At the time of writing this piece, looking out of my window with students back on campus, making their way to end of year assessments and the summer break quickly approaching, it is very easy to focus entirely on the impending examination period.
However, what the past 18 months has reinforced for schools across the globe is the importance of extracurricular activities and education outside of the classroom (EOTC). Extracurricular activities are a fun and very effective way of combining academic and pastoral strands of a school’s offering, while aiding students and staff a return to a feeling of normality.
Holistically, they assist in offering students opportunities to develop collaboration, leadership, communication, confidence, resilience, engagement, decision making and creativity. At Kristin we have included all of these in our programmes, and here is a brief overview of a few key areas of focus:
Sport and physical extracurricular activities are an excellent opportunity for students to show leadership. This is not just about selecting “captains”, but also showing and developing organisational skills and coordination, especially with older students assisting younger ones. These activities enable students to take ownership and lead others. They also enable students to see how every member of a team is critical to its success, whether the team captain, the coach or the kit person.
Learning how to make decisions under pressure and at times when the outcome rests on your decision is something that needs to be practiced. Being able to place students in positions where they will need to quickly change their strategies, adapt to situations, and quickly make judgement calls helps prepare them for similar challenges in later life, while also giving them ownership over those decisions and taking responsibility for the outcomes.
Effective communication in a large team, when under pressure is not an easy task. By getting students to evaluate different methods of communication, they can start to understand what works best in different situations and this also highlights that the needs will change in different situations. Challenging them by limiting communication opportunities can help ensure that the opportunities they do have are more effective and start to focus in on the key factors that lead to good, effective communication.
Through challenging students in a variety of activities, it shows how different leadership styles and approaches are more, or less effective in a range of situations. It can be quite easy to look out onto a sports field and spot the natural leaders but place the same students in a different environment and ask if those people are still seen as the leaders in the group. Through offering a range of activities in which students need to collaborate, we can show how different leadership styles are required and how these need to be combined with decision making and effective communication to ensure success.
We also need to remember that extracurricular activities are also a chance to come together, have fun, engage with new experiences, and strengthen the feeling of belonging that should exist in a school. No matter how a school has adapted and catered for the academic needs of students over the past few months, the social and emotional needs are just as, if not more, important, and we should never lose sight of how to meet these developmental needs.