Experimenting with Virtual Cafés

What if we could connect teens participating in science cafés across the country and world with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experts who are passionate about both sharing their knowledge and mentoring teens through virtual cafés?


What if teen leaders participating in teen science cafés could become skilled in communicating about cool science they are passionate about?


Imagine how that might change their lives?


These kinds of activities and opportunities are not for everybody, but for some teens, this could make a world of difference. We are offering an opportunity for the teen leadership team at one or two teen science café sites in the network to partner with us in piloting our first virtual café. Sites must have access to high speed internet, a quality sound system, and the ability to project the computer image, to meaningfully participate in the conversation with the scientists. If this experiment is successful, we will learn from the experience and go on to organize more such virtual cafes on other exciting topics.


TSCN has been contacted by a group associated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute to engage teens participating in virtual discussions and science cafés to provide mentoring by young astrobiology researchers, engage them in an online community talking about astrobiology, and to provide them and adult leaders with training in communicating science.


The Astrobiology community is a worldwide community connected by communication tools that support workshops without walls, collaboration building, mentoring, and much more. These tools are provided under an umbrella organization called SAGANet, which describes mission as …


“… to engage and promote grassroots science outreach activities by providing a lively social community where interested individuals including members of the public, journalists, teachers, students, and professional scientists alike can organize events, inform about events, exchange ideas, ask questions, find mentors, describe new findings, share pictures of science events… the possibilities are endless.”


To explore this opportunity, we are partnering with SAGANet to offer a virtual teen café exploring two questions:


Is life rare in the universe because Earth is special?

Is Earth rare because of the existence of life?

The scientists will explore these questions with the teens and reveal how the phrasing of the research question can dramatically change the research approaches and perspectives. We will use the SAGANet technology to connect astrobiology scientists Dr. Sara Walker and Dr. Som Sanjoy to the participating TSCN sites. Contact TSCN if you are interested in being part of this pilot project. The Café will be scheduled for the week of April 23-April 30.


sara walker
Sara Walker
Sanjoy Som


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