NEA Parents' Resources

The Value of Extracurricular Activities

“After-school special” takes on another meaning when it comes to extracurricular activities. After-school programs are fun, enjoyable and can provide the memories your child will hold onto for a lifetime.

However, after-school activities are more than social outings or schedule-fillers. No matter the activity, education doesn’t end when the school day is finished.

Not only do extracurricular activities instill great values like teamwork, responsibility and a sense of community, they have also been proven to boost school attendance, academic success, and aspirations for continuing education past high school. Additionally, they are linked to healthier choices like avoiding drug use and maintaining a healthy body weight.

For example, physical education and exercise has been proven to help students have better concentration and work better in teams both in and out of the classroom. Yet, only 6 percent of U.S. schools have physical education classes 5 times a week.

After-school programs are helping fill the gap caused by shrinking school budgets and other factors. And increasingly, they are providing the type of educational content—especially in arts, music and foreign language—that can help students excel better in the classroom.

Your child may be interested in joining a sports team, trying a new art form, or making new friends through a club. And with so many benefits, you may be wondering how and where to start.

First, check your child’s school website and calendar for dates of tryouts or auditions, as applicable. Talk to your child’s educator about what subjects your student excels in and most enjoys—there may be a club or activity that will let them explore it further. Additionally, look out for any flyers or materials that share information about organization meetings and activities.

If your child’s interests lie in something your school doesn’t provide, your own community may offer extracurricular activities that take place after school or even on the weekends. Stay up to date on community happenings by checking online community message boards or bulletins regularly, and signing up for relevant mailing lists. Local organizations also often sponsor activities or post information in the area.

All students should have the opportunity to access a full curriculum. There is no substitute for learning that is provided by teachers during the school day, but extracurricular activities can provide new dimensions for learning and development, and offer students opportunities to further pursue the subjects they enjoy.

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