Reflections art program

National PTA believes all children deserve a quality arts education and encourages students to pursue artistic expression through participation in its annual arts Reflections Program. The program offers students the opportunity to create works of art for fun and recognition. Students in preschool through grade 12 are encouraged to create and submit works of art in four areas: literature, musical composition, photography, and the visual arts (which includes art forms such as drawing, painting, print making, and collage). In its more than 30-year history, the program has encouraged millions of students across the nation and in American schools overseas to create works of art. The Reflections Program was started in 1969 by then Colorado PTA President Mary Lou Anderson.

Each year, the Reflections
Program challenges students to create art that supports a specific theme. Themes are selected from thousands of ideas submitted by students to the National PTA’s Reflections Program Theme Search. Past themes have included

“Dare to Discover…”, “If I Could Give the World A Gift…”, “Imagine That…”, and “Exploring New Beginnings…”.

This year’s theme is “Together We Can.”

Students participate in the Reflections Program by submitting entries to their local PTA or PTSA. Any PTA/PTSA in good standing is eligible to sponsor a Reflections Program.

A great learning experience

Participating in the Reflections Program is an opportunity for students to explore and learn about various art forms. It does not matter whether an entry created for the Reflections Program has been created as a classroom assignment or independently at home. Artistic exploration and expression enhance and develop intellectual, social, and physical skills. Creating art is a valuable learning process.

When children express themselves through words, pictures, music, photography, and other art forms, they grow intellectually. They learn to analyze their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. They learn to look at things, people, and experiences in a fresh and exciting way, and they become more interested in the ideas and works of others. The Reflections Program also helps parents encourage and recognize the continuous self-discovery process of their children.

National PTA’s Reflections
Program is designed to enhance rather than replace a quality arts education. It provides opportunities for students to express themselves and to receive positive recognition for their artistic efforts. Parents, teachers, and community
members all play a critical role in fostering a positive learning environment for children. Supporting the Reflections Program is one way adults can help create that environment.


Young artists
participate in the Reflections Program through their local PTA or PTSA. A student may submit an entry in any of the four 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.

Arts areas


Musical Composition


Visual Arts

Participation in the Reflections Program is organized by school grade. Student works are critiqued against others in the same grade division. This allows recognition and judging of artworks by appropriate developmental age and skill levels.

Grade divisions

(preschool–grade 2)

Intermediate (grades 3–5)

Middle/Junior (grades 6–8)

Senior (grades 9–12)

The Reflections Program is structured for PTAs to recognize students at the local, council, district, state, and national levels. Entries are first judged at the local level, where selected works, are chosen to represent the PTA at each subsequent level—council, district, or state—depending on each state PTA’s 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 in the virtual gallery on the National PTA’s website.

Possible judging levels






National recognition and honors

Professionals working in the literature, musical composition, photography, and visual arts fields volunteer to judge student entries at the national level. Three Awards of Excellence and five Awards of Merit are selected in each grade division for each of the four arts areas. In addition, one Outstanding Interpretation work is chosen from among the Awards of Excellence in each arts area from among all grade divisions. The four recipients of national Outstanding Interpretation award have demonstrated the most creative interpretations of the theme. These students receive a trip to the Annual National PTA Convention for themselves and one adult chaperone each. At the convention, the outstanding Interpretation winners are recognized for their achievement and actively participate in a special awards presentation.

Commemorative gifts given by the National PTA vary each year; however, all national level participants receive a letter and certificate of participation from National PTA.

National PTA returns all national Reflections Program winning photography and visual arts’ entries.
State PTAs determine the artwork return policy for their states.


All state PTAs are notified of national award recipients each spring in late April, and the National PTA sends awards notification letters directly to students.

General rules

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.

As with any student activity, parent involvement and support are very important. But parents must remember that student artists need to create their own works. Children must make their own decisions about what to create and what to enter in the Reflections Program. By creating their own literature, musical compositions, photography, and visual art, children not only learn about the arts, more importantly, they learn about themselves.

A word to parents

Supporting the Reflections Program is one way that you can support the arts in your home, school, and community.

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