Extracurricular Activities: Why They Are so Important

Updated May 26, 2016 |
Extracurricular Activities: Why They Are so Important
Extracurricular activities are not an extra in a private school. They are an integral part of the program each school offers.

How can extracurricular activities possibly be important? After all, aren't they extras? Unfortunately, in these tough economic times, that is very often the case in public schools where all too often local education leaders view extracurricular activities as extras. As they have faced declining tax revenues, public schools have had to make some drastic cuts in their budgets. School boards have a hard time justifying cutting the number of teachers. They run up against the same problem with course offerings. So, school boards and administrators look for programs which they can eliminate or, at least, reduce expenditures.  Accordingly, they decide to cut the extras.  In the public school world, those extras include extracurricular activities such as a band or orchestra, as well as clubs and other activities.

On the other hand, for private schools, extracurricular activities are an integral part of the school's offerings. Solid academics, a variety of athletic programs and an assortment of extracurricular activities are essentials in private schools. Most private schools believe that you cannot educate a child solely by teaching her academic subjects. While math,  science and all the other subjects are an important part of her schooling, there is much more to education than just academics. That's where sports and extracurricular activities come in. They allow your child to grow. They stimulate her with new ideas and new ways of thinking. They give her a sense of accomplishment and build her confidence. They teach tolerance and encourage teamwork. These are all excellent lessons which she needs to learn to be a successful adult.

The other factor which makes extracurricular activities viable in private schools is that leading and supervising an activity and sport is part of a private school teacher's contract. It is part of the job description. Children learn by seeing their teachers involved in something other than teaching in a classroom. That brilliant teacher who was explaining the intricacies of geometry earlier in the day makes a quite different impression when your child sees her showing the Chess Club members how to kick their game up a notch or two.

Let's look at a couple of schools to get an idea of the rich array of choices your child will encounter at private school. Incidentally, it doesn't matter too much whether the private school you are considering is a day school or a boarding school. Either type of private school will offer more extracurricular activities than you can imagine. We have quoted from two schools' descriptions of their activity programs so that you can hear how important these are from the schools' perspective.
"At Middlesex life outside the classroom is marked by energy, exploration, and community.  With over 60 clubs and organizations Middlesex students have a diverse and extensive set of opportunities to enrich their lives and learn through experience. Middlesex believes that creativity and self-discovery are important aspects of the student experience, and these clubs and other activities are a great way to find new interests or develop existing ones."
  • Alumni Ambassador
  • Amnesty International
  • Applied Science Club
  • Arabic Club
  • Astronomy Club
  • Book Club
  • Chess Club
  • Chorus
  • Club Gol a Gol   
  • Common Sense (Environmental Organization)
  • Community Service
  • Contemporary Chamber Ensemble   
  • Cowboys' Lunch
  • Crossword Puzzle Club   
  • Debate Club
  • Diversity Committee   
  • Divine Visions (Step Dance)
  • Etymology   
  • Fides
  • Finance Club   
  • Fishing
  • Freedom of Speech   
  • French Club
  • Harry Potter Club   
  • Ikon
  • Instrumental Ensembles   
  • Jazz Club
  • Jewish Club   
  • Math Team
  • Middlesex Art Association   
  • Middlesex Yearbook
  • Model Congress   
  • Model United Nations   
  • Mxlodians
  • Peer Support
  • Photography Club
  • Ping Pong Club
  • Pottery Club   
  • Society of Skeptics
  • Songwriters Anonymous   
  • Spectrum (Multi-cultural Organization)
  • Student Activities Committee   
  • Student Admissions Committee
  • Student Government   
  • The Anvil
  • The Asian Society   
  • The Circle (literary newspaper)
  • Theatre
  • Young Democrats
  • Young Republicans
"The goal of The Hill School's Student Activities Office is to provide a diverse and enriching residential experience for the students and faculty. Activities are offered throughout the school year that appeal to a wide variety of interests."
  • Action AIDS
  • Archaelogy Club
  • Asian Cultural
  • BBQ Club
  • Chamber Ensemble
  • Chamber Orchestra
  • Chapel Committee
  • Chess Club
  • Community Service Group
  • Ellis Theater Guild
  • Fine Woodworking Club
  • Fly Fishing Club
  • Food Club
  • French Club
  • Glee Club
  • Guitar Ensemble    Habitat for Humanity
  • Hill Athletic Association
  • Hilltone Trebles
  • Hilltones
  • Honor Council
  • International Culture Exchange
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Math & Computer Club
  • Model United Nations
  • Operation Smile
  • PDS Teaching Assistants
  • Peer Counseling Group
  • Pep Band
  • RAM Radio
  • Reception Committee
  • Recycling Club
  • Rock Band
  • Sailing Club
  • Skateboarding Club
  • Ski Club
  • Spanish Club
  • Speech & Debate Club
  • Stock Exchange Club
  • Student Activites Committee
  • Student Government Association
  • Student Prefects
  • Tech Support Group
  • The Dial (yearbook)
  • The Hill News (newspaper)
  • The Record (literary journal)
  • Young Democrats
  • Young Republicans

As I mentioned before, the leadership of these extracurricular activities is an important consideration for private schools when they hire teachers.  Part of the duties of most private school teachers include the supervision of an extracurricular activity. In fact, this obligation is clearly spelled out in teacher contracts. The benefits for your child for enormous. She gets to participate in an activity which is guided and directed by an adult who is enthusiastic about the activity. That adult is also one of her teachers. So she has the opportunity of seeing her teachers outside of the classroom setting. Learning and having fun are a great combination. Having inspiring role models shapes a young person's attitudes and builds her self-esteem. That's one of the reasons why private schools will preserve a rich array of extracurricular activities. Those activities make the school what it is.

As you progress through your school search process, take the time to review and evaluate the extracurricular activities of the schools which are on your short list. Discuss extracurricular activities with your child. Use the lists of activities at the schools I quoted above to find out which activities she likes and which ones she has never experienced.

The bottom line is that you are sending your child to private school so that she can enjoy and experience a balanced approach to her education. The integration of academics with extracurricular activities and with athletics will achieve that all-important goal of educating the whole child.

Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl

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