Skip to content.
Teenage Designers of Learning Places for Children - Headwaters Science Center

Headwaters Science Center—Bemidji, MN

Project Name: Teens Teaching Science (project overview poster)


To create opportunities for inspirational discovery and the joy of lifelong learning through science, technology, and art.

Project Leaders

Laddie Elwell and Kitura Main

Project Summary

HSC helped train staff and ten or more youth from Boys and Girls Clubs of the Bemidji area and Red Lake Nation to lead after-school science activities at their respective clubs. The science activity kits they developed travelled between the two clubs. Teens who completed the program received &36;250, a family museum membership and a certificate at the end of the year.

Project Goal

We expect this project to give teenagers chances to lead youngsters through science-based activities with adult support and that the involved youngsters will have good experiences in science as a result. In the long range, we expect these experiences to help these children develop wiser career choices and better employment opportunities.

Project Description

The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Bemidji Area and Red Lake Nation will each identify at least 5 students between the ages of 15 and 18 to be trained as "Teen Teachers" by Headwaters Science Center staff to teach science activities in after school programs at their respective clubs. These students and their adult leader will work with HSC staff once or twice a month for 8 months through the school year to learn how to lead specific activities with youngsters at their B&G Clubs and will help assemble the kits that they will use in the activities. Teen Teachers who complete the program will receive a small (&36;250?) cash bonus at the end of the year along with a certificate and membership for their families in HSC. At the end of the year there will be a celebratory party at HSC to which families will be invited. Children will be encouraged to demonstrate special skills or activities they have learned at this event and investigate the Center's exhibit floor. HSC staff will provide an exciting scientific show and refreshments or a meal will be served. Regular science club members will receive day passes to HSC.

We have worked with 4 Teen Leaders at Bemidji B&G Club, 3 at Red Lake, and 3 at Cass Lake. We have met 2 to 6 times a month through the school year, though it was late starting because of problems in the organizations involved. The Teen Leaders came to HSC for training and, at a later date, worked with younger children at their own clubs. Red Lake and Cass Lake Teens assisted with kit preparation and material selections in stores. Our celebratory party will take place in the summer at HSC. At that time we will have lunch and awards for the Teen Leaders and their families, and some of the regular participants in the LP Science Clubs will also be invited.

Community Collaboration

Community Partners

  • Bemidji Boys&Girls Club

    Organizational Mission: "To inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens."

    Population served

    Children and teens from age 8 to 18, mixed races.

  • Red Lake Boys&Girls Club

    Organizational Mission: "Our mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those of the Red Lake Nation, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring individuals."

    Population served

    Children and teens from age 8 to 18, all Native American.

  • Cass Lake Boys&Girls Club

    Organizational Mission: Our mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those of the Leech Lake Reservation, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring individuals.

    Population served

    Children and teens from age 8 to 18, mixed races, but majority Native American.

    Partner's role on the project

    Selection of teen leaders, organization of after school programs, travel, and participants in LP Science Club.

History of Partnership

All Boys and Girls Club staff members have participated in ongoing workshops at Headwaters Science Center to bring quality after school programming to their facility. Youngsters from all three B&G Clubs visit HSC periodically. Red Lake children are bused to HSC through the school year and summer and HSC staff attended the grand opening of B&G Club.

Relationships with all three Clubs continue to progress with increasing contacts.

Our Youth

Description of youth

Most of the youngsters come from low-income, troubled backgrounds and have very little science enrichment in their lives.

Number of youth recruited

We recruited a total of 10 Teen Leaders and about 30 youngsters.

Recruitment process

Recruited by B&G Club staff.

Role(s) on the project

Teens were trained by HSC staff to conduct hands-on science activities with younger children.

Comments by youth or their families about the project

Native American youth are not highly verbal, but they expressed their pleasure by saying it was "fun", said "Thank you!"—and laughed a lot! Family members were not present, but adult Club staff were enthusiastic about the program.

Assumptions We Made

Those proven false:

  • We assumed that we would be able to recruit 5 Teen Leaders at each site, but were able to enlist only 3 or 4.

Those proven true:

  • We realized that appointments would be broken, cancelled, or postponed and that there would be delays in implementation, and they were.

Insights We Gained

  • Loss of Teen Leaders at the Bemidji B&G Club occurred because they were overwhelmed with too many enthusiastic youngsters. The two other clubs chose to limit how many youth the Teens had to deal with. We expect the Bemidji Club to return to activities this summer.
  • Working with Native American communities is, in some ways, less complicated than working with ordinary communities.
  • Red Lake and Cass Lake Clubs both limited the number of children who participated in the science activities, thus providing a far superior outcome for Teen Leaders. In situations where other children wish to participate, the activities are repeated; allowing the Teens to hone their skills.

Learn more about St. Louis Science Center's YES program, and the Science Museum of Minnesota's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center