Whether you are just starting out - or have been organizing for years - everyone can use some new ideas and tips on how to grow their science café community.
Once you have an established science café, you may want to find new ideas, topics, and methods. Try some of these.
Flyers, posters, and handouts
You don’t have to be a graphic artist to create an attractive flyer for your science café (see the sample publicity flyer, created as a WORD document). Websites such as Shutterstock and iStockphoto offer free or inexpensive images that you can use.
You may be able to find a volunteer with some design know-how to help you create a logo or a flyer. A local artist with an interest in science may also be willing to work with you.
Be sure to have the flyer for your next event ready to distribute at the end of the café. And, if you create handouts, include the name of your café, the URL, and the meeting time and place as well as any other information about the upcoming cafe event.
Trivia questions that mix popular culture references with science questions related to the café’s topic can contribute to the lighthearted and inclusive café spirit. Trivia contests are also a good way to get people talking as they begin to gather for your café. Prizes, such as science-themed giveaways (videos, books, etc.) or a gift certificate to the venue, add to the fun.
Set some simple ground rules, such as no smart phones or other electronic devices to find answers. Whether you make up your own questions or not, be sure that the questions and answers are clear and correct—ambiguous ones can create an unnecessary distraction at this point in the evening. Remember that the trivia contest is the appetizer, not the main course. Keep it short!
There are many ways to hold a trivia contest. Begin by distributing blank sheets of paper and pencils. You can then:
- Call out the questions and have people to write down answers on their own. When you reveal the answers, have each person score his or her neighbor’s answer sheet.
- Ask people to form teams (or create impromptu teams yourself), and assign names or numbers for each team. Call out the questions. Teams have a set amount of time (e.g., 60 seconds, 3 minutes, etc.) to write their answers down on a slip of paper, that includinges their team’s name. You (or a volunteer) will score the results and announce the winning team either before the café starts or at the end of the event.
To see sample trivia questions—and inspire you to write your own—click here.
Your local PBS television and/or radio station may have resources to help you promote and expand the reach of your café, especially if you are using NOVA ScienceNOW videos or other video assets connected to a PBS show.
Contact the Outreach or Station Relations department at your station, via the Website, by email, or phone. They may be able to help you promote an upcoming café on air, provide handouts, guides, or videos, recommend a scientist or expert, or even broadcast a café.
To find the PBS station nearest you, click on the PBS Station Finder.
Think science is groovy? Prove it by organizing a science-themed flash mob to promote your café. Organize a covert group to become a live kinetic sculpture, model the movement of electrons in a circuit, demonstrate Newton’s First Law of Motion, or whatever you can think of.
Be sure to get permission and clearance for the best time for your “mob” to assemble. Watch this group illustrating how electrons behave in a superconductor.
Café field trips
Make connections with local organizations to do “on the road” cafés.
- Use a stall at a local farmers’ market to hold a café about the science behind genetically picky eaters, or the biology of crossbred fruits and vegetables, or another food/gardening topic.
- Coordinate with local park rangers to do a café at a park, focusing on the wildlife, local geology, or the oxygen/carbon exchange in nature.
- Host a café at a small music club featuring a local musician or band to do a café on sound and acoustics.
- Several cities throughout the country host annual science festivals. You may want to host a special café as a part of the festivities. Check out the Science Festival Alliance to find out if there’s a science festival near you.
Café on a cruise?
Many cruises offer interesting lectures and information— Why not hold a science café on a cruise ship? Contact travel agents and other professionals to see if a science café might be an attractive addition to a tour, cruise ship, or other adventure.
Junior cafes are a great way to get kids talking about science. Kids have a natural curiosity about the world around them, and many topics that capture their interest—especially current events, cutting- edge technology, and “gross” topics such as those explained in the Grossology book series by Sylvia Branzei.
Decide if you want to a café for a mixed- age group, such as younger kids and parents, or an exclusive café for middle and/or high schoolers. Choose an appropriate kid-friendly venue where young guests feel welcome and able to have a discussion. Like with all science cafes, mMake sure that that all attendees kids feel free to speak openly (if they want) and engage their curiosity. If possible, include short videos and hands-on demonstrations. You don’t want the café to feel like a science class or lecture. Choose a presenter who is appealing and is comfortable speaking to and with a young audience—this isn’t a science lecture or lesson.
To see a Junior science Café in action, check out this one organized by Northwestern University.
Speed-dating for science
In traditional conventional speed- dating, potential partners have a few minutes to speak and connect before moving on. In a sScience cCafé “speed date,” a panel of three to six presenters have a few minutes each to speak on a selected science topic. Each presenter must stick to their his or her time limit, with a clear cue from the moderator when it’s time to move on (think bell, whistle, or kazoo).
If possible, You may want to eencourage the presenters to compare notes in advance so they don’t all repeat the same points. As always in science cafés, but especially for this format, presenters should be dynamic and spirited. You may want to allow for to have a short Q&A after each presenter, and/or save questions until the end when there can be a full conversation with all of the panelistsfor the end.
Do you have some fresh ideas to share?
Please help us spread the good ideas by mailing any of your fun ideas, tips, and/or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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