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Extracurricular activities evolve to suit students' interests

With so many differing interests among students, faculty at Sarasota and Manatee county schools are rising to the challenge and introducing new clubs and activities.

Members of the Riverview High School Mock Trial Club simulate a murder trial at the Sarasota Bar Association's 12th Judicial Circuit High School Mock Trial Competition.
Members of the Riverview High School Mock Trial Club simulate a murder trial at the Sarasota Bar Association's 12th Judicial Circuit High School Mock Trial Competition.
Courtesy photo
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The thought of extracurricular activities might conjure up images of students hovered over a chess board or choosing photos for a yearbook, but extracurricular activities have undergone a major evolution over the past few decades. 

Not only are there quadruple the options, there are activities children of the 1970s and '80s could have never imagined—gamer clubs, for one. 

Minecraft has become a popular video game amongst elementary and middle school students. It’s a game that can be played and coded, so students’ grow with the game as their computer skills develop. 

Minecraft Club is one of an array of options offered to students at Wilkinson Elementary School in Sarasota. The school offers six to 10 clubs per semester and more than half of its students access clubs at least once during the school year. 

Media Relations Specialist for Sarasota County Schools Kelsey Whealy said it’s a fairly easy process to start a club. Clubs are created based on student interest and the availability and interest of teachers and staff members because all clubs must have a faculty sponsor.

Clubs appease a multitude of interests from providing service opportunities in the community to playing esports to helping students learn more about career fields in agriculture or medicine. The list goes on. 

For students looking for a hands-on activities, Wilkinson offers RC Car Club. Students design, build and race remote controlled cars. 

“Most of our clubs are hands-on and students really thrive. They get to develop new skills and interests when they are participating in a club,” RC Car Club Leader Shannon Quinn said. “After-school clubs encourage positive behaviors among the students. They want to be there and are excited.” 

Students design and build their own cars to race in RC Car Club.
Courtesy photo

Wilkinson is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics integration school with clubs designed to further engage students in STEAM concepts while having fun. 

RC Car Club members must commit to attending the annual RC Custom Car Open at the Suncoast Science Center. The day-long event is going into its ninth year and is held each spring. Two tracks are set up behind the facility for students to test their designs. The race is open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and schools travel from all over the county to compete.

Another extracurricular requiring community involvement is the Mock Trial Club, offered at high schools across Sarasota and Manatee counties, including Riverview High School, Booker High School and Manatee School for the Arts. 

Club members prepare for a mock trial before a real judge. 

It’s not a club only for future lawyers. Students who want to improve their debate and public speaking skills are also encouraged to join. Students can improve their critical thinking and teamwork skills. They’re also schooled on ethics and professionalism. 

The Sarasota County Bar Association’s 12th Judicial Circuit High School Mock Trial Competition is held each March. Teams consist of six to 10 members with three attorneys and three witnesses simulating a manslaughter or murder trial for local attorneys and judges. Court reporters and bailiffs are also in the courtroom. 

But those are just a few of the clubs offered by local schools. 

Riverview also offers a Kindness Club, Crochet Club and the Better Together Club that make a point to include students with special needs in social activities. 

Sarasota High School offers Baking Club and the Helping Hands Photography Club that assists local nonprofit organizations by taking photos for their publications. Manatee High School offers ballroom dancing and a Japanese Culture Club that will teach students the language and the history of anime. 

“It’s important to offer a variety of clubs because students have different interests. Some may love to sing and others may love to run; others may want to learn art,” Quinn said. “They get to develop new skills and interests when they participate in a club.” 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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