In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?
Our TSC program is with The Kids’ Science Cafe in Magdalena, New Mexico. We began by following the TSC meeting guidelines (once a month, visiting scientist, meal). Evolved that to include a student driven activity (i.e. State Police Crime Scene Team talked about their job….then…..kids did a finger print lift or a blood drop exercise). A year later (TSC closed during Covid but not the Kids’ Science Café), the kids wanted weekly meetings. There is now one meeting a month with visiting scientists and three where the kids decide what they want to study, investigate.
What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?
Started out with Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts while in the military. Retired and became a school teacher. Developed several curriculums for after-school/out-of-school programs (Summer Academy, RocketKids, FossilKids, RoboKids).
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
Currently, there is no organization that hosts the TSC. The closest thing I have to that kind of relationship is with New Mexico Tech, who mentors the kids in the NMT Water Education Project that is sponsored by the NSF.
What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?
Currently I would say that funding is difficult as we pay rent and other bills. My second biggest obstacle is transportation. I could achieve more if I had a van I could throw kids into and take them to places on a monthly basis. Finding a parent who wants to “throw in” is difficult.
What achievement are you most proud of with your Teen Café program?
I have been trying to get the PED and / or schools to give the kids “credit” for their work. This year, the kids produced an abstract for their water findings. This abstract cites them by name and is a great first step success story.
What has been your favorite café and why?
Our activity with the Fish and Game where the kids participated in the capture, data collection, and release of six female elk. Kids recently participated with the AFRL at Kirtland AFB in a LASER Training, and of late, the New Mexico Tech Water Education Project.
What is one aspiration you have for your Teen Café program and how will you manifest it?
After studying something for some amount of time, put the kids in a car and take them there. Requires transportation and funding. Example. Study archeology procedures and techniques. Then, transport the kids to a site where under the watchful eye of college students or a museum, dig the fossil.
Do you have any advice for those just starting, re-starting, or sustaining their own Teen Café program?
Kids HAVE to be the number one priority. They choose the direction. We (the mentors) find a way to make the answer yes (not no).