Extracurriculars: How to Start a STEM Club
By Ohm Parikh
June 23, 2021 · 3 minute read
Extracurricular activities have evolved into something that is almost mandatory in a student’s academic development. This is because they allow pupils to excel outside the classroom by applying their academic knowledge to relevant pursuits in areas of interest. However, extracurricular opportunities differ across high schools, so sometimes initiating them can be important to allow students interested in a certain field to develop their skills.
Why Start Something?
There are a few reasons to start a club at one’s school, but the most obvious is that your school does not have a club already. For example, my school only has Mu Alpha Theta and HOSA. Still, I was interested in competing in a wide range of science events which made me consider starting a Science Olympiad team.
Besides the absence of a club chapter at your school, there are a couple of other reasons why you may initiate a chapter. A club may already be well-organized outside of your school (clubs with competitions/establishments at the regional, state, or even national levels), the club being a leadership opportunity, or the club being something prestigious that would elevate the students at the school.
Some Clubs to Start
Here are a few of the clubs to start, along with a very brief description is included with each club name, as most have a linked article going more in-depth:
Science Olympiad: Team-based competitions where members compete in individual events, and team performance is affected by individual placements. Events are in various STEM topics, from biology to engineering, teams up to 15 students.
HOSA: Individuals compete in events (a few of which are team-based), only individual performance matters, and events focus almost exclusively on healthcare, health administration, and medicine.
Mu Alpha Theta: Math Honors Society focused solely on mathematics. Students compete in invitational competitions hosted by schools to then compete at state-level competitions.
Science Bowl: Teams of 4-5 students compete in regional, state, and national competitions in quiz-based science questionnaire competitions; teams that qualify through regionals and states compete in the national finals.
General Steps to Getting Started
For the starting steps, we will be using an organization called “STEM” as an example.
- Find the organization's main website (ex: STEM.org) for details on the organization as a whole and the levels/rules of competition.
- Find the state and regional websites of the organization (ex: flSTEM.org or STEM.org/FL) for specific regional and state competition information, along with chapter/team registration information.
- Find a teacher sponsor(s) for the club and contact them to ensure that they are willing to participate; make sure to send them links from the aforementioned steps so they can do their reading.
- Gain approval from school administration to establish a chapter/team; this step is the most variable as it differs by school and organization.
- Officially register as a chapter/team at all levels of the organization that are applicable (ex: registered for STEM team at the national, state, and regional competition levels)
- Contact another school nearby that has a well-established chapter of the organization (ex: high school in the same county that already has a STEM team/chapter; use this organization chapter/team as a model to emulate
- Find members, send out paperwork, get members acclimated to the format/nature of the organization/team.
Reaching Out to Members
One of the hardest things about starting a club can be finding members and making sure that the student population is aware of a new organization chapter/team. Outreach for your new club should begin at the very beginning of the club creation process. You should reach out to your friends and students with similar interests as you in the beginning to gauge their interest in forming and organizing a club. It is much easier to create a successful club if you have many motivated members rather than yourself. Once you have a dedicated member of founders, you can begin spreading information about the club through word of mouth or social media.
However, the best way to reach out to students is to advertise through established avenues of school communication; the best examples are having an advertisement for a club/team on the school news or during the morning/afternoon announcements, as these are guaranteed to reach almost all students.
The Secret Ingredient: Patience
Even if all the right steps are taken, and this guide is followed perfectly, students may still have trouble finding their organization growing adequately. Therefore, it’s important to remember the most important ingredient: Patience. The purpose of initiating a STEM organization chapter/team isn’t to compete immediately or to reach the full potential within the first year but to lay the foundation for a STEM culture for the future. So remember this and remain patient when initiating an organization.
Getting involved in STEM by leading a STEM organization is a courageous feat and will advance the experience of all STEM students at a given school. If you decide to embark on such a journey, remember to follow the steps above and stay patient during the entire process. Remain dedicated and passionate, and you will succeed.
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About The Author
Ohm is currently developing curriculum for SciTeens SOLID Physics Course, focuses on teaching physics and programming to interested students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM and is a former member of the outreach team.