Retaining Students in CS clubs

Hello All,

 This year, I was very aggressive in my recruiting of students into CS clubs. The enrollment in Cyber Patriots quadrupled. This included 8 girls in a club that has never had a girl join! I also started an Art & Tech club which drew more girls. Since I am a magnet school on a campus that has 75% eco-dys. students, it was important to me that I recruit students from both campuses. So, through my efforts, we were also able to get about 4 students from that campus as well. This was unprecedented, as these students have never joined a club from the magnet school. (I think this is due to not being aware of the clubs or familiar with the teacher. So, I did a lot of personal recruiting, begging teachers to run the video I sent them, and showing up in other classes to talk about the clubs.)

OK, so those are the wins. 

But now, mid-November, I am seeing about half the students drop out or not attend. In Cyber Patriots, this can be a very negative effect since the team has a hard time being prepared when most of the team is not attending practices regularly. In the Art &Tech club which is more exploring based, this means the students are not bonding with each other and enthusiasm is waning. I am losing students to sports, to stress over other classes, to forgetfulness, to things out of their control like parents work, schedules, or to be afraid it would be too hard for them 

So, when it comes to CS clubs how do you retain involvement from students? 

Is this just to be expected?

Ideas, advice, or just plain commiseration all welcome!






Profile picture for user boommen
Submitted by Bobby Oommen on Tue, 11/13/2018 - 14:23


Thanks for this. It's great that more kids came out to the club, but I totally understand the sinking feeling that comes as students leave.  

Personally, I think your recruiting efforts should continue. The more kids that know about it, the better. That being said...

In some years I've heavily recruited, only to have those students drop out, and in other years, I've done little to no recruitment, and had a huge turnout. So I guess all that to say, sometimes we never know how recruitment / retainment will turn out, so don't take it too hard. 

The one thing I've done this year to help retain students is to email them AND their parents with a doc of all the meeting dates in advance. It seems to be working well. Parents are bringing their kids to club meetings. 

I've also dropped a few clubs this year. Last year I had a morning javascript club, and while the early interest was there, it too waned until there were only 1-2 kids left. That told me that although kids are interested, they have other commitments in the morning that keep them from coming. 

I also have given leadership roles to the kids who are in the club. I think this has made it feel like their club and not mine. They give announcements about meetings, they recruit other students, and do other things. I want to find more ways to let them run the show. 

Good luck! 




Profile picture for user nmcgowan
Submitted by Nancy McGowan on Tue, 11/27/2018 - 21:27

I like the idea of kids taking a leadership role and keeping parents in the loop.  Communication is important.

Scheduling becomes quite challenging from middle school onward. Kids like to try out a variety of experiences and sometimes shy away if they are locked into a situation for an extended period.  A few suggestions:

  1. Have your current students host an "Open Lab" time so that other students can stop by and experience what your club has to offer.
  2. Your club could have two tracks.  Provide long term and in depth computer science for those who are consistent members, but also advertise a monthly "bite-size" project.


Profile picture for user neil plotnick
Submitted by neil plotnick on Thu, 12/13/2018 - 18:28

The drop off in attendance is perfectly normal and is similar to the experiences I have had running my school computer club. 

That said, I have tried to make my club pretty flexible in what types of activities that we have. My students really enjoy the experience of building or fixing their own computers. I have organized field trips to local businesses and colleges to examine what careers and training opportunities are available.

Contests do take a commitment of time and dedication from the students who participate. I never had much success getting my students to buy into digital capture the flag or similar coding challenges.