Reflections Program


Artwork by D. Chang

Revised January 2010 – Programs and Member Services


Program Theme
2018-2019 Heroes Around Me”

The National PTA Reflections Program is an arts recognition and achievement program for students. The Reflections Program provides opportunities for students to express themselves creatively and to receive positive recognition for original works of art inspired by a pre-selected theme, while increasing community awareness of the importance of the arts in education.

The Reflections Program was established in 1969 by National PTA board member Mary Lou Anderson. Since that time, more than 10 million students have participated in the program. The program’s longevity and participation figures attest to its strength. The excitement and enthusiasm that the program generates for children, parents, schools and communities is unmatched.

Participation and appreciation for the arts is the Reflections Program’s goal. Although the Reflections Program follows a “contest” format, winning should not be the emphasis. Participation in the Reflections Program is a great way for students to explore and learn about various art forms. Creating art is a valuable learning process that challenges students to use their critical thinking skills as well as their creative talents to create art that supports a specific theme.

Students may submit an entry in any of the six arts areas listed below. Only original works of art are accepted. Depending on state and local PTA guidelines, students may enter more than one work of art. The six arts areas are as follows.

  • Literature
  • Music Composition
  • Photography
  • Visual Arts
  • Dance Choreography
  • Film Production

Participation in the Reflections Program is organized by school grade. Student works are critiqued with others in the same grade division. This allows recognition and judging of artworks by appropriate developmental age and skill levels. The five grade divisions are as follows:

  • Primary – Preschool – Grade 2 or up to age 7
  • Intermediate – Grades 3-5 or ages 8-10
  • Middle School – Grades 6-8 or ages 11-13
  • High School – Grades 9-12 or ages 14+
  • Special Artist – Ungraded

The Reflections Program is structured for PTAs to recognize students at the local unit, council, district, state and national PTA levels. Entries are first judged at the local unit level, where selected works are chosen to represent the PTA at each subsequent level depending on each state PTA structure. Once entries reach the state level, the state PTA may select entries to submit to the National PTA. Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit are recognized at the annual National PTA convention and are displayed as part of the program’s traveling exhibit.

Participation in the California Reflections Program is open to all students in attendance at PTA/PTSA schools where the program is sponsored. Entries are forwarded through channels. Each unit, council and district PTA establishes its own due dates, allowing adequate time for displaying and judging of entries. PTA units should require due dates from their council and district PTA. Only district PTAs may submit entries to California State PTA.

Please remember that:

  • Students may submit entries only through a PTA or PTSA in good standing.
  • All entries submitted must be original works and must relate to the annual Reflections Program theme.
  • Each entry must be the work of only one student. Assistance from teachers, parents or friends is not permitted, except in special cases (such as for those with visual or physical disabilities).
  • Participation encourages creativity and exploration. Students should do their best, but crooked lines, incorrect
  • musical notes, or misspelled words do not disqualify anyone.

Future Reflections Program Theme

The National PTA is looking for a theme for its next Reflections Program. A student’s suggestion(s) for the theme ideas may be sent to the state office by the individual student or by a local PTA/PTSA. The theme may include a wide variety of subjects that will appeal to students in preschool through grade 12. The winning student will receive $100.00 and recognition at the National PTA Convention held in June. See for more information.


  • Become familiar with the materials on the California State PTA website at, the National PTA website at, and the Reflections Packet sent to presidents in the service mailing.
  • Develop a Reflections Program planning calendar using council and district PTA due dates; identify key steps to meet calendar due dates. (Note that this program runs early in the school year for local units; therefore the chairman may have to work around athletic events when planning the calendar.)
  • Submit a Reflections Program budget to the budget committee for approval.
  • Explain the Reflections Program to the principal and school staff; encourage their support and participation. Inform parents and community members. Share information about the Reflections Program at a PTA/PTSA meeting, share examples of last year’s entries and have current entry forms and rules for distribution.
  • Publicize the Reflections Program, theme and due dates in the school or PTA/PTSA newsletter. The local newspaper or cable TV station also could be contacted for publicity.
  • Select impartial, qualified judges. Inform judges of the criteria to be used in evaluating/judging Reflections Program entries. (Refer to the rules for each art category.) Remember to accept the judges’ selections of winning entries. Offer sample judging rubric:

Interpretation of Theme: 5 points
Artistic Merit/Creativity: 3 points
Mastery of Medium: 2 points

IMPORTANT: Do not show student information (name, address, etc.) on entries displayed for judging.

  • Suggestions for recruiting judges: ask local newspaper or magazine editors, local authors, music instructors, professional photographers, local artists, next-level teachers or professors in respective area, dance studio professionals, professional videographers, film school professors.
  • Follow guidelines from council and district PTA regarding the number of entries that may be submitted. Adhere to council and district PTA due dates!
  • Make certain each entry meets all judging criteria with regard to size, mounting, etc.
  • Be sure the Official Entry Form (found in Reflections Packet sent to each unit president in the service mailing sent in summer) is completely filled out, signed by both student and parent, and attached securely to each entry, according to the National PTA rules.
  • Complete and send Participation Form A (found in Reflections Packet sent to each unit president in the service mailing sent in summer) with entries, according to National PTA rules.
  • Keep a copy of all Official Entry Forms and Participation Form A.
  • Keep a copy of all CDs and DVDs.
  • After the program, give each participant a certificate of participation.
  • Return entries to students whose work was not selected for the next level of judging.
  • Update the Reflections Program procedure book.
  • Announce the new Reflections Program theme as soon as it is available. The theme is announced at the annual California State PTA convention.
  • Publicize any awards given to local students at other levels of judging.

Please share the Reflections Packet (sent in each summer service mailing from the California State PTA office) with the current Reflections Chairman.

Important: Do not show student information (name, address, etc.) on entries displayed for judging.

Reflections Program pins, medals, certificates and stickers are available from the PTA Store,

Suggestions for judges: local newspaper or magazine editors, local authors, music instructors, professional photographers, local artists, next-level teachers or professors in respective area, dance studio professionals, professional videographers, film school professors

Recommended Activities

  • Hold a Reflections Program workshop or a Family Arts Night on Saturdays, after school or at lunch and provide supplies for students to work on their projects.
  • Enlist support of local businesses for supplies, awards and display of Reflections Program entries.
  • Ask stores in the area to print student artwork on their bags.
  • Inquire with local businesses that print calendars about possible use of student artwork.
  • Plan a local traveling art show.
  • Print a Reflections Program Awards booklet listing the program participants as well as the award recipients. Acknowledge those who supported the program including parents, staff and community members.
  • Display local entries in school (e.g., hallways, display case, library); at PTA functions; in local community buildings (e.g., libraries, museums, banks, hospitals, nursing homes).
  • Publish student entries in a special Reflections Program booklet or calendar. Award it to Reflections Program participants, give as a gift or present as a thank you to judges, teachers and volunteers.
  • Tape musical compositions and play them at PTA functions and school events. Give a copy to a local radio station to play.
  • Organize a special program/reception/assembly where Reflections Program photography and visual arts entries can be displayed, musical composition entries performed, literature entries read aloud, and dance choreography and film/video production entries shown.
  • Make all Reflections Program entrants feel special. Consider awarding students with certificates, ribbons, medallions, buttons, plaques, trophies, art supplies, film, music supplies, dance performance tickets, DVDs, gift certificates, books and bookmarks. Send congratulatory letters to students.

Additional Resources

National PTA Reflections Packet mailed to unit, council and district PTA presidents during the summer
National PTA website
California PTA website

For additional information, contact the California State PTA Reflections Program Coordinator at or 916.440.1985 ext.329.

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