Extracurricular activities for social engagement

Extracurricular activities include any organized social, art, or physical activities for school-aged youth that occur during out-of-school time, usually before- or after-school or during the summer. Extracurricular activities can be offered through school, community, or religious organizations. Examples include clubs, school newspapers, music groups, student councils, debate teams, theater, volunteering programs, sports, and youth groups; programs sometimes include academic components.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Improved youth behavior

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased self-confidence

  • Improved social skills

  • Improved social networks

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that extracurricular activities increase self-esteem and positive social behaviors among children and adolescents (, HFRP-Little 2008, YG-Afterschool). Extracurricular activities are also a suggested strategy to increase social support systems, develop social skills and relationships, and enhance neighborhood cohesion (Anderson 2003a, Urban-Moore 1999). There are a variety of these types of activities and programs, however, and some are more effective than others ().

Creative extracurricular activities such as music, dance, drama, and visual arts can increase participants’ self-confidence, self-esteem, and positive behaviors (). After-school activities appear to improve school belonging, motivation, and academic achievement among immigrant high school students (). Elementary school students appear to have greater social engagement benefits when they are highly engaged in after school programming than when they are less engaged (Grogan 2014).   

Extracurricular activities with academic components can modestly improve grades, test scores, and academic proficiency along with social benefits (Grogan 2014, , , RAND-Bodilly 2005, HFRP-Little 2008, Vandell 2007). Some studies indicate that participation in extracurricular activities may decrease problem behaviors such as alcohol use, risky sexual activity, and delinquency (, , Vandell 2007, CSPV-After school), while others suggest no effect on such behaviors (, ).

Students’ attendance at extracurricular activities may be enhanced by supportive environments, age-appropriate structures, positive relationships between participants and staff, and diverse activities that foster child development and engage participants. These characteristics can also improve student outcomes (, Vandell 2013, ASA).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Examples of extracurricular programs include Triple Play, offered at over 4,000 Boys and Girls Clubs across the country (Triple Play); Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program, offered in 1,500 clubs in rural, urban, and suburban settings in 32 states and Washington DC (TOP); 4-H Afterschool, nationally implemented through public universities and Cooperative Extension (4-H); After-School All-Stars, serving low income and at-risk youth in 12 states (ASAS); and WINGS, providing social and emotional learning programs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia (WINGS).

California’s Proposition 49, the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002, expanded after-school programs and extracurricular activities to benefit children; sports to increase physical fitness, tutoring to improve academic performance, and youth development programs to enhance social skills and responsible behavior (CA-After school) .

Implementation Resources

CSPV-Elliott 2000 - Elliott DS, Grady JM, Shaw TE, Aultman-Bettridge T, Beaulieu MT. Safe communities ~ Safe schools planning guide: A tool for community violence prevention efforts. Boulder: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV); 2000.

IES WWC-Beckett 2009 - Beckett M, Borman G, Capizzano J, et al. Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education (US ED); NCEE 2009-012.

HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA).

ASA - Afterschool Alliance (ASA). Keep kids safe and inspire them to learn.

Citations - Evidence

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Anderson 2003a - Anderson LM, Scrimshaw SC, Fullilove MT, Fielding JE, Task Force on Community Preventive Services. The Community Guide’s model for linking the social environment to health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003;24(3S):12–20.

Urban-Moore 1999 - Moore K, Ehrle J. Children’s environment and behavior: Participation in extracurricular activities. Washington, DC: Assessing the New Federalism (ANF), Urban Institute; 1999.

HFRP-Little 2008 - Little PMD, Wimer C, Weiss HB. After school programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it. Cambridge: Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP); 2008: Brief Number 10.

CSPV-After school - Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV). Safe Communities Safe Schools fact sheet: After school programs. Boulder: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV), University of Colorado at Boulder; 2001:FS-SC12

Durlak 2010* - Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Pachan M. A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2010;45(3-4):294–309.

RAND-Bodilly 2005 - Bodilly S, Beckett MK. Making out-of-school-time matter: Evidence for an action agenda. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2005.

Bungay 2013* - Bungay H, Vella-Burrows T. The effects of participating in creative activities on the health and well-being of children and young people: A rapid review of the literature. Perspectives in Public Health. 2013;133(1):44–52.

Farb 2012* - Farb AF, Matjasko JL. Recent advances in research on school-based extracurricular activities and adolescent development. Developmental Review. 2012;32(1):1–48.

YG-Afterschool - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Afterschool programs.

Grogan 2014 - Grogan KE, Henrich CC, Malikina MV. Student engagement in after-school programs, academic skills, and social competence among elementary school students. Child Development Research. 2014:498506.

Taheri 2015* - Taheri SA, Welsh BC. After-school programs for delinquency prevention: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Criminology & Penology. 2015:1-19.

Kremer 2015* - Kremer KP, Maynard BR, Polanin JR, Vaughn MG, Sarteschi CM. Effects of after-school programs with at-risk youth on attendance and externalizing behaviors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 2015;4(3):616-636.

Leos-Urbel 2015* - Leos-Urbel J. What works after school? The relationship between after-school program quality, program attendance, and academic outcomes. Youth Society. 2015;47(5):684-706.

Camacho 2015* - Camacho DE, Fuligni AJ. Extracurricular participation among adolescents from immigrant families. Empirical Research. 2015;44(6):1251-1262.

Vandell 2013 - Vandell DL. Afterschool program quality and student outcomes: reflections on positive key findings on learning and development from recent research. In: Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success. Expanded Learning & Afterschool Project; 2013:10-16.

Vandell 2007 - Vandell DL, Reisner ER, Pierce KM. Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of promising afterschool programs. Irvine: University of California, Irvine, Department of Education; 2007.

ASA - Afterschool Alliance (ASA). Keep kids safe and inspire them to learn.

Citations - Implementation Examples

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Triple Play - Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Triple Play: A game plan for mind, body, and soul.

TOP - Wyman Teen Outreach Program (TOP). Teen Outreach Program: Help transform teens and change communities.

4-H - The Cooperative Extension System, 4-H National Headquarters, National 4-H Council. 4-H Afterschool.

ASAS - After-School All-Stars (ASA). Comprehensive after-school programs.

WINGS - WINGS for Kids (WING). WINGS: Helping kids soar.

CA-After school - California Department of Education. After school education & safety program.

Date Last Updated

Aug 15, 2016