Survey of Café Topics for Teen Leaders

One way to get the gears going for lining up presenters for an upcoming Teen Science Café season is to search through the websites of local businesses, institutions, and organizations, and compile a list of possible café topics based on what speaker talent is out there. The teen leaders can then rate the topics, giving you some idea of what they are currently interested in.

The topics could be very specific (as in the example below) or very general (such as “human psychology,” “robotics,” or “conservation”).  Make it clear to the teens that although the subject of a potential presenter’s research might sound interesting, the researcher/STEM professional might not be a good fit for a café (because they are not engaging, or are too busy, for example). It is ok to at first book speakers who are a good fit and are also available and excited to participate.  Still, to find out where the teens’ interest lie can help you plan for future speaker searches and help you organize your list of who to try first.

Below is an example format of such a STEM topics survey.

Click here to download it in Word to get a leg up on formatting:  ScienceTopicRankingSheet.




Remember: The topic isn’t everything. Great conversation and interactivity is key to success.

• Solve a case using forensic evidence
• Visit a scientist where they work. Sometimes equipment can’t move, but people can!
• Use zombies as a theme for teaching about neuroscience or infectious disease
• Examine specimens before, during or after a scientist’s presentation
• Bring a live animal to presentations about live animals
• Use a computer challenge to explore cyber-security
• Use a gorilla chasing humans to simulate how to flock like birds
• Have teens help scientists with their research by prepping specimens or experiments
• Use music as a theme for discussing neuroscience
• Build balsa wood bridges to support a conversation about engineering

Past Favorite Titles of Teen Science Cafés:

• Crime scene investigator from local law enforcement explains how real CSI is conducted
• How our water resources are tied to energy generation, climate, and food production
• What’s with the dramatic increase in massive forest fires?
• Promise and peril of genetic engineering
• Promise and peril of nanotechnology
• Enlisting the body’s immune system in the fight against cancer
• The Neanderthal in us all: What does genetics tell us?
• Is there an asteroid impact in our future?
• Booze and babies: The brain and prenatal alcohol consumption
• The inevitable massive coronal mass ejection from the sun: Can we defend ourselves from catastrophe?
• Are we alone? The search for extraterrestrial life
• We are all stardust
• Algae biofuel: Is pond scum the next oil boom?
• The global threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
• Super-eruptions: Catastrophes of the past… and to come
• What came before the Big Bang?
• What is time?