Editor’s note: A couple of years ago at our workshop in Dallas we invited guest speakers, who were teens that created a Teen Science Café held at the Dallas Zoo. Most attendees noted how beneficial it was to hear from Teen Facilitators. We at the Teen Science Café Network are excited about Sammamish TSC because, like Dallas, it too was created by two teens, and it is always great to hear about cafés from a teens perspective. Please check out their Instagram page. We look forward to hearing more great things out of Sammamish!
To start with, can you tell us in a nutshell about your Teen Café program? What’s special or unique about it?
We started Sammamish Teen Science Café as two high school students who were passionate about science. We saw that our community did not yet have a program in which students could learn about various science fields in a noncompetitive environment. Therefore, we decided to start Teen Science Café as a way to expose teenagers to science and see what they liked. Our café topics range from biology to technology to even wisdom teeth! We always start off with a unique science related icebreaker that not only serve to give a sneak peak into what the speaker is going to talk about, but also engage teens and allow them to feel comfortable learning about this new topic.
What’s your background… how did you come to be involved with your Teen Café program?
Living in the Greater Seattle Area, we were surrounded by big tech companies, major hospitals, and startups… all in the realm of science. Taking this into account, along with our own desire to pursue careers in the STEM field, we stumbled upon the program in a workshop given by another student who also began a Teen Café chapter in her area. After this introduction to the program, we reached out to our local YMCA program to host our monthly cafés and began planning our first café of the year with the help of Director, Dr. Michelle Hall.
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
Our local Sammamish Community YMCA hosts our Teen Café programs. As a center open to helping the community, our programs fit in perfectly with the YMCA’s mission to help the residents living in the area. Because they had several teen led programs as well, the YMCA were able to guide and offer us help through this journey. The YMCA mission includes fostering youth development, as well as educational benefits to the community, making it an ideal home for our program.
What’s the biggest stumbling block you have encountered as your program has developed?
High school is a very busy time for everyone, so, especially in our first year, we had problems increasing membership and attendance. As each café progressed, we found new solutions: offering volunteer opportunities, marketing on social media, offering incentives, such as our café t-shirts, and many more.
What has been your favorite Café? What made it so?
We have loved all of our speakers; however, one café stood out as the most memorable: a high school AP Chemistry Teacher talking about chemistry around us. As a teacher, he has had many interactions with high school students and knows how to engage them during class. Thus, he was able to bring many of his tricks to the table. For example, he tricked the whole café into believing that he was bleeding through his skin, when in reality, it was a simple chemical reaction on paper.
What do you like best about your program in general?
We love both meeting new people and new speakers who come in to our cafés who share the same love and interest for a variety of scientific fields. Our café is one of the few who encourages at least one café a year to be done by a high school student to give high schoolers in our area to share ideas, research, or their passion with their peers.
Do you have any advice for those just starting their own Teen Cafés?
Make sure to build an interest in your community prior to your café. Find a reliable venue like a library, science center/museum, community center, or a program like YMCA, to host your cafés. Make sure you create a team of teen leaders to commit to the program, the more the merrier. Most of all, have fun!