PTA Reflections

5 steps to get your local PTA unit ready for Reflections!

Click on the arrows on the right to expand each section to find out more about how your students can participate in Reflections!

1) Read about the Reflections Program

What is the Reflections program?

The Reflections program was founded by Mary Lou Anderson in 1969 and provides students an opportunity for recognition and access to the arts which boosts student confidence and success in the arts and in life. Each year, students in pre-K through grade 12 create and submit original works of art in response to a student-created theme selected through the annual Reflections Theme Search Contest.

Based on state PTA rules and guidelines, art is submitted and may advance from the local PTA level up through district/region/council and state PTA competitions to the national level for awards and recognition opportunities.

What art categories and divisions are available in the Reflections program?

Students participate in the Reflections program in the division for their grade: primary (pre-K to grade 2), intermediate (grades 3-5), middle school (grades 6-8), high school (grades 9-12) and special artist (all grades welcome). Students may submit in the categories of dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and/or visual arts.

However, submission and category guidelines are determined at the state PTA level and may vary by state. Please review your state’s Reflections website or contact your state PTA office for category guidelines and related questions.

What is the special artist division?

In 2012, the special artist division was created through collaboration between a PTA volunteer committee and arts professionals with expertise in disability advocacy in the arts. The division offers modified rules and guidelines for students with disabilities, who may receive services under IDEA or ADA: Section 504, to participate in the Reflections program. Students may enter the grade division most closely aligned to their functional abilities and be recognized and awarded prizes as part of the general student population OR they may enter the special artist division and be recognized and awarded prizes as part of this division.

For specific questions, refer to your state’s Reflections website to ensure that you are participating in the program per their requirements.

What is Reflections registration, and how do I do it?

By registering your participation in the Reflections program, you are helping National PTA show the reach and impact of the program. Registration is separate from participation.

Registration opens April 1 at and runs until Feb. 1 of the following year. Due to the high volume of registrants, please note you will not receive a confirmation email.  

What do the national Reflections award winners receive? When will you announce the awardees?

State-winning Reflections submissions that advance to the national level go through two rounds of review by esteemed arts professionals across the country. Through the review, over 200 student Reflections participants are selected for recognition with the following awards from National PTA: Award of Merit, Award of Excellence and Award of Outstanding Interpretation. The national awardees are announced on May 1 and are celebrated throughout the following calendar year. 

Learn more about the awards and prizes offered to national level winners by National PTA at

2) Choose which Reflections categories to offer.  Recommend that units new to Reflections offer 1-3 categories.

Students must participate through a local PTA/PTSA in good standing and may enter into one or more arts categories. Only new pieces of artwork inspired by the theme may be submitted. Each entry must be the original work of one student only. Only one student may be recognized as the award recipient for each entry. Other individuals may appear in or perform a student’s work, but the work itself must be the creative product of one student. Use of copyrighted material is prohibited, except for background music in dance choreography and film production entries when cited. Entries will be judged on how well the student uses his or her artistic vision to portray the theme, originality, and creativity.

Dance Choreography Accepted styles include solo/ensemble include: ballet, contemporary, ethnic and folk, hip-hop, jazz, and tap. The choreographer may be the performer or one of the performers but does not have to be. Video recording must not exceed 5 minutes and must be less than 1GB (one gigabyte) in file size.

Film Production Accepted forms include animation, narrative, documentary, experimental, or a media presentation (PowerPoint is prohibited). Entrant must be the director, screenwriter, and camera person including all storyboarding and editing. Video recording must not exceed 5 minutes and must be less than 1GB (one gigabyte) in file size.

Literature  Accepted forms of fiction and nonfiction include prose, poetry, drama screenplay and play script), reflective essay, narrative, and short story. Entry must not exceed 2,000 words and must be handwritten or typed; one side only. Students for whom English is not their first language may submit literature entries in their own language. An interpretive translation in English must accompany the entry. Accepted formats include: Single-sided print on 8 ½ x 11 paper, or PDF (.pdf) file format.

Music Composition All instruments, sounds, styles, and combinations are accepted. Copyrighted material is prohibited. The composer may be the performer or one of the performers but does not have to be a performer. Notation, score or tablature is required for middle and high school division. Audio recording must not exceed 5 minutes.

Photography Accepted forms of photography include a single photo, panoramic, photomontage (one seamless print of multiple original photos), a multiple exposure, negative sandwich or photogram. Original black-and-white and color images are accepted. Entrant must be the one to take the photograph. Must be mounted or matted on cardboard matte, poster board, or other sturdy material. Accepted formats include: Matted print, or digital image (.jpeg, .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp).

Visual Arts Accepted forms include architecture (2D/3D), carpentry, ceramics, collages, photographic collages (multiple photos cut/pasted), computer-generated image, crafts, design, dioramas, drawing, fiber work, jewelry, kites, metal etching/punch work, mobiles, painting, printmaking, sculpture and wind chimes. Framed entries not accepted. Paper entries must be mounted on sturdy material and 3D works must include packaging materials and three (3) photos of the entry for judging and ID purposes.

Special Artist Division The Special Artist Division is non-graded and limited to students whose physical, cognitive, or mental health challenges meet ADA guidelines. Qualifying students entering this division create their own artwork but may receive non-artistic accommodation and assistance from an adult. At the national level, one Special Artist from across all arts categories will be selected to receive an Outstanding Interpretation Award. Up to five additional Special Artists may be selected to receive national Awards of Excellence.

3) Register your unit for the Reflections program

4) Recruit people to be on your Reflections Committee

This is not a one-person task. Ask the art, music, and English teachers to be a part of the committee. Ask your PTA members or parents – someone might be an artist or have connections in the art community. Look at county art councils, music schools, and dance schools in your area! Check out the local tech schools or colleges too! 

5) Recruit people to be judges for your program

Talk to art, music, and English teachers - parents, elementary school teachers, principals, etc. One suggestion is to reach out to a neighboring school for judges. If they have a Reflections program, you could judge each other’s entries. 

Sample Timeline for Reflections

Fall/Early Winter  - START YOUR PROGRAM

1) Offer your age divisions and categories. For example, an elementary school that serves grades 1-5 would have two age divisions – Primary (PreK-Grade 2) and Intermediate (Grades 3-5).

Reflections Tip: If you are just starting out, you don’t have to offer all the categories. Start small. Offer Literature and Visual Arts. You can expand your program next year.

2) Distribute the Reflection Rules and Student Entry Forms.

Reflections Tip: The Student Entry Form is a Word document. Fill in your PTA information (either by typing it in the form or handwriting it) before you distribute the forms. If it is handwritten, make copies and distribute them. This will save you time.

3) Promote, promote, promote! Send out flyers in the school, local libraries, and businesses, post on the PTA website, ask if you can include information in the school’s morning announcements, make an announcement on Back to School night, post on social media, emails and flyers at all PTA and school events.

December/January  - JUDGING

1) Collect submissions by category and division.

2) Make sure submissions follow the rules and Student Entry Forms are completed.

3) Provide judges with instructions and materials

February - Submit advancing artwork to Minnesota PTA for Statewide Competition  - JUDGING

Email digital copies to or send hard copies snail mail to our office - 

Minnesota PTA

attn: Reflections

7800 Metro Parkway Suite 300

Bloomington, Minnesota 55425

February through June - CELEBRATE!

1) Assign awards by category and division.

2) Celebrate the students!

Interested in starting a Reflections Program at your school?  

Check out these great resources from National PTA.

For a list of all winners from Minnesota, please click the link below.

Reflections is available to all students, even if your school does not have a PTA/PTSA or if you are a homeschool student. 

Use the link below to find out HOW!