In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?
We try to meet every few months. I haven’t been able to form a consistent group but average 6-7 teens per meeting. I have recruited from education based contacts within the Des Moines metro area (schools, after school programs, libraries, science center) and our own volunteer base.
What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?
I work with teen volunteers at the Blank Park Zoo. I thought the Teen Science Cafe would be a good opportunity for the teens to learn about STEM opportunities at the Zoo and beyond.
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
Blank Park Zoo is our host. Teen Science Cafe fits perfectly with the mission of the Zoo, which is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research and recreation. We are able to highlight how big of a role STEM plays in almost every role here at the Zoo.
What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?
My biggest challenge has been creating the advisory council. Attendance has been good but I haven’t had much luck with returning attendees. Not sure that I have overcome up. I just keep taking topic and snack suggestions hoping that we see some returning faces at the next Cafe.
What achievement are you most proud of with your Teen Café program?
I am really satisfied with the level of interaction that the teens had during the activity portion of the Cafes.
What has been your favorite café and why?
What’s Up With Coral? was my favorite Cafe. The teens got to learn about the conservation efforts that are happening between the zoo and agencies working directly with corals from the Florida Reef Tract. We also discussed water quality and testing.
What is one aspiration you have for your Teen Café program and how will you manifest it?
I’d like to continue to grow the program.
Do you have any advice for those just starting, re-starting, or sustaining their own Teen Café program?
Just keep showing up!