The PTA Reflections Contest is a national talent competition for students. In an age where art education is dwindling in schools, this contest is a great opportunity to help our children explore their creativity and interpret important topics through art. As mamas, there are lots of things we can do to encourage our kids to enter Reflections. Here are a few ideas:
- VIEW NATIONAL WINNERS FROM PAST YEARS: On the PTA Reflections website, there are lots of examples of national winners. Browse the link with your children. Look at what judges selected as the national winners in your child’s age group. This activity will spark ideas and many times give confidence. When my daughter saw a national winning drawing of an apple tree, her response was: “I can do better than that!” Some of the categories like “dance choreography” and “musical composition” sound hard. But when you look at what other students have done, it becomes less intimidating. On the other hand, these winners are also very good. Looking at the site can help set a high standard for doing a super job.
- BRAINSTORM THEME MEANINGS: This year’s theme is “Diversity means…” In my opinion, that is sort of a tricky one. Many younger children will need help with a definition of diversity. Suggest that there are lots of ways to interpret diversity. It can mean (from a dictionary and thesaurus search) assortment, variety, differences, changes. It can also mean standing out and unique. Help your child brainstorm aspects of their life that might be considered “diverse.” Help them consider what diversity means for your neighborhood, city, and state. Throw the word out a lot in regular conversation and keep them thinking about it.
- WRITE IT IN CHALK: I heard about one school that sent the children outside with colored chalk at recess to doodle Reflections ideas in the pavement. We could do the same thing at home in our driveway. We could also graffiti Reflections ideas on butcher paper at dinner.
- BELIEVE IN THEM: In all this exploring and brainstorming, be careful about imposing your own ideas. Say things like, “There are lots of ways to use this theme. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!” Or, “I know you’re going to find a wonderful way to do this!” Or, “You can do this in a way no one else can!”
- EXPLORE THE CATEGORIES: Reflections has six categories: literature, visual arts, photography, musical composition, dance choreography and film. Traditionally, there are LOTS of literature and art entries, and very few dance, music, and film entries. If they have any inclination to try a not so popular category, encourage them to go for it. Even if they don’t earn anything but a recognition certificate, what a cool way for them to spend their time!
- TIME, SPACE, SUPPLIES: We can make entering the contest easier on our children by blocking out time, giving them space, and providing supplies well ahead of time. This is probably the single best help we can give. Time, space and supplies mean our kids will have a better chance of doing their best. It’s no fun to turn in a sloppy picture they are not proud of just because it was done at the last minute.
- MAKE SURE YOUR HAVE ALL THE ENTRY FORMS: Your school might provide these for you, but you can find all the entry forms you need on the PTA Reflections website.
- STUDY THE RULES: We can also help our children’s entries to shine by making sure they have followed all the rules. They are really specific about sizes and requirements. All of this is also on the PTA Reflections site.
- MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR: Last year just for fun several teachers at our elementary school created their own Reflections entry. How cool would it be if we as parents did one too? (I’m not promising anything here. Just throwing this out as an awesome idea.) You could even have your own awards assembly at dinner one night and every Reflections entering family member could win a Redbox pass or a frozen yogurt. No matter what the awards outcome at school, we can be sure to celebrate efforts at home.
- DEADLINE: Our school deadline is November 3rd. Your school deadline is probably sometime close by. Plan ahead to make the few days before this deadline calm enough so your children can finish their projects.
The PTA Reflections Contest is still going strong in schools after 40 years. As a kid, I looked forward to it every year. Sometimes I won, most years I didn’t, but each time it was an opportunity to stretch my thinking and create something new. I’ve told my children that DIVERSITY also means their reflections entry–a unique piece of art that only THEY can create. I look forward to seeing (and celebrating) the finished products!
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