The Teen Science Cafés in Maine are all part of a larger project of The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance called The STEM Guides project. We have three sites encompassing about twenty small rural communities from the interior to the coast, and each site is attempting to run Cafés in its own location. On average we engage 20 to 30 youth per Café (at my Dexter-Dover-Guilford site), and have covered topics ranging from Design Engineering to Aquaculture to Zombies! Here is some of what we’ve learned so far:
- School vacations are no good for holding cafes (even if the youth tell you they are!)
- Email isn’t the best way to communicate with the youth leadership team if you want a timely response!
- With the right topic, and timing, a Café can create it’s own buzz. (Zombies ARE a true HIT with youth!)
- The right door prizes can extend the learning beyond the Café, and books are a good, inexpensive way to do that!
- Local colleges and universities are great places to find presenters
- Libraries are wonderful locations for hosting teen leadership meetings
- At least in rural areas, it takes more time to coordinate schedules of all the players than anything else
- Doing virtual dry runs might be the only way to go when travel times are greater than an hour
I wonder what we will learn from our next six Cafés…?
Alyson Saunders, Lead Stem Guide with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, directs the Teen Science Cafe for ME! node.