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Project Appleseed

Extracurricular Activities And

Student Achievement Go Hand In Hand


Soccer. Piano lessons. Dance classes. Boy Scouts. The school play. The vast majority of parents agree that these after-school activities enrich their children’s lives, but recent research shows that the benefits of high quality, structured extracurricular activities go far beyond the rewards of the activities themselves. The Harvard Family Research Project recently released research that once again confirmed that out-of-school time activities increase academic achievement, improve classroom conduct, and nurture lifelong work habits. While it may at first seem like a disconnect, you daughter’s tennis lessons may be improving her math scores and your son’s trumpet lessons may be improving his reading comprehension. However, although most educational researchers agree that extracurricular boost student achievement, there are a number of theories regarding why after school activities benefit classroom achievement.


  • Extracurricular activities teach universal lessons. Surprisingly, many lessons learned on the sports field or on the stage are reapplied by students in the classroom. Younger students especially will begin to understand the importance of practice, the benefits of applying themselves, and the positive feelings associated with achievement. In addition, students involved in a number of activities must learn how to plan their time wisely and balance multiple responsibilities.


  • Extracurricular activities build confidence. A child who struggles in the classroom may begin to believe that he lacks the ability or aptitude to learn. If that child then has a more positive learning experience outside of the classroom, he may be able to tackle his schoolwork with greater confidence and a new sense of self-belief. In the same way, after-school activities can lessen depression and feelings of helplessness that certainly affect schoolwork and classroom concentration. 


  • Extracurricular activities build relationships. Sports, theater, music, and other out-of-school learning means more opportunities for friendship, mentoring, and general relating. These stronger relationships with peers, mentors, and parents have been shown to improve school behavior, create a vital support network, and increase focus in the classroom.


  • Extracurricular activities keep students engaged and in safe places. If your child is engaged in an after-school activity, he or she is in a safe, monitored place. Students who are not involved in after-school programs are more likely to feel lonely, get into trouble after school, and disrupt classrooms during the day. Older students who participate in out-of-school activities are less likely to become involved in drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse.


  • Extracurricular activities build character. Drills, practices, and rehearsals allow children to develop discipline, control, and a healthy respect for authority. Participation in after-school activities can also develop a child’s morals, sense of worth, and sense of respect. All of these tools are extremely useful when applied to academic goals and classroom achievement.


While overloading your child with out-of-school activities may prove to be stressful and overwhelming for the whole family, a few well-chosen structured activities can both add joy to your child’s life and set them up for greater success in the classroom. At the same time, extracurricular activities can give your child the opportunity to forge new relationships, build self-esteem, and – perhaps most importantly – have fun while learning.


Written by Elliott Shostak

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