Celebrating Arts & Humanities through the School of Excellence

National PTA and the School of Excellence program recognize that schools and PTAs can take an active role in supporting of arts education. Throughout the country, arts education programming is being slashed, leaving all students, artists or not, without a creative outlet to explore their own experiences and identities.

Understanding this, some of our School of Excellence participants take up the mantle of supporting the arts in their school communities no matter how difficult. In honor of their hard work and Arts & Humanities month, let us explore how some of the 2019-2021 School of Excellence designees used the arts to enhance their family-school partnerships.

Centerville Elementary PTA, Utah           

Centerville Elementary PTA’s School of Excellence team, in collaboration with a group of parent advocates, chose to focus on increasing student access to the arts. Centerville Elementary PTA’s work demonstrates not only a dedication to the arts, but a dedication to their community. Their work in supporting the arts was in direct response to several parents who advocated for students to have an art program at Centerville Elementary.

The Excellence Team set to work early in the year, meeting to share ideas, set priorities, and discuss available resources. Their first task was to create a choir program. The Excellence team sent out an interest survey and received a huge response in favor of the choir program.  Close to 100 students joined the choir program (approximately ¼ of the student population) and had a phenomenal experience. The program truly brought to life the idea of family-engagement, with several parents volunteering with the program including the choir teacher, a parent who is also a highly qualified choral instructor. The choir put on a very well attended concert at the end of the school year that brought many parents and families that typically did not attend school events.

 

In truth, family engagement was incorporated into all the work Centerville Elementary PTA did. The PTA relied on their parent volunteers to weave arts education throughout the school. For example, one volunteer recognized the waste of a classroom set of ukuleles that had been left sitting in a storage room at the school. The parent coordinated Monday morning ukulele classes. The classes held an array of participants from the principal to the custodian to a technology specialist. The parent volunteer taught these school leaders to play the ukulele in hopes that they would then be able to bring the instrument to students in the school. And they did just that during the school talent show on the last day of school.

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA, Virginia

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA also focused on supporting the arts in their school community. Their work, in fact, likely could not have been as successful if it were not for their work with community members. Recognizing a lack of art supplies, the Excellence Team and PTA partnered with a local organization to run a successful art fundraiser. With assistance from the school art teacher, students created visual art pieces that could be transformed into a variety of keepsake items that parents could purchase. The funds raised through this went directly to the art teacher at Grafton Village Elementary School which allowed her to purchase more art supplies like clay, paint, and markers for her classroom. Recognizing that not all parents could choose to purchase the keepsakes, the art teacher allowed all students to take their original pieces home so all students could feel a part of the fundraiser.

In another example of community engagement, the PTA partnered with a local boy scout troop and had an Eagle Scout candidate build shelves in the art room for his Eagle Scout project.  The PTA paid for all shelving supplies, while the Eagle Scout candidate provided all the labor and construction. The end result was a beautiful set of shelves to display and dry student’s artwork.

Finally, the Grafton Village Excellence Team partnered with middle and high school students and parents to host a very successful talent show. Student and parent volunteers came to the after-school rehearsals and helped prepare talent show participants so they could shine in the final performance. During the night of the show, volunteers helped to welcome families, hand out programs, serve refreshments, and take photos so participants could remember the night. The final talent show, and all the support from volunteers, highlighted the deep commitment Grafton Village Elementary had not only for supporting the arts, but also further integrating their PTA into the school and local community.

Four Corners PTA, WI   

Four Corners PTA’s greatest accomplishment in strengthening family-school partnerships was the creation of a series of unique art focused activities that helped deepen the PTA and community’s connection to the arts. Four Corners PTA began by hosting a Create Art Night, a new activity for school, with the goal of inviting students and their families to school to create holiday gifts. The event was free to attend and included dinner which severed well over 100 people from the school community.

Four Corners PTA and the school music teacher also partnered with Little Opera of the North to give students the opportunity to perform in an opera. All of the students in the school, Pre-K through fifth grade, watched the final afternoon performance. Parents, families and community members were invited and enjoyed watching the students perform as well. The opera show was a first for many and provided the community with a new way to experience the arts. This was not the only event Four Corners PTA hosted that brought together their community through the arts. One of the art teachers at Four Corners volunteered to lead a Cookies and Canvas night at school for students and family members. Moms, Dads, Aunts and Grandmas followed step-by-step instructions provided by the teachers to create beautiful take home paintings.

The PTA also sponsored events just for the student community. The Spring Fever Family Dance Party was hosted by volunteer parents, including a local DJ and a dance instructor. Between the DJ and the instructor, students learned dances and were helped to feel more comfortable on the dance floor. The PTA also sponsored a weeklong Artist in Residency program as part of their interactive learning initiative. Working with two puppet artists from ArtStart, all grade levels made puppets and participated in a puppet performance piece. The event concluded with an evening puppet show for families that included a free dinner.

The Excellence Team at Four Corners PTA truly saw the benefits of their investment. Their focus in family engagement changed the school community by increasing student, teacher, family and community participation in the family-oriented art events that we held. The PTA saw an increase in membership, volunteers and attendance at school events. Through their focus on community and the arts, more people in the community know and understand the PTA’s mission “to make every child’s potential a reality.”

These are just a few of the School of Excellence designees who made huge strides in embedding arts education into their school communities. If you’re interested in advancing the arts in your community check out all the available resources from the hosts of Arts & Humanities and our partners at Americans for the Arts here. You can also read and download our ArtsEd Guide which provides useful ways for PTAs to explore the arts and incorporate them into their school programming.

And don’t forget to get involved with the School of Excellence program! You can use your work to advance the arts to become a School of Excellence and gain recognition for the work your PTA does to bring transformative family engagement and the arts to your school! Enroll here by October 15 and support the arts in your community!


By: Ellie Miller, Reflections Specialist

 

National PTA Celebrates the Heroes Around Us All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.