As kids get back into the groove of school, many families are also adjusting to new schedules which include practice times and weekend games for extracurricular activities. Whether they choose team sports, dance or scouting, extracurricular activities offer many benefits to children. Studies show that involvement in extracurricular activities raises self-esteem and improves social skills. Some activities offer the obvious benefits of physical fitness and improving teamwork. Others provide students with an outlet for creativity and a means of personal growth. Popular sports such as soccer, football, and track and field are already underway for the fall season. Other kids tend to choose extracurricular activities that are slightly off the beaten path.
Fourteen-year-old Kathryn has played piano for six years and upright bass for three years with her middle school orchestra. In addition, she has worked with the choir at both her school and her church. She recently attended the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a weeklong summer camp offering intensive, individualized instruction in vocal, piano, and string performance. As a first-year participant, she was advised to select one of the three areas in which to focus, and she selected piano. “We received intensive private instruction, in both piano solos and ensembles. We also had to practice sight-reading, which is one of my least favorite things,” she admits.
When asked about her favorite camp activity, Kathryn did not hesitate. “I made so many new friends from all over!” Indeed, Kathryn admits that some of her performances didn’t go exactly according to plan. “I probably spent a little more of my practice time hanging out with my friends than I should have. My solo night was a little embarrassing, especially since I know that piece backwards and forwards,” she says. Still, when asked if she is considering attending again next year, her face cracks into a wide smile. “Absolutely!” she exclaims. “Camp was the time of my life, in spite of the missteps. I can’t wait to go back!”
In this country, the phrase “Scouting” generally refers to Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts of America. However, other groups such as Camp Fire (www.campfireusa.org) also should be considered. Put simply, the scouting movement supports young men and women in their physical, mental, and spiritual development. What exactly does that entail? As a former Girls Scout leader, I can tell you that there are many different types of troops. (Mine once had a campout at the Waterford Hotel!) I can also tell you that the “campout” was a reward for nearly doubling our goal in a local blood drive that our troop undertook in honor of a critically ill baby in the OKC metro. Regardless of whether your style is more Troop Beverly Hills or “live-off-the-land” Survivor-style, the basic idea of scouting–to leave the world a better place than how you left it–is essentially universal.
Eric, an Edmond native and Eagle Scout, was inspired by his father to begin scouts in the 6th grade. “I love the organization, because it created lifelong memories for me through summer camps, high adventure camps and other group activities,” he said. In spite of the wide variety of activities offered, many boys and girls quit participating before reaching the highest honor—Eagle Scout for boys and Gold Award for girls. For Eric, that was never a consideration. “It’s such a prestigious honor, and I was determined to achieve it,” he says. For his Eagle project, he painted a map of the United States on the playground of an Edmond elementary school—his alma mater. He has since assisted with other Boy Scout projects and plans to continue to be involved.
Pack 21 Assistant Den Leader John Ford of Edmond was a Boy Scout himself and became involved in a leadership role for his son. “My own dad was a scout leader, and I looked forward to our meetings. It was a great opportunity to spend quality time together. It’s been great to be a role model for the kids and watch these boys grow into young men,” he says.
While many boys grow up wrestling, it isn’t every day you find a girl with a similar passion for wrestling. Ashley Sword-Buster began wrestling during her junior year of high school at the urging of her younger brother’s wrestling teammates. She tried out for the team when a spot opened up in her weight class, and was the only girl on the team. While her teammates and assistant coach were supportive, the head coach wasn’t supportive of having a girl on the team and gave her little encouragement. “I actually won my first high school match by forfeit, because the guy on the opposing team refused to wrestle me,” she says with a smirk.
Not only did she participate at the high school level, she won a scholarship and went on to compete at a college level. Currently, 22 colleges and universities have a varsity women’s wrestling program, including Oklahoma City University. “It became a little easier mentally when I reached the college level and wasn’t the only girl competing. It was nice to know there were more people like me,” she says. Ashley even participated in the Olympic Trials in 2008, before suffering a career-ending injury. She went on to get an art degree from Oklahoma City University, but is glad to see the girls’ wrestling is growing and gaining support. “There are now three states–Texas, California, and Hawaii–with high-school level girls’ wrestling programs. That’s a step in the right direction,” she says.
No matter what your child’s passion is, there is probably an extracurricular program that can satisfy it. If your child’s school doesn’t offer a program, there are typically options available in the local community to fill those gaps, whether it’s horseback riding, art classes, photography or fencing. If you or your child have an interest that isn’t exactly considered mainstream, look online or ask other families for suggestions—and if all else fails, start your own group!
Other Extraordinary Extracurriculars
- Martial Arts
- Cooking Classes
- Theatre classes
- Music lessons
- Horseback riding
- Swimming/diving teams
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer and single mom to two girls. An Edmond resident, she graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma and is an HR manager in the medical field.