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What Extracurriculars are Good for Developing Critical Thinking for STEM Fields?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

By Anna Khan


In the pursuit of exposing students to social and emotional learning in STEM, extracurricular clubs play a pivotal role in developing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Here, we outline some key clubs and competitions, shedding light on how they specifically enhance critical thinking skills:


1. Science Olympiad:

The Science Olympiad is a competitive science tournament that includes diverse scientific interests. It challenges participants with a huge variety of events with reliance on teamwork between partners and the whole club. Competitions include test events, where you gather as much information as you can on the topic before the date of the competition and then take a written test on the subject to test your study skills. Build events include designing a machine of some sort, from a small wooden bridge to a trebuchet, to complete a task that is measured on competition day. In lab events, competitors perform experiments in front of judges to show their knowledge of the subject and their ability to properly carry out the scientific method. All of these tasks require the application of scientific concepts, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving, promoting critical thinking in various areas of science.


2. Science Bowl:

The Science Bowl is a quiz competition that tests participants' knowledge of physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics. The rapid-fire format encourages quick thinking and the ability to analyze complex scientific questions, thereby enhancing critical thinking and deep scientific understanding.


3. Math Counts:

MathCounts is a math competition focused on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. Participants engage in solving complex math problems that require logical thinking and analytical skills. This competition reinforces mathematical critical thinking abilities.


4. Academic Decathlon:

Each year, Academic Decathlon selects a topic, and competitors spend an entire year learning everything they can about that topic. This year, the theme is Technology and Humanity. Students learn to research, write essays, deliver speeches, and take rigorous tests, which collectively foster critical thinking across various academic domains.


5. Robotics and Coding Clubs:

Participating in robotics or coding clubs involves designing and building robots or software applications. These activities require logical reasoning, problem-solving, and the application of STEM principles to practical challenges, significantly enhancing critical thinking.


6. STEM-Related Volunteer Work:

Volunteering in STEM-related community service projects or science outreach programs can broaden perspectives and develop critical thinking skills by addressing real-world issues and applying scientific knowledge in practical situations. This is also something that can be done with a family and is full of variety and interpretation to suit the individual student. Not to mention how important it is to be a helpful member of your community.


These extracurricular activities offer students practical opportunities to apply and refine their critical thinking skills, whether in problem-solving, reasoning, or interdisciplinary academic challenges. Active participation in these clubs can greatly benefit those interested in pursuing STEM careers.


Works Cited

“List of Events by Season - Wiki.” Scioly.org,

scioly.org/wiki/index.php/List_of_events_by_season. Accessed 2 Nov. 2023.

USAD Science Olympiad. United States Academic Decathlon Curricular Topics for 2023-

2024! 2023, ocde.us/Decathlon/Documents/2023-2024/USAD-2024-

CurriculumOverview.pdf.



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