Join the Club

Extracurricular activities tied to success.

When asked about his years in high school, Max is just as apt to talk about his extracurricular activities as his academic subjects. He played rugby and ultimate Frisbee, sang in the choir and was part of the yearbook committee.

“While working on the yearbook, I learned all about production, photography, design software, people skills, deadlines, as well as getting to know the other students and teachers,” he says. “It was a huge amount of work, but the relationships I made and the skills I learned were invaluable.”

Max’s mother Jennifer says that his experiences helped him integrate into high school. The family had moved here from England when Max was about to start Grade 9, and through his many activities, she says, he quickly became immersed in school life.

Local mom Jill has also seen the benefits of her kids’ involvement in clubs. Laurence, in Grade 7, belongs to the science fair and library clubs. “Both clubs have really helped him,” says Jill. “This year he travelled to the national science fair competition, where he received a lot of interest in his experiment. It really helped his self esteem.”

Jill’s daughter Elise, in Grade 3, is in the choir, the garden club, and the “kindergarten club” where she reads stories to the younger kids. Frances, in Grade 5, plays basketball at lunch, and is part of the playground running club. Says Jill: “These kinds of activities get kids out of their immediate age group and classroom, where they can interact with older and younger students, and perhaps demonstrate and learn different things than they would in the classroom. The experience gives them a broader perspective.”

Wide range available

There is a wide range of clubs, organizations, sports and interest groups available in elementary and secondary schools, including safety patrol groups, book clubs, science fair groups, student councils, debating and public speaking clubs, chess and games clubs, office and kindergarten helpers, nature clubs, knitting and other crafts, culinary arts, drama, and improv. Music is also a major area of interest, with choirs, bands, African drumming, or musical theatre. And then there are sports – volleyball, three-pitch, skipping, soccer, cross-country running, badminton, rowing, football, or rugby.

There’s also a new breed of club – environmental groups, social justice activities, and computer 

clubs – which have evolved over the years to reflect changes in society.

Acquiring new skills

“I’m a huge supporter of extracurricular activities – I think they have tremendous benefit to kids, socially, as well as academically,” says Rusty Hick, Director of Education with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. “Not only do the kids make new friends, but they stay engaged in school, by balancing fun with work.”
In addition, kids also develop leadership and organizational skills, and learn how to contribute to the community, says Greg Reeves, Director of Education at the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic School Board. “Students also gain valuable team building skills through their involvements,” he says.

Educators also stress that children like to be part of a group, and that it’s best for them to be part of a healthy, constructive group like a club. School clubs allow kids to get to know adults in a safe environment, and encourage kids to volunteer, helping younger kids or encouraging their peers.

Benefits down the road

Rusty Hick says that studies have shown that the more students are involved in these activities, the more successful they are later in life. He cites two examples: Barbara Mervin, who played rugby throughout her high school years, and is now on the Canada’s National Senior Women’s Rugby Team, and Jonathan Goad who, “acted in school plays and musicals and worked his passion into a successful career as a renowned actor at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.”

Max has seen the tangible results of his experience on the yearbook committee – he was able to get a summer job two years in a row working in the library at a government ministry. “The skills I learned while being part of the yearbook committee really helped me. It looks fantastic on my resume and is also important when applying for university scholarships,” he says.

“My advice to other kids is to get involved as much as you can, as all the experiences you can have are very useful for the rest of your life.”

Author: Joanne Culley

Joanne Culley is a writer and documentary producer with two sons; joanne.culley@sympatico.ca or www.joanneculleymediaproductions.com.

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