Enrichment activities are adjunct activities and programs that are held either during or after school hours, and complement the classroom instruction and textbook material being presented to students in grades K-12. These activities both enhance the student's learning experience and broaden the scope of what they are learning through practical experiences that link the academic theory with real world applications and offer personal and social development opportunities to the learners involved. As schools focus on ensuring that all of the activities they offer contain meaningful and relevant academic and educational content, it is important that their curriculum includes time and opportunities to offer activities which directly relate to and reinforce the academic material being covered in the classroom phase of learning. This article is an overview that covers the general definition, types, concept, and development of enrichment activities as well as sources, suggested guidelines, and caveats for the sourcing, procurement, and application of materials used for these activities.
Keywords Academic Content; Curriculum Development; Decision Making; Enrichment Activities; Extracurricular; High Quality Activity; Intrinsic Learning; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB); Practical Experience; Strong Relationships; Student Leadership; Tangential Learning
In part, due to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), schools across the country have come under great pressure to meet stringent academic and performance standards or risk repercussions for failure to progress, which can include the closure of the school or the replacement of its staff. Because of the potential ramifications of failing to meet these standards, many schools and districts have revised their curriculums to ensure compliance with these guidelines. The emphasis is on the areas covered by the NCLB law, often to the exclusion of other worthwhile activities such as art, after school activities, athletics, the social sciences, and the humanities. With this single minded focus on academics comes the danger that schools and school districts will focus exclusively on classroom lessons and teaching material that may meet the required standards of the various academic guidelines, yet not meet the practical standards of the real world in which the students reside, nor be engaging enough for them to fully participate in the learning process.
For some, enrichment activities may provide the extra spark of interest that will mean the difference between fully absorbing the information and losing interest in it. The development and inclusion of academic enrichment activities adjunct to the overall academic curriculum should always be a goal whenever the academic school year is planned. By including engaging, practical, and relevant activities outside of the academic instruction portion of their curriculum, schools can enhance and diversify the learning experience for all their students.
What Are Enrichment Activities?
Enrichment activities are activities and programs held in conjunction with or outside of formal class curriculum that broaden the academic experience for students by helping to develop new skill sets and expand their development both personally and socially. When properly developed, validated, managed, and monitored, these activities can greatly enhance the learning experience of students by adding a new and practical dimension to the classroom and text book instruction they receive in their school curriculum. The inclusion and planning process can begin at any time, however, one good time would be the insertion of enrichment on the agenda when schools review their curriculums for either guideline compliance or redesign, when doing so, the review committee should also focus on ensuring that they include complementary curricular and extracurricular activities containing worthwhile and effective academic content that practically relates to the school's formal curricula.
Types of Enrichment Activities
Enrichment activities can be almost any activity related to the material being taught in the classroom. They can be class trips, projects, extra curricular activities, involvement in community initiatives, or even mock businesses. Regardless of what the activity is, they fall into one of two categories; they are either intrinsic or tangential. In intrinsic activities, the student learns by taking part in the activity through hands on experience. For example, a chemistry project activity teaches the student chemistry outside of the textbook.
Enrichment activities can be tangential or intrinsic. Tangential learning is indirectly associated with the activity in a manner such as students having the opportunity to swim after a field trip to the beach to study marine biology. Intrinsic activities are probably more useful since they are an actual link between the classroom and the practical applications of what is being learned.
The use of intrinsic enrichment in the planned curricula can yield exponential results when they expand upon what the students learn in the classroom. These activities should be practical, interactive, and project oriented. The best employ the academic concepts being taught and apply them in a real world, self guided manner to enhance the skills and knowledge being imparted to the learners in the lesson plan. The activities can occur either during time set aside during regular class periods, or they can be held after school. Regardless, of when they are conducted, the goal of enrichment programs is the development of "High Quality" activities. According to the Academic Enrichment Project, a program promoted by Learning Point Associates, "high quality" academic enrichment activities are defined by four primary characteristics:
• T hey exhibit well-integrated academic content
• T hey develop strong relationships between the participants and caring adults, older students, or peers.
• T hey provide opportunities for authentic decision-making by the participants.
• T hey allow the potential for student leadership in the activity (Learning Point Associates, 2006a, "What Characterizes").
Hand in hand with decision making authority is the opportunity for students to experience personal growth through the assumption of assigned or voluntary leadership roles in the activities. Instructors should encourage and nurture this important life skill among their students (Learning Point Associates, 2006a).
The synergy of these four characteristics in a well designed intrinsic enrichment activity can provide an optimal environment for complementary learning and reinforce the lessons of the classroom for the students involved.
Tangential activities can be useful in motivating or engaging students to the learning at hand by injecting an element of "free play," or reward, into learning. However, unlike intrinsic activities which are inherently focused on practical learning, tangential activities run the risk of obscuring the real purpose of the activity - learning. Tangential activities couple a marginally related activity (usually recreational) with a genuine, but separate, learning opportunity that may be regarded by the students as merely an afterthought to the enjoyable experience that is offered alongside. The learning should be intertwined in every phase of an activity as opposed to being a separate and distinct part of it. When the learning involved in an activity is regarded as a secondary goal by the...
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