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 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

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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– we would love to hear from you!

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Let’s Make Every Day Earth Day

Earth Day shouldn’t be just one day! And environmental education isn’t just the responsibility of educators. That said, our previous blog did explain that it’s a required part of the school curriculum.

Today, we’re presenting the second part of a talk about environmental literacy that emphasizes how parents and parent leaders can advocate for and support school efforts to see that all children grow up knowledgeable about the world they live in.

The featured speaker is Amity Sandage, Environmental Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. She presented this talk at the STEAM Extreme event at the California State PTA convention in May 2019. 

Take action! You can find resources in your community that support environmental and science learning by going to the new California State PTA Resource Library [LINK]. Talk to your local school district about what is happening locally around environmental literacy and how your PTA can help.

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How are Earth Day and the Environment Connected with Schools and with PTA?

April 22 marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. In the midst of sheltering at home and worries about coronavirus, it seems like a particularly important time to think about how all of us are connected to each other and to the natural world.

What does Earth Day and the environment have to do with schools and with PTA? 

Plenty as it turns out. In fact, in 2015 the California State PTA passed a resolution called Climate Change is a Children’s Issue to specifically make the connection. 

And did you know that California law requires that schools teach about Environmental Literacy? The video below provides you with a quick overview of the Principles and Concepts that schools are supposed to include across several curriculum areas.

The featured speaker is Amity Sandage, Environmental Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. She presented this talk at the STEAM Extreme event at the California State PTA convention in May 2019. 

You can download a full copy of California’s Environmental Education blueprint here. You can also read great stories about what’s happening in local schools at the California Environmental Literacy website. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Amity’s talk, where she gives PTA leaders great ideas for taking action and supporting environmental literacy in their schools and communities.

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FAQs for Staff Appreciation

We know that many of our units had lots of great plans for Teacher Appreciation Week on their campus. School closures are causing us to rethink what teacher appreciation looks like this year. Our leadership team has given us a few ideas for ways to celebrate as well as things to avoid so you don’t violate PTA policies and procedures.

Can our PTA buy restaurant gift cards for our school staff members since we cannot hold our annual staff appreciation luncheon?

No. Giving a gift card is the same as giving someone cash. In addition, giving a volunteer cash or a cash equivalent like a gift card on behalf of the organization may cause them to be considered an employee or an independent contractor by government agencies. And the IRS considers cash gifts (including gift cards) as reportable income on the recipient’s tax filings. For these reasons, our policies and procedures expressly forbid giving gift cards purchased with PTA funds: “PTA funds cannot be used to purchase personal gifts for staff or volunteers, such as gift cards.”  (See Recommended Budget Line Items in the California State PTA Toolkit)

What can PTAs do for staff appreciation while schools are closed?

  • If local businesses or members of the community wish to donate gift cards/certificates to school staff, you may facilitate that donation. 

  • You may pay for a staff appreciation meal for all staff members by paying a restaurant directly.  Many restaurants are now offering “fixed price” menus for pickup and/or delivery. You may pay a restaurant to provide such a meal to each staff member at your school and then let the staff know how to contact the restaurant to pick up/receive delivery of their meal.  (Remember, your PTA’s total expenses for hospitality, including staff appreciation, may not exceed 5% of your yearly budgeted expenses.)

  • You can issue a “rain check” for your usual staff appreciation activities and plan to hold them as soon as in person school resumes or whenever large gatherings of people are permitted again.

  • You can send thank you cards (by mail, email, or social media) thanking staff for all their amazing work during this trying time.  Notes from parents and/or students will be particularly meaningful. You should work with the school principal to determine the best way to distribute these notes to the staff.

For more information on handling PTA financial transactions during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit COVID-19 Resources for PTA Leaders

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FAQs for Donations During Coronavirus

California State PTA’s Treasurer, Melinda Kirkland, has been getting lots of financial questions from local leaders as they begin to navigate online meetings and event cancellations.

Today she is sharing with us information about what to do with items donated for cancelled events, and PTA policies on donating to other nonprofits and/or to families in need.

For more information on holding meetings during the COVID-19 restrictions, visit our website.

Events and Donated Items

Q: What do we do with donated items now that we can no longer have the event they were donated for (like our silent auction)? Do we need to vote to cancel the event even though we can’t hold it due to school closures and COVID-19 restrictions?

A: If the donations were solicited specifically for this event that you are now not able to have and not as “general” donation to the PTA, the PTA needs to contact the donors (all of them) and ask them what they would like you to do with the donated items. This is easiest via email, because then you will have written instructions from the donor, which is really what you need. If the donor wants the items returned, you have to give them back. If they give you permission to keep them/use them as needed, then you can vote as an association how to “repurpose” those donations at a future time.

You do not need a vote of the association to cancel a fundraiser/event that you are no longer able or allowed by law to hold. You would only need a vote on how to distribute/use any donations that were not returned to donors. FYI: only donations that you keep have to be reported on tax filings. Returned donations do not need to be reported.

Donations to Other Nonprofits or Families in Need

Q: Can our PTA donate to other community non-profits who are taking lead roles in supporting the many under-served families in our district? Can we offer some sort of direct support to members (individuals and families) of need in our school communities?

A: The IRS is very clear that a 501(c)3 public charity (which all PTAs are) may donate funds to another 501(c)3 public charity with a similar mission. That means that a PTA can donate money only to nonprofits who have similar purposes. For example, you could not donate to the Red Cross, but you could donate to a non-profit children’s library, provided it had 501(c)3 status.

Likewise, the IRS is very clear that a public charity may not gift funds to individuals or families unless that is what the charity was organized to do. PTAs are not organized for that purpose, so we may not give money (including gift cards) to individuals or families in our school communities, regardless of need.

So the PTA may donate to other community organizations if they meet the criteria above (and assuming the association voted to do so), but the PTA could not gift funds to an individual or family.

However, there are several other things that PTAs can do to help and we encourage units to consider the following:

  • The PTA may advertise any and all benefits/fundraisers being held for individuals or families in need or local charities who are assisting those in need, regardless of who is organizing them. That includes letting everyone in your community know GoFundMe campaigns, etc.
  • The PTA may also help with a fundraiser by advertising it and encouraging volunteers, but it cannot be an official PTA activity and all money collected must go to the organization holding the fundraiser Checks cannot be made out to PTA and no deposits may be made to the PTA account on behalf of another organization or family in need.
  • The PTA may sponsor a food/diaper/necessities drive or solicit donations of those items to be given to a local food bank, etc. “Necessities” could include personal protective equipment (PPE) for local hospitals and medical facilities if that’s a need in your area.

Please visit the COVID-19 Resources for PTA Leaders page on our website. There you will find information about holding association meetings via telephone or video conferencing. We’re trying to help our local leaders and members be able to “meet” safely so that they can vote to make donations or redirect funds as needed for their school community, while still complying with legal requirements.