Local schools embrace the return of after school activities

With the pandemic winding down and the school year right around the corner, extracurricular activities are in full swing. Schools are encouraging students to discover their passion outside the classroom.

| 18 Aug 2022 | 09:55

When you think about the term “extracurricular activities,” what comes to mind?

For everyone the answer to that question may vary; however, that is the beauty of it. They allows students a chance to explore, escape even. They come in numerous forms, shapes, and sizes. Generally, an extracurricular activity is student activity that falls outside the realm of the normal curriculum of school. It all comes down to what best interests you.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, student participation in extracurriculars promotes the values of teamwork, individual and group responsibility, physical strength, endurance, competition, diversity, and a sense of culture and community.

A child’s participation in extracurricular activities is essential for them to develop healthy self-esteem as well as learn positive social skills.

“Extracurricular activities are vital to a child’s growth. They help create valuable experiences not just in school but in life. We encourage our students to find their passion both inside and outside of the classroom. Find something they really enjoy doing,” said Byram School District Superintendent, John Fritzky.

Heading into the 2021-2022 school year, things began recovering from the pandemic-induced cancellation of many after-school activities. School administrators found ways to ease into allowing students to fully participate in activities again. Attendance at fall school sporting events, like basketball, gradually increasing in Byram schools, stated Mr. Fritzky. By the time spring rolled around the entire community came together for the return of the Byram’s Got Talent competition, a variety show displaying some of Byram’s most talented students and teachers orchestrated by the Byram Parent Teacher Association.

Some of the opportunities offered in their district include: drama, band, STEM clubs, environmental clubs, student council, peer leadership, and athletics. Alongside the Byram School District, many schools in the region try to provide students with several options to choose from.

A mountain bike club was introduced to students at Delaware Valley High School in recent years. Through the club, students develop not only their passion for the sport, but also an understanding and respect for the environment, wildlife, and many other aspects of the outdoors. Club members get a chance to improve their physical condition, with biking is considered one of the best cardiovascular exercises. Students are taught riding techniques during pre-ride skills development clinics and learn to troubleshoot mechanical problems. Their goal is for students to develop their bodies and minds through mountain biking.

Of course, these activities do not revolve solely around sports. Intensive programs like the robotics club are a student favorite in Sparta Township public schools. Earlier this year, the Sparta Robotics Z team earned a trip to both the national competition and world championships after putting on a great performance throughout their entire season. The Z team also won the State Championship Design Award.

Monroe-Woodbury High School boasts a chess club that allows students to learn the game and enhance their playing abilities. Students are provided literature on the historical aspect of the game. The goal is to create a positive environment in which students can interact, and share strategies, experiences, etc. Students get to opportunity to virtually compete in various tournaments and leagues throughout the school year.

In May, the Glen Meadow Middle School, along with Vernon Township School district, launched their new Unified eSports program. The program allows students to spend time together to share their love and passion for gaming. Additionally the afterschool club encourages teamwork, friendships, and inclusivity across grade levels as well. The Vernon Township High School’s Unified eSports Team, established during the 2020-2021 school year, traveled to Florida to participate in national competition this past June.

“Creating a climate of inclusion, acceptance, and respect defines the Vernon Township School District. At Glen Meadow Middle School, we are proud to offer Unified eSports and look to further integrate additional unified programs for our students in the future,” stated Glen Meadow Middle School Principal Jacquelyn Van Orden.

Warwick Valley High School hosted its first virtual musical in April of last year to try to help keep their drama students engaged and creative. Earlier this year, schools reintroduced their drama clubs to stage.

Extracurricular activities help peak a student’s interest in school. A study by the NECS indicates that extracurricular activities increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their school, decreasing their chance disconnecting from the classroom. Therefore, if extracurricular activities can enhance school success, making sure these opportunities are available to students of all backgrounds is of major importance.