Magazine article District Administration

Science Cafes: Real Science, Plus Cake

Magazine article District Administration

Science Cafes: Real Science, Plus Cake

Article excerpt

A MOVEMENT TO SPREAD SCIENTIFIC learning in a casual environment that started in Britain in the late 1990s has gotten a foothold in the United States. At science cafes, adults gather at a restaurant, bar or other nonacademic spot to listen to a presentation on a scientific topic while enjoying their favorite beverage.

Kathy Savage, science teacher at Oviedo High School in Oviedo, Fla., thought a similar program could work in her school. With the sponsorship of the Florida Academy of Sciences and assistance from other science teachers and the student members of the school's chapter of the National Science Honor Society, the first science cafe was held in September 2008. The program took off immediately. Now, says Savage, "I am absolutely amazed at how well these cafes are both received and attended."

Cafes are held monthly, about half an hour after the end of the school day. The format is simple: Over cake and punch, students listen to a speaker and then ask questions. In the first year, topics ranged from Neanderthals to invasive species.

Savage identifies five main reasons why these science cafes are important:

* They put "real faces" to science (which she contrasts with "the typically geeky males in many of the videos or their aging and irrelevant teachers").

* They show students that science is something "real people" do.

* They show real-life applications for science.

* They give students opportunities to meet scientists and persons who use science in their professions--and who may be important contacts for them later. …

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