First Steps in Planning a Teen Science Cafe Program

First Step Logo web sizeYou have to start somewhere… so try our First Steps Planning document to get you on your way to a new teen cafe!

Download as PDF: First Steps in Starting a Teen Cafe Program May 2015


What is a Teen Science Café?

Teen Science Cafés are informal, interactive programs that promote exploration, curiosity and life-long learning about current and cutting-edge ideas in science and technology. Teens engage in lively discussion and hands on learning with experts in science and technology. The programs are free to all teens and led by teens for teens.


What are the essentials of a Teen Science Café program?

The Teen Science Café Network is a far-flung community of organizations that are applying a proven Teen Science Café model to their local institutions and demographics, each in a unique and delightful way. The model has certain key elements: holding of Cafés in inviting out-of-school venues, allowing maximum teen ownership of their program, nurturing of Teen Leadership Teams that lead most aspects of the program, careful vetting Café presenters and some form of training in communicating effectively with the teen audience, and systematic publicizing of the program to build community support.


What’s so great about a Teen Science Café program?

Teens say their Teen Science Café program’s are interesting and fun, but these events also provide teens with a much more realistic view of the nature of science, the work scientists do, and the relevance of science to their lives. They enrich and bring a real-world perspective to the science teens learn in school. Scientists value participation in Teen Science Café programs because they learn to better communicate their science to the public, gain a new perspective on their own science, and because it is fun.


Join the Teen Science Café Network

Any organization that wants to start a Teen Science Café program can join the Teen Science Café Network and become part of a vibrant, supportive community. There are three simple requirements for membership: members agree to 1) construct their program around six Core Principles for a successful Teen Science Café, 2) annually share a perspective on the progress of their program with the Network, and 3) annually provide some basic evaluation data. Complete the Membership request form.


Benefits of Membership in the Network

By becoming a Member, your organization becomes part of a community of practice in which each Member contributes to and receives benefit from interactions across the Network. Members gain access to a listserv to seek solutions to common problems and learn from the successes of other Teen Science Café programs. They get access to on-line professional development programs, including programs for training scientists to communicate with the teen audience, fund raising, marketing and others. We also convene a Network Conference every other year. And new members are eligible to apply for a one-time small grant to start-up a program in need of assistance.

What are the First Steps?


The Teen Science Café Network website has abundant resources related to leading a Teen Café program.

  1. Consult some key “getting started” documents. The most important foundation document to read before starting a program is the Guide to Getting Started with a Teen Science Café and this checklist.


Our Guide is based on extensive evaluation and experience reported in two published papers:

Design and Impacts of a Youth Directed Café Scientifique Program

Science Communication in a Café Scientifique for High School Teens


  1. Join the Teen Science Café Network. Register as a Member on our website and you will become part of a welcoming and supportive community. It is free and the benefits are many.


  1. Eventually you will want to browse the Resources section of the TSCN website, in particular our Getting Started Toolkit. The Getting Started Toolkit is You will also find accounts of the experience of other Teen Cafés within the Barista blog.


  1. Identify a venue with space for teens to mingle and engage in hands on activities and with good lighting and audiovisual capabilities. Many kinds of informal social venues can be suitable, but typically not schools. Cafés typically take place for about an hour and a half in evenings during the school week.


  1. Will you be conducting Teen Science Cafés at multiple sites? If you live in a larger city or a rural area with towns not too far apart, you might partner with other organizations to host Cafés at multiple local sites within your area. By collaborating, the role of identifying and preparing presenters can be shared and the presenters get more opportunities to share their story and develop skills talking to teens.


While it is quite acceptable to conduct Cafés at only one location within your area, if you will be doing multiple sites, for each site you it is useful to identify a partner organization and venue, as well as another motivated adult leader who will be responsible for the logistics of running the Café sessions.


  1. Connect with the schools. Make appointments with the science teachers, science chairs and principals at high schools you want to draw teen participants from. Inform them about your forthcoming program. You will almost always find them highly supportive.


Ask a teacher or two to help you organize a meeting with students that might be interested in helping to lead the program. Bring snacks with you if you can. Pitch the program to the teens and the importance of their leadership to make it teen centered. You will usually find the teens to be quite interested in your story if they feel they can have genuine input into the program development. Collect names, email addresses, and phone numbers of interested youth so you can invite them to an organizational meeting.


  1. Start to identify likely presenters. Start asking around about presenters known for giving good talks. Presenters could come from a wide variety of organizations, just so they are science/technology professionals. Do some background checks on likely presenters. Do they have a good science story to tell? Do they have an engaging personality? Are they likely to respond to your training? Book your presenters months ahead, if possible. Their schedules fill up quickly!

Don’t forget to have fun!


Download as PDF below

First Steps in Starting a Teen Cafe Program May 2015