Teen Science Cafés:

Raising Interest in Science and Science Careers

08/24/2015  | 

>Dr. Jeeeun Kim shows examples of tactile images to teens at a science cafe learning about communicating science to the blind.

Science Cafés for adults have become a global phenomenon in which scientists and the lay public engage in conversations about relevant and intriguing science. In 2007, Science Education Solutions, Inc. of Los Alamos, New Mexico, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, began an experiment to see if the model could be adapted to appeal to high school teenagers.

The program, Café Scientifique New Mexico, has proven highly popular with teens in four towns of diverse character in northern New Mexico for the same reason as adult programs: the blend of engaging with scientists informally on interesting science topics and the high degree of social interaction. Café Scientifique New Mexico provides teens a new perspective on the nature of science and a picture of scientists as real people leading interesting lives. The program has proven to be a rich—and fun!—complement to the science they learn in the classroom.

The teen Café Scientifique New Mexico model has been refined over its eight years of operation. With a new NSF grant, the Teen Science Café Network was formed to allow other individuals and organizations to start up their own versions of the Teen Science Café model, adapted to their local institutions and demographics. Seven Founding Member organizations around the United States formed the initial Network and began creating their own versions of the Teen Science Café model. The Network has now expanded to over 41 sites in 18 states across the country.

Teen Cafés have been shown to significantly change teens’ view of the importance of science in their lives, positively influence teens’ understanding of science in the news, increase their ability and confidence to use facts to support scientific points of view, and cause them to consider multiple sides of an issue before making a decision. The Café events also positively influence teens’ interest in science and science careers, and reveal to them the nature of scientific research.

The usual format of a Teen Science Café is a short 15 minute talk by a scientist, followed by an engaging hands-on component lead by the scientist. The act of getting out of one’s seat, intermingling with other teens, and having the opportunity to ask specific questions of the scientist, while engaging in a meaningful exploration, is an incredibly powerful hook for teens.

We encourage any organization that wishes to form a Teen Science Café program to request membership in the network; you will be warmly welcomed and strongly supported.

We especially want to encourage teens that think they might like to form a Teen Science Café on their own initiative—whether within their community or virtually with other teens via the Internet using social media. We will give you all the help you need to get started and flourish. Interested? Contact Us!

The Teen Science Café Network is a dynamic, expanding, highly interactive, and mutually supportive community program that will lead in time to a vibrant Community of Practice around the Teen Science Café model.

A Guide to Starting a Teen Café can be found in the Resources section of Teen Science Café website, through their blog, and their regular teleconferences and webinars. For information, visit www.teensciencecafe.org.
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