Making extracurriculars great again: the online edition

Have you noticed that coffee, cookies and other pantry items are the first things to go during an economic downturn at most offices. This is when you know companies are in “cost-cutting” mode. But why are we telling you this and what’s that got to do with education?

Extracurricular activities are the first thing that bear the brunt of any adverse happening, akin to “cost-cutting” in the corporate world. It’s the first thing that is dropped before exams or when kids are in higher grades. Devoting more time to “studying”, or completion of the syllabus means no room for any extracurriculars.

The pandemic was no different.

The challenge of conducting extracurricular activities online 

Most academic classes could be easily conducted online, inspite of the initial hiccups and scrambling. But extracurricular subjects were a different ballgame. Sports, arts, yoga and the likes required personal interaction and are often tactile. It's impossible to play a game of football virtually, but it is possible to find innovative ways to continue online.

Many organizations and schools did. Football practice in the backyard or a yoga session in the bedroom became common practice.

But if someone had told you that children could engage online in their interests after school, 10 years ago, you would have laughed.

Online yoga, online extracurricular activities

Are online extracurriculars a new thing? 

But this actually isn’t a new phenomenon. For example the Summertime Debating Madness (SDM) was started by students of Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram back in 2015. It helped people from all around India to participate in this online debate competition.

Openhouse held India's largest online debate competition in June 2020. It was a massive success.

In the world of massive open online courses, art classes from renowned universities like Harvard and Yale were available 2011 onwards. In China and Mexico teachers sent out byte sized videos about how they can engage in physical exercises at home over messaging apps.

The pandemic and the resulting lockdown only accelerated the rate of adoption and people gradually opened up to the possibility of engaging in after school activities online.

Are extracurriculars necessary in times like these?

Imagine yourself in a child’s shoes, having to stare at a screen for hours, without interacting with friends, staying home for months, and little to no physical activity to let out steam. If adults had a hard time coping with the situation, we can only imagine what a child would have gone through.

Many students who are part of Openhouse clubs told us that extracurricular activities and mindfulness sessions during the pandemic helped lighten their stress levels. And parents of these students found that their children discovered new hobbies, discovered their hidden talents and started expressing themselves in ways they hadn’t before.

At Openhouse we have debate, drama, dance, community service, entrepreneurship and MUN clubs. You can find out what children are up to at Openhouse clubs, here.

Still skeptical whether extracurriculars help children with academics and in life? Read what Anshul Kothari who represented India in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in swimming has to say.