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Adolescent Development Toolkit

ACT for Youth Highlight
If you are engaged in planning or delivering programs for youth, visit the Youth Work Professionals section, which includes the Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit.

Toolkit: Youth Program Planning

If we want to deliver effective youth programming, it's important to take adolescent development into account. Resources included in this section cover:
  • How adolescents learn
  • Planning
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Activities and strategies that can be integrated into programming
  • Locating evidence-based programs


SEL Tookit: Self-Management

Self-management is critical to learning. Resource topics here include promoting a growth mindset, perseverance, and motivation to learn. ACT for Youth.

Resources for Professionals

Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing That You Can Improve

Carol Dweck researches "growth mindset" -- the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this TED talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that's slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it...or have you just not solved it yet?

Video (10 minutes)

How Youth Learn: Ned's GR8 8

This brief, entertaining animation highlights eight conditions of learning based on recent findings in neuroscience. What Kids Can Do.

Video (6 minutes)

Multiple Intelligences Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood

One of the most popular ideas in education is applied in ways that its creator never intended. Here, find what to do -- and what NOT to do -- when applying the theory of multiple intelligences. Edutopia.

Blog Post

Mind, Brain, and Education

What does brain research tell us about how we learn and how learning, in turn, shapes the architecture of the brain? What is the connection between the stress of poverty and the impact of emotions on learning? This paper draws on cognitive science and brain research, highlighting the positive impact of student-centered learning approaches. Students at the Center.


Learning Theories

This presentation introduces theories about how we learn, including behaviorism and social learning theory.

Narrated Presentation (10 minutes)

PowerPoint Presentation


Community Programs to Promote Youth Development

How can youth programs be designed to promote adolescent development? This research brief includes a summary of the features of positive developmental settings. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.

Report Brief

Concept to Classroom: Key Principles of Developing an Afterschool Curriculum

What should you consider when designing a curriculum for an after-school program? This module, part of a longer online workshop, helps you think it through. WNET Education.

Online Module

NYS Network for Youth Success: Start a Program

The New York State Network for Youth Success is dedicated to building a youth-serving system that increases the quality and availability of after-school and expanded learning programs. Here you will find resources on program design and quality, as well as licensing, funding, sustainability, and more.

Planning Resources

Trauma-Informed Programming

Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach for Youth Across Service Sectors

In this webinar, presenters discuss the concept and prevalence of trauma; techniques for coping with and recovering from trauma at an individual and systems level; the core principles for building a framework for understanding trauma; and implementation of elements essential for a trauma-informed system. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs and SAMHSA.

Webinar Slides, Recording, and Brief

Integrating a Trauma-Informed Approach with Youth Development Programs

This issue brief introduces key components of a trauma-informed approach to youth development programs. Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc.

Issue Brief

A Checklist for Integrating a Trauma-Informed Approach into Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

Use this checklist to find out where your program is already integrating principles of a trauma-informed approach and where you can improve. While the checklist was designed for teen pregnancy prevention programs, almost all of its points are more broadly applicable. A list of resources follows the checklist.

Assessment Form

Secondary Traumatic Stress

This webinar series addresses the complex impact of secondary traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Prevention and intervention strategies are addressed at various levels within an organization. Note that you must create a user account to access this course. National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Webinar Series

Inclusive Programming

Inclusiveness: Building Stronger Connections

Here we share resources to help professionals assess their own biases, address bias and inclusion in programming and classrooms, and create inclusive environments. ACT for Youth.


Recruitment and Retention

Five Strategies for Successful Recruitment and Retention of Children and Families in Human Service Programs

The goal of this toolkit is to increase participation in human service programs for such issues as behavioral health, substance use, stress management, parenting, and healthy relationships. This toolkit provides strategies for developing a strong recruitment and retention plan. RAND Corporation.


Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Participants in Prevention Programs

There are many obstacles to successful participant recruitment and retention. In this Research to Practice brief, the authors briefly outline strategies to overcome these obstacles. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Practice Brief

Recruitment of Program Participants: Planning Questions

Based on the University of Wisconsin-Madison resource above, these questions will help you consider the scope of planning needed for successful participant recruitment and retention. ACT for Youth.

Planning Questions

Rules of Engagement: Participant Recruitment and Retention

In this webinar, presenters discuss strategies for recruitment and retention as well as how to incorporate positive youth development into a recruitment and retention plan. HHS Office of Adolescent Health.

Webinar Slides

Audio (65 minutes)


Internet Advertising to Recruit Youth

These brief videos offer tips and strategies for using online advertising to recruit youth into programs. Healthy Teen Network.

Brief Video Lessons

Activities and Strategies

Building Skills for Adulthood

This popular section of the ACT for Youth website features activities, curricula, and other resources designed to support young people in transitioning to adulthood. Skill areas include healthy development, relationships skills, parent-child communication, life skills, financial literacy, and career exploration and success. Resources for youth are also included. ACT for Youth.

Resources for Professionals

Inquiry-based Instruction: Engaging Youth in Deeper Thinking

How can educators set the stage for critical thinking? Inquiry-based instruction offers an approach that goes beyond simply conveying information. ACT for Youth.


Formatted for Screen Readers

The Adolescent Brain -- Learning Strategies and Teaching Tips

Following a brief description of adolescent brain development, this resource offers several key facts about learning in adolescence along with associated teaching strategies. SPOTS Manual.

Teaching Tips

Establishing a Culture of Questioning

When students consistently ask meaningful questions, they get comfortable taking the risks that lead to learning. Edutopia.

Blog Post

Youth Communication

Youth Communication publishes stories written by New York City teens about the issues they face. The stories can be used as tools to engage young people in conversations about a range of topics and challenges. Resource kits for educators include girls' issues, resilience, and diversity and cultural competence, among others. Lessons and leader guides are available as well.


Evidence-Based Programs and Program Design

Building Protective and Promotive Factors in Afterschool

This brief summarizes research into what after-school programs can do to strengthen protective and promotive factors in the areas of substance use, problem behaviors, and academic performance. Child Trends.

Report Brief

Child Trends: What Works

What Works is a searchable register of over 700 programs that have had at least one randomized evaluation to assess child or youth outcomes related to education, life skills, and social/emotional, mental, physical, behavioral, or reproductive health. Child Trends.

Program Database

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development

This site helps you identify evidence-based programs that help young people reach their full potential. Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado Boulder.

Program Database Evidence-Based Program Directories

Multiple federal agencies have put together registries that list evidence-based programs as a way to disseminate information about programs and their level of effectiveness.

Program Registries

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