Community Service and Your PTA

by Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kelly MattinsonNovember 2022 Family Engagement

Volunteering in your local community can be fulfilling. 

Think about all the things we do to make our community, ours. How can PTAs and PTSAs encourage children and families to be good citizens and help neighbors and friends?

Here are some ideas for your PTA to share that will help create and support local community service activities:  

  • School Beautification Projects.  When local school district building funds are tight, a little elbow grease and teamwork goes a long way. As a bonus, participants get to meet other families and create a nicer place to learn and work. Think of the impact you and your PTA can help make and the ways it can teach, by example, how to be a good citizen. Be sure to check with your school district before beautifying. 
  • Charities and Donations. Do you remember Pennies For Patients? The premise of this Leukemia Lymphoma Society program was to get EVERY child involved. Not everyone can donate a lot of money, but most kids can find a few pennies. The key to the campaign was that it wasn’t about the total dollars but the total participation. Your PTA can create inclusive participation opportunities for a local cause and provide valuable experience in giving back and charity that stays with kids their entire life.  
  • Encourage Creative Generosity. I took my daughter and her friend to the PTA convention in downtown Los Angeles. After our District dinner, the girls asked the server for boxes for all the leftovers with disposable utensils and napkins. They then distributed the meals to the homeless men and women we passed on our way back to the hotel. I was so impressed. These 8th graders had just taught me an incredible lesson in generosity and kindness.

As we head into Thanksgiving and the winter school break, consider devoting time to Community Service this school year. PTAs can help families get involved and encourage a community-service mindset among  students in their school.  It is a wonderful way to spend time as a family, teach kids core values, and make a difference in the community. You can also make a brainstorming session about community needs part of your next PTA agenda.


Support For Adult Mental Health – Part 2

by Colleen Hervey, CA State PTA Family Engagement Commissioner, Derby Pattengill, CA State PTA Health and Community Concerns Vice-President, and Justine Fischer, Community Director for CalHope Schools Initiative Partnership

November 2022 Family EngagementAs parents and/or caregivers, we want what’s best for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy, loved, nourished, protected, educated, inspired, curious, and to have the tools they need to reach their potential. Children can bring us such joy, but also such worry. Often, we are unprepared to navigate the toll and stress our worry and our own parental anxiety causes us. In our effort to make sure all is well for them, we often neglect our own mental health needs. 

Parents/caregivers sometimes need assurances that self-care isn’t selfish! Taking care of ourselves gives us the bandwidth, strength and resilience to be positive influences in the lives of our families and those around us. 

PTAs can support the families they serve by helping them access the wealth of free resources available for adults. One example is the no-cost, evidenced-based set of resources available through the CalHOPE Schools Initiative. As described in a prior post, this initiative is a partnership of three organizations; All it Takes, iMPACTFUL, and Z-Cares. The resources provided include films that spark conversations about mental health, curriculum and support materials for educators and parents, and programming that supports social-emotional learning.

One of the most useful tools for parents are the 5 Adult Social and Emotional Learning Muscles mentioned in the All it Takes Building Trusted Spaces professional development. These are strategies for creating trusting relationships with young people while maintaining your authority and credibility.  

  • Quit Taking It Personal (QTIP) – offering the benefit of the doubt when interactions feel hurtful.
  • Communicating With I-Statements 
  • Ask vs Tell – recognizing and asking for what you need, rather than telling what’s wrong 
  • Storytelling – telling stories to rely feelings, rather than using them to make a point 
  • Walk The Talk – modeling in words, actions and attitudes what you expect from them 

These are valuable tools to use when interacting with your children at home or at school. For more information about them, visit  

Other helpful resources for parental/caregiver mental health

This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides additional information about the connection between children and parents’ mental health. 

National PTA provides resources for both parents and PTA leaders in its Healthy Lifestyles section titled Healthy Minds. California State PTA also provides additional insights and resources.

In our online world, there are many resources available to help families cope with stress and protect their mental well-being, from this short animated video about stress to a whole library of calming strategies provided by the Sacramento City Unified School District. 

As a reminder for all adults, when you fly you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first, if needed, before helping others. That’s because we are best able to serve others when we are at our best, modeling expected behavior and managing our own stress and anxiety. 


Support For Mental Health: The CalHOPE Schools Initiative

October 2022 Family Engagement BannerAdults who care for kids want what’s best for them, whether they’re in the role of parent, caregiver, teacher, or something else. What’s best includes providing young people with care that helps them to be happy, healthy, loved, nourished, protected, educated, inspired, curious, and to have the tools they need to reach their potential. 

That can feel particularly difficult today. Increasingly, adults are struggling to navigate the toll their own stress and worry are causing. In an effort to make sure all is well for our kids, we often neglect our own mental health needs. 

Fortunately, a new initiative launched by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) provides no-cost resources to schools and educational agencies across California to promote mental health and wellness. Leaders from local PTA units, councils and districts can work with their communities and educators to bring the resources from the CalHOPE Schools Initiatives to families.

The CalHOPE Schools Initiative links three powerful resources together at an easy access point for all California educators, staff, students, parents, and school volunteers. Recognizing the impact of stress, trauma, anxiety, and other challenges on mental health, the initiative offers multiple opportunities for school communities to support relationships, build resilience, and provide inspiration and support for students, educators, and families. The resources come from three different organizations that have formed a partnership. They include:: 

  • All It Takes, which has developed A Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth 
  • Impactful, which developed Angst: Building Resilience, and 
  • Z-Cares, which developed Look at Me Now: Stories of Hope

The resources provided include films that spark conversations about mental health, curriculum and support materials for educators and parents, and programming that supports social-emotional learning.

Accessing the materials requires a simple registration and sign-in process whether you want to see them as an Individual, on behalf of your association, or bring them to the attention of school officials. 

Thanks to the CalHOPE Schools Initiative, PTA leaders can feel confident helping their communities address issues of mental health and well-being. They can play an important role in creating trusted, safe spaces and relationships where each member of the community feels supported. 

On the California State PTA website you will find additional resources devoted to the topic of mental health. 

Learn, Share, Grow: Strategies that Work at Secondary Schools

by California State PTA Family Engagement CommissionOctober 2022 Family Engagement Banner

Connecting with secondary-school students and their families is just as important as when they were in  elementary school. But sometimes the programs that were successful when the students were little don’t work as well in the middle grade or high school years. To help you figure out some outstanding programming for your middle or high school PTA, look no further than these ideas from the Family Engagement Commission’s convention workshop, Learn, Share, Grow.

Partner with students and staff to get the word out.

Your PTA can work with the ASB, student council, or the on-campus video announcement class to get your messages out encouraging students to become members and participate in PTA events. Don’t forget to also work with your site administrators to help push out PTA messages in the weekly announcements, phone calls, or other group messaging used for families.

Students can work with the communications team at your PTA to find ways to reach students in a voice they understand. This is a great opportunity for student leadership and involvement within your PTA.  

Host a college/career night

Even our middle school students can begin to think about what their future holds post high school. A wonderful way to include families is asking them to come share their occupation with students. 

If you are holding a college fair, remember to include community colleges and trade schools as well to give a complete picture of post-graduate options. Financial aid workshops can also be a huge draw for high school families as this is an area of great interest and confusion.  

”Adulting” skill events

Many PTA units have held programming to help middle school/junior high or high school students learn skills they will need as adults that often aren’t taught in school.  One school turned this into a “Game of Life” where students visited different booths to learn skills while moving across their own personal game board. Others  simply hold workshops a few times a year to teach things like budgeting, opening a checking account, understanding investing, cooking, laundry, etc. to help our children prepare for their adult futures. 

Updated game nights

During the  elementary school years, families enjoy board game nights. However, middle and high school students might not be as willing to participate. One school shifted to an e-sports or video game night and found that they had amazing attendance!

Award students a PTA Letter

Just as students earn “Letters” for  sports, academics, and other extracurriculars, one PTSA awards their own letter for qualifying students each year. Your PTA can set its own qualifications: membership, volunteering, serving on the board, etc.  Qualifying students can receive a letter that says “PTA” to go on their letterman jacket alongside their other letters. 

Acknowledge graduating seniors

PTSA schools love to acknowledge seniors and they had many suggestions for ways to honor matriculating students. One school has a graduation walk where the high school seniors return to their elementary schools and walk the halls in their caps and gowns. This allows the elementary students to see what they have to look forward to one day when they graduate; and the teachers love seeing their former students before they move on to their next adventures.  

Many of the schools have PTSA scholarships which require students to have volunteered in PTA/PTSA during their time at the school. This is a win-win– you will get more student volunteers and they can get money for college. You can also encourage them to apply for a scholarship from the California State PTA.

If you have other ideas for middle or high school programming for family engagement please share them with us using this Google form. 

PTAs help students stand up and stand out

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kelly Mattinson

October 2022 Family Engagement Banner

For students hoping to attend highly competitive colleges and universities, the application process can be daunting. That’s especially true for students with a good grade point average (GPA) but one that falls below the 4.0 or higher of some classmates.

One way college applicants can stand out, and get into the college of their dreams, is by standing up! Standing up for a cause, donating time to a charity, and/or starting a charity… are ways students can make an impact in their community and on their applications. 

Your PTA can help students access these kinds of opportunities. PTA leaders can encourage student participation and student leadership roles in PTA programs and in events such as school fundraising, spelling bees, recycling programs, or carnivals – and putting students to work at those events as appropriate. 

As students get older, include them in your organizing and planning teams for PTA projects and programs. You can also encourage them to help out at local elementary school events and programs even as they matriculate to middle and high school. Your PTA can create partnerships with other local community groups looking for volunteers. There are many ways to help students develop the skills they need to continue to stand up for their passions.

Even if a student doesn’t get the “oos and awws” from a college selection committee, they will have helped a cause AND they will stand out.  Focus on helping students in your PTA community develop leadership skills and support them as they offer new programs and ideas for your PTA.  

Referring to experience as a PTA volunteer, a camp counselor, or helping a pre-k child who was missing his mom can make great content for a college application essay. These essays are impactful, emotional, and grab the reader. 

A college applicant who used leadership skills to create a program or champion a cause for the betterment of others is the type of student many universities would love to have as part of their student body. 

Your PTA can help students stand out by encouraging them to stand up for a cause. They will feel good about making a difference, and may end up with great material for that future college or scholarship application. Adults can encourage them to keep a log, so when the time comes to brag they don’t forget ALL they have accomplished. 

It feels good to stand up and stand out!

What do families need? The chance to be heard.

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kathleen Fay

October 2022 Family Engagement Banner

Families want to be heard by their school community. PTA leaders can help make that happen by hosting listening sessions to provide families with an authentic opportunity to offer their ideas on how schools can better meet their needs. If your PTA is planning for a listening session consider the following:

WHO: For our purposes the term families is defined as anyone who cares for the children, which can include parents, grandparents, other family members including older siblings, neighbors and community members who care about and for the children. You can decide if you want to include students. Remember when inviting families to include everyone possible to join in. You’ll benefit if you are able to run logistics for the gatherings and convey the input received to school administrators. 

WHAT: Encourage everyone to offer their ideas, suggestions, input, unanswered questions, feedback, hopes, wishes, needs, and priorities concerning the education of their children and to reflect on their lives as members of the school community.  

WHEN: Consider holding at least one daytime and one nighttime session during the first half of the school year so that input can be incorporated into the annual budget planning process.  Adding a weekend option can also boost participation. Allow a window of a couple of hours for ideas to spark other ideas and for people to come and go as needed to join in on their own schedule.  You know your community best, so choose the times that work best locally.

WHERE: In person or virtual. Consider holding these listening sessions at school (library, multipurpose room, auditorium, gymnasium) or in a location convenient to the local community (park recreation room, community hall, senior center, local library, church meeting room). Meet families where they live!

WHY: School districts are required to seek parent input when making decisions for their schools and to promote family participation in education programs for all students. But too often, schools rely on limited-response surveys and comments from only a few parents to do this. It is appropriate for PTAs to help give voice to the needs of the entire parent community, with diverse representation and the opportunity to freely state opinions…for EVERY child.

HOW: You might use the established state priority areas as categories for families’ input.  That way, the information you gather will align with the way your school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is structured. A simple way to do this is to prepare large sheets of paper or poster boards that you post around the room with these headings:

  1. Basic Services: Teachers, instructional materials, facilities (plus library, counselors, school nurse)
  2. State Standards: Academic content, standards for student performance across the curriculum (including PE, Career Tech Ed, Arts)
  3. Parent and Family Engagement: Relationships between staff and families, partnerships focused on student outcomes, parent involvement in decision-making. 
  4. Student Achievement: Statewide assessments, English learner progress, college and career readiness
  5. Student Engagement: Attendance, graduation (plus mental health, support systems, homeless and foster youth)
  6. School Climate: Suspension/expulsion, safety, school connectedness, school culture
  7. Course Access: Availability of a broad course of study for all students, instructional supports, inclusive practices, equity 
  8. Student Outcomes: Indicators of student performance in each of the subject areas

Your participants can move around the room and write down any comments or recommendations they have in each category. Those who agree with something already listed can just add a tally mark (like this:  ||||  |||).  To highlight priorities, do a second round and have each participant put a star next to their top three to five suggestions.  This can be adapted to a virtual format–there are many options.

Encourage participants to note the school’s particular strengths as well as needed areas of improvement. You might want to have sticky notes on hand if people want to add longer comments. Encourage conversations around the room to help everyone hone in on what’s important.

A few additional tips to ensure a successful event:

  • Serve refreshments 
  • Bring lots of pens
  • Model a positive, relaxed attitude

When you’re done, take photos of each poster and then roll or stack them up to take with you.  Summarize the results and submit the input to your school principal and to the district’s LCAP Advisory Committee for further consideration. Share what you learned in your next newsletter, and let parents know how to offer additional input.

Watch for recommendations from your PTA listening sessions to be reflected in some aspects of your next LCAP update!

College Essay Writing

Family Engagement Friday for September 2022by California State PTA Vice President for Family Engagement, Heather Ippolito

As many families with high school students know, fall is not just the beginning of the school year. For a high school senior planning to continue their education at a four-year college or university, it’s also time to prepare applications for college admission. That often includes writing an application essay.

The University of Chicago recently held a webinar entitled The Search for the Perfect Application Essay.  The night was full of important items for a student to keep in mind when completing their personal statement or writing application essays for colleges or scholarships. Here are a few takeaways that high school PTAs can share with their student members and families:

Colleges want to hear about you.  They read essays from thousands, even hundreds of thousands of applicants. They are looking for how you are unique and a good fit for their educational institution.  

Admissions offices want to hear about who you are today, not the five year old you once were.  If you do need to give background from your past, make sure that it leads to who you are now.  While many applicants write about their families, their grandmother who inspired them to work hard or their father who sacrificed everything for his family, remember that you are the one applying for admission.  Try to focus on yourself humbly and graciously, and not on your extended family or friends. 

Take your time. Writing an essay like this will take a good amount of time.  You should take some time to pre-plan what you are going to say, write a rough draft (or two or three), and have trusted advisors assist you in editing.  

Some college bound students who write daily for their academic classes think that their college application will be an easy task to complete.  They sit down at the computer close to the deadline and think they can bang out a killer essay.  Sadly, this often isn’t the case. The readers can tell which essays had lots of time invested into them and which were more like afterthoughts.  

Ask your counselor, English teacher, or another advisor for edits.  While they shouldn’t be writing your essay for you, they can give you honest feedback about the content and tone of your essay.  Remember that the essay should sound like it came from you, not a thesaurus.  

Details matter.  Another tip mentioned was oftentimes, students will use their essays for more than one school. If you do this and you mention the university as part of the essay, be sure you have edited it for the correct school.  A scholarship reader for UCLA shared that they often got applications stating how excited they were to attend Brown University or UC Davis.  Those applications quickly went into the reject pile because the students couldn’t be bothered to update the essay for the correct school. 

For more information about college and career readiness visit the California State PTA website or search “college and career” on our blog.


Attendance & Why It Matters

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commissioner, Shannon Jaeger

Family Engagement Friday for September 2022

As we start off another school year, we know that local PTA leaders are excited to see students returning and eager to welcome parents and students alike to the school campus and all that it entails. After some difficult times, we start this school year with renewed optimism, hopeful we will all have a healthy and successful year.

One critical ingredient for realizing that hope is good student attendance.  Attendance Works, a national nonprofit organization, cites extensive research documenting the connection between student attendance and success.

We all know that sometimes circumstances are beyond a family’s control, but your PTA can encourage families to do all they can to make regular school attendance a top priority every day.

Keeping Count of Attendance is Important

The Attendance Ladder shown here is an image you can share to help families keep on track, guiding them toward a goal of perfect or near perfect attendance. It combines descriptions of attendance rates and their impact from Attendance Works and international sources.

Attendance It Matters

Attendance matters across all grade levels from K to 12. Students’ attendance rates, the percent of school days that they are in class, make a true difference:

  • 100% – Children are highly likely to achieve and do very well in school
  • 98%-96% – Children are also going to achieve and do well. However, they are still missing 4 – 7 days per school year.
  • 95%- Kids might struggle a little as they are missing 9 days out of the year. In a handout for elementary age parents, Attendance Works characterizes missing 9 or fewer days of school as satisfactory attendance.
  • 94%- Children are going towards more risk as they have now missed 10 or more days at school per year.  They still can improve, but they may be struggling more academically. Attendance Works considers missing 10 to 17 days as a warning that attendance needs attention.
  • 90% and Below- Kids are in the ‘Danger Zone’. They have missed at least 18 days (and sometimes as much as two months) of school. They are not only going to struggle academically, they are at heightened risk of dropping out and incarceration. Attendance Works counts this as Chronic Absence.

Addressing Absenteeism Differs by Child and Community

Last year, a lot of missed school was pandemic-related. Today, we all are anxious to get our lives back to normal. In the rush, we may need to address some kids’ anxiety about being back in the classroom.

  • For some students, depression or other mental health issues may be affecting attendance. Missing too much school can be a red flag signaling these kinds of serious issues. Does your school have a plan in place for helping students out and creating a safe space for them?
  • Family circumstances, such as homelessness, can also be a contributing factor in being absent. Making sure families know about local resources, and have numbers to call, is helpful but often not sufficient. Sometimes, you may need that mobile clinic on the school site or to even get a food-bank truck to come to school to distribute food.
  • Making services available to families on campus often happens at community schools and often in unexpected ways. For example, in Newark, New Jersey, a high school principal saw a rise in attendance after he installed a washer and a dryer in the school, so students could wash their clothes and have clean clothes to attend school. Because some did this after school, he went a step further and provided homework and tutoring during the week. Friday night was game night and basketball happened as the washing machines worked.

So often, improving student attendance is about seeing a need and addressing the issues head on. Make the resources available. According to a former child welfare attendance clerk at an elementary school in Hayward, they had the goal of bringing attendance up by one to two percent each year. She created a clothes closet; she did perfect attendance awards and a movie night. She also advocated for a washer and dryer in the school as well to help make sure everyone, including homeless and foster youth, had access to clean clothes, shoes, and toiletries to boost her attendance goals. She is now working in Family Engagement for the district to help do more outreach districtwide. These are the kinds of steps PTAs can support and encourage school leaders to take.

Here’s to seeing everyone in school and having a great school year!

Knowing your family’s rights: Students have rights, too

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kathleen Fay

As events and programs for the new school year get underway, your PTA will be more successful and your plans will go more smoothly if your leaders have a solid understanding of some basic laws that govern schools in California. It’s particularly helpful to be familiar with fairly recent laws related to student rights.

Sharing this information with parents generally also makes sense. Parents who understand students’ rights can be more effective advocates for their children.  

A safe, secure environment conducive to learning

 Students have a right not to be subjected to harassment, sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination, indignity, injury, or violence.  California students are protected from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identification, according to state law.  California law further states that everyone in public schools should have “equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state.” (California Education Code Section 200.)

 Since 2014, California law has also specified that “a pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.” (California Education Code Section 221.5(f) )

No student fees to participate in educational activities

The California Constitution provides for a free school system. Based on California Education Code that means a pupil enrolled in a public school shall not be required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity.  What does this rule include?

…even for extracurriculars – 

Schools cannot require students (or their parents) to pay a fee to participate in an educational activity that is a fundamental part of their education, including both curricular and extracurricular activities, and regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit.  

…even for materials/equipment – 

Pupils cannot be required to pay a security deposit, or other payment, to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment; nor may a pupil be required to make a purchase to obtain materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an educational activity.  A fee waiver policy shall not make a pupil fee permissible. 

…even for supplies – 

All school supplies, materials, and equipment needed to participate in educational activities shall be provided to pupils free of charge.  This includes materials for art classes, cloth for sewing classes, wood for carpentry, gym suits for physical education, and any bluebooks or special paper used for exams or reports.  A fee cannot be charged for a cap and gown to participate in the high school graduation ceremony.

In short, parents cannot be required to pay a fee or perform service hours as a condition of their child’s participation in educational activities.

Some charges are allowed

The law does allow schools to charge fees for some activities, which are specifically defined: 

  • Reimbursement for direct costs of materials provided to a pupil for property the pupil has fabricated from such materials to take home for his/her own possession and use, such as wood shop, art, or sewing projects kept by the pupil (although materials necessary for class participation must be provided)
  • Charges for safety glasses, for a pupil to keep (except those used in specified courses or activities involving the use of hazardous substances likely to cause injury to the eyes)
  • Certain technology equipment not used as an essential part of the educational program
  • Food that is not part of the free and reduced-price meal program
  • Replacement costs for school district property that is lost or willfully damaged
  • Field trips, so long as no pupil is prevented from making the field trip or excursion because of lack of sufficient funds
  • After-school education and safety program fees, so long as fees are waived for homeless youth, foster youth, or pupils eligible for free or reduced-price meals
  • Fees for outdoor science school camp programs, so long as no pupil is denied the opportunity to participate because of non-payment of the fee
  • Athletic team insurance, so long as there is a waiver for financial hardship
  • Test fees for certain specialized examinations
  • Adult education class fees, as specified

A number of federal laws also protect students’ rights

  • Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the assignment of students to schools or classes.  It also prohibits discrimination in ability grouping or tracking students.
  • Title IX protects against discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment). In addition, Title IX protects transgender students and students who do not conform to gender stereotypes. State law also prohibits discrimination based on gender (sex), gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The Federal civil rights laws that the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, including Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and Title II, make it unlawful to interfere with any right or privilege secured by these laws. This means that a school or school district must not retaliate against someone who has brought civil rights concerns to a school’s attention, including by making a formal or informal complaint, testifying, or participating in an OCR investigation.

Knowing students’ rights, and making sure families know them as well, is an important way PTA can help to ensure that every child obtains a free and fair public education in California. It’s part of the PTA mission and supports the well-being of all children and families.

Learn, Share Grow: Ideas for Family/Caregiver Elementary School Events

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Elementary school is many families’ first interaction with the school system. When your PTA finds ways to engage families early in the year it can have lasting impacts on your campus, your PTA, and those families. Engaged parents not only help their own children to succeed, but they often volunteer with the PTA to help all children have an amazing school experience.  

More than 100 participants from across the state shared their best family engagement tips, tricks, and ideas at the 2022 California State PTA Convention, during a workshop called “Learn, Share, Grow.”  

Below are their best suggestions for elementary school engagement (be sure to read our previous post for more ideas on general Family Engagement Events to bring to your school community):

(Reminder: approve all events with your membership and check with your school and the PTA insurance guide before you start planning.)

  • Family Fridays– Family members come to class for the first 15 minutes of the day to read with children or play games on the yard before school.  If appropriate, invite families to a regular event such as the morning assembly at the flagpole once a week so that families can see some of the morning routines their students do. If weekly is too much, try it once a month. Wrap up the event with coffee and a PTA meet and greet (or your association meeting) to begin building relationships with these families.   
  • Have a monthly photo stop– Every month on a specified day set up a photo spot for families to take pictures in. This is a great PR thing for your PTA, because you can brand it and remind families to share with you on your social media accounts (note that if your PTA wishes to post directly, they need to have a photo release).  Families can help fill your yearbook pages with these photos– and who doesn’t love getting photos of their child? 
  • Bike rodeo– This is a great event to help students and families understand bike safety. Ask your local police or fire department to help you host the event to collaborate with your community. Students can bring their bikes and helmets to school to share, but you could also have tire filling stations or safety checks.  You could even extend the event with a BMX bike assembly!
  • Author visits– Many bookstores or libraries have author visits or find a local author who is willing to share their book with the families at a family literacy event. If their book is meant for older audiences, they could read their favorite book from when they were in elementary school. If you do this multiple times in a year, have the students make autograph books that they can fill with the authors’ signatures. 
  • Drive-in movies– In last month’s blog post we already talked a little about movie nights but this spin on it is fun, especially if your school district is nervous about having lots of people on campus. Families drive onto campus and stay in their cars for a movie night. You will need to have a large screen and good sound system, but most families enjoy this old-timey experience. Offer families the chance to pre-purchase snack packs that are then bundled and delivered to the cars by volunteers.  
  • STEAM night– STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. California State PTA has a STEAM night program already available for you to adapt as you need it. Families greatly enjoy coming together for a night of exploration together. There are also different assembly companies, local colleges, or museums who would be happy to work with you on your very own STEAM night.  
  • Multicultural night– Having families share their culture with others is a fantastic way to grow community within our schools. Sharing food, music, dance, photographs, stories, and sports with children helps them to see the world without ever leaving your campus. Your PTA could create a passport that students can get stamped or signed at each booth to encourage them to visit as many booths as they are able. It’s also a fun item for the scrapbook!  

We want to share your great family engagement ideas with other PTAs across California. Please take a moment to fill out this simple form and share your family events with us.