Don’t cancel debate club: The importance of digitizing extracurricular activities during COVID-19.
Extracurricular activities or after-school activities have been sacrificed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it a risk to meet in person in many places. Most sports clubs are either closed or in a limited capacity where smaller teams and groups can visit facilities with alternate schedules. Other activities such as art, debate club, theater, community service, and culture club are, for the most part, put on pause.
We have to remember the importance of extracurricular activities. They help students improve their knowledge and skills, form friendships, are essential in college applications, and when applying for a student job.
According to U.S. News, taking part in meaningful extracurricular activities is essential to getting into a good college or university. Cynthia Crum, director of college counseling at The Episcopal Academy, a private high school in Philadelphia “encourages students to participate in activities that will help them clarify their career goals and guide them toward the undergraduate degree program that’s the best fit.” Crum says that career exploration activity helps students demonstrate self-awareness and maturity in their undergraduate applications. “That’s a signal to colleges that says, ‘I understand what I’m walking into. I have found awareness to back up my thoughts that I might want to do this,'” she says”¹.
Shutting down extracurricular activities or after-school activities has an extended impact on the social lives and mental-wellbeing of students who are isolated from their friends and hobbies. The Economic Policy Institute have published research on student performance and equity during the pandemic and highlight the following:
For children, going to school is not just about learning reading and math: it’s also about developing the social and emotional skills critical to succeeding in life. School closures eliminated some of these critically important aspects of school beyond academic activity, such as the development that occurs through personal relationships among students and between students and teachers, after-school activities […]
“For children, going to school is not just about learning reading and math: it’s also about developing the social and emotional skills critical to succeeding in life. School closures eliminated some of these critically important aspects of school beyond academic activity, such as the development that occurs through personal relationships among students and between students and teachers, after-school activities that support children’s mental and emotional well-being and skills development, and a sense of routine. In addition to the cessation of their normal activities at school, during the pandemic, children have lost in-person contact with relatives and friends and have witnessed many sobering daily life realities, from parents who may be unsure where the next meal or rent payment will come from or who are working risky jobs in order to make ends meet, to family members fearing that loved ones are in danger of serious illness or even death. Overall, the crisis has helped highlight the importance of other skills that are often overlooked in the school context, but that should be nurtured as part of going to school and that will merit more attention in the aftermath of the pandemic”².
As a direct result, many schools are moving their extracurricular or after-school activities online. An example of this is Argentinian El Caballito de Palermo, a multidisciplinary civil society organization in Buenos Aires, dedicated to supporting the development of children’s cognitive and emotional competencies based on the game of chess successfully held classes where ten teachers and 50+ partners taught 1,000 students chess over one year. After searching for a solution to bring chess online, they found out that CanopyLAB has successfully helped bring many schools and universities online, both their official programs but certainly also extracurricular or after-school activities. After entering a partnership, El Caballito de Palermo has increased their reach and can train many teachers through digital chess classes.
So don’t cancel debate club. Digitize.
Do you want to take your extracurricular activities online, using a cloud-based LMS?
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