I have been writing lately about flourishing schools. In my role as the Head of School, I try to use the research on flourishing schools to help me examine my role in addition to the school’s efficacy. I have been using questions in the self-evaluation. One such question a school should ask itself in determining its strength and value is, “Is there an extensive and adequate student activities program?” To answer this, we must first agree with the value of student activities and exactly what student activities encompasses.Student activities are anything that the student does in a school program outside of the classroom and the specific learning outcomes described in the curriculum maps. This would include athletic and non-athletic activities such as, athletics, clubs, and other outlets for students to extend themselves beyond the classrooms lessons.The nagging question for any educational leader is, “Do they help the students achieve those important outcomes?” Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Research only provides limited help. Because the nature, number, and quality of student activities varies greatly from school to school, the conclusions can only be made in regards to a particular school. Conclusions and suggestions may be helpful for pro-grams in other schools, but do not necessarily apply. However, even though they are not generalizable, they can give insight during a school’s self evaluation when answering the questions about a flourishing school. Thus, I use the research from other schools to glean as much insight that I can.Here are some pf the common applicable themes from the research:
- student activities provide motivation and recognition for many students who do not find motivation or recognition in the classroom.
- Student activities enhance the student/teacher school/home and many other relation-ships, all effecting the school climate.
- Although some activities rated higher than others in the categories of thinking, communicating, and cooperating, there is a clear consensus that student activities do contribute to the achievement of the learning outcomes.
- Cooperation is the most highly rated outcome in both athletic and nonathletic activities. Since cooperation is an important life skill and cooperative effort in academic disciplines is limited, student activities fill a critical void in this area.
Of course there are many more reasons the student activities (athletic and nonathletic) are important. This is why Salem Christian School works at ensuring the student life component of our program is robust. Almost every student at our school is engaged in some student activity. Subsequently, we have implemented a Director of Student Life. He is responsible for student council, spelling bees, Math Olympics, fine arts events, varied clubs, and many other opportunities for students to become involved. Of course, our Director of Athletics is responsible for Middle School and High School, Varsity and Junior Varsity, ACCAC and PIAA games. I for one am looking forward to seeing what programs Mr. Ference will be bringing to the school in future years through his position as Student Life Director. Additionally, I am excited to here of the addition of a junior varsity boys basketball team.
We welcome people with the ability and passion to offer after-school clubs, student activities, and other ideas. Beware, if you have a great idea, we may call on you to come alongside of the school to get it started!