Why I’m #PublicSchoolProud

My youngest son is truly my special gift. Tyler is a bright light, who makes our family and our world complete. He is smart, funny, warm, kind-hearted and autistic. He is enthusiastic about learning new things and inspires all who know him every single day. But he was also non-verbal until the age of six. I see the amazing person he is today and often wonder if Tyler would have made the same great strides without a quality public education.

What if his public school didn’t offer an outstanding program for students with special needs? Would he still be the thriving and productive young man that he has become? Would all of his unique emotional, cognitive, mental and emotional needs have been met in any other setting? As I ponder these questions, the only answer I can come up with is no, absolutely not!

His public school provided him with exceptional educational services and opportunities and opened doors to a wide variety of possibilities and inclusivity. We were blessed with a multitude of extraordinary educators and specialists who nurtured and shaped Tyler, who taught and guided him and who showed their complete devotion and commitment to his progress. They supported him, encouraged him, boosted him and helped him to achieve his full potential, as they helped him navigate through and overcome any obstacles that may have crossed his path along the way.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a team of educators, administrators and family members to mold that child into his or her very best self. Our team, in our Sachem Public Schools village on Long Island, is second to none! Tyler graduated from high school in 2018 with a New York State local diploma and I will be forever grateful for all they have done to ensure that his future is full of hope and promise.

Public education is our nation’s greatest hope. It is the promise that all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, learning abilities or disabilities, have a right to a free and appropriate education that will meet their diverse needs. It is public school that gives every child an equal chance to grow into a successful and flourishing member of society. A public education lays the foundation for a lifetime of opportunity and accomplishment.

Tyler is my reason to be #PublicSchoolProud. What’s yours? Read more about Public Schools Week and ways you can support our nation’s public schools.


Dana Platin is the vice president of New York State PTA.

The Best Recipe for Creating Healthy Schools

Are you hungry…for school health? Well, we have a recipe that’s sure to satiate you.

For best results, where all students at your school have equal access to education and opportunities for practicing healthy behaviors, combine two or more of the following ingredients. This recipe is ideal for those who understand that healthy students are better prepared to learn.

  • 1 helping of school grant funds: Apply for a parent-led school grant for $1,000 to help implement nutrition or physical activity programs at your school. Have you always wanted to build a school garden or start a cooking club? Or maybe you want to create an active indoor recess kit or institute regular family fitness nights? Here’s your chance to improve your school’s learning environment through health and wellness. Apply by April 5, 2019.
  • A couple pinches of Every Kid Healthy Week celebrations: Every Kid Healthy Week (April 22-26, 2019) is an annual observance that celebrates school health and wellness achievements. Start planning your school’s Every Kid Healthy Week events with our helpful resources and recommendations. From field days to health fairs to fun runs, thousands of schools across the country plan events that get the whole community involved, so join the healthy fun!
  • 1 whole school health team: One of the strongest ways to implement lasting school health programs is by joining or creating a school health team. Parent voices matter when it comes to creating a plan and leading projects that impact students’ bodies and minds for the better, so find out how to get started.
  • Several dashes of change: Whether it’s your school’s food culture or fundraising techniques, some things may need to change. Determine your goals for feasible school health improvements that you’d like to see, and then take action. There’s no time like the present to make sure kids are growing healthy and thriving.

The best recipes are made with passion, so channel yours into getting every kid healthy and ready to learn.


Action for Healthy Kids mobilizes school professionals, families, and communities to come together to take actions that lead to building healthier school environments where kids thrive.  We give kids the keys to health and academic success by improving physical activity opportunities and nutrition education throughout the school.

RECAP: 2019 PTA Reflections Showcase

For 50 years, the National PTA Reflections program has inspired millions of students to explore their talents and be involved in the arts by creating works for fun and recognition. Students are recognized each year for their artistic ingenuity to bring the annual theme to life in a way that is personal and meaningful.

On January 22, 2019 National PTA and the U.S. Department of Education recognized over 200 2017-2018 National PTA Reflections student honorees, who created original works of art using the theme “Within Reach.” The event kicked off the Reflections 50th Anniversary celebrations and included remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Over 200 individuals and 47 student artists registered for the event, representing 30 states across the nation.

This year, before the ceremony and in celebration of the program’s golden anniversary, student artists and their families were invited to an art-making activity to create fun 50th glasses, crowns and headbands. After creating they were encouraged to take fun photos at our pop-up photo station where balloons and big 5 and 0 signs adorned the area. They could share their photos using #PTAReflections and expand on their Reflections stories in a Pre-Show Facebook Live that friends and family could view from home. Students and their families could also enjoy a 50th-inspired snack bag filled with kid-friendly foods prior to the ceremony.

Then, as the auditorium doors opened, guests were greeted by a sampling of student work shown on the TVs. The hour-long ceremony consisted of guest speakers from National PTA and the U.S. Department of Education as well as four spotlight performances from our student artists. The ceremony concluded with our awardees on stage, listening to closing remarks from Secretary DeVos and participating in a ribbon cutting, officially opening the student art exhibit.

Guests then exited the auditorium to visit over 200 student works of art on display as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program, now in its 16th year. Students took pictures with their artwork which will remain in the exhibit hall through the end of the month. This exhibit will travel once more to National PTA’s Convention & Expo in Ohio.

Thank you to our wide Reflections network for supporting the Reflections program and our amazing student artists. Here’s to another 50 years! For more information about the National PTA Reflections program, visit PTA.org/Reflections.

New Resource to Support Children’s Learning and School Success!

Over the next few days, thousands of schools across the country will welcome parents, grandparents and other family members through their doors as part of the National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week. But our organizations wanted to give parents, PTA leaders — and anyone who works in partnership with families—a resource for making family engagement much more than a single event.

“Why Family Engagement Matters for Student and School Success ” is a new tool that we — Global Family Research Project (GFRP) and National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement — have jointly created to share what research says about how families contribute to students’ success. We also hope it will spark new and ongoing conversations about how families, PTA leaders, and schools can work together to support more equitable and effective approaches to family, school, and community partnerships.

For a little background, the Center for Family Engagement is the National PTA’s initiative to create a vision for the future of family engagement that addresses the needs of today’s diverse families in a fast-changing world. The Center for Family Engagement aims to elevate the voice of families as critical partners in family engagement policy and practice, build leadership among PTA leaders to advocate for transformative family engagement policies and practices, and raise awareness about innovative and evidence-based approaches to family, school, and community partnerships.

Leslie Boggs, National PTA’s President-Elect, shares, “We are excited to partner with Global Family Research Project on a tool that enables families to co-create more transformative approaches to family engagement in their homes, schools, and communities. This partnership has enabled us to make the latest research accessible and actionable for families and PTA leaders.”

“Sharing leading edge research and ways families, schools and communities can and are using it is at the center of our work,” says GFRP Director Heather Weiss, “so we jumped at this change to collaborate with the PTA to develop this new resource for their and other’s use.” This resource is based on a recent report commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which summarizes the many years of powerful research on why family members are so important to children’s learning and lays out all the valuable roles they play in creating schools and access to other learning opportunities so that all students can be successful. The report, and now this resource, lift up five areas where family engagement can have the greatest impact on children’s learning —attendance, sharing information on students’ progress, reinforcing children’s learning in areas such as literacy and STEM, using digital media, and during key transition periods in a child’s life.

“Why Collaborative Partnerships Matter for Student and School Success” presents this critical knowledge in simple, concise language and challenges families, PTAs—and others working with families—to consider what they have already accomplished in those five areas and to ask what more they can do to reach new families or build on existing efforts.

In addition to serving as a clearinghouse of innovative ways to partner with families, the Center for Family Engagement is also working to build local leadership for transformative family engagement through the National PTA Family Engagement Fellowship program. Four fellows from diverse communities across the country were the first to review and give feedback on this new tool, so we feel confident that parents and parent leaders will find it timely and useful.

Heather Losneck, a PTA leader from Berea City School District, Ohio, and a National PTA Family Engagement Fellow shared “My PTA at the middle school will be looking closer at how we can help support and promote a smoother transition into and out of middle school for our families. As a parent, these are great reminders to check myself and give me a chance to re-evaluate, reconnect and reinforce with my kids.”

The resource will also be available in Spanish and Mandarin to reach as many families as possible, and we are excited about the potential it has to spark new, exciting ideas for engaging families in their children’s learning.

We look forward to hearing—and sharing—examples of how families are using the tool to put that “bold vision” into action.

My Parent, My Advocate, My Hero

The 2018-2019 National PTA Reflections theme is “Heroes Around Me”. As time goes on, with all the drama and strife in the news, there is an ever-increasing need for our children to have a hero in their life. Someone who they know and believe will be there to root for them, even when all odds are stacked against them. As an association, we advocate to make every child’s potential become a reality. Our members are children’s heroes—our parents, our teachers, our administrators and our community leaders.

Those that advocate for children are heroes. Advocates of our children and students are passionate and will fight with everything they have, till their last breath if they must. My hero, at least, did this for me. She advocated for me because of that belief in my potential, even when countless others did not. My hero is my mom, Rebecca Thomas, who is a former Advocacy Partner for the New York State PTA, past-president of the Monroe Woodbury SEPTA in Orange County, New York and the proud mother of a son with autism.

My mom’s advocacy efforts for families with students with special needs began over a decade ago when I was not receiving the adequate services that I needed as listed in my Individualized Education Plan (IEP). She directly advocated for improved services for me by calling and writing letters to members of the school board, the district superintendent and the state’s department of education.

Indirectly, after seeing how her advocacy benefited her child, my mom joined the local PTA because she wanted to help other parents learn how to become advocates for their own children. She served as an officer in the local PTA, as well as on the district’s council and the regional board. In 2008, she became an active member and leader with another organization, Parents United Learning the Special Education System (PULSES), to help parents navigate the special education system and advocate for services for their children.

I am now attending college online at Southern New Hampshire University and pursing a degree in Human Services because of the advocacy efforts of my mom. In addition, I am serving on the Illinois and National PTA Board of Directors where I continue her work to advocate for all children, especially those with special needs. I do this knowing the level of impact advocacy has had on my own life.

By advocating for my education, my mom has also become an advocate for every child to receive a high-quality education. She believes, as all PTA members believe, that with a high-quality education, all children can lead a meaningful life, regardless of what challenges they face. I feel that the work she accomplished through the PTA has helped give me the foundation and support critical to succeeding in not just school but in life. Now, who is your hero?

New Partnership Equips Parents to Advocate for Safer Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

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

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

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

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

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

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

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

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

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

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

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

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

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

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

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

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

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

 

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

 

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

 

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

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

Getting Teachers Excited Gets Students Excited

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

Event Marketing

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

Attendance, Prizes and Favorites

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

Overall Costs

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

Conclusions

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

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

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

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

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

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

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

About the Guest Contributor, 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.