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Extra Benefits from the Extra Curriculars!

The warmth of the freshly baked bread wafts from the kitchen right into the dining room where I sit, staring at my computer, accompanied by the gentle purr of the mischievous Iggy-Cat.  I am listening to some Franck string quartet, and the light is just bright enough to inspire me to sit here and write.

I start with this quick description not to add extra words to my counter here at the bottom of this post (although that does add some teeny tiny bit of incentive to keep writing until I see that glorious 5.0.0), but to describe my situation, the background that inspires me to write.  What is it that inspires our students to succeed, to practice, and to excel?  What are the tools that are necessary?  How important are all of the extras surrounding them?

I was reading an article this evening on extracurricular activities and how many extracurricular activities, contrary to many beliefs of the past, actually increase students’ social and academic self-concept, aspirations, homework, academics, and even college entrance.  The article is extremely empirical and provides a wealth of valuable information regarding extracurricular activities.  It is very interesting that extracurricular activities would have a significant positive effect on grades and self-concept, and it reaffirms what many of us already assume: your social settings, surroundings, and conditions matter greatly.

Yesterday, I was discussing identity and self-concept and the idea that we are constantly spinning webs around ourselves.  Our web grows with each new activity we undertake, and with every social situation.  The extracurricular activities are incredibly important in a students’ life.  Consider a students’ day.  How much do they get to choose?  Hopefully they get to at least choose what they wear and who they are friends with.  But in school, the teacher tells them when to eat lunch, what they will study and when.  A teacher even dictates when students will use the restroom in many situations.  But extracurricular activities… Now there are some choices!  Baking classes or Tennis… Or both?!?!?  And the web extends further out.

And as I extend my web, so are my tennis mates.  Perhaps we are in Algebra together.  I don’t want to embarrass myself in Algebra in front of my tennis mate.  So, I might study a bit more to keep up with her.  Just to make sure that my web is as intricate as hers.  And since we are both on the school tennis team, that just might strengthen both of our commitment to our school, academic or not.

The article I read this evening shows just this.  As students continue to increase participation in extracurricular activities, they experience a wealth of benefits to include raised GPA, better attendance, improved academic and social self-concept, among other benefits.

Although this article is fairly dated (1992), the data is still useful when proposing any additional activities within a school.  It also provides even more encouragement for me to continue on my path to providing opportunities to participate in some kind of strings class in all communities.  It still amazes me that only 4% of low SES communities have string programs.  And while orchestra is not necessarily for everyone, it should be an option.  The more options we have for extracurricular activities, the better chance for every single student to enjoy the benefits shown in this very article!

Marsh, H. W. (1992). Extracurricular activities: Beneficial extension of the traditional curriculum or subversion of academic goals? Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(4), 553–562.

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