Walking Into a Great Year

Talented Teachers
Before its annual walkathon, the Harper (Texas) Independent School District PTO asks students to vote for the teacher or administrator they'd like to see perform in the "Longhorns Have Talent" program that takes place during the event. Past live performances have included musical renditions of the Blues Brothers, Sonny and Cher, and Elvis Presley.

Fun for a Job Well Done
The Indian Hill Elementary PTO in Grand Blanc, Mich., held a "Jaguar Jamboree" after its walkathon fundraiser, with carnival games, a dunk tank, and more. About 75 parents helped with the event, which raised more than $16,000.

Lighten Up!

As part of its yearlong health and safety initiative, the Longfellow Magnet School PTA in Westerville, Ohio, created opportunities for students to increase physical activity with a swim party and a roller-skating night. They also trimmed the fat from parent events with a "lighter goods" bakeoff and a healthy snacks contest.

Enhanced Learning

Prose and Pizza
To bolster achievement, the Kincaid Elementary PTA in Marietta, Ga., collaborated with school staff on "Paper, Prose, and Pizza," a writing workshop to help students prepare for an essay contest. Parent volunteers guided students, who then shared their essays and enjoyed dinner afterward.

Amazingly Fun
The Lakewood Falls Elementary PTA in Plainfield, Ill., celebrated Take Your Family to School Week in 2009 with an event modeled on TV's Amazing Race. Teachers submitted ideas for curriculum-based challenges; clues offered tidbits of trivia about the school and its curriculum.

Page-Turning Profits

To kick off its readathon pledge period, the Waccamaw Intermediate School PTO on Pawleys Island, S.C., partnered with the local minor league baseball team, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, to stage a surprise pep rally for students. The team brought its mascot to the school along with some fun props used during baseball games. Many students voted it the best assembly they had ever attended at school. In the end, they successfully raised more than $16,000.

Lights Out!

Students at Greenbrook Elementary in Danville, Calif., initiated an event in March 2009 to help raise awareness about global warming. They urged friends and relatives as far away as Sweden and England to shut off their lights for an hour on a specified day. More than 6,000 people reportedly took part.

Wishes Granted

Special Projects
Profits from the annual auction at the Lincoln K-8 Choice School in Rochester, Minn., are put into a "special projects" fund. Teachers, students, and parents can write a grant request for a school project to be implemented. Parent leaders on the Program Planning Team select which proposals to fund. Over the years, the PPT has paid for drums for the music program, books for the media center, and digital cameras for classrooms.

Winning Team
The Maria Montessori School PTC in Rockford, Ill., implemented a grantwriting team last year and saw huge gains: $10,000 for a solar panel, $17,000 for fresh fruit and vegetable snacks, and $1,500 for educational materials on nutrition.

Merry Meetings

Sticking to It
To advertise their newly formed parent group, leaders from Iowa's Aplington-Parkersburg  Community School District TAFFY (teachers and families for youth) marched in a local parade. Members passed out taffy candy with a note attached that listed the dates and times of their meetings.

Focus on Health
Fair Oaks Elementary PTO in Brooklyn Park, Minn., offers the services of a senior community health worker at its meetings. She answers parents' questions about available resources and helps them find discounted medical services.

A Sweet Finish

After experiencing lackluster attendance at its dads and doughnuts breakfast event, PTSA leaders at the Livonia (N.Y.) Central School PTSA changed it to a later time and held "Desserts With Dad" instead. The results were sweet: More than 300 people came to the evening event.

Middle School Fun

To attract students to a fun night, the Chautauqua Lake Middle Grades PTC in Mayville, N.Y., planned the event to immediately follow a basketball game. The group offered swimming at the school's pool, activities in the gym, and board games in the cafeteria. Door prizes like silly glasses added to the fun.

Carnival Success

In collaboration with community groups, the Woodcliff Lake (N.J.) School District PFA holds an annual fun fair at the end of each school year. The day features more than 25 activities for families, including inflatable slides and stations where kids can get temporary tattoos or make beaded bracelets. More than a hundred parents help make the event a success by volunteering for just 45 minutes.

Take-Home Assignments

To involve parents whose schedules keep them from volunteering at school, the Englewood (Fla.) Elementary PTA instituted a "take-home work club." Parents are given envelopes with directions on how to complete their project and when to return it. Many of the tasks relate to redemption program fundraisers.

Encouraging Involvement

Our Survey Says...
The Licking Valley Primary School PPP in Newark, Ohio, sends out a detailed volunteer survey at the beginning of each year. Questions include the days and times parents are available to help, whether they're willing to donate supplies, and what special talents they might possess. Leaders also ask parents to list their local business connections to help solicit corporate donations.

Successful Outreach
Washington Elementary PTA leaders in Evanston, Ill., strive to create ways parents can participate regardless of how little or how much time they can give. Each May, the PTA holds a phonathon to tell parents all the ways they can help at school, such as by volunteering at an event, working with teachers in the classroom, or even helping with tasks from home.

High-Interest Day

To help students learn about career choices and explore new hobbies, each May the Meadowbrook Elementary PTA in Waukesha, Wis., invites adults from the community to share their knowledge on a variety of topics, from playing guitar to building bridges.

Hay There!

Through sponsorships and ticket sales, the Fabra Elementary PTO in Boerne, Texas, raised more than $40,000 in one month with its "Haysterical Hay Maze," built out of 2,000 bales of hay. Families that donated four hours of volunteer time got free passes to the maze for the entire month.

Parent Olympians

Inspired by the 2008 Olympic Games, PTA leaders at Classical Center at Vial Elementary in Garland, Texas, ran a "Parent Olympics" family night. The activities offered ranged from Synchronized Sitting (musical chairs) to Mouth Javelin (chew gum and spit it as far as possible).