PTA-Reflections LogoIn the 2013-14 school year I was in charge of organizing Reflections© at my daughter’s elementary school. The art competition turned out to be a great success, 89 children turned in 100 pieces of art. I volunteered to organize the competition next school year as well, and I thought I would share some helpful information with other, mostly first time chair persons. I had to spend a lot of hours researching about the program last summer to understand how the competition works and how to run it successfully, and if I can save a few hours for other volunteers, it will make me happy,  because possibly more children would be exposed to art. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

I will always entitle these posts as Reflections© 101,  they will be also categorized under Reflections, and I will tag them with this word to be able to pull them out of all the other posts easily.

One more thing before I start: please understand, that I am sharing with you how I organize this competition. There are many things that differ between schools, districts, and States. Please make sure that you double check with your council (city or school district chair), and check the official PTA Reflections web sites for information related to YOUR school. I reside within the Fourth District PTA in California and the Irvine Unified School District.

National PTA website:   My state PTA website: California State PTA

What is Reflections©?

Reflections is a nation-wide arts appreciation and recognition program for students. It is sponsored by the National PTA, and it takes place in the Fall. Every year there is a new theme for the competition, which is chosen from student suggested ideas. More about this later.

The theme for the 2014-15 school year is: “The world would be a better place if…” It is very important, that the art works relate to the theme! The students need to write a 10-100 word artist statement to go with their art, which basically tells the judges how the theme inspired their art work, or how their art work is related to the theme. The phrase Artist statement might scare some participants, so make sure you explain its meaning in simple words, and you could even give some examples from previous years.

What are the categories?

Students (Preschool through high school) can enter their ORIGINAL work in the following six categories:

  • Literature
  • Musical composition
  • Photography
  • Visual Arts
  • Dance Choreography
  • Film/Video production

What are the five division (age groups)?

Primary: Preschool-Grade 2
Intermediate: Grades 3-5
Middle School: Grades 6-8
High School: Grades 9-12
Special Artist: Ungraded

What are the different levels in the competition?

The competition starts on the school (local) level. Certain number of art works – from each category – advance to the city, then to the district level. From there, some might be chosen to reach the State level, and finally the national level.

A list of important steps to take during the program:

  • Organize a team of volunteers
  • Advertise, promote the program at your school – start before the school year ends, so that the children can think about the theme, or even start working on their art work during the summer break.
  • Find judges (recommended to have at least one judge for each category, and have some back up judges as well)
  • Collect the art works by mid-October, and organize them for judging
  • Have the art works judged and returned to your school
  • The winning works need to be advanced to the city level by about November 1st (we do not know the exact day yet in our school district, last year it was November 1. We might not know the dates until September.)
  • Show the art works at your school (art exhibit). This can be done before you advance the winning works, could be soon after that (take photos of the winning pieces to include in the exhibit!), and in some cases schools have the exhibit in the spring, after getting back the art pieces that did not advance further. (Pieces that advanced to the national level will not be returned during the school year!)
  • Celebrate the students. Every child entering the competition should be recognized – make sure the all kids receive some kind of a Participation Award/Certificate.
  • Return the art works to the students

I will be addressing these steps in detail.

The theme search deadline is November 3, 2014. The theme search forms need to be filled out by the parents and students, and they mail the form directly to the California State PTA. You do not need to collect them as a chair person, but you do need to distribute them in some form (physically or electronically) to the students.

At the end of this first Reflections© post I’d like to share some documents that I used last year to 1. understand the program and 2. to run the program. Once again, these are forms used in the 2013-14 school year. Most things are unchanged, but make sure that you look at the new forms as soon as they become available on the PTA official site. Note: the forms are current for 2014-15. (One change I know of: local chair persons do not need to fill out a student entry form online for the advancing students – I’m pretty sure that this is a general, national rule. In our district, the Fourth District, we are required to fill out an Excel sheet and submit it to the Fourth District chair person. Here is its format:

Excel sheet template  )

Documents and forms from LAST YEAR:

Local Leader’s Guide 2014-15

Sample Action Plan


Abridged Guidelines Reflections 2013-14 (I will post this year’s document soon, but after quickly comparing the two I only saw the theme being different.)

Photography Rules – detailed (2014-15)

Dance Choreography rules – detailed (2014-15)

Film Production rules – detailed (2014-15)

Literature rules – detailed (2014-15)

Music Composition rules – detailed (2013-14)

Visual Arts rules – detailed (2014-15)

Special Artist Division rules – detailed (2014-15)

Student Entry Form (2014-15) CURRENTStudent Entry Form (2014-15) CURRENT





If you follow me on twitter, you can learn about new additions to the series. Some will be in the near future, some will follow in the Fall.

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