Why Wednesday? Continuing Education Scholarships and PTA Grants

It’s Why Wednesday! 

Q: Who qualifies for California State PTA grants and continuing education scholarships? When is the application due?

Continuing Education Scholarships:

To help you continue on your educational path, California State PTA is proud to offer several continuing education scholarship programs for school professionals and volunteers.

We have three opportunities available for nurses, teachers and counselors, and PTA volunteers.

All continuing education scholarship applications are due to the state office by October 1, 2020. Follow this link to apply online or download an application to submit by mail or email.


California State PTA grant funds are available for PTAs in good standing to develop and implement programs and projects at the unit, council and district PTA levels.

We offer the following grants: cultural arts, outreach translation, healthy lifestyles and parent education. To get more information on the grants or download the application, click here.  

Applications must be mailed or emailed; faxes will not be accepted

  • Mailed applications must be received in the California State PTA office by the close of business October 1, 2020
  • Emailed applications must be received by 11:59 PM PST on October 1

High School Scholarships:

Tell the high school seniors in your life that California State PTA offers scholarships for them as well. High school senior scholarships are due February 1, 2021. More information can be found here.

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Finding a “New Normal” During Unprecedented Times

With California schools set to be closed through the end of the academic year, many students and their families have had to deal with sudden upheaval to their everyday lives. Most schools have transitioned to online and virtual learning with varying levels of difficulty, but, even in the best cases, this change has proved to be difficult to handle.

For schools who are able to safely and reliably move to digital learning, many teachers are without materials they require to teach, or are unable to properly go through lessons over video calls (on software which they may be unfamiliar with). For example, some math teachers can not effectively show their work to students without a document camera or whiteboard to share with their students. For others, or in districts where not every student has easy access to digital resources, education is stuck in limbo. Though some districts are able to loan out devices such as Chromebooks for those who may need them, this is not necessarily a viable long term solution.

With these complications to education, students are struggling to keep up. Without proper school and with a loss of structure, maintaining motivation is extremely difficult for many, especially students already struggling prior to self isolation. Events that students worked towards – their end of the year parties, their school dances, their proms and graduations – have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely, making school feel even more hopeless. These issues are only exacerbated by difficulties on other sides of the education process – if a teacher is unsure of what they are doing or unable to properly teach under lock-down conditions (for example, not being able to conduct experiments or easily show their work), then it is near impossible for a student to learn properly. Not to mention with younger students, like those in elementary levels, the transition to online learning is not something easy or seamless. Younger students might not have the experience with online learning tools a middle or high school student might, and a large amount of teaching might fall to older siblings or parents as a result, who might be ill-equipped or not have the time to teach the younger students while also working or getting their own education.

Some schools are increasing workloads, or claiming that students should be able to complete more work than before with the influx of free-time provided by quarantine. In households where students are working, or must watch their siblings, or have responsibilities, this is simply not true. Even if a student is without extreme responsibilities or a job, adding a sudden increase to schoolwork is a counterproductive solution to difficulties with education. Add to this the recent stress with AP Testing for high school students (or, more specifically, the extremely poor system through which AP tests are administered) and school is stressful enough without piles of additional work due to quarantine. 

In general, the lock-down has added new unforeseen stressors to the education process. For students, and by extension their families, the difficulties of continuing learning while in self isolation are difficult to navigate and continue to be challenging even as lock-down has gone on over the past two months. Students and their families are finding ways around these struggles, but it is far from easy and even farther from normal.

This article was written by Jessica Reiman, a recent graduate of Silver Creek High School in San Jose. Jessica has been involved with PTA since she was in kindergarten, most recently with Silver Creek High School PTSA and Sixth District PTA. Her mother, Nha-Nghi Nguyen, serves on the California State PTA Board of Managers in the Family Engagement Commission.


Mars roverThursday, July 30 is the scheduled launch date for the NASA 2020 Mission to Mars.

The Mars Rover Perseverance will be taking off for the Red Planet on that day — if everything goes as planned. You can watch the launch and the mission online by clicking here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/timeline/launch/status/]

Your kids (and you perhaps) are likely to start asking the inevitable questions about this mission. There are of course great resources on the NASA web page, but we have some extra insights that were delivered by our friend, David Seidel from NASA/JPL, at our 2019 Convention. The Q&A below can help get you up to speed on this whole Mars thing, so you can more effectively #DiscoverTogether the why, what and how of the Mars Mission — along with your young space travel enthusiasts.

What is Mars and why does NASA want to go there?

This short video from our convention provides parents with general information about Mars and what NASA has learned from explorations so far.

What will happen with this Mission and why is the Rover called Perseverance?

This video explains the basic purpose of the Mission. It’s a good and quick summary that will provide you with a bit of background. Then check out this NASA news page for a more detailed explanation.

How can we learn more about Mars?

This short video will walk you quickly through all the kid-oriented resources available on the Mars 2020 website, so you can find just the right things for your kids based on their age and interests.

How will I know when Perseverance is actually taking off?

The countdown and real-time excitement are here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

Didn’t NASA already go to Mars?

Yes, and this video describes the many human devices that are already there! They can tell us a lot of things about the Red Planet, even the weather each day.

Virtual Summer Leadership Academy Class Recommendations by Position

Are you wondering if there is a class that benefits you at our Summer Virtual Leadership Academy? We have suggested tracks of classes for everyone on your board – from president to chairperson and everything in between. Training is beneficial to your entire board, so don’t feel limited by this list – if you see a class that interests you, you should take it! Remember to share the good things you are learning with other PTA leaders at your school site and with us on social media. We will “see” you at the Summer Virtual Leadership Academy.


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NASA Brings Space Exploration to You

This summer, most of us won’t be going very far from home. So, to make up for that, you might want to fill your kids’ days with some “out of this world” adventures. Thanks to the folks from NASA, you will find more ideas and activities for kids than there are days in July and August combined.

It turns out that one of the responsibilities of NASA is to share with the public – including kids – the things they learn. And they are learning plenty!

David Seidel, a science educator who works at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena was a featured speaker at the STEAM Extreme event at the California State PTA convention in May 2019. During the first part of his talk he presents some startling facts about space exploration. For example, do you know when the last time was that there weren’t people living and working in space? And when do you think NASA expects it could determine whether or not humans are alone in the universe?

You’ll find the answers in this video.

David also provides a guided tour through the learning resources available for kids of all ages on both the NASA and JPL websites. There are examples of how math is used to plan and do space exploration. There are brief, exciting video series like “Mars in a Minute” and “Eyes on the Sky.” There are computer simulations and lots of information about career opportunities in fields related to space exploration and science.

In this video, David presents a quick virtual tour of all there is to see and link to on these websites.

After listening to David’s descriptions you can take your own tour of the website resources. Go to our new California State PTA Resource Library and just put “NASA” in the search box to find some of the best places to start.

Also, NASA is headed for Mars in July. Watch for more information on that soon!

California’s New Science Standards are a Good Fit for Distance Learning

In a recent survey, California State PTA asked parents their opinions about science education.  Almost all those who responded agreed with the statement “learning science is equally important as reading, writing and math.” Most also agreed that “it’s important for my child to have science-related learning experiences outside of the classroom.”

Now that the COVID-19-related school closures have radically changed the way that students are learning for the foreseeable future, California’s new approach to science instruction, called the Next Generation Science Standards or NGSS, is well-positioned to take hold. It turns out that the experiential and phenomenon-based approach of NGSS dovetails nicely with the new reality of distance learning.

What’s different in how children learn science under NGSS?

The basic idea behind NGSS is that students will learn about science and engineering by doing science and engineering. A typical lesson starts with a question about something students can observe. Teachers then build a variety of strategies, depending on students’ grade levels, to take students from that simple question into serious scientific inquiry.

Instead of being told about the properties of matter, for example, students might use water and butter to investigate how heating and cooling affects each differently.  Students observe real events in their everyday experience and then are taught how to use scientific methods to understand what is happening and why. This is called “phenomenon-driven” instruction.

When science learning starts by observing the world around you, it can happen wherever you are.  And parents can learn to be scientists along with their kids because it’s the questions – and the process of answering those questions – that matter the most.

NGSS calls for teachers to do, in a deeper and more disciplined way, what parents often do naturally. Educators are calling it “three dimensional learning.” It boils down to three types of learning experiences:

  • Doing what scientists and engineers do (called science and engineering practices).  Examples include asking questions, planning investigations, analyzing data, and providing explanations.  For a kindergartener this might be asking about seemingly simple experiences, like why some days they need a jacket on the playground and some days they don’t.
  • Thinking in the ways that scientists and engineers think (called cross-cutting concepts).  Scientists look for patterns, for example. They measure things, look at how whole systems work, and identify what is stable and what is changing. In that weather example, older students might keep a log of various aspects of the weather such as wind, clouds, and temperature, in order to make some predictions about when they’ll need that jacket.
  • Developing scientific and engineering knowledge (called core disciplinary ideas).  Under NGSS, the ideas are organized into three main categories: physical science, life science, and earth and space science.  Under each, topics are introduced in the early grades and then expanded and deepened as kids get older. The weather falls under the topic of earth and space science, with ideas like the relationship between geographical features and weather.

Resources for doing science at home

During this pandemic, teachers who are implementing NGSS have had to figure out how to present phenomenon-based science experiences that work at home. And there are an incredible number of online resources helping them to do that.

The good news for parents who are interested is that the same experts who have put those teaching resources together have also been creating more parent-oriented ones as well.

California State PTA recently introduced a Resource Library that makes it easy to find age-appropriate science experiences that you and your child can do together. Just go to https://capta.org/resource-library/ and use the simple search process to find what you’re looking for.

May 2020 Advocacy Update: What Bills is California State PTA Currently Supporting?

These are certainly unusual times in Sacramento. With the Senate back in session as of Monday, May 11th and the Assembly the prior Monday, our legislators are back at work either in the Capitol wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, or participating from home via Zoom calls.

Many of the bills that were introduced this legislative session will die for lack of a hearing, as bills that deal with the coronavirus take priority and legislators have been asked to pull all but the most crucial bills.

Here are a few bills that California State PTA has taken a position on that are still active:

Support Position

  • AB 1835 (Weber) – Would require unspent supplemental and concentration funds to be used in subsequent years to increase and improve services for the unduplicated pupils generating those funds.
  • AB 1837 (Smith) – Would require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish an emergency response team to serve as a liaison and provide guidance and support to local educational agencies (LEAs) during emergencies such as a natural disaster, planned safety power shutoff, safety threats, and other declared states of emergency.
  • AB 1982 (Cunningham) – Would allow teacher credential candidates to use qualifying coursework to satisfy the State’s basic skills test requirement.
  • AB 2051 (Reyes) – Would protect the strong connection between foster siblings by including them into the visitation provisions provided in current law.
  • AB 2558 (Reyes) and SB 1140 (Caballero) – Would establish the Child Poverty Tax Credit to end deep child poverty in California by providing a credit to families living at 50% of the California poverty level.
  • AB 2581 (Reyes) – Established the Dept. of Early Child Development to put all early learning and care programs under one umbrella within the California Health & Human Services Agency to improve service coordination and delivery for children, families and providers.
  • SB 793 (Hill) – Prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products
  • SB 805 (Portantino) – Would prohibit a district from requiring an employee to use sick leave if the school is forced to close because of a natural disaster or evacuation or if the employee is unable to report to work because they reside in an area affected by a natural disaster. It would also ensure districts receive their ADA funding under these circumstances and the school must close.
  • SB 855 (Wiener) – Requires insurance companies to provide additional care to children and families suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. Expands the criteria for what mental health issues are covered under health insurance policies.
  • SB 884 (Dodd) – Would establish a voluntary Disaster Relief Instructional Recovery Program for school districts that lost five or more instructional days due to emergencies and pay for summer programs to make up instructional time if money is appropriated in the budget.
  • SB 943 (Chang) – Would authorize wage replacement benefits under the Paid Family Leave Program for workers who take time off to care for a minor child whose school has been closed due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
  • SB 1383 (Jackson) – Would broaden The Family-School Partnership Act to apply to all parents of K-12 children and enable them to take time off to tend to child care responsibilities including a school-closure pursuant to a state of emergency declaration without fear of discharge or discrimination by their employer.

Please click here to read more on the California State PTA Advocacy pages.

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Why Wednesday? What is the New Resource Library?

The Resource Library is a new addition to our website where parent leaders, teachers, and families can find links to activities and resources.  Today for Why Wednesday we would like to share with you a quick video tour as well as a handout that can be used to inform your unit about this new resource.

Here is a quick instruction sheet you can share with families at your school. You can also download it by clicking here.
























The Resource Library will be regularly updated with new links, so make sure you bookmark the site and visit often.

If you have a resource you would like to share, please email them to us at communications@capta.org.

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Why Wednesday? Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week Ideas While Social Distancing

May 5th is National Teacher Appreciation Day and many schools had week-long celebrations planned to honor these hard-working individuals. Even though we are not on our school campuses, we know that our teachers are working harder than ever and that they are still worthy of recognition.

Your Staff Appreciation Week might look different, but social distancing shouldn’t stop your campus from helping the teachers, aides, administrators, librarians, secretaries, custodians, and all the other staff from feeling some love!

We have compiled some of our favorite ideas for celebrating teachers and staff from a distance:

  • National PTA has an entire emoji-themed Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit that is free to download. Check it out here
  • Schools are asking students to submit videos thanking staff and editing them together.
  • Take your week of themes digital! Email a note to your teacher. Make a virtual bouquet where students take a photo of a flower or greenery on their daily walk and collage them into a “bouquet” that gets posted to Google Classroom. Wear the teacher’s favorite color on your weekly Zoom call to show them how much you care. This is a great time to creatively use social media too– share photos of the daily themes to post on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Create a banner to post on the school fence thanking the staff for their hard work or create a yard sign for teacher appreciation. If you are going to have a banner made by a printer, remember to get this expense approved by your association.
  • If a staff luncheon is part of your tradition (and included in your hospitality budget), you could ask a local restaurant to create box lunches that the staff could pick-up and enjoy at home.  
  • Ask all of the families in your school to change their profile picture this week to a home-made sign thanking teachers. It will not only make the teachers at your school feel amazing, but it will also reach out to any of your Facebook friends who also happen to be teachers — it’s a win-win!

Remember that PTA funds shouldn’t be used to purchase personal gifts or gift cards.

If you have other ideas to share with us, please email us at communications@capta.org– we would love to hear from you!

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