One of the easiest ways to promote inclusion in your PTA meetings is to encourage members /attendees to interact with each other. A good way to do this is to have activities outside of meeting times. Have a PTA picnic, game night or potluck. Encourage members to come early to meetings, or stay late to play kick ball or tag. These are great ways to involve the whole family and allow for conversations outside of official PTA business interactions in a more relaxed setting. However, some families may not be able to attend activities outside of meeting times. It is also likely that people will interact with those they are already comfortable with at these activities. Including an icebreaker at your PTA meeting is a quick, easy and fun way to actively get people acquainted with each other and make everyone feel included.
“What Do You Love?”: Each person states one thing that is non-PTA related that they loved or loved to do. Then others who also love the same thing raise their hands or otherwise gesture. All present learn who and how many others (or how few) share the same interest and how varied the interests are.
“Culture Club”: participants break into pairs or very small groups and pick three areas of their families’ cultural values from a list including traditional foods, typical dress and what is/is not acceptable in overall appearance, histories, traditions, and holidays that are a source of pride, taboo topics, etc. Each person shares their answers. Everyone gets to learn about each other’s cultures, differences and similarities.
“Meet Someone New”: Each person shares what month they were born and find someone born the same month they didn’t know very well before today. What’s one thing you have in common with each other, besides your birthday month? You will get to learn things and common as well things different and know that person better! Time permitting, each pair who share a birthday month can report to the rest.
“Name Tag”: This icebreaker could be used as an initial get-acquainted exercise. As each participant enters the meeting room, they can sign their name as usual, but present them with a different person’s name tag. Explain that they should seek one another out, and introduce themselves to other participants as well. If the group is relatively small (up to 30-35 participants), have the paired individuals interview each other so they can introduce their counterparts to the rest of the group. This activity may take 15-20 minutes.
“Name Game”: Everyone’s name carries history, fun anecdotes, or familial values. Ask each attendee to introduce themselves then talk about how they got their name (the history behind it). Perhaps they are named after someone specific, or maybe their last name means something in an ancestral language. So much can be learned from having a conversation about everyone’s names. (Also suitable for virtual meetings)
“JUST BY LOOKING AT ME”: This activity will allow participants to disclose some personal information that others may not know. The goal is to demonstrate that there is much more to a person than “meets the eye” or what comes out in face-to-face encounters. Form a circle with chairs if participants are able. Pass around the following script on paper: “My name is ___ and I am from ___. One thing you cannot tell just by looking at me is ___.” Demonstrate the prompt by filling it in yourself and reciting your own to model the exercise. Ask participants to take turns reading the above statement after filling in the blanks with pertinent information about themselves. This icebreaker demonstrates the importance of looking beyond appearances, encourages self-reflection, and allows for meaningful group dialogue and getting to know each other.
Additional guidance can be found under “How to Hold an Inclusive PTA Event” (hyperlink to that section)