October 5, 2017
It was a warm, breezy day. The school courtyard was abuzz with ninth grade students, playing table tennis, sitting at tables, eating pizza, and throwing beanbags. The atmosphere was almost surreal, a normally unused space transformed into lively and bustling area.
The Ninth Grade Picnic, which took place on September 28, is an annual event held in the school courtard exclusively for ninth grader students.
Christian Nieto stood near the bean bag toss. “I came mostly for the food,” he said. However, he noticed his mood had brightened by the end of the event. Nieto found himself playing table tennis with new friends by the end of the picnic.
Josh, on the other hand, was tossing beanbags enthusiastically. “I could really make friends,” he said, pointing out all of the people he had met during the event. There was face-painting, penny tosses, beanbag tosses, and a dancefloor, among other things. The Ninth Grade Picnic has a large social impact on Freshmen, bonding strangers together through shared experiences.
Ms. Daciek, the Ninth Grade Team Leader and planner of the picnic, had been organizing the event for the past two years. “We try to think of something to do where the kids can come together and [get] to know each other,” Ms. Daciek said.
Before 2015, freshman did not take the PSAT, but now they are required to do so. This would have meant that students would have had less time for social interaction and relaxation, instead having to prepare for the standardized testing. However, the Ninth Grade Team introduced the Ninth Grade Picnic to combat encroachment of valuable social time. In schools across the country, far more stress has been placed upon academics and less on social interaction.
According to Joseph Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, technology is making it easier to build a web of superficial social connections. He thinks “focusing time and attention . . . with a few individuals should be a priority.” On the impact of extracurricular activities, “These experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later,” Allen stated.
In addition, social events have the backing of academia itself. According to Erin Massoni at College of DuPage, “The positive effects of extracurricular activities on students are behavior, better grades, school completion, positive aspects to become successful adults, and a social aspect.”
For further events, Ms. Daciek said that there are plans for in-school tutoring. “Whether its after-school homework or whether it’s connecting students with adults in the building that can serve as a mentor,” the Ninth Grade Team has big plans for the future.