On the basis of our experience with Café Scientifique New Mexico over the past five years, we offer guidance to those who might wish to organize their own teen Café Scientifique program. We hope that it will prove helpful.
Each of the section titles below is a link to a checklist of the most important things to consider.
Before You Start
Establish your program goals. It is helpful to start with explicit program goals and revisit them regularly to see whether the program is achieving them; these might include any or all of:
- Teens acquire a richer, more nuanced understanding of the nature of science.
- Teens are more confident discussing science developments and their potential impact on society.
- Teens come to see scientists as real people leading interesting lives.
- Teens get a better appreciation of the relevance of science to their daily lives.
- Teens acquire increased science literacy concerning current issues in science.
- Some teens come to consider the possibility of a life in science for themselves.
- Teens develop skills and attitudes for lifelong learning in science.
Know and implement the essential ingredients of a successful Café program. These include:
- Teens need to have a sense of ownership of the program to a maximal degree.
- Café scientists must be well-vetted for their communication and interpersonal skills and then coached to communicate effectively with teens specifically.
- The program must have a committed “local hero” with the energy to make the Cafés a success.
- Interactivity and active learning is crucial for achieving impact with teens.
- Relationships with institutions that encourage their scientists to participate are essential.
Set up a budget. The main costs are in staff time, venue rental, and food. However, there are ways to keep all of these at a minimum or free.
Staff time is the most difficult to estimate and will depend on whether your organization already has a strong connection to a teen audience, a source of high quality presenters, and knowledge and access to resources that might supplement a presentation with an activity. These are the major variables in the time required. If your organization does not have the above connections and resources, the staff time to build them could be large initially, but then decreases significantly after the first year. The actual time involved in hosting the Café and supporting the TLT activities is on the order of 6-8 hours per Café.
Room rental charges can be free to expensive. We have found that many venues will waive room rental charges, because organizations see the program as an asset that supports their community, scientific or educational mission. Look for space that typically is not used in the evening, like research parks, corporations, and colleges. Commit to always leave the venue clean so the host site has no added costs for cleaning.
Food costs run at about $2-3 per teen, but can be much less if only chips and drinks are served, for example. The more teens that attend, the lower the cost per teen, if you buy in bulk. However, some venues may require that all food is purchased through their in- house caterer, which typically increased costs to as much as $10-12 per person.
Additional costs might include a small honorarium (~$50) for the presenter, though adult Café programs do not offer these. Transportation costs or car pool subsidies for teens could be offered, if funds are available, and the distance traveled warrants it. This might add $30-$40 per meeting to the cost of a larger Café program.