Pre-teens and early adolescents are embarking on a period of immense social and emotional growth. Their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are developing at lightning speed, and they are beginning to understand and experiment with ideas of leadership, teamwork and impact. As any parent of a middle schooler will tell you, this age group questions everything!
As educators and parents, we can encourage middle schoolers to start defining their identity as a student and help them build the foundations for their future success in high school, college, and beyond. Extracurricular activities are an important gateway to that success and offer many benefits to a child’s overall development.
Benefits of Extracurricular Activities
Research shows that extracurricular activities offer abundant benefits for students of all ages. There is a positive relationship between participation in extracurriculars and higher academic performance, consistent school attendance, and a desire to continue the academic journey past high school. In addition, middle school students see benefits in the following areas:
- Social Development: By participating in non-academic activities, students develop the skills necessary to work on a team, cooperate, and lead.
- Discover Unique Interests: As students explore the community and world around them, they will experiment with different interests. Maybe they will find a new passion in climate change, politics, or service. Extracurricular activities will help them identify and develop those interests.
- Increased Self-Esteem: Experiencing success in a non-academic environment can boost a child’s confidence in themselves, which then can be taken back into the classroom.
- Teach Commitment and Responsibility: Accountability is a critical life skill that can be learned through extracurriculars. Feeling a commitment to a team or partner teaches accountability in a meaningful way.
Types of Activities to Encourage
What types of activities should I encourage my middle schooler to try? There is no one-fits-all answer! Follow your child’s lead in terms of interests, which might change frequently throughout these early years. Some categories of extracurriculars include:
- Academics, like STEM-based clubs or coding organizations
- Politics/Student Government, such as Model UN, Debate, interning for a local politician
- Culturally-focused clubs or affinity groups
- Creative or Performing Arts
- Community Service
- Student Publications
Through your encouragement, your goal should be to foster your child’s love of lifelong learning and help them to find joy in their experiences. The extracurriculars a child discovers in early adolescence can open up pathways in high school and beyond. Students can continue their involvement in all of these types of middle school extracurriculars when they transition to high school.
At Collegiate Gateway, we know there are so many choices to make regarding your child’s educational experiences, and we are here to help. Join us on June 2, 2021 at 6 pm EST for a free presentation: How 8th, 9th, and 10th Grades Impact College Admissions. Explore our other upcoming presentations on our website or set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our services. Whatever your question, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help!