Creating a Sense of Normalcy During Abnormal Times
A practical and sustainable re-entry plan is on the minds of all school administrators. As teachers, parents, and students prepare for reopening their campuses; there are so many questions to answer with the most important one being what will fall look like in terms of how schools will deliver instruction? Will it be exclusively in-person learning or virtual or a combination of both across elementary, middle, and high schools? Schools are drafting plans, but do those plans address extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities are an essential part of the school experience. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 6 out of 10 children participate in an extracurricular activity with at least 50% of children ages 6-17 participating in at least one activity1. We understand COVID-19 shakes things up significantly. However, there are ways to safely continue and support clubs and activities in this unprecedented climate, and we’re here to support those efforts.
Why are extracurricular activities so important? Research shows that students who participate in extracurricular activities perform better academically in terms of higher grade point average, higher educational aspirations, increased college attendance, and reduced absenteeism. A study by the U.S. Department of Education found that students who participated in extracurricular activities were 3x more likely to have a grade point of average of 3.0 or higher than their peers who do not participate in extracurricular activities2.
Not only do clubs and activities create opportunities for inclusion and students to connect with their peers, but they also inspire individual and collective good. Extracurricular activities allow students to pursue areas of interest they are passionate about while keeping them engaged, producing better student outcomes academically. These essential activities support social-emotional learning and wellness for all.
So, how do schools safely support clubs in the fall? We’ve put together a few ways schools can safely coordinate and encourage extracurricular activities while adhering to social distance recommendations and guidelines.
Change up the Scenery. Go Virtual or Outdoors.
Offer clubs the option to conduct meetings virtually or when it’s physically possible or practical, outdoors. Encouraging virtual meetings allows students to connect with like-minded peers and share ideas.
For athletics, encourage students to perform conditioning workouts on their own or virtual instructor-led exercises they can log.
Adapt to Emerging Hot Topics
Create new clubs based on pop culture trends and relevant societal topics like the environment, social justice, sewing club for masks, video production, social media, etc. Students would love to connect with peers to brainstorm and plan how to make a difference in their communities, even virtually.
Encourage Self-driven Projects
As an alternative to group-based extracurricular activities, self-driven projects allow students to exhibit autonomy in their interests. It fosters soft skills needed, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, time management, and creativity. Examples of self-driven projects include learning a new language, tutoring peers or younger students, planting a garden, building a computer, training for a marathon, starting a YouTube channel or blog on a topic of interest, etc.
If your district is thinking about cutting back on extracurricular activities or removing all clubs and groups from your fall plans, please reconsider. Extracurricular activities offer students a sense of normalcy in times when life is everything but ordinary. We are here to support our Passport For Good communities as all of us navigate the ambiguity of what to do in the fall.