Integrating co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in mainstream curriculum

Schools are rightly called ‘second homes’ for students because the education, skills and experiences they gain during school years play an important role in shaping their future lives.

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Co-curricular and extra-curricular refers to different classes, projects, activities, workshops or demos which a child may participate in, voluntarily, either inside school or outside school which may or may not be a part of or related to their academic curriculum such as- sports, fine arts, performing arts, public speaking, treks, gardening and community services.

What is curriculum?

The word ‘curriculum’ has its origin from the classical Latin language word ‘currere’ which means “to run/ to proceed.” In New Latin language curriculum means “a course of study.” In order to meet the educational objectives of the teaching-learning process, proper assessment and evaluation of students and smooth functioning of classrooms each school adopts a curriculum, based on which educators adopt various methodologies and aids to impart knowledge about various subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Language, Literature and Environmental Studies to students.

What are extra-curricular activities?

Co-curricular and extra-curricular refers to different classes, projects, activities, workshops or demos which a child may participate in, voluntarily, either inside school or outside school which may or may not be a part of or related to their academic curriculum such as- sports, fine arts, performing arts, public speaking, treks, gardening and community services.

Why extra-curricular activities are important?

Children learn and develop holistically is acknowledged by many educationalists (Froebel, Steiner, Malaguzzi, Montessori, Weikart). Steiner in particular exemplified the ‘whole child’ approach. Steiner placed great emphasis on cultivating a sense of aesthetics, empathising with fellow human beings, thinking and developing observation skills (a view shared with Montessori) and promoted children’s engagement in rhythm, language, music and movement.

With a growing body of world research emphasizing the importance of holistic approaches to education, early childhood educators are being challenged to incorporate a teaching practice that focuses less on the traditional milestones of academic development, and more on the complete physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of a child (UNESCO, 2002).

Moreover in this fast paced and technologically driven world, where majority of adults and children tend to live busy lives, multitask, run on tight time schedules and rely heavily on gadgets like computers, smart phones, television and play stations, for work, reference, communication and entertainment purposes, more and more people find the co-curricular and extra-curricular uninteresting and boring and tend to spend less time engaging in activities like taking a walk in the park, playing a sport, gardening, painting, dancing, listening to music, or cooking.

Since these gadgets are easily available, can be switched on at the touch of a button and display attractive and visually stimulating images, everyone gets hooked onto them very easily, as a result of which it leaves little time for everyone to just sit down and quietly relax and spend quality time with others and themselves which leads to undue fatigue and stress.

In such a scenario, availability of space, resources and adult guidance for co-curricular and extracurricular activities within the school campus not only favours the concept of holistic growth and development but also allows students to slow down, choose and participate in activities of their interest which helps them to become more focussed, achieve- peace, balance, and tranquillity in their lives as well as develop positive skills and behaviour.

Which activities can be included in school?

The inclusion of co-curricular activities such as — projects, debates, quiz, spell-bee, creative writing, nature walks, field visits, role play, etc. – which are related to subjects being taught in class, provide experiential learning opportunity to students as they encourage students to explore, experiment, refer, discuss and collect data and information from sources apart from textbooks. This enables students to play an active role in their own learning process. It also leads to in-depth understanding, better reinforcement and retention of the subject matter in a fun, interesting and integrated manner.

Importance of sports: Open fields, playgrounds, basketball and badminton courts, swimming pool, help in the inclusion of physical education in the curriculum. While participating in outdoor play and sports, students tend to perform actions such as- running, climbing, skipping, bending, swinging, stretching, throwing, pushing, pulling, etc. which helps them to strengthen their bones and muscles, improves body balance and coordination, increases stamina and keeps students physically fit and fine leading to better physical and gross motor development. Apart from physical development, when students engage in outdoor activities and sports they gain first-hand information about force, speed, friction, distance, height, weight, measurement. This practical knowledge makes it easier for them to relate to and understand mathematical and scientific concepts when they are taught in classrooms.

Team games and sports teach student the importance of working together, coordination, cooperation and supporting one another. Participating in competitive games and sports gives opportunities to students to understand the importance of practice, discipline and hard work. Sports also teach students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses as well as learn to accept both success and failure. Outdoor play and physical exercises also enable students to channelise their surplus energy in a constructive manner, as a result of which they tend to engage in less disruptive and destructive behaviours in classrooms leading to greater learning, attention and focus. These are essential socio- emotional skills which children need to lead a happy and balanced life.

Importance of fine arts: The incorporation of fine arts in the school curriculum provides opportunities to students to engage in activities such as drawing, sketching, colouring, painting, tracing, cutting, pasting, sewing, modelling, etc. which enhances their fine motor skills in terms of – grip, control, coordination and precision of movements. Artistic pursuits also provide sensorial learning opportunities to students in terms of visual and tactile senses which are particularly helpful for pre-primary and primary grade students.

Fine arts as an extracurricular activity helps students to learn about various- art forms, techniques and mediums, signs, symbols, culture and traditions of different regions and also about the life history of famous artists.

Art and craft activities require students to think and work around – forms, figures, patterns, designs, scenery, colours, presentation of materials and space utilisation which enhances their creativity and imagination and eventually develops an aesthetic sense in them. Making and creating things instils in students a sense of wonder and excitement. When students’ creations are appreciated by their teachers and peers it gives them immense joy and satisfaction and motivates them to work harder. Fine arts also provide a medium through which students can express their thoughts and feelings. Moreover when students work together they learn to share available resources and get ideas from one another. These emotions help students to develop confidence and a positive self-esteem which are pre-requisites of leading a balanced fulfilled life.

Importance of other activities: Activities such as cooking and gardening enables students to gain information about plants, natural world, food facts, customs and traditions of different regions in a more concrete and interesting manner which are related to various chapters they are taught in environmental studies or social sciences. Moreover actions such as cutting, mixing, kneading, washing, digging, sowing, watering promote physical, motor and sensorial development of students. Cooking and gardening also teach students to be patient and the importance of concentrating on the task at hand. Moreover when students share working space and other resources with their peer they learn to adjust, cooperate and work with others which are essential team skills required in future.

Importance of performing arts: Performing Arts aids students to develop body balance, coordination and flexibility and enhance their sensorial abilities. They also provide students an opportunity to understand their own thoughts and feelings as well as a medium through which they can express them in front of others both verbally and non-verbally. This increases students understanding of self and leads to greater self-acceptance. The chance to perform in front of others helps students to build up self-confidence and also instils in them feelings of happiness and contentment. It also helps students to realise the importance of team work in terms of coordination, timing, practice, and understanding and getting along with each other. These emotional and social skills enable students to develop a positive self-image and are required extensively by children when they step out of school and interact and work with others.

Hence we can conclude that apart from IQ, academic subjects, school grades, and classroom behaviour, in order to lead happy, successful and fulfilled lives, students need to develop skills such as concentration,decision making, problem solving, creativity, patience, cooperation, self-efficacy, self-esteem, empathy and effective communication. As these skills are a set of- interrelated, interconnected and interdependent competencies and attributes which go beyond textbook and academics all educational institutions must try and incorporate co-curricular and extracurricular activities in their mainstream curriculum.

Art and craft activities require students to think and work around – forms, figures, patterns, designs, scenery, colours, presentation of materials and space utilisation which enhances their creativity and imagination and eventually develops an aesthetic sense in them. Making and creating things instils in students a sense of wonder and excitement.

Tanushree Dhandhania completed her Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Human Development from Jadavpur University in 2004 and was awarded the University Gold Medal. She began her career in the education field as a lecturer in J.D.Birla Institute and then worked as a preschool teacher with Kangaroo Kids in Kolkata. She started working as an independent education consultant in 2008 taking up various projects related to research, monitoring and evaluation and content development with organisations like – B.K Bajoria School (Shillong) Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (Kolkata, W.B); Educomp Solutions Ltd (India); Jingle Bell School (Faizabad, UP).She is also associated as a freelance resource person with Pearson Education (India) to conduct teachers’ training programs.