In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?
Bethesda Green’s Teen Science Café program began in 2021 and currently has 7 high school students from around Montgomery County, Maryland. We host cafés every 2 months. Prior to each session our team meets with the guest speaker to provide input on presentations. Our sessions are interactive, with activities like polls and word clouds, and a dedicated Q&A session which is always full of great questions from students! What makes our program unique is the environmental focus.
What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?
I started working as an intern at Bethesda Green through the Environmental Leaders program. Recognizing the value of direct engagement with experts, we wanted to make it accessible to students, especially since there was no other Teen Science Café program here in Maryland!
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
Bethesda Green is our host. BG is an environmental non-profit working to create a sustainable, green community through citizen engagement, education, government partnership and business development. Our Cafés have an environmental focus and fit with BG’s environmental education initiatives.
What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?
One of our biggest challenges came early on, when it was difficult for us to grow our student team to represent students from across our area. We reached out to teachers and clubs at different schools in the area, to spread the word about our new program!
What achievement are you most proud of with your Teen Café program?
We have had sessions on super interesting topics like autonomous vehicles, plastic pollution, sustainable coffee, and more! This has allowed us to expose students to many careers and perspectives related to the environment and sustainability, which are especially relevant for our generation.
What has been your favorite café and why?
In May 2022, we hosted a cafe with Dr. Meredith Gore (University of Maryland) on Nature Crime (also known as Conservation Criminology). Dr. Gore discussed her fieldwork in various parts of the world, from Mexico to Madagascar, which was super engaging and highlighted the significance of her work.
What is one aspiration you have for your Teen Café program and how will you manifest it?
High school students have busy schedules; I would like to give more students a chance to learn from our sessions, even if they are unable to attend live. We plan to allow students to ask questions in advance and upload all our sessions to YouTube, so they can see our amazing speakers in action!
Do you have any advice for those just starting, re-starting, or sustaining their own Teen Café program?
My biggest piece of advice is to recruit a dedicated and enthusiastic team. This includes members who can contribute ideas and connect the program with great speakers. Despite busy schedules, a committed team will always find a way to make an impact on the program. Also, building a strong connection with speakers is also important and encouraging them to share resources on how students can get involved in their field is also very rewarding!