Member Growth, Huge Turnout 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.

 

Did you know that games are good for motor skills, help our kids solve problems, can lead students to get better grades, and promote family bonding? That’s why at Cedargrove PTA, we are proud to host three Family Game Nights every year, which we think are unforgettable for everybody.

Family Game Nights give students and parents the opportunity to test out some of today’s most popular games without having to purchase them while wondering if they will even enjoy them. It also brings together many families and helps our local PTA grow relationships in the community as everyone takes turns, shares, and plays games with each other. These game nights also help parents understand and support what their children are doing at school.

Our tradition of hosting these game nights made Cedargrove PTA a great candidate to host a National PTA STEM + Families ThinkFun Family Game Night. Our PTA already had a team in place to coordinate with the school staff. Our librarian organized and marketed the event, a PTA volunteer made flyers to send home and to post on the school boards, and the principal added the game night event to the school’s marquee and made calls. We posted on the school website and on the PTA Facebook page, had a PTA Newsletter “Charger Chat” to advertise the event and had teachers send letters to parents reminding them how important it is for students to attend Family Game Night events.

To get familiar with the new ThinkFun games we were going to play at our event, we first had a ThinkFun game activity with our Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students to test out the games and get feedback. This experience gave us the idea to reach out to the local high school students to see if they could volunteer as facilitators during our event—giving them community service hours, too.

The night of the event, our PTA, librarian, and teachers set up tables to do hands-on math, reading, and  science activities. We had 14 stations with each game labeled. When students entered, they had to sign to get a passport. They also got a raffle ticket for a chance to win some incredible prizes and if they completed their passports, they got another raffle ticket.

Being welcoming and inclusive is an important value within our PTA; everybody is welcome to attend our events! We were so happy that parents, grandparents, tutors, teachers, and students all showed up. Attendance for this event was significantly higher because we added new games and gave away some amazing prizes courtesy of ThinkFun.

We always ask for donations to sponsor our Family Nights because our budget for these events is small. Asking for community donations is also a great way for us to build our PTA’s reputation in the community—local businesses are now aware that we host these Family Game Nights and can help us spread the word.

Family Game Nights are great opportunity to increase your PTA’s membership too. We set up a membership table at each event with useful information about how our PTA is contributing to the school. We also gave away a few small prizes for just the parents who joined PTA that night.

Our ThinkFun Family Game Night turned out to be an amazing event where every member of the family was able to bond together while playing STEM board games.

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About the Guest Contributor, Yesy Reyes: Yesy Reyes is the PTA President at Cedargrove Elementary School in Covina, 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.

 

 

Family Game Night, Anyone? 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.

 

Curtsinger Elementary School PTA had a problem. We wanted to give our families bonding time and grow our membership, but it was becoming harder to grab families’ attention for evening programs. So, we sent out a quick survey to our families. We discovered a desire for more info about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But how could we make that fun for kids? The National PTA had the answer. We saw an opportunity for a ThinkFun Game Night grant, so we applied and thankfully received 48 games.

Our local PTA members got together with the school librarian and counselor and came up with a plan to cater to all our students, Kindergarten to fifth-grade. To entice more families to come, we announced six STEM game giveaways. Then, our counselor contacted the high school to recruit student volunteers to help facilitate the game stations. We divided the gym into sections and created game stations for each grade level. We were ready to have some good old-fashioned fun.

Or so we thought! We had such an overwhelming turnout that the librarian had to provide additional board games to ensure that all students were engaged. We were so pleased to give our families the STEM programming they desperately wanted.

As the night progressed, it was a little chaotic with most of us not knowing how to play the new games, but thankfully we had several math and science teachers there playing and learning the games with students. In the end it was perfect, because we gave all the games to the library and the teachers could check out the games at any point throughout the rest of the year.

One of the teachers stated, “I cannot say enough great things about the programs you bring to our school. I can tell that you put a lot of thought into the programs, making sure that they are educational, yet fun, and most of all engaging for the students.”

In addition to the ThinkFun Family Game Night programming, we were also able to incorporate a parent education night during the event. Our guest speaker gave us practical tools to handle the stresses in today’s society and upcoming standardized tests. We had a great response from parents saying they had no idea they were adding stress to their kiddos and they were grateful for the tips and words of encouragement.

So, this all being said, get creative with your event! This didn’t cost us a dime! Will we do another Game Night? Absolutely! This year we are adding a sponsor from our community that has fun coding games for the kids. If you’re going big…why not have real Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots?

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About the Guest Contributor, Aliina Plunk: Aliina Plunk is the PTA President at Curtsinger Elementary School in Frisco, 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.

PTA RECAP: Healthy Lifestyles Month and Get Off Your Apps Events

To help National PTA celebrate Healthy Lifestyles Month this November, Goya-Move awarded $1,000 to 15 local PTAs to host a “Get Off Your Apps” Physical Activity Event at their elementary or middle schools. Congratulations to these 15 PTAs who used our program toolkit to plan, promote host and celebrate their events.

So, now that November is over you may wonder, “What did a successful ‘Get Off Your Apps’ Physical Activity Event look like?” 

Charles R. Drew Charter School PTA in Atlanta knows! The PTA hosted the first “Get Off Your Apps” Physical Activity of the month Nov. 3 at their school with games, relays, obstacle courses and a scavenger hunt. The PTA encouraged everyone to come out with their friends and families, put down their phones and play! This PTA was able to beat the competition of busy schedules and spread the word far and wide to serve nearly 100 attendees; and the music, prizes and healthy food options certainly didn’t hurt.

“The GOYA-Move event was so much fun and really got kids and their families running around and participating in physical activities together,” said PTA Program Leader Lindsey Luczynsk. In addition to promoting healthy lifestyles, this event proved successful in other areas by boosting awareness of the PTA and engaging more parents as volunteers. The event was fun for everyone, including the hard-working PTA Leaders.

“We had a great time putting together the plans and the attendees had a wonderful experience! The weather was absolutely perfect, and people are already asking if we can do this again next year,” said Luczynski. Charles R. Drew Charter PTA should be commended for their dedication to supporting healthy lifestyles with their plans to host events focused on health and wellness throughout the year.  It doesn’t have to be November to support healthy lifestyles at your school.

Learn more about our Healthy Lifestyles Initiative, partnerships and tools for hosting your own “Get Off Your Apps” Physical Activity Event at PTA.org/CelebrateHealthyLifestyles!

Plan Your Own Award-Worthy PTA Reflections Showcase Watch Party

 

Through the National PTA Reflections program, students receive national, state, and local recognition for their artistry and originality in dance choreography, film production, literature, music, photography, and visual arts. This year is even more important than usual as it is our 50th anniversary. Since 1969, when the program was founded, Reflections has helped so many students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, and find a love for learning!

To celebrate, National PTA is going all out by incorporating 50th anniversary celebrations into our upcoming events, including this year’s Reflections Student Arts Showcase at the Department of Education. This year’s Reflections Showcase recognizes our 2017-18 Reflections winners with a ceremony featuring guest speakers and student performances, followed by a digital and physical art exhibit. National PTA is pleased to present a live-casting of this year’s showcase event so that you can celebrate the Reflections program’s 50th anniversary with us!

As you plan your watch party, use these ideas to make your event award-worthy!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate!

Show-off your PTA’s artistic skills and decorate your watch party with 50th Anniversary and award show decorations. Whether it’s gold 50th balloons, a red carpet, or spotlight photo-op, a highly decorated watch party will encourage participation and fun!

Incorporate Learning into Your Watch Party

Whether your continuing to emphasize the importance of art literacy or if you want to focus on the 50th anniversary, there are a multitude of ways to make your watch party both fun AND informative.

Its Snack Time!

From pizza to cupcakes, a watch party is not complete without some tasty treats. You can use standard snack ideas, but why not dazzle your audience with some award show and 50th anniversary inspired snacks.

Finally – Share, Share, Share!

Share your ideas, photos, and videos using #PTAReflections to let us know how you celebrate the Reflections Showcase by sharing your ideas, photos, and videos using #PTAReflections.

We look forward to celebrating Reflections 50th Anniversary with all of you!

What is #GivingTuesday and How Can I Participate?

 

For many of us, Thanksgiving with our families makes the holiday season official. We gather with loved ones, give thanks for the blessings in our lives, and enjoy a day of togetherness and turkey.

We hardly have time to put away the leftovers before holiday shopping messages become urgent. Don’t miss Black Friday! Save time for Small Business Saturday! Don’t forget about Cyber Monday!

And then there’s #GivingTuesday.

With all of the messages about buying and taking you’ll hear over the next few days, #GivingTuesday (Nov. 27) provides a welcome reminder about the power of giving. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that kicks off the charitable season. Using the power of social media and collaboration, millions of people around the world proudly and publicly show their support for their favorite charity by making a gift on #GivingTuesday.

How will you join this global movement on #GivingTuesday?

This #GivingTuesday, National PTA will celebrate how the Reflections art program has impacted kids, schools and communities through the arts. National PTA will showcase Reflections artists past and present and raise awareness for the importance of the arts for children’s well-being.

We need your support!

For 50 years, 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.

Art education is critical to a child’s development and success:

  • Underserved students show the greatest relative improvements when participating in arts programs like Reflections.
  • Through movement, social interactions, emotional expression and application of skill, arts education provides an academic advantage to students.
  • The arts provide safe learning environments where students take risks, explore ideas, express their individuality and support their peers in a positive way.
  • Studies also find that students are more engaged, and teachers are more effective in arts-rich schools.
  • Research shows that students who study the arts develop a sense of personal responsibility toward their communities and can positively affect the community social life through their artwork.

National PTA’s cornerstone arts program engages nearly 300,000 students from all grade levels each year in categories like dance, film, literature, music, photography and visual arts. This #GivingTuesday, we’re asking you to give your children and grandchildren the gift of 50 more years of Reflections.

On Nov. 27, get active on social media, engage with your favorite organizations including National PTA, and give generously. We invite your support of National PTA’s Reflections program! Help us celebrate and spread the impact of the arts on children and families. You can donate here, and don’t forget to post on social media to encourage your friends to join you in giving!

 

 

An Inside Look at National PTA’s New Digital Safety Initiative

Last week, I visited Texas to help Chapel Hill Preparatory School in Dallas host the first Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. I’m a new staff member at National PTA, so this was my first opportunity to see PTA members in action. My first impression? PTA parents are dedicated! These parents came ready to be vulnerable—no small feat with the amount of parent-shaming that goes on today—and talk openly about tough parenting issues, provide support for one another and create solutions together.

Families began to trickle in for dinner before the workshop started, allowing people to eat, relax and meet one another. With every activity, parents became more comfortable with each other, letting down their guard to voice their concerns about password security and how to keep their kids safe online. Soraya Gollop, the community liaison for Chapel Hill Prep was elated their PTA was able to put on this event, saying, “Our parents found it really helpful because this is an issue which concerns them. This is a program well worth running.”

What does it take to host an event like the Be Internet Awesome Workshop? Well, National PTA and Google will provide you with all the resources you need to host a successful event. You can visit PTA.org/Connected to find flyers, volunteer forms, an event planning checklist, email templates, sample agendas, evaluation forms and more materials you can use to plan, promote and host the workshop. Our community liaison in Texas noted she, “appreciated the amount of support materials and how clear it was what you needed to do in order to put the workshop on. The results were really fantastic.”

At the close of the event, Chapel Hill’s cafeteria was buzzing with parents continuing conversations on digital safety. Parents were excited and ready to incorporate what they learned with their families.

While we at National PTA have been thrilled with the feedback from the first Be Internet Awesome workshops, we want to make sure we are meeting the needs and learning styles of all families, so we are also working on another event model—our Digital Families Community Events.

During these events, families work together at station-based activity sessions that present real-world scenarios that happen in the connected world. They discuss the best ways to react, who to reach out to for help and how to plan for similar situations before they happen.  Like the workshops, National PTA and Facebook have created easy-to-use materials to assist any PTA with hosting their own event, from start to finish.

These guided conversations give families another way to connect with one another about their lives online, in a positive environment. During the first Digital Families Community Event, a parent attendee commented, “I’m happy to see the things my kids already know. I never would have guessed that they knew to ask permission before posting information online about other people.” It’s that kind of enlightenment and togetherness that makes a hosting digital safety events so vital.

If you are interested in bringing one of these events to your PTA community, make sure to apply for a grant today. Applications can be completed at PTA.org/Grants.

What’s the Difference Between the Cold and Flu?

Cold and flu both start with a sore throat and stuffy nose, but what are the symptoms that differentiate each virus? As we move into the colder months, it’s important to know the difference between the cold and flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cold and flu have similar symptoms because they are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by a different virus. Symptoms of the cold can include sneezing, a stuffy nose, and a sore throat. The flu, on the other hand, includes cold symptoms, as well as feeling feverish, experiencing body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue.

Lysol and the National Parent Teacher Association want to make sure you avoid cold and flu symptoms by providing helpful tips to stay healthy.

  • Remember Your Flu Shot: The flu shot is the first step to help prevent getting sick. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reports that vaccine manufactures have estimated up to 169 million doses of the influenza vaccine will be available for the 2018-2019 flu season.
  • Always Be Prepared: Keep disinfectants available when you travel to help kill germs while you’re on the go. Lysol Disinfectant Spray To Go is easy to travel with and kills 99.9% of germs on hard surfaces, including cold and flu viruses. And don’t forget to frequently disinfect hard surfaces in the home with Lysol. Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfecting Wipes kill the cold and flu virus.
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Viruses can enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth, so avoid touching your face with unwashed hands!
  • Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry: These are the five simple and effective steps to washing your hands. Washing your hands regularly will help reduce your chances of to getting sick.

 

[1] CDC.gov. “Cold Versus Flu
[1] National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Influenza and Pneumococcal Disease Can be Serious, Health Officials Urge Vaccination”
[1] CDC.gov. “Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs

Be There When The Bell Rings for Take Your Family to School Week

National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW) is coming up fast! Throughout the week of Feb. 10-17, 2019, National PTA and local PTA units across the country will be hosting events to encourage family and community engagement, as well as celebrate National PTA Founders’ Day.

Although February is still months away, the way to ensure a successful TYFTSW event is to begin planning now. We’ve got a few event ideas for you!

  1.  Sharpen Literacy Skills: Host a family reading experience, where parents and children spend the evening reading and sharing their favorite books.
  2. Encourage Healthy Lifestyles: Try offering a healthy recipe contest or a school-wide Walk to School Day to help the whole family adopt healthier habits. 
  3. Get smart about STEM: Put on a math night, science festival or engineering game night to encourage all students’ interest in STEM education and careers. 
  4. Take Charge of Your Digital Life: Offer a PTA Connected digital learning event to help parents ensure their children act safely and responsibly online.

Thanks to the generosity of Office Depot OfficeMax, National PTA is thrilled to be able to provide 15 local PTAs with $1,000 to host a Take Your Family to School Week event. However, if you did not win one of these grants, we hope you still host a TYFTSW event!

We have plenty of guides, tips and templates online for you to plan and execute any of the events listed above successfully. A Take Your Family to School Week toolkit will be available to all PTAs at PTA.org/TYFTSW.

National PTA encourages all PTAs to make our mission come to life and to begin planning for Take Your Family to School Week this February!

Help Is Needed to Decide Art Program’s Theme

Did you know each year we hold a theme search contest for the National PTA Reflections program? For nearly fifty years, hundreds of students across the country have submitted theme ideas, and every year, one theme is chosen to serve as a catalyst for artistic creation for the following program year.

In addition to a $100 prize, winners receive national recognition by determining theme for the 2020-2021 Reflections program year. They also play a major role in inspiring hundreds of thousands of students to create original works of art and helping us celebrate the breadth of history of the last 50th years.

Interested in having a Theme Search Contest with your local Reflections program? Click here to see if your State PTA is hosting a Theme Search Contest.

We can’t wait to see what ideas students generate this year! To provide some extra inspiration, we’d like to share some past themes from the 2000s and the incredible artwork that was created as a result.

2000-2001: It Would be Really Strange If…

Name: Dillon Chilcoat

Division: Middle School Division

Title of Work: “It Would Be Really Strange if I Were Elected President

PTA: Earlywine Elementary PTA

City/State: Oklahoma City, OK

2002-2003: Signs of Courage

Name: James Kraemer

Division/Age: Middle School Division, Age 13

PTA: Five Forks Middle School PTSA

City/State: Lawrenceville, GA

2015-2016: Let Your Imagination Fly

Name: Anellina Jones

Division/Age: Primary Division, age 7

PTA: Wyoming PTA

City/State: Evanston, WY

Title: “Carboard Pilots”

2017-2018: Within Reach

Name: Erewyn Limric

Division/Age: Middle School Division

Title: “Yearning to Breathe Free”

PTA: Kalles Junior High PTSA

City/State: Puyallup, Washington

The 2018-19 theme is Heroes Around Me, selected by Hannah Crawley, a fifth grader from Corpus Christi, Texas! Right now, students are submitting works of art with this theme. It’s not too late to get involved – register now at PTA.org/Reflections!  

Next year, Reflections participants will have the opportunity to create original works inspired by the theme Look Within. This theme was submitted by Enashele Campbell, a Kindergartner from H. Guy Child Elementary PTA in Ogden, UT!

We hope you will take part in this annual contest to determine the theme for the 2020-21 year.

7 Best Tips When Applying For a Grant

1. Know what grants exist and when to apply

Sign up for National PTA’s newsletters and bookmark our grants page.

2. Tell a compelling story

Make sure all your answers work together to highlight your PTA’s strengths.

3. Share how the grant would impact your school community

Identify an existing need in your school community and explain how the grant will address that need.

4. Show your enthusiasm

Describe how the grant will provide an exciting opportunity for your school and PTA.

5. Answer all parts of the question

Include concrete, detailed examples and explanations that completely answer the questions asked.

6. Promote family engagement

Demonstrate how this grant will help you build stronger families in your community and how you will encourage all families to attend your event.

7. Get a second set of eyes

Ask someone to proofread your work for spelling, grammar and clarity before submitting the application.

 

We offer over 500 grant opportunities throughout the year. If you don’t receive a grant the first time, apply again!