i’m off to ‘do’ a cafe…

… a Junior Cafe, that is (you could sing that to the tune of ‘we’re off to see the wizard’ from The Wizard of Oz, if you were inclined….). My friend & colleague Kathrin Otrel-Cass runs the Tauranga Cafe Scientifique, & has set up a couple of Junior Cafes as a related project. Tomorrow I’ll be attending the Tauranga event at Otumoetai College, addressing the topic ‘was Darwin wrong?’

The idea behind the Junior Cafes is – as for the more familiar ‘adult’ versions (which are, in fact, open to everyone) – is to enhance engagement with & understanding of science. Students get to talk with scientists about their work & learn about how they do that work – this includes developing a better understanding of concepts which can cause trouble. The idea that scientists don’t know all the answers (we’d have nothing to do, if we did!). Or that science is a continually-evolving enterprise 🙂

What’s really neat about the Junior Cafes is that they’re run by the students themselves. Each Cafe has a ‘management team’ of students from the school, & while Kathrin & their teachers are available for help & advice, the students set the program, organise publicity, & invite speakers. Kathrin’s provided a list of possible speakers & I guess you could say that she acts as a liaison between the schools & the scientific community. But really it’s the students’ baby.

I think Junior Cafes are a great idea (& Kathrin deserves a huge vote of thanks for getting them off the ground in Tauranga & Hamilton!). And I’m really looking forward to tomorrow – it should be a really interesting & stimulating time for all concerned. As for my answer to that question, was Darwin wrong? Well, the answer (as for much in science) is, it depends: very wrong indeed about things like how inheritance works (with no concept of genes, how could it be otherwise?), but very right on the mechanism of natural selection as a driver of descent with modification. (And yes, there’ll be more to my talk than that!)

PS if you’re keen to find out more about the Junior Cafes, drop me a line & I’ll put you in touch with Kathrin.

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