USDA Provides School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit

Does your school or school district have a wellness policy? Chances are, they do, but families and even teachers may not know much about it. The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has created a Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit to help schools (or PTAs) engage staff and families on their school’s wellness policies. The toolkit includes:

  • A cover letter about the kit
  • A letter to the principal
  • Flyers in English and Spanish for parents
  • PowerPoint presentations aimed at families and staff
  • A newsletter article
  • Social media posts and graphics

Talk to your principal or superintendent about how your PTA can help support your school’s wellness policy. If there is a wellness committee, ask to have families represented on the committee as well. Use the USDA toolkit to support your activities.

Early Learning Council’s New Guidelines for Community Engagement

The value of PTA can be measured in a wide variety of ways, but one of the most strategic is representation of the parent community at the state level through participation in meaningful relationships. One such relationship is with the Illinois Early Learning Council. Created by Public Act 93-380, the Council is a public-private partnership designed to strengthen, coordinate, and expand programs and services for children, birth to five, throughout Illinois. The Council builds on current programs to ensure a comprehensive, statewide early learning system (preschool, child care, Head Start, health care, and support programs for parents) to improve the lives of Illinois children and families.

The mission of the Council is to collaborate with child-serving systems and families to meet the needs of young children, prioritizing those with the highest need, through comprehensive early learning services for children and families prenatally to age five. The Illinois PTA continues to be part of the Early Learning Council, and a representative serves on the Principles and Practices subcommittee. Ongoing dialogue about the need for age-appropriate learning experiences has prompted the development of the Guidelines for Community Engagement (included in the ZIP file).

We believe these guidelines can assist parents of young children, as well as PTA leaders, in creating a dialogue with teachers and administrators centered on the Illinois Early Learning Standards, as well as with the community at large with regard to the value of high quality early learning programs. In addition, PTA Councils in districts with an early learning program may wish to meet with their district about forming an early learning PTA to serve as a resource for family communication and education.

Why Don’t Volunteers Stick Around?

It is generally agreed that no one of us can motivate another. The most we can do is to stimulate others to action, but individuals must provide the motivation for themselves. Volunteers are obviously motivated by something other than a paycheck, such as self-esteem, recognition, approval, acceptance, and pride in a job well done.

A good leader knows how to inspire others to move them toward positive behavior that can move those volunteers and the association toward productive actions. Group consensus stimulates members to be motivated because the members feel their input has been valued; they’ve had a voice in how things will be. Members of a group will be motivated if the leader is aware of their values, needs, and interests.

Volunteers often lose interest when:

  • There is no praise or reward for their action
  • They receive no support from their co-worker
  • There is no chance for personal growth
  • Their personal needs are not being met
  • They do not feel they are truly making a difference

By making an effort to reach out and to nurture volunteers, PTA leaders can keep those volunteers involved.

  • Be friendly. Make all parents feel that PTA welcomes and accepts them.
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences among families.
  • Avoid stereotyping people.
  • Invite parents from all cultures to serve on the PTA board. Start by asking them to be involved on committees. Include them in leadership training opportunities.
  • Show appreciation for whatever amount of time a parent gives to PTA.

Graphic © 2013 by Pump Aid Pictures under Creative Commons license.

New Hour of Code Activity from National PTA & ThinkFun

Computer Science Education Week begins December 4th, and with it comes the Hour of Code program that Illinois PTA has covered before. We’ve also covered the importance of computer science education and computational thinking for students.

This year, as part of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative, program partner ThinkFun has created an Hour of Code activity called Robot Repair. The activity uses fun puzzle solving to teach Boolean logic, a type of algebra that uses only TRUE and FALSE (or 1 and 0 in computers).

The activity has been approved as an official Hour of Code program and is available directly from the link above or through the activities list at Hour of Code. It can be done at home, or as part of a PTA Hour of Code program along with other exercises. If your PTA is considering an Hour of Code event, keep in mind that there are many activities available from the Hour of Code site that do not require an internet connection or even a computer or other device.