Enrichment activities are things that make people well rounded and bring joy and interest to our lives. Typically they are not the core curriculum, but rather the sports, arts, languages, and other ancillary areas of study.
While public schools are cutting enrichment programs due to funding, parents are often spending hours per day running children from one activity to another. Our current culture seems to have a prevailing attitude that if some is good, more is better. This seems to be applied to enrichment activities as well as many other aspects of our lives. There is no doubt that SOME enrichment is a wonderful thing for a student and a family.
What activities are available? There are many options for this. Look at a local parks and recreation brochure and find a wide variety of classes and sports you can take, from aerobics to yoga and everything in between. Many private organizations also offer extra curricular activities for our youth. Dance classes, cheerleading, tennis, gymnastics, karate, piano, swimming, soccer, baseball, drawing, singing, photography, and the list goes on. This variety and these options are priceless!!! And yet, we don’t need to do every one of them. Enough is enough!! Parents are shuttling children around from activity to activity and there’s no time for processing, engaging, or even bonding.
Pick the activities purposefully. Is the child showing interest? Do you feel this is an area that would benefit the child? Maybe they lack some hand-eye coordination, so rather than doing physical therapy, you feel that gymnastics or art would help the child enjoy the development process more. Or is this a checkbox on the list of what you feel you should provide for your child because “everyone else is doing it” or “my child won’t get into Harvard if they aren’t well rounded or a master in ALL areas.” Look at the purpose and drive for each activity that you are doing with your child and select your activities thoughtfully. Sometimes a family bike ride by the river or afternoon picnic in the park with their scooters or quiet afternoon fishing the lake will enhance your child’s learning and well being more than another “skill” on the checklist.
That being said, there are some cool resources and options out there for fun, interactive, hands-on learning activities to help develop all aspects of a child’s growth and development. Here are a few:
- Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute This school in Glendale, OR, USA immerses children in the outdoors as a lifestyle approach and allows them to pursue their areas of interest with a variety of stimulation and a mentor providing direction and assessment. They state that their mission is: “To develop happy successful, emotionally intelligent empathic leaders with grit, which are well educated, skilled in creative, critical, and divergent thinking, capable of adaptability and collaboration, and are good stewards of the earth.” This is a very experiential learning atmosphere. “In lieu of grades on a transcript our students will journal and maintain a portfolio of work.” They also offer immersion camps for teens to become competent and independent in a wilderness setting.
- Family Volunteering is also a great option for enrichment. Often the student learns new skills, pushes their boundaries of their knowledge or physical skills, and leaves with a sense of achievement. This is good for both the participant and the recipient. The options are far and wide. You must consider the physical location of the event, the timing of the event, what skills or resources you bring to the table and what is needed by the recipient when selecting, but there are so many options, a short search ought to be able to find something suitable.
- Project World School – These retreats are around one month long in locations all around the world designed for teens and young adults to create temporary learning communities where immersion experiences within the culture they challenge themselves intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically to grow and broaden their horizons.
- Study Abroad – There are many groups and resources available for students to spend a semester or year abroad. The students will learn so much more than the academics required as they begin to learn to function as an individual navigating their way in the world, integrating with a new family, and immersing in a new culture. Sheltered children have a hard time as this with a program like this because this is a big commitment, but for those who have a solid foundation in travel and maturity, this will be an opportunity they will grow from and remember. Many colleges also have study abroad options, check your college if you’re interested.
- Semester at Sea – While an expensive option, this allows students to build a community network of like minded individuals on the same journey. While studying academics, often related to their particular port, the students are able to achieve school credit while visiting numerous countries around the world. The program is designed for college enrolled traditional students, but they also accept nontraditional students, international students, and gap year students. Students will earn up to 15 units of college credit through Colorado State University which are transferable to their home institution. Cost ranges from $25,000-$31,000 depending on your accommodations.
- Gap Year – This can refer to any sabbatical year taken away from school or work. Most recently it’s become popular to take a year off school between high school and college in order to mature, experience, and grow prior to engaging in higher education. Students benefit in that they are more mature and well rounded once they commit themselves to the expense and schedule of a full time college student.