Getting Students Involved: The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

Student disengagement is a process that happens over time and can begin for a multitude of reasons. One reason is a lack of affective engagement, or not having a sense of belonging at school. For students who do not feel connected to the school, with their peers or to an adult in the building, extracurricular involvement can be the gateway to reconnecting with school and learning overall.

Children in singing group being encouraged by teacher.Being involved with a school activity increases positive peer relationships which can boost a student’s self-confidence and overall feelings of connectedness with the building and with learning. A multitude of research, such as the work of Dr. Jennifer Fredrick at the Connecticut College, has shown that students who participate in after-school activities showed improved self-esteem and sense of belonging. In part, this is because organized extracurricular activities create opportunities for students to be connected with their peers and school staff.

Middle school boy contemplating his next chess move.Many schools have extracurricular offerings such as athletics, band, and theater, but many also have a variety of clubs that are student-created and student-led with a staff member sponsor for supervision. These clubs can be centered around any area where a few students have an interest, such as bowling, chess, fencing, animals, specific ethnic or cultural groups, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, dancing, yoga, or serving others. Involvement in any of these types can boost peer relations, connectedness to the building, give a students an area of interest to set goals, and even teach leadership skills.

For additional benefits of extracurricular activities, visit this earlier blog post by Chris Opsal, Why Check & Connect Encourages Participation in Extracurricular Activities.

Helping Students Overcome Barriers to Participation

Prohibitive for some students getting involved may be issues such as transportation or not having money for dues or fees. Are there ways you, as a mentor can help find scholarships or arrange carpools? Can you help mentees become involved in activities of interest as a manger or in another capacity if their grades are not high enough? As a Check & Connect mentor, how do you help your mentee(s) get involved with on campus activities?

Reference

Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Is extracurricular participation associated with beneficial outcomes? Concurrent and longitudinal relations. Developmental psychology42(4), 698-713. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.546.5178&rep=rep1&type=pdf


About the Author: Jana Hallas, M.Ed., is a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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