Some of the best international schools around the world focus heavily on after school or extracurricular activities. Why is so much time and money invested in activities that take place after school hours?
After-school activities are truly vital to student success, with a multitude of benefits and reasons to participate. Although most schools do not require participation in after-school activities, participation should be encouraged. At this Shanghai International School, the Western International School of Shanghai, 88% of the student body is involved in an after-school activity at some point throughout the school year.
“At WISS, we try to offer a wide variety of after-school activities to ALL of our Tigers, to allow them the opportunity to explore other talents, interests, and passions outside the classroom. Children develop and learn at different rates in the classroom and from subject to subject. ASAs allow students to step out of their comfort zone and really put themselves out there in order to discover who they really are and what their likes are,” explains Tony Anderson, director of PE and Athletics at WISS.
The Western International School in Shanghai is one school that recognizes the countless benefits of after-school activities. WISS encourages students to not only follow their passions and develop their skills and interests but also to be risk-takers who are always challenging themselves to try new things. The school offers over 50 after-school activities, with everything from Robotics to Flamenco Dancing to a Potions club, ensuring that every child finds something that speaks to them and their interests.
What is it about after-school activities that is so imperative to student success? These are just 5 of the benefits of participating in after-school activities:
- Improving social skills and building friendships
After-school activities provide the optimal environment for building strong bonds between peers. Students are encouraged to work together as a team and share a common goal through the activity. Participating in these activities with their peers allows them to further develop and sustain friendships outside the classroom environment.
Kids in after-school programs are more likely to feel included, as though they are part of a group. Many students find some of their best friends through after-school activities and learn social skills that will help them throughout their lifetimes. A good after-school activity promotes teamwork, respect, and cooperation. Social skills that will transcend the activity and be used in many facets of life.
2. Promoting a healthy lifestyle
Many after school activities get students up from their desks and moving their bodies. Being active from a young age and participating in activities that promote daily physical activity is so important.
Participating in after-school activities helps students spend more time working on healthy skills and less time at home on screens. A study measuring the health and social benefits of after-school programs found that the prevalence of obesity was significantly lower for children who participate in after-school programs (21%) compared to nonparticipants (33%). (Mahoney, J., Lord, H., & Carryl, E., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 2005)
3. Finding their passion
After-school activities are often a low-cost way to explore new hobbies, activities, and sports. As opposed to signing up for the huge money and time commitment of a club team, an after-school activity allows students to see if they enjoy something with little risk involved. Many schools offer a variety of different sports and activities that students have never tried! Children can explore a new pastime in a safe, familiar, and encouraging environment. That after-school activity could become a child’s lifelong hobby or even lead them to their career choice. Either way, it’s a great way to experiment with their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes until they find an activity that works for them.
4. Boosting academic success
Well-rounded development is key to creating a great student. The saying “healthy body, healthy mind” never rings truer than when talking about the impact after-school activities and sports have on student performance. “Participating in school-based extracurricular activities (e.g., sports teams, drama, or honor societies) has been linked with positive outcomes during adolescence. Youth involved in activities, in general, expect to go further in school and to receive better grades than their peers who are uninvolved” (e.g., Fredricks and Eccles 2010). Numerous all point to the fact that participating in after-school activities is linked to academic success! Students who participate in after school activities can boost their concentration, learn to manage their time better, and build various skills that directly relate to academics.
5. Building essential life skills
Essential life skills can be learned in almost any after school activity. From achieving objectives and being part of a team effort, students learn the kind of dedication, goal setting, and leadership that positively impacts many other areas in life. These are just some of the critical life skills that can be developed by participating in after-school activities:
The list truly goes on and on. It doesn’t matter which after-school activity your child chooses, but parents and schools have an important role in encouraging participation in after-school activities to all students.