Who develops hands-on activities for YOUR Cafes?

Showcase Forums Teen Science Cafe Workshop Discussion 2015 Who develops hands-on activities for YOUR Cafes?


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    Natanya Civjan

    What is your process for ensuring an engaging hands-on activity for each Cafe? Is this the responsibility of the presenter, the teen leadership team, the adult leader, a combination?
    Prior to the presentation, do you or your teens test the activity and work through the logistics?
    At the Cafe, how do you facilitate the activity–the switch from listening to the presentation to doing the activity–so that the students actively participate? Is the activity normally at the end of the presentation?
    I would certainly love to hear your thoughts about what you do or would like to do, whether your strategy seems to work or not work, or thoughts on the types of hands-on activities that do/do not work well!

    Nicole Gugliucci

    These are great questions! From what I’ve seen my first semester with the St. Louis cafes, sometimes the presenter has a great activity, sometimes they have some ideas that need to be fleshed out, and sometimes they have no ideas. In the last case, I’d have a discussion with them to try and tease out some potential ideas, and we do try it out on a trial run with YLT. (For reference, I’m a site coordinator and I do lots of hands-on outreach with astronomy in my other roles.)

    Activities seem to go well in the middle of the presentation, but when I was a speaker before I worked with TSC, I think mine was mostly at the end. Wherever it flows naturally in the presentation seems to be best!

    – Nicole

    Ann Boes

    I hope that some of the more experienced TSC coordinators will respond to this post. This is an area of interest (and concern) for me too.

    Ann Boes
    TSC at Lab:Revolution

    Lawrence Norris

    So far our YLTs have more or less developed the demos. I have to say, they’ve been pretty good and there were a few times when even I learned something new.

    They have had events w/ no speaker all demos, no demos just a speaker, a speaker + demo, and no speaker no demo just a roundtable discussion of different science ideas.

    In the cases with demos the YLTs conducted them for their peers. Even the time when there was a speaker, the YLT actually introduced the demo and more or less did it for their peers. They did a good job actually. I don’t think the speaker could have explained it any better.

    We (the adults) do go through short safety brief with the YLT. The teens came up with demo ideas that involved LN2 and solid CO2, so we had to pass that plan by building management. Not a big deal, but we do really emphasize experimental safety, not so much for the specifics of any demo, but as a work habit of professional scientists, http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/liability.aspx. Although it turns out that you have to be >18 to even purchase solid CO2, and they went through ~35L of LN2. Even moving the Dewar could have resulted in some little fingers or toes getting smooshed.

    I know for the spring they have some good demos planned with their peers, one with a track team, and they have something in experimental acoustics going with a band of some sort. Kids from the YLT + a school band (not sure if it’s THE school band) + the vocational students in sound engineering are all in that one. It’s actually a very clever outreach tactic of theirs. Can’t wait to see how their experimental concert turns out. Should be a hoot.

    Michelle Hall

    The responsibility for the hands on activity ultimately is shared among the adult leader, presenter and teens. The presenter may have an idea, but the teen leaders will be able to help refine it. If the presenter does not have ideas, the adult leader may need to dig into the topic and see if there are any suitable examples in digital libraries for STEM or other places.

    Ideally, discussion of a hands on activity is part of the initial contact with the presenter. Like Nicole said, some have ideas, some have no ideas, some have an activity ready to go. The best topics are when the scientist has something they can do with their research. A cyber security expert who develops capture the flag activities for professional competitions, created something simpler for teens. A professional with the office of medical investigations brought skeletons to ID with a victim list. A scientist that studied craters on planets set up an experiment to determine variables that affect the crater size and depth.

    Modelers who can allow the audience to change variables in their model to see what happens have been pretty popular.
    But so have hands on when a person brings a collection of artifacts – such as minerals, or skulls, or brains, or holographic films.

    Some topics are just hard to find a hands on. Some may be best explored in small group discussions or as a debate.

    Because this is such an important element, the more we share information about our topics and the learning activity through the Resource section, a forum post or blog post, the more we will all begin to better identify strong and effective hands on activities.

    Lawrence Norris

    This is a very interesting experiment that maybe teens can actually do at a TSC event
    “Shaking and pressure inside a bottle of champagne”

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