From learning the values of teamwork to building social skills, extracurricular activities offer a wide variety of benefits to students. The proof is in the research – participation in extracurriculars can lead to higher self-esteem and academic success in students.
Here are just a few of our favorite benefits of extracurricular activities, explained.
#1 Improved academic achievement
It’s easy to hypothesize that extracurriculars lead to improved academic achievement, but where’s the proof?
This is the exact question that educator and researcher Robert Freeman found himself asking. After seeing a link between academic performance and extracurricular activities in his students, Freeman decided to study the topic in-depth to reach a clear conclusion. During his research, he found a positive relationship between participation in extracurricular activities and performance and ACT scores.
Interestingly, he also found that after-school activities of all types led to improved achievement, whether they were sports, arts or another type of club. Extracurriculars that are specific to a subject, such as a science or tech, are also a great way for students to collaborate outside of the classroom.
“When parents and staff work together, students will perform better academically,” said Yelitza Peña, Director of Community Relations at Franklin-McKinley School District in California. “There’s a lot happening at the school level for us. We ensure that faculty is well-equipped to discuss every activity and program with parents, whether that communication is happening face-to-face or through a Peachjar digital flyer.”
#2 Developing social and emotional skills
If you work in education, you’ve likely heard some buzz about developing social and emotional skills in students. Extracurricular activities are a wonderful avenue for developing and reinforcing these skills outside of the school day.
Extracurricular activities are a place that is just right for learning and developing soft skills. Kids often feel less pressure than they would in the classroom, so communicating and collaborating tends to come more naturally.
Another quick bonus, according to the Association for Talent Development, soft skills are in high demand from employers, making the skills learned during extracurriculars just as important as what’s being taught during the school day.
#3 Creating a community
A fantastic benefit of extracurricular activities is the ability for students to focus on socializing, forming friendships and becoming part of a community.
According to After School Alliance's research, more than 15 million students, including approximately 3.7 million middle schoolers, are alone and unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. An extracurricular activity fills that gap, giving students an opportunity to connect with their peers in a constructive, supportive environment.
Involvement in extracurricular activities can be a huge support to students considered to be at-risk. Engagement in extracurriculars is linked to decreased rates of early school dropouts, and offers students with an opportunity to become part of a tightly-knit group.
Of course, to get students involved, they need to first be aware of the opportunities available to them, and the support of their parents needs to be there.
“Our district tries to promote as many student groups, activities and organizations as possible,” said Shawna Currie, Director of Communications at Victoria ISD in Texas. “It’s important to us that we highlight all of the great opportunities available at each of our school sites, as well as recognize our students for what they’re involved in.”
When effort is put in to connect with parents, it’s more likely that students will become involved.
“When parents are informed, and know what’s happening in the district, they’re more likely to engage,” said Renee Delport, Communications Officer at Kings Canyon Unified School District in California. “We’re currently conducting a communications audit to identify how parents are receiving info, and how they’d prefer to receive it – we want a consistent user experience where everyone feels included.”
Everybody’s preferred method of communication is unique. A mix of phone, mail, digital and in-person messages can make a huge difference in ensuring that every member of a school community is being reached.
“We leverage social media to reach parents, students and business leaders, Peachjar to send out digital flyers about school events and extracurriculars and a notification system to send out emergency alerts and reminders,” said Currie. “This mix has been working for us, we’ve found that sharing information on as many platforms is possible is key in parent and student involvement.”
Peña echoed this strategy. “By using a combination of tools, parents can be reached instantly, and even get involved with the decision-making process. We host ongoing events to celebrate the diversity of our students, everything from Hispanic heritage to LGBTQ, we want to celebrate and honor our students and their families.”
It’s clear that extracurricular activities are much more than football practice or art class – they are an opportunity for students to boost their academic skills, build relationships and reinforce social emotional skills. When districts become advocates for extracurricular activities, students have a chance to reach their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom.