By Michelle Hall and Michael Mayhew Co-directors, Teen Science Café Network
A teen science café brings high school teens together in a social setting to have a lively conversation with a scientist on some interesting and timely topic. In a teen café program, teens organize all aspects of it with the help of an adult mentor, and hands-on learning activities allow teens to interact one-on-one with the presenter and reveal more about the presenter’s work.
The Teen Science Café Network (TSCN) is a community of practice that has grown at a rapid rate to 130 sites in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and British Columbia. It is highly diverse along multiple dimensions: geographic settings, host organizations, local culture, gender/ethnicity, and STEM topics. The program has proved highly popular with teens and their host organizations. The TSCN website has many useful resources if your library is interested in launching a teen café (including evaluation reports).
Libraries are hosting a growing number of sites in the Network. For teens, a library is a safe, pleasant space for both the social gathering and the chance to have a lively conversation with an adult professional whose work is rooted in science, mathematics, engineering or technology. For the library, it is a vehicle for expanding its service to the community, especially for that hard-to-reach segment of the public, the high school teenager.
A basic tenet is that the organization of a teen café program takes place within the community it serves; the program goes to the teens, rather than making them come to the program. Likewise, libraries are ubiquitous in communities all across the country, thus serving citizens from all socioeconomic settings.
Our teen science café program serves teens from all walks of life, including the extension of the program’s reach into underserved communities, whether the inner cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Buffalo or the rural communities of southeast North Carolina, southern Ohio, and Kentucky.
For example, a librarian at an inner-city site in Michigan painted an impassioned picture of the desperate need in her community and the library’s commitment to trying to rescue its teens. Through a partnership with a local alternative high school, the library was able to implement a teen science café program and impact the future of a significant number of disadvantaged teens, aiming to help them get on a pathway into a STEM career.
To learn more about teen science cafés and our free training, join us for a webinar on September 11, 2019, at 2:00 EDT. To register for the webinar, “Build Your Teen Audience: Start a Teen Science Café,” click this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
If you want to launch a teen café program, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will coach you in getting started and then stay with you until your program is successfully up and running.