The beginning of September is an exciting time, new start in so many ways. One choice that comes around quickly for students is selecting their extracurricular activities for the first term, and perusing the choices for later on. It can be quite overwhelming with so many choices available, it’s important to highlight why ECA’s are relevant and how certain types of activities can truly impact your child’s skill set through the school years and beyond.
The benefits of extracurricular activities are exponential. First of all, students get the chance to build their skills and interests in an environment without the pressures of a formal classroom setting. While they have to try trigonometry out of necessity in Maths, they can attempt calligraphy out of interest and at their own pace. Plus ECA’s offer a great opportunity to enhance skills that are not on offer through the school curriculum.
Another advantage is that students get to know people outside of their friend groups and classes. They may be working with students younger or older than themselves or simply with some students they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. It’s a great opportunity to find similarities with others and build new friendships.
In addition, extracurricular activities can challenge your child to push their own boundaries and excel at an activity or skill. There is only so much time in the school day and there are so many tangents where educators pique their students’ interests, and extracurricular activities are a great place for them to follow through on these. Whether it be technologically, academically, or physically based, extracurricular activities can hone your child’s interests and lead them to success above and beyond the set curriculum.
It is worth bearing in mind that the ultimate goal of these activities is not to take up more of your child’s day, but to help them become a more of a well-rounded student. Moreover, the skills they acquire and the experiences that they have, can help to give your child a competitive edge when it comes to school and university applications.
When looking over the options for extracurriculars it’s important to consider your child’s strengths and areas for improvement, so the activity has the maximum impact on their progress and accomplishments. Bear in mind your child’s interests and even dreams and also consider areas where perhaps they have not really pushed themselves.
It’s also important to consider the future value of the skill sets they will acquire – although mandala colouring is very relaxing and soothing after a hectic school day, it isn’t perhaps as useful as graphic novel creation or vlogging.
Top choices for building transferrable skills:
Model United Nations (MUN)
If your child is an academic, loves history, debating, researching and writing, and is looking for a way to develop these skills, MUN is for them. This club usually starts in senior school, although some schools offer a MiniMUN for Year 6 upwards.
After learning the basics of how the United Nations works, each student or small group of students is given a country to research, they have to create a country report and then practice defending that country on a wide range of issues that come up in the United Nations.
These can be anything from looking at green energy, natural resources to human rights issues. MUN culminates in a conference where teams represent their country, going up against students from other schools both locally and internationally to defend their chosen nation. The greatest benefits from MUN are definitely the vocabulary building, research skills, succinct report writing, and public speaking.
Vlogging & Podcasting
Five years ago most parents would never have heard these two words….. But now traditional blogging is so yesterday! Vlogging on the other hand is the social media of the future and hugely popular on social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook.
There are many benefits for students learning this art, as they work on skills such as lighting, sound, video editing, content creation and speaking confidence, all valuable transferable skills. Moreover, it can help a child to find a topic they are passionate about and research it in order to create a series of vlogs on that subject.
Podcasting is similar and needs technical skills such as broadcasting, sound, and content creation and allows a student to take a focus on almost any topic of interest. It gives a keen student a chance to flex their creative writing skills and to have a forum to talk about their passion whether it be archaeology or cooking, their favourite author or their latest travels.
Some children are just naturally gifted in sports and others need to work harder in order to accomplish those abilities, but the benefits of sports are clear: teamwork, respect, social interaction skills, leadership, and dexterity.
Extracurricular sports offers a chance to play a sport they may not be able to do in timetabled time or to ‘play out’ their passion if they didn’t make the team. In addition, these extracurricular activities often offer something different such as boxing or ballet, fencing or golf. A great opportunity to let your child try something new and find out if it is a good fit for them.
If the regular comment at parent-teacher conferences is the fact your child needs to participate more or raise their hand or be part of the discussion, then seeking ECA’s which offer leadership skills is a great opportunity for them to come out of their shell in a non-threatening environment and to build their confidence.
Volunteering programmes often mean they will be part of a mentorship program with younger students or go to local businesses to see how they could be of service. These situations can help students to learn how to write proposals, to speak to new people, as well as take the initiative in certain situations. The leadership prowess they acquire will then spill over into the classroom and life outside of school, too.
New in the last couple years, robotics and coding clubs are a great addition to any student’s skill set. These areas help to build integral STEM skills needed for the future and can lead to particular career paths. ECA’s give students more time to utilize maths, coding, social interaction and competition capabilities through robotics activities and all in a fun environment
Although the list might be long and time may be short, extracurricular activities are worth the effort. The skills they build to enhance a child’s expertise, ingenuity and versatility to prepare them for their future, near and far, are priceless and can ignite a passion and set them apart in the long run both inside and outside the school gates.
The original version of this article appeared in Absolutely Emirates Education magazine.