Professional Development (PD) Bites

Created to provide easily accessible professional development for after school professionals, PD Bites are small bits of information for you to use in your program or it could ignite your interest in a topic and lead to a more in depth understanding.

PD Bites include SEL implementation, STEM activities, pocket size resources, space design, and much more… They will be available as printable activity plans, articles, reels, graphics, audios, and other formats. We hope to create pieces that will meet the needs of all our learners and be useful in your day-to-day work.  NEW PD Bites will be added each month.

Click on each activity title for more information and links related to each activity.

Be an "after school rockstar"

An “After School Rockstar” has a tool kit full of skills from supervision to activity planning, building relationships to behavior management.

Building relationships with youth is the backbone of a quality after school program. What do you do on a daily basis to strengthen the relationships in your program? Here are just a few small things you can do to build relationships, see if you can work them into your daily interactions.  (JPG)

Make Youth Voice and Youth Choice the focus of your afterschool program.  Build independence, autonomy, and self-confidence.  Create space for individuality and creativity.  Empower the youth in their program to make decisions and to make an impact.  Build independence, autonomy, and self-confidence.   After School programs have the amazing opportunity to amplify youth voice and offer more youth choice.  

There are a variety of areas where you can build up the youth voice in their program and provide more opportunities for youth choice. How can you become a youth voice & choice rockstar?

Do you have Adults in Youth Space or Youth in Adult Space (JPG)

Create a schedule that allows for a variety of experiences, levels of activity, & youth voice.  A well-structured schedule provides intentional enrichment activities, free time to choose self-directed activities, active play & outdoor play, homework/academic support, and a healthy snack.  Youth Choice & Voice permeate all aspects of the schedule building independence, autonomy, creativity, and confidence. (JPG)

Academic Support is often an important piece of an after school program, even when we are not content experts we can provide an atmosphere and a structure that supports homework and academic skill building.  Take a moment to fine tune and enhance your homework time.  With just a few supplies, a couple of posters/signs, and a willing staff you can become academic support rockstars. (JPG)

A variety of well-planned and well facilitated activities are a daily requirement and the highlight of after school programs.  The questions we ask ourselves as we plan and prep an activity are the key to creating an engaging, purposeful, and well-structured activity.  As we become more proficient in planning and facilitating activities these questions become a natural part of the process. (JPG)

Supervision is the foundation of a safe, organized, and engaging after school program.  Simply watching children is not supervision.  Take a moment to review the skills of a supervision rockstar.  Do you use these techniques when you are supervising youth?  How can you begin to implement some of these techniques? (JPG)

pocket resources

Easy to use resources on the fly.  Build a deck of cards and you will always have a backup plan. Print, cut and carry them with you!  Find a new set each month.

Circle Time is a simple way to open dialogue and strengthen relationships. Circle Time can be used in small or large groups, it can be used as an opener each day or a filler when there is a pause in the action, it can be a long discussion or just a quick share. Here are a few prompts to get you started in your circles. (JPG)

An easy step towards building Youth Voice and empowering Youth Choice in your program is to offer your students Interest Surveys throughout the year and build their program around their interests.  Here are a couple of printable examples and a blank version to build your own.  


Don’t know how to lead an activity that your students are interested in?  Why not learn together? Could students lead some of your activities?  Can you invite in experts from the community? (JPG1) (JPG2) (JPG Blank)

Here are some easy Youth/Self-Directed Activities.  Self-Directed Activities create age appropriate independent opportunities to do enriching activities.  They should be set up as centers or available for youth to take out and put away on their own (tubs with all supplies and information).  Self-Directed Activities can be used over and over, just refresh the supplies. (JPG)

Want to build your own?  

  1. Choose an Activity (Building Paper Airplanes) 
  2. Pick a Learning Goal (STEM skills – measuring and data collection)
  3. Provide the Supplies
  4. Provide Prompts to Guide the Activity (Measure How Far Your Airplane Flew, Write Down all of the Measurements)  


Make academic skill building fun!  Here are a few math skills games that only require a deck of playing cards. (JPG)

Here are four fabulous team building games.  These are meant for big groups, even entire programs.  They are fun, silly, and sometimes difficult activities that will help your group build stronger relationships, confidence, and work on their teamwork skills. (JPG)

Things to consider:

  • Read through the game thoroughly and know the process before presenting it to the children.
  • Choose a safe space.
  • Plan ahead for issues that may arise.
  • Don’t be afraid to pause the game for a moment (“Everyone FREEZE!” or “Take a Knee”) if you need to adjust the rules to make this fun and comfortable for everyone.  

The new school year is a new opportunity to build strong relationships with the youth in our programs.  This month’s pocket resource cards are quick references for fun attention getters, words of encouragement, and after school questions to build connections with the youth in your program. (JPG)

Things to consider:

  • Use a variety of attention getters throughout the year to keep things fun and exciting.  You could also work together as a program to come up with an Attention Getter or Call Back that is specific to your program.  Working together creates opportunities for youth voice and a feeling of program ownership.

  • Keep 10 pennies in your pocket.  When you share words of encouragement with a child move a penny to your other pocket.  Your goal is to move at least 10 pennies to the other pocket each day.  Remember words of encouragement should be specific and sincere, avoid superficial words.  

  • Taking the time to show interest in a child creates trust and builds relationships.  After School Questions allow for deeper conversations vs Yes/No answers.  Use the questions with individuals or small groups.

Mizzen with Shawna

What is Mizzen? Have you downloaded the app yet?  Learn along with Shawna as she shares her favorite activities.  Download Mizzen today and dive in!

Are you struggling to keep students engaged during program? Finding activities, a little dry, even for you? Have you ever thought about developing activities based on your interests? Check out Shawna’s Blog post where she shares a worksheet to help you think through some of your own activities and an activity she designed around her love of rocks and crystals! (Blog)

Indoor Activities (Blog)

Build a 3D sandwich and color collage in 45 minutes or less. (Blog)

Mizzen has a new name and more updates.  Shawna shares the news. (Video)

Decorate a Notebook (Blog)

Creating Spaces

AS spaces are often interesting and quirky. They can be a strength or a weakness in your program. This section will help you turn any space into an asset.

A meaningful after school space provides safety, connection, and a sense of belonging. A well-planned space can bring joy, comfort, and inspire youth. Take into consideration the lighting, furniture, colors, decorations, smells, sounds, supplies, and textures. “Environments always affect people in two ways: they suggest a range of activities that can or cannot occur, and they evoke feelings…The beauty of a facility affects children’s emotions and conveys messages about their safety, self-worth and freedom to be expressive…Research documents that children remember places and sensation more than they remember people. They are probably more sensitive to their surroundings than are adults and are often affected deeply by details of which adults are unaware.” Anita Rui Olds. (JPG)

Create a variety of Self-Directed Activity Centers in your after school space, set them up daily, and provide daily opportunities for students to move freely through their space to choose activities that they find interesting.  Self-Directed Activity or Interest Areas are easy to build and easy to store in shared space, simply use a cardboard display board and a tub/box for supplies.  Be sure to set up multiple Self-Directed Areas to peak the interest of a variety of students and meet the needs of all of your students.  Change up the activity areas regularly to keep students engaged. (JPG)

Create a daily schedule that is posted so that is visible to children, staff, and families.  The schedule can be posted on a bulletin board or on an easel that can easily be stored in shared space.  A posted schedule creates structure and guidance for your staff and children and gives family members insight into their child’s daily activities.  (JPG)

Create a quiet structured space where children can comfortably work on their homework or choose activities that support their academic skill building. (JPG)

As we continue to create amazing spaces for the children in our programs it is important that we find a spot for a quiet space.  It is one of the easiest spaces to create and possibly the most important.  If we look at the day of a school-age child, we are overwhelmed by the amount of time they spend in constant interactions.  There is little to no time to “get away”, to “recharge”, to just “take a moment” for themselves.  For many children (and adults) a moment to recharge can make a huge difference in their mental health, their physical health, and their behavior. (JPG)

Here are a few things to consider as you create a quiet space for your program:

  • This should be a soft comfortable space.  Use a rug, bean bag chairs, pillows, etc…
  • Provide quiet soothing items:  fidget toys, books, stuffed animals
  • Use low lighting: battery powered string lights, a solar lanterns, battery powered candles 
  • Provide guidelines for the use of the space so that it remains a quiet space and not an activity area.
  • Location is important.  This space should not be in a high traffic area or next to a noisy activity area.
  • Make it easy for staff to set up and store away.  A small throw rug, pillows, lights, books, and fidgets will all fit into a large plastic tub for easy clean up and storage.  

As the new year begins and we begin creating an amazing space for our children it is important to create a warm, welcoming, and informative space for our families as well.  Parents and care providers are equally nervous and excited as the new school year begins.  Your family center can provide a hub for morning sign in and afternoon sign out, information about the program, the weekly schedule of activities, upcoming events, family resources, a lending library, and even giveaways.  This is an amazing opportunity to share all the wonderful things that are going on in your program and make your families feel comfortable and “included” in your program. (JPG)   


In this section, you will find ways to embed seeds of social-emotional learning into your OST program to help you and your youth grow, evolve and thrive.

Fostering acts of kindness holds greater significance in our current times more than ever before. Teaching kindness across all age groups fosters social and emotional development and overall personal growth. (ENG PNG), (SPA PNG)

  • Other Resources (BLOG)

These strategies build resilience and self-awareness, nurturing lifelong mental health skills. Empower youth to prioritize their emotional well-being, offering tools to overcome life’s hurdles. (ENG PNG), (SPA PNG)

  • Other Resources (BLOG)

A compliment exchange (ENG PDF), (SPA PDF)

Tips for weaving SEL into OST (PDF)

Regulate Your Own Emotions, Strategies, Close Conversations and Follow Up. (PDF)

Self-Awareness, Active Listening, Empathy, Regulation, Conflict Resolution, Positive Reinforcement and more! (PDF)

stem sprouts

STEM is everywhere and is for everyone. STEM can sprout up at any time, especially with some of these OST tips, resources, ideas and activities.

A Burning Ring of Fire or a Total Eclipse? Resources to learn and explore eclipses of all kinds.

What in the Winter World Wondering Will We Do?  Activities and information related to winter, MLK Jr. day, service learning, bias and ethics in science and related topics.

Ideas for STEM activities, info and more on the winter solstice holiday season.

Information, videos, activities about spiders and the webs they weave.

Resources and ideas for all things Engineering.

Resources and ideas for beginning flight exploration.

Activities and resources for OST about bird nests.

Program Power Ups

If you are looking to bring your program to the next level, need a boost in your staff meetings or hungry for new content to present Program Power Ups may be just the thing to quench your staff’s thirst for knowledge.