The demands of school have increased a lot in recent years. This means that there is a lot less downtime within the academic day for kids to socialize. Children of all ages need this to be able to interact with their peers outside of class. Due to the time restraints within the school day, it’s even more important for all children to be able to participate in extracurricular activities. This means finding a club or activity that is not only interesting to them, but work well for them. These opportunities help kids of all ages to use creativity, energy, and talk to one another about what is happening in their lives.
Many kids will focus their attention toward sports. Not all children will be able to participate in the higher-level teams because they are physically unable, or because team size is limited. Schools need to be able to assist and make sure there are clubs and after school activities that are inclusive to children who simply want to be physically active. Look to the community to sponsor yoga, karate, bowling, soccer, and other sporting options. These should work on the fun and friendships formed during the time and less on the mechanics of the sports.
Use school personnel to make an interest inventory of the population to come up with additional clubs that would be good for your students. Popular ones at this time are STEM, gaming, reading, art and crafts, and debate. Think outside of the box and have students work with committees to assist with the project. If they are invested in forming the clubs, they are more likely to participate and bring friends with them.
Of course, the biggest need is to have clubs that support the needs of students with special needs. Students with IEPs often feel left out of afterschool activities because they are unable to attend or participate for one reason or another. Some schools offer adaptive sporting clubs so that any child may participate. All counselors and teachers need to be aware of the rights of special needs students to go to after school programs. If they require more supports, look to see what is legally required for them to be able to participate. If they have certain supports on their IEP, it may carry over for them. Students need to be part of a group and it’s crucial to work with their families and within the school to find them something to join for more socializing with other students. The key is to make the kids feel included so they are not home and left out of the fun.
Form committees within your school and district to work on adding more extracurricular activities. Think about all of the students and their needs when forming them. Always look to your community for support and remember colleges often have students who are looking to volunteer hours to assist.