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?
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.
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.