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Youth Brainstorming Sheets

Youth Brainstorming Sheets - What Are They?

Afterschool and summer programs work best when youth want to be in these programs. That is why Beyond School Bells asked over 150 young people participating in after school and summer programs to identify the learning opportunities and experiences they enjoy most in their programs. Instead of a typical questionnaire, BSB created an interactive brainstorming exercise to gather ideas. This engaging process provided valuable insight into what Nebraska youth currently enjoy and what they envision the afterschool and summer programs of the future could be. Check out the Youth Brainstorming Sheet template and facilitator guide below.

This Tool In Action

After our second round of collecting youth voice through Youth Brainstorming Sheets in the fall of 2023, we found that students' favorite things they had ever done in their programs were 1) experiential learning, 2) sports, and 3) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities. When asked to rank different club topics or activities, the favorites were 1) time with friends, 2) field trips, and 3) cooking. And finally, when asked to dream up their ideal clubs and activities, similar themes emerged! They dreamed of doing more experiential learning, sports, and STEM clubs.

Download this Year's Report

From the Program's Perspective

Here is what two Program Staff had to say about the experience:

“It is so exciting to have our Valentine students part of the brainstorming session and knowing those voices will be part of the data collected. It was so cool watching those students think and talk to each other about the things they are interested in.  ...I picked students who I knew would take it seriously and enjoy it but I also picked a couple of students who have struggled in school and do not always "fit in". One of those students really got serious about her form and [we] were very impressed with the things she is truly interested in learning about and it gave us an insight that she really is interested in learning and exploring topics. It really is so exciting to be part of this process and watch the Valentine students grow through our program."

~ Rachelle O’Kief, Program Director, Valentine Afterschool Program

"During the Brainstorming session with my middle school students, I noticed that the girls all wrote cake pops as one of the [club] options that they would like to see. It stuck with me because I thought it was funny how they all decided to write cake pops as an option. Around a month after the brainstorming sessions, we decided to add a cake pop decorating class to our afterschool program, Multiple Choices. The students were excited... that I listened to their idea. The students were happy to be able to sign up for the class and it got full fast. They were satisfied with making their cake pops and getting to eat [them] at the end of class. I think that knowing that their ideas are being listened to and used [gives] them confidence in expressing themselves and their creativity. It was a great experience and I would be happy to do this experience again!"

~ Kelly Palacios, Afterschool Staff, Lexington Afterchool Program

Bring This Tool to Your Community!

It is essential for adults to listen to young people and to translate their interests into dynamic new approaches for learning and growth. Nebraska is listening. 

Beyond School Bells wants to hear from more youth in more communities. If you are interested in participating in the next round of Youth Brainstorming Sessions Fall of 2023, please fill out this form:

For more information, contact: Stephanie Vadnais at and Alison O'Toole at

Previous Reports: