Interested in getting involved in Café Sci? We have all the tools here to help you, but you may also find support from other organisations, including your own
One of the easiest ways to find schools in your area is to register as a STEM Ambassador. The STEM Ambassador scheme puts volunteers who are working or have an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in touch with schools who are looking for volunteers to take part in their activities. The scheme provides Criminal Records Bureau checking and insurance for all registered Ambassadors; it is also a great way to find out about the other volunteering opportunities in engaging young people with STEM. Find out how you can register as an Ambassador on the STEMNET website.
If you or your organisation already has a relationship with schools, then you could approach them and propose that they run a café, or you could even run a café at your own organisation and invite schools to attend – Café Sci is flexible enough for you to do this!
The first café you deliver will probably be on a topic close to your area of expertise. However, you will almost certainly be able to speak on a variety of topics, so use your imagination! You don't have to be an expert, just prepared to talk with the students who come to the café. It will help if you can be creative and choose catchy, quirky, attractive titles for your talk. It is likely that you won't just be talking to science students, nor to just a single year group, so try and make sure your presentation is understandable, appropriate and appealing for a wide range of young people – an interesting topic and title will help.
You won't need to do anything regarding the school venue or organising the event itself, just liaise with the school, respond promptly, turn up, talk and inspire! Every school will organise their café differently, so it is important to talk to the school in advance of your café to get a full briefing on timings, structure and who your audience is. We’ve put together a speaker briefing check list for schools to follow in our Step by Step guide that will give you a good idea of the types of things the school should be covering with you in advance of the event.
Some schools have a small budget to cover speaker travel expenses, but you may need to ask your own organisation to do this. Your department may have some money allocated within the budget for these types of activities, or you could try talking to your outreach/ widening participation/ public engagement representative, who may be able to help.
Some schools ask for visiting speakers to be CRB checked. You may be able to be checked through your own organisation, or through the STEM Ambassadors scheme; however, as good practice you should make sure that you are never left alone with a young or vulnerable person.
If you want to find out more about Café Sci before you present at an event, then you may want to see if there is an evening café within your region that you can visit, or there might be a café running in a school that you could attend. You can also view the video of a café in action to get a feel for the style and tone of an event.
The audience will be school students, possibly of mixed age, mixed ability and mixed interests. Cafés are rarely held in a classroom but use other areas of the school such as common rooms, so students will be more relaxed than usual. Cafés take place off timetable, sometimes at lunchtime, sometimes after school – and refreshments are nearly always available (it is a café after all!)
The format is simple. First you, the speaker, introduce the topic and your interest in it. This lasts 10-15 minutes which means you must be cogent and succinct. There’s no time for technology, so no power point or OHP, just the power of the spoken word and simple demonstration. Then the café is open for discussion between you and the students for 25-30 minutes.
There should be a member of school staff and/ or a student representative who will help you set up, and to help you manage the wider discussion after your presentation, but it is a good idea to check this out with the school in advance.