Theme Search Contest


Magical Dress, by My-Linh A., Mt Vernon Comm School

School PTAs may participate in the National Reflections Theme Search. Each year, the National PTA holds a student contest for theme suggestions for the Reflections contest coming up in two years. So the contest taking place in the 2017-18 school year is to determine the National Reflections theme for 2019-20.

The Theme Search contest is optional. Some Reflections chairs, especially new chairs, choose not to run one because they’re feeling too overwhelmed. That’s valid. But the Theme Search program is easy, and requires minimal time and effort. You solicit student suggestions, choose the best (up to five of them), and send them to the State Reflections chair. One simple form, no rubrics, no judges to find, no City or District level, and usually only a small number of entries.

(If you decide not to run a Theme Search contest for your school but have students who want to enter, they may submit their ideas, using one Theme Search Form per idea, to the Alexandria City Theme Search competition. These must be mailed to the City Reflections Chair, postmarked by Oct. 30. Email for details.)

A Step-By-Step Guide To Running Your Theme Search

Marcy, Imagine the Possibilities, Still Shot for website, crop

“Imagine the Possibilities,” by Ava M. (MacArthur Elem.)

If you’re a school Reflections Chair and have decided your school will hold a theme contest, here’s what to do:

  • Download the 2019-2020 Theme Search Form and add your school’s Theme deadline and PTA info. Your school’s top theme ideas are due to the state on Nov. 24, so set your school deadline earlier.
  • Make the forms available to students; the best way is to leave copies near a box at school for collecting completed Theme Search forms. Include the second page; if you can, print 2-sided to have it all on one sheet. If you want, you can also send them to students in a Reflections packet, or provide a download link.
  • Set up a collection box for completed Theme Search forms. Often this is at a Reflections “station,” along with Entry Forms, rules sheets, and a box for completed Reflections entries. Locate it somewhere central, like the main office or library. Some schools have several collection points. Display deadlines prominently.
  • Announce the school’s Theme Search contest in your usual outlets: school and PTA websites and newsletters, morning announcements, hallway flyers, and the like.
  • Give students time to fill out Theme Search forms with their ideas (one idea per form). The back of the form (or second page) lists all the themes that have been used since the contest began. Students may not submit previous Reflections themes. (Click the last few words to download, or read them at the bottom of this page.)
  • Collect the entries. Most likely, you won’t have a lot. Choose the best entries. You may submit up to five to the state, but if you don’t have five good ones, submit fewer. You can choose them yourself; it will probably take only a few minutes.
  • Make copies of the forms you’re submitting to the state. Send the originals (not the copies) via snail mail by Nov. 24 to State Reflections Chair Laura Armentrout. Email her at for the mailing address.
  • Recognize your school’s theme winners. You can make this simple: A congratulations on the morning announcements is fine. Or you could offer an award certificate, a free book if your PTA keeps a giveaway stash, or a $5 gift card to the nearest kid-friendly snack shop (like Dairy Godmother or Sugar Shack). (Please use local businesses rather than national chains when possible! Local business owners have been very supportive of Reflections.)
  • National PTA announces its Theme-Search winner in January; the winner receives a $100 cash prize.



1969-70 Children and Youth, Mirror Their World
1970-71 Children and Youth, Look to Tomorrow
1971-72 America, The Beautiful, The Ugly
1972-73 This is Our Country
1973-74 From Sea to Shining Sea
1974-75 Our Heritage—Our Hopes
1975-76 Spirit of ’76—Miracle of America
1976-77 What the World Needs Now
1977-78 Love Is…
1978-79 Look Out Your Window
1979-80 Behind the Gates of Tomorrow

1980-81 What a Family Means to Me
1981-82 What Makes Me Smile
1982-83 Life in These United States
1983-84 I Have a Dream
1984-85 What Sparks My Imagination
1985-86 From Liberty’s View
1986-87 In Celebration: A Past to Remember,
a Future to Mold
1987-88 Wonders of the World
1988-89 Proud Experiences
1989-90 Where Does the Sky End?

1990-91 If I Had a Wish
1991-92 Exploring New Beginnings
1992-93 Imagine That
1993-94 If I Could Give the World a Gift
1994-95 Dare to Discover
1995-96 Just Open Your Eyes and See
1996-97 It Could Happen
1997-98 Wouldn’t It Be Great If…
1998-99 Suddenly You Turn Around And…
1999-00 Anything is Possible…

2000-01 It Would be Really Strange If…
2001-02 I Hold in My Hand…
2002-03 Signs of Courage
2003-04 I Am Really Happy When…
2004-05 A Different Kind of Hero
2005-06 I Wonder Why…
2006-07 My Favorite Place
2007-08 I Can Make a Difference By…
2008-09 Wow!
2009-10 Beauty Is…

2010-11 Together We Can…
2011-12 Diversity Means…
2012-13 The Magic of a Moment…
2013-14 Believe, Dream, Inspire
2014-15 The World Would Be a Better Place If…
2015-16 Let Your Imagination Fly
2016-17 What Is Your Story?
2017-18 Within Reach
2018-19 Heroes Around Me