First Steps in Starting a Teen Science Café

The Teen Science Café Network website has abundant resources related to leading a Teen Café program.


1. Consult these key “getting started” documents.

The most important foundation documents to read before starting a program are the Guide to Getting Started with a Teen Science Café and this checklist. These will give you ideas on how you can customize the model for your own community.

Our Guide is based on extensive evaluation and experience reported in two published papers:

Design and Impacts of a Youth Directed Café Scientifique Program

    Science Communication in a Café Scientifique for High School Teens

These are worth reading when you have to make the case to your boss, colleagues, or funders that teen cafés are effective in engaging teens in STEM. Impacts we have had in New Mexico’s Café Scientifique (Teen Science Café) have been replicated in many other sites in the network.


2. Join the Teen Science Café Network.

Register as a Member on our website and you will become part of a welcoming and supportive community. It is free and the benefits are many. Once registered, we can better help you. For some, it may take awhile to get their organization fully on board: for others, it can happen more quickly. We have flexibility that allows everyone to work at the pace that fits their organization.

Staff at the TSCN’s National Resource Center will review your online membership application (usually within a few days) and, if we haven’t chatted with you already, we will contact you to set up a short phone or video chat before approving your application. This is an opportunity to start things off on a personal note, and to most efficiently help you get started planning for your café series.  We can talk about your desires for your café, the Core Design Principles all members follow to design their cafés, and the basic logistics you will need to consider. You will learn about the ways you can participate in the Network, and leave the chat with new ideas and a list of tangible first steps to take.

Once you receive an email notifying you of your welcome to the Network, we will ask you to complete your café site information and contact info. These will be listed in the  Member Directory so that anyone interested in helping with or participating in your café may network with you. Also, a “cup” pinpointing your café location will be added to the Network Map once you have completed the site information form. You will have access to edit this info at any time by logging in to the website.

Members receive a monthly e-newsletter highlighting cool cafés from far and wide, tips for your café, and notices of webinars on topics useful to coordinators of Teen Science Cafés.  You will also be notified of other upcoming professional development opportunities.  Become a part of a supportive, growing community!


3. Browse the Resources section of the TSCN website.

In particular view our Getting Started Toolkit. You will also find accounts of the experience of other Teen Cafés within the blog.


4. Connect with the schools to recruit teen leaders.

Make appointments with the science teachers, science chairs, and principals at high schools, and with local homeschooling networks that you want to draw teen participants from. Inform them about your forthcoming program. You will almost always find them highly supportive.

Ask a teacher or two to help you organize a meeting with students that might be interested in helping to lead the program. Bring snacks with you if you can. Pitch the program to the teens and the importance of their leadership to make it their own. You will usually find the teens to be quite interested in your story, if they feel they can have genuine input into the program development. Collect contact information of interested youth so you can invite them to an organizational meeting.


5. Work with the teens to identify a venue.

You will want space for teens to mingle and engage in hands on activities. Look for central locations with good lighting and audiovisual capabilities. Many kinds of informal social venues can be suitable, but not schools, as this is an out-of-school program. Cafés typically take place for about an hour and a half in evenings during the school week.


6. Will you be conducting Teen Science Cafés at multiple sites?

If you live in a larger city or a rural area with towns not too far apart, you might partner with other organizations to host Cafés at multiple local sites within your area. By collaborating, the role of identifying and preparing presenters can be shared and the presenters get more opportunities to share their story and develop skills talking to teens.

While it is quite fine to conduct Cafés at only one location within your area, if you will be doing multiple sites, for each site it is useful to identify a partner organization and venue, as well as another motivated adult leader who will be responsible for the logistics of running the Café sessions.


7. Start to identify likely presenters.

Start asking around about scientists (or any professionals from science, technology, engineering, or math…STEM fields) known for their communication skills. Presenters could come from a wide variety of organizations: colleges, tech companies, government agencies, and more. Ask if they have a good science story to tell. Do they have an engaging personality? Are they likely to respond to your guidance? Book your presenters months ahead. Their schedules fill up quickly and you will want them to have sufficient time to prepare for this unique experience!


8. Contact the Teen Science Café Network’s Resource Center for support.  

Email and we will be happy to help you in any way we can.


Don’t forget to have fun!