’s convention. Ruth went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Memphis College of Art and has served as a visual arts teacher at Elgin Public Schools in Cyril, Okla., for nearly 15 years. For her passion, dedication and service to the arts, Ruth was an award recipient at the NAEA National Convention as the Western Region Secondary Art Educator. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Ruth, and your love of the arts with the students you work with every day in the classroom!

What an amazing experience to share information about Reflections and learn about the program from the teacher’s perspective. Thank you to Massachusetts PTA, Mikki, Nicole and Ruth for helping me spread the word about National PTA’s Reflections program. To learn more about the program and our annual theme, and to register, visit PTA.org/Reflections.


Amy Weinberg is a programs and partnerships manager for National PTA.