How to Start an Extracurricular Club
How to Start an Extracurricular Club
Is the budget at your child’s school being slashed? Are you seeing fewer options for your child to participate in shop classes, music, art, dance, or other “electives?” You can be a part of the solution.
Extracurricular activities play a critical role in your child’s development. They offer cultural enrichment, physical activity, and creative learning environments that stretch beyond the Common Core. They offer the chance for your child to develop leadership and teamwork skills, and they become crucial when your child is applying for college. These activities are fun for kids, but they are rewarding for parents, too! What parent wouldn’t love to watch her child star in a concert, school play, or sports event?
So your child attends a school with minimal resources, and you can’t seem to enroll him in music, sports, or other extracurriculars. How can you change this?
Find out what activities are available.
Your best resource for connections to extracurricular activities is back-to-school night. If possible, attend with your child. You can float from table to table to get a sense of the different clubs or teams that are offered. Other orientation events might be offered throughout the school year, so be sure to add these to your calendar.
Attending school events is a great way to learn about what’s offered. Concerts, plays, sports games, and science fairs give you the chance to see what other children are up to, and you get to provide community support for extracurriculars at the same time. To sow the seed of interest, bring your young child to these events to see what the big kids are up to—she may not be able to participate in music classes yet, but it might get her thinking about whether she’d like to play the bassoon or the viola.
As always, parent-teacher conferences are an ideal time to explore the types of extracurricular activities that might best serve your child’s interests and needs. Your child’s teacher probably knows most of the activities available, and might be able to suggest a club that includes a few of your son or daughter’s friends.
Talk with your child about his or her interests.
Sometimes we ask children to learn something because we know it will be good for them in the future. We ask them to learn how to spell “ketchup,” for instance, or how to use fractions. Other times, however, it might be more important to ask children to learn something because they want to learn it.
You can help your son identify his interests by talking with him about the world around you. When you visit the park, ask what he sees. When he’s fascinated by a caterpillar, ask him why he likes it. When you watch a movie together, encourage him to share how he feels about the different characters. You might learn that he likes magic, or singing, or hammers. This article over at The Children’s Trust has lots more ideas for discovering and developing your child’s interests and gifts.
Once you’ve got some ideas for the kinds of extracurricular activities that your child might enjoy, it’s time to explore whether those activities are offered at her school.
Get to know parents and teachers.
If you find that the ideal extracurricular club is missing at your child’s school, you’ll need support if you’re hoping to introduce it. The best way to build up that support is to get to know other parents and teachers personally. Attend PTO/PTA meetings. Chaperone field trips. Help out in class or in the library.
Ask around to see if there’s interest in the activity that you think your child would enjoy; you might identify potential collaborators. When talking with teachers, see if you can identify a sponsor for your program. When talking with parents, see if their children might be interested in joining the club if it was available. Try to determine whether there’s additional demand for the offering.
Once you find enough interest in your project, identify a faculty sponsor. It’s tough to get an extracurricular program installed at a school without a staff member volunteering to oversee it. Next, talk with the principal about the process for starting the new program—there may be unseen bureaucratic barriers, such as licensing or liability requirements.
Even if you are able to find a teacher who is willing to add a music class to his or her schedule, those good intentions might wane if you can’t get enough kids to sign up. So encourage interested students and parents to spread the word. Put up flyers, use the phone tree or newsletter, and let parents know the details: when and how to sign up, the time commitment required, and any applicable fees. Which brings us to:
It’s possible that you can find a faculty sponsor who has the time to donate to an after-school arts program or a tae kwon do team. But it’s not likely. Chances are, your child’s school doesn’t offer the program because it doesn’t have the money. In that case, you still have options. You can volunteer your own time as a drawing instructor or soccer coach. You can advocate at the PTA level for alterations in the school budget. Or you could seek outside funding. Local arts and humanities organizations are wonderful sources for funding for school theater or music programs, and health care organizations might sponsor after-school sports. The Wallace Foundation offers resources for after-school program funding sources, and the After-School Institute has a list of potential funders.
Explore outside school walls.
If you’re unable to get a program up and running at your child’s school, never fear—there are other places where you may be able to find or start an extracurricular program. Try faith-based organizations, community centers, the YMCA, the Urban League, or public libraries. You’ll be building a valuable network of community friends and resources, you’ll be modeling civic engagement, and your child will thank you for it on the day that she gets that college acceptance letter!