Mickey Mouse & the National PTA Honor ACPS Reflections Winner

You may have heard that an ACPS student was one of three Northern Virginians to win 2015-16 Reflections honors at the National level, and the only one of the three to attend the National PTA Convention’s Reflections Awards Program in Orlando in July.

Jonathan P., now a TCW/Minnie Howard student, (but a GW 8th-grader during last year’s contest) won a National Reflections award in Music Composition, and was honored along with other National winners at a program at Disney’s Dolphin Resort. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were on hand, as well as actor and rapper Doc Shaw and a variety of PTA and education movers and shakers.

We’ve just come across this slide show of highlights from that awards program. You’ll catch a glimpse of Jonathan at about 35 seconds in. (He’s the tall one.)


New and Improved!

This site is still very new, and I’ve made some changes this week that Reflections chairs should know about.


Fly, by Lillie E, MacArthur Elem.

First, I learned this evening that Fairfax County’s Reflections deadline has changed. The new deadline for Fairfax school chairs to advance their winning entries to the county is November 17. In fact, the Fairfax PTA Council will be accepting the winning entries from Fairfax schools on two dates, Nov. 17 and 18. Here’s a link for more information.

That brings up another group of changes I’ve made to this site. While it was created to serve the Alexandria City Schools’ PTAs, I’ve realized that our counterparts throughout Northern Virginia might also find it helpful to have a one-stop “shop” for all that is Reflections. I can’t offer Arlington, Fairfax, and Falls Church the level of customization that Alexandria chairs can find here, but I have added some material aimed at our friends throughout the Northern Virginia PTA District.

Another change I’ve made is to the Entry Forms that were already posted on the site. A school chair reminded me at the District PTA Training this evening that last year I suggested it could be useful to add the contest theme to the top of the form. So I’ve gone back to the entry forms posted on this site and added the theme at the top of the page. If you’ve already copied and distributed forms, don’t think you have to throw them out and start over. But if you have not, you might delete any files you downloaded earlier and instead download the new versions.

Speaking of Entry Forms, I’ve modified the way I list the forms to choose from for download. Originally I had included each school twice, once with its English-language form and once in Spanish. As the list of schools that have provided info has grown, I’ve realized the sheer length of the list could become hard to navigate. So I cut the list in half by posting each school only once, but with two clickable links (English and Spanish). This is purely a cosmetic change; the content is unmodified.


The list of school and council entry forms available on the site has been streamlined with some layout modifications.

Finally, I noticed by chance that the General Rules list‘s Spanish translation, provided by the National and State PTAs, has an error. Apparently it was adapted from last year’s rules sheet, but someone missed the fact that it still mentioned last year’s theme! I found a translation of this year’s theme on the Theme Search form, and cut-and-pasted to add it to the General Rules sheet. So if you are planning to use the General Rules in Spanish translation but have not yet distributed them, you might delete the old version from your computer and download the new, corrected one.

Did I mention that this site is a work in progress? I’ll continue to add new information and to update anything that becomes out of date. And let me know if you’re looking for other information that is not provided.




What’s In a Theme?

Reflections encourages students to create art around a theme. This year’s theme:

“What Is Your Story?”


“The World Would Be a Better Place If We Saw the Little Details,” by Isabel M. (George Washington MS)

Interpretation of the Theme is worth half the possible points awarded to each entry in the Judging phase of the contest, so it’s a good idea for students to make use of every opportunity to show the judges how their work connects with the contest theme! In addition to the artwork itself, students can express the theme through the title they choose for their work and through the required Artist’s Statement.

Many students often simply restate the theme to use as their work’s title, and even as the Artist’s Statement. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but entrants might consider putting more thought into a title that expresses their own thoughts of the theme or that says something about the work, rather than simply repeating the theme verbatim.

So who comes up with the theme each year? You do! PTA Reflections holds a national Theme Search competition each fall, looking for theme idea for the Reflections contest two years in the future. (So the current Theme Search will choose a theme for the 2018-19 school year.) Click here for more on the Theme Search contest.


Plane Magic, by Jonathan P. (George Washington MS)

If you are a student and want to suggest a theme in the Theme Search contest, check with your school’s Reflections Chair to see if your school is running a Theme Search. If it is, follow your school’s rules and deadline for entering the Theme Search.

If your school is not running its own Theme Search, you can enter through the Alexandria City Theme Search. Download one Theme Search form for each idea you want to submit (max three per person, each on its own form). Fill out each form completely, add your theme suggestion, and mail it (by snail mail; the state needs your original signature on the form, not a scan) to the city Reflections chair. (For that address and details, email alexandriaPTACreflections@gmail.com.) The postmark deadline for students to enter the Alexandria City Theme Search is Oct. 15. Check with your school Reflections chair for the deadline for your school’s Theme Search.

(Sneak preview of next year’s Reflections Theme: “Within Reach.”)









Expand Your School’s Contest!

Are you a Reflections school chair who would like to receive more entries? How many is a “normal” number of entries? The answers are all across the board. Last year, among the 12 ACPS schools that took part in Reflections, the smallest contest received 2 entries; the largest had about 200. So there is no “right” number of entries, but we’d all love to get more students involved in creating art and submitting it to the contest. So what are some tips for expanding your contest?

  • sturge-with-inspiration-still-shot-crop

    With Inspiration, by J. Sturge (Charles Barrett)

    Publicize, publicize, publicize! How do you let students and parents know about your contest? Some possibilities include backpack flyers or packets, morning or afternoon P.A. announcements, flyers on the wall, calls for entries in PTA and school newsletters, info on PTA and school websites, announcements made by teachers in the classroom, and Reflections “stations” at school (with entry forms, general rules sheets, category rules sheets, and collection boxes), and more.

  • Speak with teachers about using the Reflections theme as the subject of a class assignment. Give teachers the entry forms and make sure students fill them out. Offer to talk to classes yourself to provide instructions on entering.
  • Offer incentives to students who submit entries by the deadline. Make sure they have their entry forms completely filled out. Incentives will vary depending on your budget and the age of the students. You might try stickers, pencils, or glow bracelets. Talk to teachers about offering extra credit.
  • Offer a prize to the teacher who gets the most entries from her or his students. One school Reflections Chair arranged with the principal to give the winning teacher a one-time 15-minute break during the school day, with the principal watching the class during that time! Or you might try a small gift card to a bookstore or coffee shop.
  • Host a Reflections Night! Mount Vernon pioneered this idea and continues to hold this popular, crazy-fun event each year. (It’s this Friday.) Students and their families are invited to eat pizza (free from the PTA) and make art. Each arts category has a station set up somewhere in the school, staffed by teachers and parent volunteers who offer art supplies, electronic equipment, and support. This event requires many volunteers, but it’s a key element in making MVCS’s Reflections program the biggest in the city. Several ACPS schools have adapted the idea to a smaller event, one that supports only one (or a few) of the six arts categories and requires fewer volunteers.
  • Start an After-School Reflections Club or one-time activity session. Talk to your PTA President about inviting students to stay after school — once, a few times, or on a regular basis — to work on Reflections entries. You can focus on one arts category (for example, a Photography Club that provides guidance, photographic tips, a printer and other equipment, and maybe even a group walking trip to a nearby neighborhood or park to find scenes to photograph).
  • If your PTA provides child care during meetings or other PTA activities, arrange to have Reflections volunteers in the child-care room with art supplies and entry forms, to lead a creative session.


Flying, by Emily M. (Mount Vernon Comm School)

If students will be creating entries at some kind of event, be ready to collect the entries and completed entry forms at the end. If they take home their artwork — planning to fill out the form and submit it later — they are likely to forget. And keep in mind that the quality of the art you receive at large events like a Reflections Art Night is likely to be lower, on average, than the quality of art students create alone at home. That’s OK. The point is to experiment and have fun. And students who have a blast creating art at a large event often go home and create more entries, under conditions better suited to concentrating. It’s also important to remember that Interpretation of the Theme is worth twice as many points as Technique, so artwork that may be a little sloppy because of chaotic surroundings can still do well in the judging!

On the other hand, not every Reflections chair wants to increase the number of entries. If you’re a one-person committee and you’re running Reflections for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed and prefer to have a small contest this year, to give yourself a chance to figure out the job. If that’s the case, just don’t promote the contest heavily. Put out a few newsletter blurbs, post rules near a collection box, and have a reminder read aloud in the morning or afternoon announcements. Don’t try to hold a Reflections evening or to get teachers involved. If you promote less, you’ll probably receive fewer entries, and your contest will be more manageable. But we hope that next year, after you have a better idea of how all of this works, you’ll be ready to expand your contest to encourage more students to enter.

Have you tried anything different for increasing the number of entries received by your school? Please tell us about it in the Comments section.