What are some ways you motivate students to take action between events?

Showcase Forums Teen Science Cafe Workshop Discussion 2015 What are some ways you motivate students to take action between events?

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    Our students are super motivated at the planning meetings and the cafes, but often don’t pull through on tasks they agreed to do in-between the meetings & cafes. I’ve offered service hours and send reminders, but do you use any strategies to get students to take actions they’ve agreed to do?

    Lawrence Norris

    The #1 motivator is positive feedback. So when a students does actually take action that they agreed to do, no matter how small, shower them with sincere positive feedback.

    The other thing is to find a local merchant that interests the kids, an ice creme shoppe for instance, that is willing to give discount coupons that you can use as positive chits.

    Alyson Saunders

    In Maine, we’ve struggled with this also. I’ve started to notice a pattern of when it’s the worst, right after summer vacation it takes them about 1 month to get motivated again and at the end of the quarter or just before a break I’ve had trouble with youth following through.

    I suspect this may be typical and that careful scheduling of cafes and tasks needing doing is the way to go. This is a recent “ah-ha” moment for us and we haven’t found a fix yet. The best I can offer is sending out reminder emails, and the praising thing is also something we do, but maybe could do more of. I’d love to hear what others have tried successfully.

    Alyson Saunders
    Teen Science Cafe for ME! (Maine)

    Sean Herberts

    I’ve noticed the same thing in my previous work with the St. Louis node (Cahokia, specifically) and in my work as a STEM elective teacher. Out-of-meeting (or classroom) work often ranks at a lower level of priority when measured against other academic work, clubs, and family/social obligations.

    My solution involved accomplishing everything in the meetings that I could. At Cahokia, we would have “planning meetings” about one month prior to a cafe where we would begin planning and “follow-up meetings” closer to the cafe where work could be presented and/or finished. These meetings took place right after school to encourage teen involvement and give us a nice window of time for finishing work. Adults took on some of the responsibilities that students couldn’t, such as purchasing and setting up venues, so the event planning committee just had to provide a budget with links to what they wanted to have purchased (decorations, door prizes, etc.) and supply a ranked list of potential venues. The other committees usually accomplished their work during the meetings without a problem. This included making scientist introductions and closing remarks, determining food and beverage choices, and designing flyers. I brought a laptop from the STEM Center and e-mailed the results to the site champions, who had teens distribute them in the schools.

    The teens also proposed and started an “Internal Communications” committee that was in charge of checking in with other committees to see what they had or had not accomplished, making sure that the work of individual committees was harmonious with that of other committees, and sharing their reports to the adult leaders. I’m not sure how successful this committee was, but it seemed like a good idea.

    Offering praise is a good idea, and I wonder if there is some way to build in incentive for fulfilling commitments – something like a “member of the month” award or a YLT reward raffle tied to some sort of small prize for each cafe.

    Michelle Hall

    Observing the folks in Raleigh NC – they also do all the work at the meetings. They have at least two, sometimes three meetings in preparation for the cafe.

    When we used to have two cafes per month in each of four towns in NM (this is how we started our cafes and why Mike has white hair and I have lots of grey), we had a much more engaged teen leadership. They got to know one another better and the cafe was on their mind more often, which led to better follow through. Otherwise, teens are no different than adults – when something is out of sight – it is out of mind and does not get done.

    So, I think the trick is to have more contact with the kids in meetings.

    Meghan McFail

    I’ll speak to this from my experience in Taos, NM, halfway through our second season.

    As Michelle can attest to, I almost always refer back to the benefit of using a council structure for our teen leadership group to create accountability, not just to me but more importantly to each other. Very rarely do I DIRECTLY request the teens to follow-up or delve into new tasks between cafes. Instead I send my requests to our secretary who both emails her team members and posts on our FB group for discussion.

    Every month, with the exception of January this year, I suggest one opportunity to take on more responsibility between cafes. If they go for it, which they almost always do, I set them up appropriately. For example, contacting the local radio station to allow them a live interview, finding sponsors so they can participate in a fundraiser, scheduling presentations to local civic groups such as the Rotary Club, etc. Not all leaders have an interest in outside activities which is fine, though I have found that most become more involved when their peers are asking them for further involvement.

    I learned quickly that the best way to ensure they don’t follow through is to nag. Throw them into the fire with some suggestions of how to navigate themselves and you’ll be surprised what they’ll come up with, at least that’s been my experience thus far. I keep myself in check by reminding myself that I’m simply an advisor, not their leader. I never run a meeting — that’s the president’s job (or vp’s if president cannot attend), and the kids are required to consider and approve/disapprove all decisions. I don’t always agree but it’s not my program, it’s theirs.

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