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Game On: How Extracurriculars Boost Student Engagement

November 16, 2023

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As educators, one of the most critical elements of providing a successful education is student engagement. Yes, the trope of students not liking school still persists, but it doesn’t have to. 

While changes to the core curriculum or inside-the-bell programming can be time-consuming and challenging, there’s another way to ensure that students are engaged and successful—extra-curricular activities. Not only do activities like esports help with social-emotional learning, but they can help students in every aspect of their school journey. 

So, with that in mind, let’s look at why extracurriculars boost student engagement and how to get started. 

Why Student Engagement Matters

School is much more than a place for children to spend their time and learn dates and facts. Structured education helps kids develop vital skills that they will use in their lives well after they graduate. These skills can include social bonding, mental adaptability and plasticity, communication, collaboration, and educational discipline. Outside of the classroom, these skills will help students achieve success in their personal and professional lives. 

Unfortunately, a disengaged student doesn’t see school as a valuable place for learning and development. When students are disengaged, they’re far less likely to participate in class activities and thrive within the structure of a school environment. So, engagement matters from both an academic and individual perspective. For the school, higher engagement means better test scores and easier access to funding. Plus, parents of engaged children are more likely to participate in activities and clubs, alleviating many issues schools have with staffing and volunteers. 

For the students, engagement helps strengthen their learning capacity. In most cases, it’s not the information itself that matters but the ability to learn it. Mental plasticity is the brain’s ability to process, store, and utilize new information. The more a student exercises their brain, the easier it is to learn at any age. 

Types of Extracurricular Activities to Boost Student Engagement

Although engagement is only one component of a successful school experience, it counts for a lot. Thankfully, educators can take advantage of various activities, clubs, and programs to boost extracurricular engagement and student participation. Here are a few examples with proven success rates. 

Esports and Video Games

In modern times, video games (especially esports) have become far more multi-faceted, making them an ideal learning tool. After-school programs like a video game club can help students develop skills like: 

  • Teamwork and Collaboration - Some games require collaboration and teamwork to win. Students are actively encouraged to partner with each other to achieve shared goals and objectives. 
  • Communication - Collaboration can’t happen if everyone involved doesn’t communicate. Esports helps students find their voices so they can work with each other in and out of the game. 
  • Visual Learning and Coordination - The modern world depends on technology and machines. Students who become adept at video games are better prepared for fields that require expert hand-eye coordination. 
Graphic demonstrating the various benefits of esports in -12 education including connections to careers and driving student success and confidence.

Additionally, because these games are fun, they can increase demand for after-school programs and clubs. In some cases, schools may be able to secure extra funding for these programs. 

Visual Arts

Unfortunately, as school budgets tighten across the country, art programs are often the first to go. However, there is a lot of research that illustrates the connection between visual arts and cognitive development. 

The great thing about artistic after-school programs is that there is a lot of flexibility in what can be added to the curriculum. Everything from woodworking to painting can be considered social-emotional learning activities that set students up for success. 

STEM Programs

Science, technology, engineering, and math make the modern world function, so it’s imperative for students to understand these industries as soon as possible. While STEM education programs are quickly becoming part of the main curriculum, not all schools can afford to host them in a traditional classroom setting. 

Offering STEM extracurricualrs, such as robotics or engineering clubs, allows the school more flexibility in funding these activities while improving student engagement. Also, there are many organizations willing to donate supplies and materials for specific classes, such as robotics, civil engineering, and biology.

Engage Your Students With a Next-Level Esports Program

Creating after-school esports programs can often be a struggle, especially with limited funding, experience, and resources. Fortunately, the United States Esports Academic League (USAEL) can help. We can work with your school or district to develop a comprehensive program that sets your students up for success. Contact USEAL today to get your extracurricular program off the ground. 


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