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7 Extracurriculars that can help your middle schooler develop leadership skills

Caroline Duda is a Senior Marketing Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized experiences to accelerate academic achievement.

Most high school students (and the parents of said students) know how important extracurriculars are to the college admissions process. However, middle school children can also benefit from these activities. Extracurriculars can impart key academic and socio-emotional lessons, especially in areas like leadership.

Here are seven activities that can help individuals in sixth, seventh and eighth grade develop the skills that every future leader needs.

1. Student government

When parents and students first think of which extracurricular activities engender leadership, student government frequently springs to mind. Student government is the quintessential leadership activity, and for middle school children new to this concept, it can help them form a personal definition of the term. Student government can also introduce them to the idea that leadership roles need not be grandiose.

2. Athletics

Even the most powerful leaders in the world are a single part of a larger team (just as a captain is still a team member). A range of athletic endeavors, from the traditional pursuits of basketball and field hockey to the less-common pastimes of bowling and badminton, can help children comprehend the dual role that great leaders willingly occupy.

3. Newspaper

Students who participate in middle school journalism (for example, in a classroom newsletter or a school-wide publication) often hone their understanding of accountability and responsibility. Through researching and writing articles, they learn to portray events and individuals accurately, as well as to meet their audiences' diverse interests and needs. These are key traits for any leader to master.

4. Peer mentorship

This extracurricular activity comes in many forms, and each variety is equally beneficial to fledgling leaders. For instance, middle schoolers can grasp firsthand the importance of patience and a positive example when teaching younger children to read. This is also true of other mentorship opportunities, such as peer mediation circles and new student guides.

5. Debate

A strong leader knows when to listen and when to speak. Debate competitions and mock debate clubs are an excellent way to foster these skills, as participants must craft convincing arguments, carefully analyze their opposition's beliefs and then respond quickly and cogently. If your school does not offer debate, speech club is a fantastic alternative.

6. Entrepreneurship

Extracurricular activities that are geared toward business (particularly those aspects of the business world that involve entrepreneurship) generally emphasize leadership traits like creativity and the willingness to take risks. Instruction in balanced risk-taking is not often present in standard middle school curriculum, and children who wish to eventually become CEOs, politicians, etc. will rely on both this and creativity.

7. Theater

Whether students gravitate toward musicals or plays, taking part in theater instills confidence. It also allows children to recognize and explore their individual voices. Effective leaders are effective in part because they command the room. Others believe in them. Theater can teach students to speak their minds eloquently and respectfully, all while ensuring that their concerns and opinions are heard. Once children learn to create this space for themselves, they can begin creating it for others.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Image: kbrookes via Flickr
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