Creating a Memorable Teen Science Café

Teen Science Cafe Mar. 18, 2016 039

Building models and sharing stories about discoveries and conundrums in STEM research is what teen cafés are all about.

Imagine going to a teen café for the first time and speaking to no one— and no one speaking to you. Imagine the room is full of people, but with none interacting. Imagine listening to a lecture about something you have never heard of and cannot figure out why it matters anyway. This could be a very memorable experience, but not a good one, and not the kind anyone would want to repeat.


Science tells us that many factors play a role in determining what people remember, among them is how much attention the person is paying, how novel and interesting the experience is, and the kinds of emotions that are evoked. The above scenario is novel only in that it is bizarre, and interesting only because it would be freaky to be in a room full of people who don’t talk to one another. It is not the model we seek in a teen café.



What makes a Café memorable?

When creating memorable science cafés, there are many actors that can make the evening highly memorable: the teen leaders who welcome and serve as hosts, as well as choreographers of the event; the presenter who has worked to craft an engaging and surprising story about their work and why it matters, the audience that comes with an open mind, but challenges ideas, and the adult leader, who is part choreographer, mentor, and cheerleader.


Each of these actors has the opportunity to get everyone’s attention, introduce something novel or unexpected, and touch the audience emotionally, making for a very memorable experience. But, to do so the actors must understand what we are trying to achieve in a teen science café and how they can contribute to the goal. The Core Design Principles give some insight to the goal, but it is attention to small details that create a welcoming, playful, stimulating, and memorable teen café.


How can we help our presenters be memorable?

This is the first in a series of blog posts leading up to the TSCN annual workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that will explore the role of each actor in creating a memorable teen science café. We focus first on the presenter, an expert in his or her field, whether in basic research, applied science, business or a non-profit, inventors, or makers. View our guide.


As part of the workshop, we will have a half-day session on training presenters for teen science cafés. The training builds upon the Portal to the Public professional development materials designed for STEM experts presenting on a museum floor. TSCN members at Science Discovery Teen Café in Boulder, CO, Explora’s Teen Café in Albuquerque, NM, Open Minds Café in Raleigh, NC, and the Café Scientifique New Mexico programs modified the Portal materials and developed some new one to address the unique needs of a teen science café. Through this training, you will learn about effective questioning technique, storytelling, using improve, and much more to engage an audience.


Sharing new discoveries, inventions, or solutions to challenging problems with a teen audience is a unique experience for most STEM experts and merits a different approach than the typical technical presentation. To help STEM experts understand the essence of a teen science café and the critical role they can play in creating that memorable experience, we have created A Presenter’s Guide to the Essence of a Memorable Teen Science Café. The guide establishes the framework of a café event and shows how the STEM expert can make it truly memorable.

In the next installment, we will layout the roles of the teen leaders in making the café event a memorable success.


Getting up close and personal makes connections that can last a career or a lifetime.