At our recent Curriculum Night for sophomore and junior parents, I had several conversations with parents about how lucky our students are to have their co-curricular programs built into our school week. Coursework for junior and senior year can be intense, but most students won’t have to choose between pursuing extracurriculars and achieving academic success. Pairing the two, from grades 7-12, has been a purposeful choice since the school’s founding.
Why, you might ask, does a school focused on academic excellence put so much emphasis on extracurricular activities?
Over the years, academic studies have shown that engagement in extracurricular activities can boost academic achievement in students of all ages. In addition, such activities help students develop a host of skills that may or may not be learned in a classroom setting.
At Pacific Ridge, we believe wholeheartedly that this is true. We even refer to these activities as co-curriculars, indicating their rightful place alongside the academic curriculum.
Benefits of co-curriculars include, but are not limited to:
- Professional skills: Through co-curriculars, students practice goal-setting, persistence, management and delegation, as well as learning how to communicate professionally with adults. Service learning in particular contributes to this kind of valuable, “soft” skill development.
- Self-esteem: People shine in different ways. Every year, new leaders emerge from co-curricular activities such as service learning, performing arts, sports and global travel. Having the opportunity to contribute in different ways helps students find, practice and appreciate their strengths.
- Teamwork: Almost all co-curriculars require collaboration, whether it’s planning a service learning project, putting on a show or relying on one’s travel group when exploring a new culture. Students learn that they can accomplish great things when they work together.
- Time management: With all of the distractions of modern life, time management is a crucial skill for productivity. Through trial and error, students learn to balance their academic work, their co-curricular commitments and their home lives. The resulting organizational skills are an all-around asset, not to mention the benefits of self-discipline and understanding the need for occasional sacrifice.
- Wider social circle: At Pacific Ridge, students get to know one another well in the classroom, but spending time with peers who share interests allows different friendships to blossom. Global travel, too, often creates special bonds among students who might not otherwise socialize together.
- Discovery of interests: One of the most important aspects of the co-curricular experience is the opportunity to discover a passion. That’s why Pacific Ridge offers a breadth of opportunity in this area. And, if a student has a passion where no group or activity currently exists, we encourage them to start one.
Generally, the biggest potential downside to participating in activities outside of class is time, or rather, the lack of it. That’s exactly why we’ve built time for co-curriculars into the weekly schedule and yearly calendar. Pacific Ridge students can play a sport, join several clubs, work in a service group and even travel, while still finding plenty of time for deep academic study, family commitments, socializing and sleep. We call this balanced approach the Student360 Experience.
Co-Head of Upper School, World Languages