In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?
The Morehead Teen Science Café meets on the 3rd Friday of every month during the academic year. Our café has been running for years and uses an email listserv and our organization’s social media channels to promote. Many of our presenters are UNC graduate students doing exciting research, UNC professors, or local STEM professionals with a fun/interesting story to tell. Our café are unique in that they are not only learning opportunities for the students but skill building for young scientists.
What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?
Most of my background is in environmental education and project management. I joined the Morehead Planetarium team after finishing a year of education consulting work with The Redford Center. I am passionate about the intersection of science and the public through the lens of storytelling.
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
The Morehead Teen Science Café is an integral program of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, a department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Our café furthers our mission by bringing scientists and students together to make science accessible for all.
What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?
I have recently come into this role at the Morehead Planetarium and note that trying to rebuild a program after the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult. We are addressing this by not over-complicating our programs and reestablishing a foundation in which we will be able to strengthen the program.
What achievement are you most proud of with your Teen Café program?
The biggest achievement for me was the work of the team before I came on board last year. The program had momentum, structure, and an established community in which we are able to grow from. We average over 50 teens at each café, and they come with some of the most thought-provoking questions.
What has been your favorite café and why?
My favorite café so far has been a presentation from a local beekeeper who runs a business taking care of small hives in people’s backyard as well as those of local businesses. It was an eye-opening discussion on why pollinators are vital to the food we eat and an important part of the ecosystem.
What is one aspiration you have for your Teen Café program and how will you manifest it?
I would love for this program to be youth led. An event that is put on, by, and for teens has the potential to be so empowering. I hope to achieve this through open discussion with our teen leaders, a few mistakes along the way, and providing opportunities and resources to make them successful.
Do you have any advice for those just starting, re-starting, or sustaining their own Teen Café program?
As someone who has recently come into the TSC space to coordinate an established program, my best advice is reach out and build connections with your community. You may never know where a conversation will lead or who you will meet. Some of our best cafés have been the result of sharing the passion of our program with our friends, colleagues, and community partners where either they come present, or they introduce us to someone they know.