Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

A Case for Club Curriculum

Lindsey Link, Daniel Schwarz, Michell Eike, Mary Braggs | Published: March 30th, 2023 by K20 Center


In this session, participants explore themes from research on the benefits of extra/co-curricular activities and analyze the ways in which club activity design connects back to the research. Facilitators model guidance that participants can apply to their classrooms; this will provide educators with the tools to establish a foundation of success to carry students beyond high school and into postsecondary education.

Essential Question

How can you leverage elements of 21st-century skills to prepare students for postsecondary education?

Learning Goals

  • Identify the research-based benefits of extra/co-curricular activities.

  • Analyze how activity design can leverage these benefits toward college and career readiness in students.

Materials List

  • Session Slides (attached)

  • Magnetic Statements document (attached; one set per session; printed front only)

  • Research Statements document (attached; one set per session; printed front only)

  • Why Clubs? handout (attached; one per participant; print front only)

  • Chart paper

  • Markers

  • Sticky notes


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Session Slides to guide this professional learning experience. Begin by displaying slide 3. Take a couple of minutes to describe to participants the themes addressed by the 15 club activities. Also explain the reasons why the K20 Center decided to create these activities, which include “Famous Failures,” “Making Sense of Cents,” “Present It with Pictures,” and others. You may also want to let the audience know that our entire collection of club activities can be accessed by using the following link:

Let the audience know that they are going to be modeling an Engage activity from one of our club activities, “Famous Failures.” Move to slide 4 and share the S-I-T (Surprising, Interesting, Troubling) activity. Let participants know that as they watch the video about “Famous Failures,” they should write on the handout one thing that surprises them, one thing that interests them, and one thing that troubles them.

Play the 3-minute “Famous Failures” video on slide 5. After you have watched the video, give participants a couple of minutes to share their responses with someone sitting next to them.

Draw the attention of the audience to the quote by Thomas Edison on slide 6. Then display slide 7 and ask for volunteers from the audience to share the responses they wrote on their handouts.

After a few people have shared their responses, take a couple of minutes to introduce the audience to the essential question on slide 8 and session objectives on slide 9.


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 10 and share the instructional strategy, Magnetic Statements, with participants. Instruct them to walk around the room and read each of the statements. Once they have, direct them to choose the statement that attracts them the most. Ask participants to identify which one are they most drawn to. 

Once they have chosen a statement, instruct participants to stand with others who made the same selection and discuss their reasons for choosing the statement. Provide them with a few minutes to discuss the statement and then ask for volunteers to share out why they chose their statement.


20 Minute(s)

Move to slide 11 and preview the next activity in which the participants analyze a club activity and determine how they can leverage it at their school. Let them know that this activity has been broken up into the following three steps, and each group will create one Anchor Chart for their magnetic statement.

  1. Connect one club activity to your magnetic statement.

  2. Summarize your club activity. 

  3. Review another activity and describe how it connects to postsecondary education (PSE).

Move to slide 12 and pass out the prepared chart paper (with Research Statements attached in the center) and the corresponding club activity packet. See the Facilitator's Note at the beginning of Engage for more information on these materials.

Share the following expanded directions for Step 1 of the activity with participants:

  1. Notice the chart paper that has your research statement in the center. This is the same as your magnetic statement from before. Use the QR code to access the club activity. We have provided a paper copy of the activity for your group as well.

  2. Take a few minutes to review your activity independently and then with your group. 

  3. Use the questions on the slide to guide your thinking and analysis as well as structure the conversation with your group.

    • How does your activity apply to the big idea of the research statement?

    • What do you notice about the way the activity is structured?

    • What else stands out to you in the activity?

    • What is something that “attracts” you to this activity?

Remind them that the goal right now is to get a good understanding of the club activity. They’ll work next on the Anchor Chart. You can use timers available on the K20 Center Timers YouTube Playlist.


25 Minute(s)

Move to slide 13. Instruct participants to now move to Step 2 and add to their Anchor Chart. Have them respond to the following by writing in the rectangle surrounding the research statement (inside the blue area identified on the slide).

  • Summarize your research statement.

  • Identify how the club activity you reviewed applies to this idea.

  • List aspects of the club activity you think are most beneficial to your students.

Provide participants with 10-15 minutes to work on this portion of the activity. You can use the timers available on the K20 Center Timers Youtube Playlist.

After participants have completed Step 2 of the Anchor Chart, move to slide 14. Instruct participants to participate in the Gallery Walk by moving around the room as a group to view other Anchor Charts and discuss with their group other club activities that could be beneficial to their students. This portion of the activity should take 5-8 minutes.

Instruct participants to move to an Anchor Chart created by other participants that contains a club activity they believe is most beneficial to their students. Remind participants they should not revisit their original Anchor Chart; they need to choose one created by others in the room. 

Move to slide 15. While at the new Anchor Chart, have participants complete the final step (Step 3) by answering the following questions on the outermost rectangle of the chart paper (yellow section identified on the slide):

  • How does this activity connect to college and career readiness?

  • How does this activity prepare your students for postsecondary education (PSE)?

Provide participants with 10-15 minutes to work on this portion of the activity.


5 Minute(s)

Display slide 16. Let participants know that they will be sharing their finished Anchor Charts on Twitter or another social media platform using the Tweet Up strategy. 

Once participants have shared their Anchor Charts, take a couple of minutes to introduce the audience to some of the club activities that are available to them for free on LEARN in the following collection: Then pass out the attached Why Clubs? handout and share that this is a great resource to take back with them to their school to help justify the need for club curriculum.

Research Rationale

Regardless of the focus of the extra/co-curricular activity, club participation can lead to higher grades (Durlak et al., 2010; Fredricks & Eccles, 2006; Kronholz, 2012), and additional benefits are possible when these clubs explore specific curricular frameworks. Club participation enables students to acquire and practice skills beyond a purely academic focus. It also affords them opportunities to develop skills such as self-regulation, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking (Allen et al., 2019). When structured with a strong curricular focus, high school clubs can enable participants to build the critical social skills and "21st-century skills" that better position them for success in college and the workforce (Allen et al., 2019; Durlak et al., 2010; Hurd & Deutsch, 2017).

Supportive relationships between teachers and students can be instrumental in developing a student's sense of belonging (Pendergast et al., 2018; Wallace et al., 2012), and these support systems enable high-need, high-opportunity youth to establish social capital through emotional support, connection to valuable information resources, and mentorship in a club context (Solberg et al., 2021). Through a carefully designed curriculum that can be implemented within the traditional club structure, students stand to benefit significantly as they develop critical soft skills.