Science in (and around) Seattle
by Stephanie Fitzwater (Pacific Science Center) and Tom Steele (KCTS 9)
In the Puget Sound region, Pacific Science Center and KCTS 9 Public Television partner to present a collection of three monthly Science Cafés. Just like most Cafés, ours bring local scientists face-to-face with the general public in the comfortable, lively atmosphere of a neighborhood pub or restaurant. These monthly events are currently held in three locations across the greater Seattle area: Seattle (Queen Anne Science Café); Kirkland (Eastside Science Café), and Tacoma (Tacoma Science Café). The 36 total annual events feature a breadth of topics, from science in the news and advances in science/technology, to science controversies and science policies. Most Science Cafés are recorded, with videos accessible on-demand on kcts9.org/science-café.
KCTS 9 and Pacific Science Center began to partner on Science Cafés in November 2007 with the Queen Anne Science Café and have since successfully expanded to two additional venues. The event supports each organization’s mission by inspiring conversations and inquiries about science and engaging communities in informed dialogues with local researchers.
With current financial support from the MetLife Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and past support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we’ve been able to invest time and resources that have allowed us to tailor the Cafés to the interests, motivations, and backgrounds of our audience.
Why Science Cafés Matter
Overwhelmingly, our audience evaluations indicate that they really enjoy and value Science Cafés. Below are a few quotes from evaluation interviews with attendees that speak to the impact of Science Cafés and help drive the direction of our program:
“I like to come for mental stimulation. I don’t really get to deal with science in my work. I’m always looking for something interesting to learn.”
“Don’t forget the adults who don’t always get science in their lives. It’s easier to get art in your life than science.”
Accessibility of the Science:
“I think a lot of people don’t find science accessible and approachable, but when you put it in an environment like this, you have presenters who are very casual and it’s engaging with questions and answers, people open up and they get more excited and want to learn more.”
“I can come to a talk that I don’t know anything about and I’m not expected to be tested at the end of it.”
Social Aspect of Learning:
“I think it’s important that you do have a chance to talk with people and meet people…I have a background in science. It’s interesting to go to talks, but just as interesting to talk to people.”
“I guess one of the reasons to come to these [events] is that people come over and over again and it would be fun to develop a bit of a community.”
From a Scientist’s Perspective:
“…I thought the Science Café was an invaluable way for me to educate and ‘give back’ to taxpayers who are supporting my work.”
“It allowed me to speak about my research in an informal way, which I very rarely get to do.”
“…it gave me an excuse to reexamine broader themes in my work with a fresh perspective. The audience was extremely well-read and engaged. I was both humbled and honored to be a part of the discussion.”
“Presenting with an ale by your side will change your view of how science presentations should be done forever. It will ruin your excitement about conference presentations.”
What’s Next for Us?
As we approach our 5-year anniversary at our Queen Anne location, we have ways to continue to expand and enhance our Science Cafés.
- How can we grow the experience within our venues?
- Conversely, how can we extend the experience of science exploration and community beyond a monthly, 90-minute event?
- How can we encourage more dialogue and conversation (especially between audience members) about science and society issues?
- From an institutional standpoint, how can we leverage this community to engage with other KCTS 9 or Pacific Science Center events or programs?
The Science Café program and organizer partnerships have also brought us new opportunities to expand our model, explore new potential partnerships, and deepen the Science Café’s connection to the local community.
KCTS 9 website: www.kcts9.org/science-cafe
Pacific Science Center website: www.pacificsciencecenter.org/sciencecafe
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScienceCafeWA
Or contact us directly at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org