Building a Teen Café in Rural Communities


Maine is a rural state with many coastal towns that are not very accessible, making it hard to bring teens together.

At the Teen Science Café Network Workshop this month, we will have a session on using social media and technology to facilitate our teen cafés. Below, Jan Mokros shares a story of challenges in the Teen Science Cafes ME! Following the workshop, we will write summaries of sessions to share with all our members.


We are working with clusters of rural communities, ranging in size from 2500 to 8000 residents. It is difficult to get a high level of involvement in TSCs in communities that are this small.  We are using technology in a couple of ways to “get the word out” to participants and also to link facilitators with each other.

With respect to participants, we are finding the following:

  1. We need a combination of high-tech and low tech ways of reaching out to our audience.  Research shows that most high school students do not use either facebook or e-mail on a regular basis, and our work confirms this.  As a result, we use multiple and redundant ways of communicating, including facebook, e-mail reminders, and in-person reminders (including announcements at school assemblies as well as individual reminders.)
  2. Our facilitators from 4 different Hubs, who we call “STEM Guides” use technology on a regular basis to communicate about their work.  We have an ongoing e-mail exchange about TSCs, which has resulted in sharing presenters and ideas for topics across Hubs.  Again, the work with technology is supplemented with in-person meetings of STEM Guides on a quarterly basis.  We are also experimenting with using “Zoom” for meetings of STEM Guides.  This technology enables everyone to communicate clearly, as they would in a real conference room, and also enables us to have smaller breakout sessions within a bigger meeting.

Question: We are wondering whether “Zoom” is a way of involving TSC participants as well:  When the weather is bad, or your transportation plans have fallen through, is it possible to “zoom in” to a TSC and get a real sense of being there?