Make Connections at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Hollin Meadows PTA (Alexandria, Va.)

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

If you are looking for a way to get your school community involved in a meaningful, engaging and fun activity, consider hosting a National PTA Invention Night sponsored by littleBits! This event allows students and families to make so many connections—both the science kind and the personal kind!

We recently hosted an Invention Night at our Title 1 elementary school in Alexandria, Va., and it was an overwhelming success, with over 250 attendees! Because we are an extremely diverse school community, we promoted the event in multiple languages and multiple formats including fliers, social media, ads on our in-house news program and personal invitations. We also prepared several videos, some in both English and Spanish and some featuring our PTA event lead volunteer and our favorite teachers, to give a teaser about the cool inventions the kids would make.

These various outreach efforts allowed us to spread the word to more of our families and to make them feel welcomed, included and excited about the event from the outset. Our principal and teachers supported our Invention Night with announcements in the classrooms, school-wide email updates and tweets, in addition to being active participants during the event. We also invited our student alumni, neighbors and larger school community to volunteer. Due to these efforts, our attendees were reflective of our community, representing families from all grade levels, backgrounds and languages.

Having hosted weeknight events before, we know that feeding our families a full, free dinner is extremely important. Parents took the night off from cooking, knowing that their families would enjoy a wholesome Noodles & Co. meal—veggies included! We set up the event in the cafeteria, using the cafeteria line to serve dinner. Families ate in a designated section and once they’d finished, moved to the part of the cafeteria where the kits were positioned.

Because we had so many attendees, families paired up to work on the kits. This allowed families to meet other families and have a natural, shared experience as they worked together. Some families had challenges downloading the app or the specific invention instructions, so the cafeteria was abuzz with families sharing information and advice. It was beautiful to see new relationships forged and for families to collaborate and contribute their unique strengths to the group’s efforts.

Kids and parents alike were clamoring for more time with the kits, so we would definitely love to host another Invention Night! With events like these we are empowering not only future STEM professionals, we are empowering families and communities! Wow! Imagine the possibilities…

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor, Eileen Gorman: Eileen Gorman is the PTA President at Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus PTA in Alexandria, Va.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018-2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

 

How Do You Become a School of Excellence?

Spotlight on: Zane North PTA, N.J.

What does it look like to become a National PTA School of Excellence? According to Zane North PTA in New Jersey, it meant learning that even small, consistent changes can be absolutely transformative.

As participants in the School of Excellence program, Zane North PTA selected the focus area of ensuring health & safety of all students with the specific objective to prevent bullying and encourage peer relationships. The Zane North PTA collaborated with school staff throughout the year to successfully achieve these goals.

At the start of the school year, students in Kindergarten through second-grade were partnered with students in third to fifth-grade. These buddy partners met once a week all year for one-on-one readers’ workshops. In September, Zane North PTA sponsored Friendship Day, a daylong event where students and their buddy partners participated in fun outdoor games, challenges and activities with PTA volunteers providing support. The music teacher also led the students in several song singalongs focused on the value of friendship.

At the start of each morning, Zane students recited a Kindness Pledge, promising to be kind to others. Zane North featured a monthly core value theme with associated lessons, events and activities. For example, in October, they focused on Respect; in November, they focused on Sharing and in April, they focused on Compassion. Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre presented an anti-bullying assembly for students paid for by the PTA. The PTA also funded anti-bullying and kindness assemblies to emphasize acts of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance.

Through the School of Excellence process, Zane North PTA realized the value in building a sense of community and strengthening relationships. They revised their fundraising strategy and introduced fun group activities like bowling and ice skating to bring their school community together. This change received positive feedback from their community, and they were able to raise just as much money (and in some cases more) while strengthening relationships too!

Greg Dollak, Zane North PTA President shared that the National PTA School of Excellence program helped the PTA “… rethink the traditional ways in which we provided services to our school community” and said that the School of Excellence process, “…has set the tone for all we are doing now.” Having earned the 2018-2020 National PTA School of Excellence designation, Zane North PTA decided to reenroll in the program and is currently in pursuit of the 2019-2021 designation.

Even though they’re still hard at work improving their school community, Zane North PTA isn’t afraid to celebrate all of the amazing things they’ve accomplished so far! Last fall, after getting word that they had received a coveted National PTA School of Excellence designation Zane North PTA held an event to celebrate their success. It was attended by representatives from New Jersey PTA, Collingswood borough government, Collingswood Board of Education members, Congressman Donald Norcross, and of course our Zane North staff, students, and PTA executive board. The event was even covered live on FOX 29’s “Good Day Philadelphia.”

During the event, Zane North’s fourth and fifth-grade students performed several musical numbers under the direction of music teacher Bryan Gross, and students from each grade read a message thanking the PTA for all they do for the school. Zane North PTA also held a National PTA School of Excellence “banner reveal” at the event. They were showcased in a local newspaper article, received a congratulatory letter from United States Senator Cory A. Booker, and even had the School of Excellence logo printed on their school apparel.

To learn more about how your PTA can make long-lasting, continuous school improvements while earning recognition, visit PTA.org/Excellence. Enrollment for the 2019-20 program is open now!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Karen’s Pro-Tips

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

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

Take Action:

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

The Best School for My Daughter with Special Needs

When our daughter Stacey was diagnosed in third grade with three types of non-convulsive epilepsy and a related learning disability (called dyscalculia), my husband and I were at a loss about the best way to help her academically. This situation became even more complicated, as she concurrently began to struggle with motor skill functions, spatial issues and a lazy eye condition that required eye-patching.

Getting Stacey’s medical diagnoses was the easy part. Getting the academic solution was more of a challenge. Where should she attend school? What was the best environment for her to learn and thrive academically? She was already in a top, year-round public school but we didn’t know if Stacey should stay or be in different school, given her challenging issues.

We slowly began to visit and evaluate the many types of schools in our area: public schools, private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, state specialty schools—there were many choices available to us. One by one, the other schools told us that they didn’t understand Stacey’s issues, didn’t have the appropriate teaching staff to help her or simply could not accommodate or properly follow the type of IEP she needed.

The year-round public school Stacey attended turned out to be her best bet. They offered learning disability specialists, special equipment, disability counseling and testing, and dedicated grade-level teachers who could effectively use school resources to help Stacey learn and grow. They also helped her recognize and leverage her above-average language and writing skills, while also helping her decipher and manage her dyscalculia. Her high school algebra teacher even used M&M candies as manipulatives to help her understand algebraic concepts in an unconventional way.

In the end, Stacey successfully completed her K-12 school years in our public school system. She edited her high school newspaper, was tapped for Quill & Scroll Honor Society, earned numerous volunteer awards and received scholarships based on her essay about overcoming her disabilities. She gained admittance to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, her first choice, earning a B.A. in English and a Professional Writing Certificate. She went on to become a TV news producer for NBC and now enjoys a career in mortgage lending industry marketing.

We are so grateful that Stacey had such an exceptional experience in our local public schools. Her teachers helped shape and “launch” her despite her disabilities, fostered her love of learning, gave her confidence in her strengths and provided her with lifelong tools that continue to serve her today.


Linda Crandall serves on the board of North Carolina PTA and is the chair of the Special Education and Inclusion Committee.

 

Math Fun, Rain or Shine! With a STEM + Families Mathnasium Math Night SPOTLIGHT: Friends of Penngrove PTA (Penngrove, Calif.)

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

The Penngrove Elementary School community was elated to receive the news that we were awarded a 2018 National PTA STEM + Families Math Night Grant, sponsored by Mathnasium. The Friends of Penngrove PTA executive board enjoyed planning the event and loved seeing all the happy faces of our families during our event Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.

Despite the huge winter rainstorm that evening, we thankfully had a record attendance. We had over 225 attendees and 25% of our students attended!

Our local Mathnasium transformed our school’s multipurpose room into 16 math stations plus a jumbo chess game, festive balloons and candy jar raffles. The executive board checked in guests and sold logo wear. School leadership helped with marketing the event via assemblies, announcements and encouraging teacher involvement.

The grant from National PTA was used to supply dinner and purchase enough raffle prizes for each student participant. The first 20 RSVPs received their choice of a ThinkFun game and then every 15 minutes we invited 10 more students to visit the prize table. They were able to select prizes from additional games, logo wear and pizza certificates. This was a highlight of the evening!

We decided to try three new things when planning for our STEM + Families Math Night.

  1. Requiring attendees to fill out a google RSVP form
  2. Providing a pizza and salad dinner
  3. Inviting the community to support us by volunteering to run stations

Creating the RSVP form allowed us to secure the proper amount of supplies, volunteers and prizes. It worked so well that we started using RSVP forms for other free PTA events. Providing dinner was a relief to parents and the students loved eating in the classrooms with their friends. By asking our school staff, student teachers and local high school students to volunteer to run the stations, the majority of adults in attendance were able to be guests and play math games with the students.

Everyone loved the event and we are planning on inviting Mathnasium back to Penngrove Elementary during the 2019-2020 school year for another successful collaboration. The #PennPanthers were so appreciative for the National PTA Grant—thank you for the opportunity to celebrate our community with a free, fun and educational evening!

Melissa Morelli is the Treasurer of Friends of Penngrove PTA.


Franchise Feature: Becky McDaniels (Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.)

Over the last six years, Becky has co-hosted one to two Math Nights each month in her area. For her, the key elements for success are the relationships she builds with each school, creating open communication between her team and the PTAs.

Becky’s intention is to be a partner to her local PTAs, letting her take the pressure of the event—from set up to clean up—so the families can relax, and have a good time with their kids.

Her fundamental goal is for families to see that Math doesn’t have to be scary. There are simple things parents can do at home or anywhere with fun games allowing them to have conversations and experiences with their children around Math.

Becky’s pro-tips:

  • Spread the word about the event. Send home fliers with students, emailing directly to parents, adding the event to the PTA’s website. Her Mathnasium location hosts a Facebook group which is shared out by the PTA as well.
  • Provide food: This doesn’t have to be a cost! Becky has helped PTAs partner with other local business like Chik-fil-a to donate dinner to the event.
  • Prep for event set-up: Becky has created a set-up map she shares with schools to make organizing the event space a breeze. She recommends two stations per game, dividing by grade, and having them side by side so parents with kids of different ages don’t have to split up.

Becky is a single-center owner and one of Mathnasium’s Math Night pioneers. Mathnasium used some key learnings from observing her practices to develop the official Math Night programing.

Take Action:

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

 

Math Success is Attainable! With a STEM + Families Math Night SPOTLIGHT: Royal Ridge PTA (San Antonio, Texas)

 

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

When the National PTA STEM + Families Math Night Grants, sponsored by Mathnasium, were announced, we knew we had to apply. Math Nights provide opportunities for families to experience math as a fun activity together and help students to view math success as attainable. They also expose families and students to math development services that are available in the community.

Everyone was so excited when our Royal Ridge Elementary School PTA in San Antonio, Texas won one of the 35 $1,000 National PTA STEM + Families Math Night Grants, sponsored by Mathnasium. We began planning right away and held our Math Night Jan. 25, 2019. We marketed the event using yard signs, flyers and letters in both English and Spanish, marquee and school announcements, social media posts and emails from the principal.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. More than 200 students and family members, as well as 89 volunteers, from the community and four local NHS chapters attended. Smiles were everywhere, and attendees rated their enjoyability of event as extremely high (i.e., average of 4.99 on a scale of 1–5) on their post-event surveys.

That was gratifying, because we worked hard to ensure the event was welcoming and inclusive. We used marketing materials in both English and Spanish, offered dinner for everyone who attended and publicized the prizes for attending and participating (we had Mathnasium scholarships, two $100 and $50 gift card drawings and several ThinkFun games provided by National PTA).

We also had a welcome table for volunteer check-in and photo releases, where we shared literature about PTA membership and upcoming events to set a professional, organized tone. The teachers who attended were free to take their own children through the activities, as all activities were run by NHS students. After totaling up the costs, we spent just $850 of our $1,000 National PTA STEM+ Families grant money.

Our lessons learned were twofold:

First, it is critical to recruit student volunteers and plenty of them. Plan on at least 60 high school students and three to five PTA coordinators to run the welcome table and hand out clipboards with instructions to complete photo releases or sign in as volunteers. If your PTA is serving dinner during the event, make sure you staff the food table with at least five students and one adult. We did this, and it worked quite well.

Second, consider holding your event in the largest area possible. Ours was in the cafeteria, and this proved a bit small. It may be helpful to use two gyms if there are two available.

We will sponsor another Math Night next year. This was our most successful and heavily attended event. It also had the closest tie to curriculum and success of our students. It was wonderful to see students and families so engaged!

Susie Engi Raiford, PhD is the PTA Secretary and Fundraising Chair at Royal Ridge Elementary in San Antonio, Texas, where her husband Robert is PTA president and son George attends third grade. She is a clinical psychologist, intelligence test developer, and published book author.

Editor’s Note: This PTA’s event was significantly larger than is typical for a Math Night. Depending on your school population and expected attendance, you may not need to reserve as much space or as many volunteers.


Franchise Feature: Kobad Bugwadia (Mathnasium of Campbell-Los Gatos, Calif.)

Kobad has co-hosted five National PTA STEM + Families Math Nights so far. Almost all the events have drawn crowds of 250-400 students, parents and teachers. His excitement comes from the parents getting enrolled in the process and seeing the smiles on their faces.

Math Nights make parents feel empowered to be able to play and work with their kids, showing that math can be something fun and not intimidating. His main motivation in co-hosting the STEM + Families Math Nights is connecting with his community and giving back. Kobad’s goal is to show the Magic of Math, he is not there to sell a product, but rather to engage with families and help them overcome the intimidation many can feel about math.

Kobad’s pro-tips:

  • Hungry isn’t happy: Always provide attendees with food, drinks and snacks.
  • Heavily marketing your event means higher turnout: He recommends having the principal announce the event at a school assembly and creating fliers for students to take home.
  • Recruit Volunteers: Making sure every station has a leader. Kobad has helped schools recruit middle school and high school students to come back to their elementary school and help run the math stations.
  • Give them a goal: Have a raffle prize for completing all the stations!

Kobad is a single-center owner who is going gang-busters with Math Nights. He is regularly sharing stories of success and positive feedback from the schools he works with in his area.

Take Action:

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

Super Parents, Super Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Record Turnout with a STEM + Families Game Night!

 

This post is part of a series co-authored by local PTA leaders who have hosted a STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

Mount Vernon Community School in Alexandria, Va. was not a winner of a STEM + Families ThinkFun Family Game Night grant, but the event just looked too fun to miss out on entirely! The Math Dice game was such a hit with their students, and they wanted to create a creative concept around this popular game. Their PTA reached out to ThinkFun to create a personalized event for their students: A Math Dice Tournament.

This event was a team effort between Mount Vernon Community School PTA, Mount Vernon Community School’s principal and ThinkFun. For additional assistance, Mount Vernon PTA worked with ACPS’s Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center, who provided dinner at the Math Dice Night.

It was an extremely successful night for Mount Vernon Community School PTA and their students. The PTA expected approximately 30 people to attend, including students and parents, but over 100 people showed up!

A couple of notable highlights from the event that made it such a success:

  • Teachers were engaged! Students had an opportunity to play the games in their classes prior to the event. This ensured they were already excited about the Game Night and the Math Dice Tournament before they arrived.
    • It’s also helpful to have your teachers attend the event to help with game instructions and manage all the families that attend.
  • Prize giveaways! Mount Vernon PTA’s event featured a prize giveaway sponsored by ThinkFun, which was really exciting.
  • Family engagement! Volunteers were very intentional about getting parents involved in their child’s learning and engaged in playing the games themselves. It was wonderful bonding opportunity for families after school.
  • Food! Mount Vernon Community School PTA provided pizza and drinks available to all families, a fabulous addition to the event! In this case, ACPS’s Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center helped co-host the event and provided food to the school.

A few lessons learned:

  • Find the right space. Mount Veronon PTA’s Math Dice night was hosted in the cafeteria, but it turned out the space was not big enough for the huge crowd the event received! The great turnout was one of the big successes of the night, but the space wasn’t right for the size of the event.
  • Make sure your space doesn’t have competing events. Sometimes the school’s venue is double booked with another after school program. If your PTA can pre-plan for this hurdle and coordinate how to share the space effectively prior to the event, it will be beneficial for everyone!
  • Have a plan for crowd control. When you receive a great turnout, sometimes the noise volume makes it hard to give instructions to the group while families are chatting. Having your teachers and volunteers knowledgeable about the game rules can help while the event is going on, to give instructions to smaller groups rather than speaking to everyone at once.

Overall everyone had so much fun playing for fun and the families—especially the kids—loved the raffle for the prizes. Mount Vernon Community School’s PTA is busy as they plan another big schoolwide STEM + Families themed event, a Global Science Night.

Take Action


Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog is Mount Vernon Community School located in Alexandria, Virginia. The contributing authors were not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

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.