Thank you, 2019-2020 National PTA Reflections Reviewers

As we begin to celebrate the talented young winners of the 2019-2020 Reflections program who responded to the student-selected theme “Look Within,” we’d like to give a special round of applause to all of our national round reviewers! The national round judges review the top student submissions from every state. Our judges look at each student’s entry and artist statement in the six Reflections categories of Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts, as well as our Special Artist Division.

This year, our national round reviewers saw almost 1,000 submissions from 47 State PTAs and the European PTA! The reviewers carefully evaluate each work using both the artwork and the artist statement to make their decisions. We are so grateful to these volunteer reviewers for donating their time and artistic expertise to help us name the Outstanding Interpretation winners, Award of Excellence winners and Award of Merit winners. Thanks to the reviewers’ hard work, National PTA is able to recognize over 200 student artists and award over $21,000 in scholarship funds to our national-level winners.

The national round reviewers are all artists themselves, ranging from songwriters to professional photographers to choreographers to film makers! The organizations they work with include the Smithsonian Institution, NPR Music, Opera Lafayette, Arts Access NC, the Chrysler Museum and the International Consortium for Advancement in Choreography, Inc. All of the reviewers value the impact the arts had on their childhood and their current artistic process.

Several of the reviewers were new to the process, and loved being part of it! One of the Dance Choreographer reviewers said this about her experience, “I absolutely adored every minute of reviewing dance submissions for the Reflections awards…I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as soon as I clicked “Play” on the first entry in my queue I actually found myself teary-eyed.”

When asked about her first memory of creating something was, a Photography reviewer revealed that her connection to art started with Reflections! “My first memory of making art is honestly a Reflections contest when I was 10 or 12. It was the first time I used a camera with the purpose of making art…I felt so cool and professional!”

We are so grateful to our reviewers for their support of Reflections and helping us to recognize students’ accomplishments in the arts, especially in a time when we’re all turning to the arts for communication, comfort and creativity. We could not do this without the volunteer leadership that these arts professionals provide.

Visit PTA.org/Reflections on Friday, May 1st for the announcement of the 2019-2020 Reflections “Look Within” winners and to learn more about the 2020-2021 theme “I Matter Because…”For more information on the awards our winners receive, visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards

Ways to Make Your PTA Virtual

With so many schools closed through the end of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how are PTA/PTSAs keeping in touch with their school communities? They are going virtual!

National PTA surveyed local leaders from across America and heard about the many amazing things they are doing to be relevant to their members, students, families and communities together during this health crisis, with stay-at-home orders and social distancing in place.

Your PTA serves a vital role in supporting your community, and that role has only become more important during COVID-19. Try some of these creative ideas to bring people together, while respecting social distancing.

Community Building (Online)

Email, Google Docs and remote classrooms can go a long way to serving your students’ academic needs, but what about their emotional ones? Your PTA can support a feeling of community and school spirit even online.

  • #TogetherApart: Support stay at home orders by requesting students and families to post pics of how they are social distancing.
  • A Taste of Normal: Use your PTA Facebook page to help your school continue to deliver morning announcements (weather, birthdays, daily math problems and more) on Facebook Live.
  • Virtual Spirit Wear: Encourage your community to share their school pride by taking a pic in their school gear and sharing to your PTSA’s Facebook.
  • School Spirit Week: Similarly, ask your families to post different pictures online according to a new theme each day–crazy hat day, PJ day, crazy sock day, etc.
  • Bust Boredom: Lift people’s spirits! Send out daily challenges (fitness, crafts, etc.) or provide virtual morale boosters (funny pictures, inspirational quotes, etc.)
  • Let’s Read Together: Pick a book for your community to read together. Have the principal, your PTA President or a great volunteer record themselves reading and share the video online.
  • Make Space: Put the “social” in social isolation by hosting a virtual meet-up for your families on Zoom or Google Hangouts.

The Great Outdoors

Getting a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine can be critical for mental and physical health, particularly for children. Remind your families to don their masks, stay at least six feet from others, and participate in one of these fun challenges.

  • Chalk the Walk: Have families get outside in the fresh air to draw pictures or write positive messages on their driveways or on the sidewalk. Then families can walk around the neighborhood, get some exercise and enjoy all the art and messages. This activity could be neighborhood or community-wide.
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Host a neighborhood scavenger hunt! Ask school families and community members to place a teddy bear or bear pictures in a window, front yard, in a tree, etc. Kids and families can get outside, get some exercise and hunt for the bears while practicing social distancing. Tell families to post online how many they found!
  • Themed walks! One of our local PTAs held a shamrock walk for St. Patrick’s Day. Families drew and cut out shamrocks and put them in their windows. Families could walk around and find shamrocks. This idea can be adjusted for other occasions, like emojis and signs for Teacher Appreciation Week, or made evergreen by using something like rainbows.

Take Your Events Online!

Don’t let all your PTA’s prep work go to waste! It may take a little creativity, ingenuity and flexibility, but you can (and should!) try to host some of your beloved events online!

  • Virtual Talent Show: Give kids the chance to show off their hobbies and special abilities!
  • Virtual Career Day: Inspire kids to keep studying so they can become their heroes.
  • Virtual Graduation Celebration: Missing milestones can be tough. Collaborate with your school to do something for your High School Seniors.
  • Online After School Programs: Some after school programs sponsored by your PTA might be able to be moved online with the help of your enrichment program vendors.
  • Online Reflections! Encourage your PTA students to start working on their Reflections submissions. This year’s student-selected theme is I Matter Because

Provide Resources

As a family engagement association, your PTA plays a unique role as a go-between with your school and your community. In a crisis like this one, that role becomes even more important.

  • Bulletin Board: Don’t underestimate your reach! Share links to your state’s assistance for unemployment/underemployment or information on free internet options.
  • Food Pantry: If your PTA already runs a food pantry, please continue to do so! Some of our PTAs have switched to a drive-through model of service to minimize contact.
  • Special Delivery: Mobility can be a huge problem for some families. Your PTA could consider delivering school meals for those who can’t come pick them up.
  • Power Community Action: The PTA voice is mighty! Grassroots activism can be as simple as sharing National PTA’s action alerts or starting a petition around your state or local legislation.
  • Community Childcare: Essential workers may be having difficulty arranging reliable childcare. Your PTA can help connect families who are available to provide childcare to families in need of childcare.
  • STEM @ Home: PTA can create easy STEM activity packets (try the ones on our STEM @ Home page!) and hand them out when students pick up school meals.
  • Virtual Vacation: Many families have had to cancel their travel plans for Spring Break. Your PTA can turn this into an educational opportunity by sharing destinations for families to explore together virtually every day, with tours of historic sites, local recipes, themed crafts and traditions.

Keeping Revenue Coming In

Your PTA can’t do all of the great things it does without resources! Try these ideas to raise much-needed funds.

  • Restaurant Takeout Night: Support local businesses while raising money for your PTA and school! Collaborate with a local restaurant and ask your families to order takeout. A percentage of those sales can be donated to your PTA.
  • Set Up a GoFundMe: Make it easy for your families to support each other! Set up a site to collect online monetary donations for your PTA/PTSA food pantry.
  • Sell Graduation Yard Signs: Help your community celebrate their special seniors! Create cute “congrats grad!” signs that, when sold, a volunteer can then drive by and put it in the recipient’s yard.
  • Sell Spirit Wear: Sometimes what you wear can make all the difference in how you feel. Lift spirits and build a sense of community by selling spirit wear for your school and your PTA!
  • Host an Online Auction: Reach out to local businesses for donations of vouchers, gift cards or other “to-be-used-in-the-future” items your families could use, then host an event live on an online conferencing platform.

Meet and Greet

Our PTA Family can always use more members! In a time of social distancing, we need to create connections more than ever before. Use this moment to invite all your school community to join your PTA/PTSA!

  • Make Your Meetings Effective: Your PTA/PTSA meetings can easily be hosted online but be sure to stay organized and on task. Send out all the materials in advance and be respectful of your members’ time.
  • Make Your Meetings Impactful: Invite key players such as the principal, school staff and other school parents to brainstorm how your PTA can best help support families.
  • Celebrate Your Volunteers: Create opportunities to share the great work your PTA is doing, while letting people know you appreciate their efforts.

On behalf of National PTA, thank you for all you do to support children and families. Quarantine is really tough, but we want you to know that you’re doing an amazing job and we’re so #PTAProud of you! Visit PTA.org/COVID-19 for critical resources, join our local PTA leader Facebook group, and share your local PTA/PTSA virtual story with us. Stay safe!


Suzan Yungner is the director of membership and field service for National PTA.

Use Healthy Habits All Year Long!

Remind kids to continue using healthy habits during the spread of COVID-19

No matter the time of year, everyday preventative hygiene habits should be taught to children to help curb the spread of germs. Especially in our current public health climate, it’s more important than ever to teach healthy habits to your children. Lysol and National PTA endorse following the following six steps that are recommended by the CDC to help stop the spread of COVID-19:[1]

  • Wash Your Hands: The number one thing you should be doing is washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to wash between your fingers and underneath your nails as much as possible.
  • Cover Your Mouth: Make sure that you are covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throwing it directly in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow and not your bare hand so you don’t spread the germs when you touch something.
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Be conscious of touching your eyes, nose and mouth as it is an easy way to transfer germs to yourself.
  • Disinfect Frequently Touches Surfaces: Make it a habit to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs and light switches, on a daily basis to help curb the spread of germs.
  • Practice Social Distancing: Put distance between yourself and others whether or not COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting sick.
  • Stay Home When You Are Sick: Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.

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

[1] CDC.gov. “How to Protect Yourself

Advocacy Spotlight: Gun Violence Prevention

Gun violence is such an overwhelming issue in our nation, it can be paralyzing to think about. How can you as one parent, or even as one PTA unit, make a difference? Thankfully, there are PTAs who have been paving the way, and we had the chance to talk with three representatives from Mercer Island PTA, Lori Cohen-Sanford, Erin Gurney, and Gwen Loosmore.

Mercer Island PTA has been advocating for gun violence prevention since 2018. They shared with us their lessons learned and advice for like-minded groups.

What do families need to know about gun violence and gun violence prevention?

Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for youth in our country. Over half of those gun deaths are suicides. Everyone has a role in gun violence prevention. If families do own guns, they need to make sure they are safely stored. Families need to feel comfortable asking if there are guns in the home, when their children go for a playdate– just like they would share about any allergies or ask about pets or swimming pool safety.

What strategies have you found most effective when advocating for gun violence prevention?

It’s crucial to know your platform. Familiarize yourself with National PTA’s position statement. Mercer Island PTA has made a habit of laminating them and bringing them everywhere!

Don’t forget that PTA is an advocacy association. We speak on behalf of all children ESPECIALLY on behalf of children’s safety. We have the authority as PTA members to advocate for these positions. It’s helpful to have or establish a state platform, as well. We have found that parents want to act, so it’s helpful to give them something to do – specific bills to support, newsletters to read, encouragement to ask about guns in the home at playdates, etc. We really say that we are doing the advocacy work one conversation at a time. It’s also important to remember that every parent wants the violence to stop. There is a lot of common ground and we need to normalize the conversation around firearms in our society.

What advice do you have for PTAs who want to make gun violence prevention a higher priority in their school, district or state?

Talking about gun violence can make a lot of people nervous because it’s become a political issue in our country and we don’t want our schools to become split by political divides. The challenge here is to remind people that PTA is an advocacy organization and we’re advocating for student safety. What we are trying to do is change the culture in how we talk about gun violence prevention. Even gun owners are supportive of a lot of these measures.

Find like-minded parents and get organized. Consider going to non-PTA gun violence prevention organizations, like the Brady Campaign or Moms Demand, to find other local parents who share your passion.

Overcommunicate. If your leadership is concerned keep them informed of everything you’re doing, before you do it, share why, and how it falls into National PTA’s mission. National PTA already has a position statement on gun violence, and a website on family resources for school safety and questions you can start with that you KNOW falls within what PTA has authorized – start there!

Every community, every PTA, every individual has a specific set of experiences and what works for Mercer Island PTA might not everywhere. However, what is absolutely universal is people need to feel empowered and they need to know that they have the power to create change if they bring themselves together around this issue.

Curious how you can talk to your kids about these issues? Tune in to our podcast, Notes from the Backpack, to hear Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez share tips on talking to your children about gun violence in developmentally appropriate ways!

 

6 Things Parents Need to Know About E-Cigarettes

Many parents have high school memories of classmates sneaking cigarettes and of the Marlboro man, Joe Camel, and Virginia Slims ad campaigns that made cigarettes seem ubiquitous and cool. Over time, public health education campaigns and effective public health policies have driven smoking rates to record lows, and made smoking more like the exception than the rule. But now there is a new threat to our kids’ health in the form of e-cigarettes –nicotine-loaded products about which many parents have little knowledge, and to which tweens and teens have flocked as a result of appealing flavors, deceptive marketing, and plenty of exposure. We want to help you change this narrative! Here are 6 things parents need to know about e-cigarettes.

1.) It’s not just an “other kids” issue

We know this is hard news to hear, but it is highly likely that e-cigarettes are in high use at your kid’s school. Nationally, over in four high school students and one in ten middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. That’s 5.3 million teens altogether, which means that even if your child is not using e-cigarettes, they almost certainly have friends who are. Rates of youth e-cigarette use more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, to the point that the U.S. Surgeon General declared the problem an “epidemic.”

2.) E-cigarettes come in deceptive forms

One reason many parents are unaware of the widespread use of e-cigarettes is because they don’t look like regular cigarettes. Many of these products look like pens or flash drives, and they can be disguised as watches or tucked into the sleeve of a hoodie.

3.) The tobacco industry is actively targeting kids

If you’re wondering why so many middle and high school students use e-cigarettes, kid-friendly flavors and marketing play a big role. E-cigarettes are sold in a huge variety of appealing flavors, from gummy bear and banana ice to mango and mint. Studies have found that most youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and say they use these products “because they come in flavors I like.”

4.) E-cigarettes are highly addictive

Another reason why there’s a rise in e-cigarette usage is because e-cigarettes are formulated to be highly addictive. The over 15,000 kid-friendly flavors hide the fact that e-cigarettes can deliver massive doses of nicotine, a highly addictive drug. For example, a single pod (cartridge) of the popular Juul brand delivers as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. Even now, as Juul stopped selling some flavors, newer disposable brands, like Puff Bar and Mojo, continue to lure kids with dozens of flavors and look just like JUUL with even higher doses of nicotine. Kids are also using refillable devices like Smok and Suorin, which they can fill with nicotine liquids in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths.

5.) Any positioning of e-cigarettes as a positive thing is just wrong

You may see positive messaging about e-cigarettes, and it’s just wrong. A 2016 Surgeon General’s report concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, causes addiction and can harm adolescent brain development, which impacts attention, memory and learning. E-cigarettes can also expose users to harmful and carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde and lead. And studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers.

6.) You have power!

It’s really important to remember that you have power in this situation! Educate yourself on these products and leverage your voice to help end this epidemic. A growing number of states and cities have passed laws banning flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill to do the same, called the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act,” but the Senate has yet to act. So contact your elected officials at all levels and urge them to take action to protect kids.

We realize that it can be scary to wrap your head around another worry in relation to your kids. But you have taken a big first step here by learning what the products look like and learning the risks. And what about next steps? We recommend talking to your kids about the health risks of e-cigarettes and creating an open dialogue with them and calling your elected officials.


Jessica Cohen Senior Director of Strategic Communications Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jessica leads Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Protect Kids: Fight Flavored e-Cigarettes campaign to end the youth e-cigarette epidemic and spare a generation from the grip of addiction to nicotine. https://fightflavoredecigs.org/resources-for-parents/

How Life360 Crash Detection Helped Save Our Boys

On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, my two sons, ages 16 and 13, were driving on the freeway and collided with another car. The car veered off the road, down an embankment, hit a tree and flipped over.

Every parent’s nightmare.

I’m a therapist and never look at my phone during a patient session, but it kept buzzing. I knew something was wrong as soon as my receptionist knocked on my door.

Fortunately, we have a Life360 membership with Crash Detection. The sensors had detected a collision and immediately, a Life360 representative contacted both my wife and me. Even though I couldn’t be reached right away, they’d already dispatched emergency services.

I immediately left the office and my wife and I used Life360 to direct us to the exact scene of the accident. When we arrived, the police and ambulance were already there – and thankfully, the boys didn’t have a single scratch on them. We feel very, very blessed.

It was a day that could have gone much differently, but thanks to Life360 Crash Detection and first responders, it didn’t.

We have four kids, which you can imagine gets pretty hectic. From helping keep my family coordinated on a daily basis to knowing that my kids are safe (and vice versa), Life360 has truly changed our lives

 


 

Ryan Darrow is a Life360 member, husband, and father of four. Here, he shares how Life360 Crash Detection helped protect his teen sons as driver and passenger when every second counted. Crash Detection is available for free at http://bit.ly/394eDtu

The Top 3 COVID-19 Legislative Packages You Need To Know

National PTA is engaged in, and closely monitoring the details of the third legislative package. Specifically, we are focused on ensuring that federal resources are able to quickly get to states and school districts, including dedicated resources to support distance learning, and that there are appropriate flexibilities provided, however we are opposed to broad waivers that raise significant equity and civil rights concerns.

Right now, negotiations are ongoing many provisions in the bill including those related to distance learning in the third package.  More details to come as we learn them.

COVID-19 Relief Package #3
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

PLEASE NOTE: The contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

Latest Action: Procedural vote in Senate on 3/22 failed. Negotiations are ongoing.

Summary: The most recent plan would provide $20 billion to the Education Department to help states, schools and colleges with unprecedented disruption of every level of education across the country.

The grants to states would be determined by population and controlled by governors, who would have to allocate money to school districts or colleges that have been “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”

The Education Department would also provide some funding directly to school districts based on the share of low-income students. That money could be used for a wide range of purposes, including training and professional development, distance learning, purchasing supplies to sanitize schools and planning for long-term school closures.

There is $25 million for “Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program” in the current proposal.  National PTA is pushing for a much larger amount of funding for K-12 distance learning.

A previous iteration of the bill would have provided broad wavier authority to Secretary DeVos to waive any provision of the main federal laws governing higher education, K-12 education and career and technical education. However, under the new proposal, the Education Department would be allowed to waive only certain provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including those dealing with required assessments, state education plans and the allocation of funding. There is a provision in the bill that would allow the Education Department to make legislative recommendations on any additional waivers that need to be enacted into law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Again, please note that the contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

COVID-19 Relief Package #2
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 18, 2020.

Summary: The second COVID-19 relief package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201), would provide $1 billion in nutritional aid, expand access to COVID-19 testing and expand sick leave benefits. Relevant education- and workforce-related provisions include:

  • $500 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • $400 million for the Commodity Assistance program.
  • Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits for families with at least one child who would be receiving free and reduced-price meals and whose school has been closed for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • $160 million for home delivered meals.
  • $80 million for the Congregate Nutrition Services program under the Older Americans Act.
  • Providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with authority to grant waivers (until September 30, 2020):
    • Of statutory and regulatory provisions under the Child Nutrition and School Lunch Acts in order to provide meals and meal supplements in the event of school closures due to COVID-19;
    • Of provisions in the School Lunch Act which prevent increased Federal costs when implementing summer food service programs;
    • To States for the purposes of providing meals and meal supplements in a manner that provides appropriate safety measures. These waivers would be automatically applied to States that seek them without further application by the State;
    • To provide non-congregate feeding under the Child and Adult Care Food program, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of requirements regarding the nutritional content of meals, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of administrative requirements under WIC for States, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19; and
    • Of the physical presence requirement at the time of WIC certification (current law requires WIC recipients to be physically present when they are certified for benefits). Anthropometric and bloodwork requirements would also be allowed to be waived.
  • Providing an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide:
    • Paid leave, connected to a public health emergency related to COVID-19, to employees at organizations with fewer than 500 total employees to care for a child if childcare is unavailable. Employees would have to be employed for at least 30 days by their employer and the U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders.
      • The first 10 days of such leave may consist of unpaid leave, with employees being able to substitute vacation, paid leave or sick leave for unpaid leave. Employers are required to provide paid leave for leave days after such initial 10-day period. The amount of pay is required to be at least 2/3rds of the pay an employee would receive based on an employee’s normally scheduled hours of work. Paid leave would not have to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • Providing an Employer provided paid sick leave benefit:
    • The benefit would be provided to employees of private businesses with fewer than 500 employees and employees of public entities for illness or quarantine related to COVID-19 or the care of someone who is quarantined due to or ill because of COVID-19. Employers may exempt health care providers or emergency responders from this benefit
    • Full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours, with part-time employees receiving up to the number of hours they would normally work over a 2-week period.
    • The paid sick leave benefit would only be in effect through the end of 2020.Limits exist on daily and aggregate paid sick leave amounts provided to employees.
    • The U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders from the benefit

COVID-19 Relief Package #1
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 6, 2020.

Summary: The first COVID-19 relief package, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R.6074), included $8.3 billion in emergency funding and was signed into law on Friday, March 6. The bill was focused on vaccine development, research and equipment stockpiles, and supporting State and local health budgets. The bill did not contain any education- or workforce-related provisions.

National PTA Celebrates the Heroes Around Us All

National PTA’s Reflections program has helped students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, increase confidence and find a love for learning that will help them become more successful in school and in life. Each year, over 300,000 students participate in Reflections in response to the annual theme.

On Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education hosted the National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase & Exhibit Opening, honoring the over 200 national winners from the 2018-2019 program year.

During the hour-long program, the 2018-2019 theme, Heroes Around Me, was reflected through performances and features in all of our categories: Photography, Visual Arts, Literature, Music Composition, and Film Production. Heroes to these students included parents, siblings, public workers, farmers, teachers, troops and even animals!

Our first featured artist was Beckett Bayan. Beckett composed a piece of music for the violin called “When Blue Butterflies Take Flight Again,” which is about endangered butterflies in his hometown in California. Beckett’s mom says that Beckett composed his first piece of music in the first grade for a Reflections project, and he hasn’t stopped writing music since!

Next we heard from Benjamin Breaux, the featured artist for the Special Artist division. Ben is a non-speaking autistic and uses a letterboard to communicate. Ben wrote a poem inspired by his mom, who he says, “supports others in so very many ways and always makes those she is supporting feel like heroes themselves.” Ben’s message was moving and we’re so grateful that he shared his powerful words.

The featured film producer was Sarah McFeely, whose film is entitled “Part of Something Bigger.” Sarah’s grandmother worked for NASA! She helped to secure funding for the Manned Space Flight mission – truly part of something bigger. Sarah says, “Having the opportunity to submit to competitions like PTA Reflections also encourages me to continue my artwork and find creative outlets throughout the year.” Thank you, Sarah!

Aditi Gokhale, featured literature winner, then shared her poem “The Unseen Heroes.” Her poem is about honeybees and relates the hardworking bees to the unnoticed heroes in our midst! Firefighters, police officers, teachers, inventors and parents are all heroes to Aditi, and she says their work often goes unnoticed. Aditi asks us to appreciate those hard workers and to acknowledge that there is a hero in all of us. Thank you, Aditi, for your empowering message.

Riley Zwiselsberger’s photograph of four firefighters shows us that heroes have fun, too! He says “I realized the day I took this photo that they are also heroes because they love to teach and help people, too. They spent so much time with us and made me laugh, too!”

The featured dance choreography piece was presented by Grace Youn. Grace was inspired by her aunt to create this dance. Her aunt is a veterinarian who also rescues animals. Grace’s dance was a beautiful tribute to those who dedicate their lives to helping animals!

Cleopha Costa presented her winning visual art piece called “There is Always Someone Who Needs You!” She created her painting using acrylic paint, pen, pencil, and watercolor. The painting depicts someone stopping to assist a man experiencing homelessness. Cleopha reminds us that “it is essential to offer a helping hand and pick up someone when they break down. You never know how much of a hero you mean to them.”

After hearing from our featured artists and special guests, it was time to officially open the exhibit with a ribbon-cutting! The print and digital exhibit will be on display at the U.S. Department of Education, by appointment only, through February 2020. Its next destination will be Louisville, Ky. for the 2020 National PTA Convention & Expo.

 


Written by Hope Cagle, Arts in Education Fellow, National PTA Reflections Program.

For more information on the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.

 

 

 

 

 

8 Easy Steps for an Awesome Field Day!

Winter is winding down, which can only mean one thing—Spring is right around the corner! You may be looking ahead to a 5th grade graduation, or even thinking of that upcoming summer vacation, but wait! Don’t let Field Day catch you by surprise this year.

At Booster Spirit Wear, we work with thousands of schools across the country every day and hear all of the best insider tips and tricks to pulling off the biggest events of the school year. Below we have complied everything we know about Field Day and built out 8 easy steps to help you be the hero for your school and students this year.

Build Your Committee and Choose a Date

Let the planning begin! First and foremost, you should pick a Field Day date that works best for your school. Consider things like your location, where you’re located, and public holidays. Once you have this set, everyone has something to look forward to!

Now it’s time to build your team. There are countless positions you may decide are important to nominate, but to name a few we suggest having a Day of Games Chair, someone over Teacher Communications, and a Sponsorship Chair. Want to keep all this info in one place? Check out this customizable Field Day Experience Toolkit to help your organize your committee and more!

Establish Sponsorship levels and begin reaching out

Sponsorship is one of the very best ways to make your Field Day a success not only your school, but for the community as a whole. Committing to the Field Day sponsorship process isn’t as daunting as some may think. In fact, we’ve provided you some simple steps below and resources to help make this an easy and rewarding process for your school here. First step? Create your sponsorship levels. These are the tiers in which businesses can commit to give. It will allow community sponsors of any level get involved with a local school they’d love to support. We’ve included suggested Sponsorship Tiers in our guide.

Order Your Field Day Merch

We believe one of the best ways to take your Field Day to the next level is to create custom merchandise for your school or even by grade. Field Day t-shirts provide an excellent place to sport sponsor logos, and your students will love having team tees, custom water bottles or shades as a memento from the day. Click here for a custom quote in seconds for all your Field Day needs!

Make Your Supplies Budget

So, planning is underway. Sponsors are beginning to deliver their support. The students and teachers getting excited. But what do you actually need? It’s time to make your supplies budget. Your committee should come together to determine everything you will need, from coolers to cones and everything in between! Find a customizable supplies budget table for your to use in our Field Day Experience Toolkit.

Recruit Parent and Teacher Volunteers

It’s likely that your committee has already been in touch with your schools PTO, but it’s a great time to begin recruiting day of volunteers for set-up, tear-down, hydration stations, and of course game masters!

Plan out the Big Day!

You’ve likely already determined your day of activities, but it’s important to make sure you have a solidified schedule to share with volunteers and teachers. Things to remember include: what will lunch look like? Is dismissal changing any? And don’t forget a rainy-day backup plan!

Set Up Field Day and Orient Your Volunteers

Weather permitting, we suggest setting up as much as possible for your Field Day activities before the day of. This is when your committed volunteers really get to show their colors! Water stations, cone stacked obstacle courses, and signage can be set up so the morning of.

You may choose to meet with your volunteers before set-up. A few things you’ll want to make sure to do when meeting with your team include: thanking them in advance! Establishing a way to communicate throughout the day. Establish clarity of roles and emergency procedures. And make sure everyone knows where to get water. We are definitely team: No one passes out!!!

Once set-up and orientation are complete, you get to take a deep breath. You’re almost there!

Have the Best Field Day Ever!!

We can’t tell you this is the easiest step, but it is by far the most exciting step! All your hard work is paying off in the form of giggles and squeals as your students seriously have the best day of the year.

We hope this post has given you an outline of how to approach and plan the best Field Day ever with less stress and more fun! If you would like an even more detailed how-to checklist with a Three Month to day-of countdown, we’ve got you cover here.

Focus on Health with a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Cumberland Trace Elementary School PTA (Bowling Green, Ky.)

 This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

When I saw the opportunity to apply for the Nestlé Waters Healthy Hydration Program Grant through National PTA, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew winning the grant could help open a pathway for Cumberland Trace Elementary PTA to host a healthy lifestyles event at our school in Bowling Green, Ky!

Like most PTAs, we host lots of events, but rarely are they solely focused on health. We decided to hold our event during a time when many parents would be at our school anyway: our annual Thanksgiving lunch! This ended up working out perfectly because we were able to reach many parents and grandparents as they came to eat lunch with their students. We set up our Healthy Hydration Stations in the “holding area” where parents waited for their students and they were all really happy to try all of our infused water choices and to take a bottle of water with them to lunch.

We also included a display showing how much sugar is in other drinks and we had information about local outdoor activities families could go do together. The entire event came together very nicely and what was really great about it was we gave kids and parents new ideas on how to make their water fun at home!

Several of the recipes we used were unique—strawberry basil, cucumber mint and orange blueberry—and several parents said they never would have thought to put them in their water and looked forward to trying it at home. The kids really liked trying the different flavors, too; it was fun for them to try to mix and match. Strawberry basil was the clear winner with the younger set.

We had many teachers attend the event, which was another plus to hosting it during the school day. Many of them came by and were able to fill up their reusable water bottles with the infused water!

The only real cost involved for us was buying all the fruit, cups, napkins, dispensers and printing recipes and other information. The bottles of water and signage were all provided by National PTA and Nestlé Waters. Leading up to the event, I created a flyer, which we sent home to every student and posted on social media sites. We also included it in the school’s newsletter.

Initially, I thought I would love to see this become part of a larger event that the PTA hosts in the evening, but now that we held it during the school day, I think we were able to reach a larger audience and would absolutely do it again. Many students who probably have never had infused water were able to try it and learn that water can taste really great! To me, seeing their little surprised faces as they tasted water in a new way was the best part.

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Authored by Becky Durkee from Cumberland Trace Elementary School PTA in Bowling Green, Ky.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 20192020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.