Talent Garden aims to support Women and Girls to spark an interest in STEM, from our interview with Robotify who spoke to us about their inclusive programs to introduce STEM to girls at a young age, to Talent Garden’s Women in Tech Grant for our STEM masters and courses at our Innovation School.
To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we spoke to our friend and founder of Junior Einsteins Science Club, Tracey-Jane Cassidy. Tracey has spoken at the United Nations for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020 and founded the Junior Einsteins Science Club, which has reached new heights of success as it brings a love of science and learning to children through fun hands-on, interactive science. Junior Einstein’s wonderful science instructors encourage children’s natural curiosity and ignite their enthusiasm and creativity. Junior Einstein’s partnership with the United Nations, Royal Academy of Science International Trust and Girls in Science International Platform Program has been created to inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in science? What would your advice be to young women thinking about a career in STEM?
I was always a creative child and teen. As the eldest of five children I was in an environment where I could create games and toys for my younger siblings. I also learnt responsibility early being the eldest.
I was certainly always fascinated by science and medicine. I read everything I could get my hands on about STEM subjects from Darwin to Hawking. At University I received an MA in Natural Science from Trinity College Dublin, then an MSc from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I went on to study graduate entry programme medicine at Warwick Medical School, but left to have my three children. I became a single Mum while my children were 1,2 and 4 years old so I was not able to return to finish.
As I came from a Family of Entrepreneurs starting a STEM education business felt very natural. It was a perfect marriage of my love of being with children, my science background and natural creativity.
I am proud that at Junior Einsteins Science Club we include a very broad range of STEM subjects; anatomy, forensics, fossils, engineering, marine biology, ecology, geology, physics, chemistry, ecology, even quantum physics and more … This very wide range of topics and the activities we have built around the topics are tried, tested and very popular with our ‘Junior Einsteins’
Junior Einsteins is very child-centric and what child would not enjoy learning about electricity while giving a Barbie doll a hair raising experience on a Van der graaf generator, lighting light sabres with a plasma ball. Our ‘Junior Einsteins’ punch slime learning about Non-Newtonian fluids and stretch slime to learn about long chain polymerisation. Lots of disgusting, messy fun- just how science should be taught. Never a dull moment!
Of course I would encourage my own daughters and any girls to pursue a career in STEM if this is here their interest lies. The jobs that our primary school children will do in the future do not exist today. STEM careers are the future.
The most important qualities that our girls and women need for a rapidly changing uncertain future are to be able to problem solve, embrace change, work well in a team, be creative in their job, accept failure as a learning experience and to be willing to keep learning for all of their career. If these are your qualities, a STEM career We aim to teach these qualities in all of our Junior Einsteins STEM events.
Did you face any challenges in your career attributable to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome these challenges?
Being a single Mum of three small children was my biggest challenge in my career as a woman. I had to work around the children’s schedule and so I began to start working very early in the mornings, before they even woke up. Between school runs and playdates the business junior Einsteins Science Club was born. As the children grew and the business grew part time childcare became more affordable so I could still work from home while having some help.
I am always a Mum first and was in a great position to give my children my presence, attention and time while building the brand. They were also useful guinea pigs to discover which science experiments were the most fun!
The business thrived immediately so within weeks I was able to bring science instructors on board to carry out the STEM events while I stayed home and worked on the business instead of in it.
Of course it was not an easy road. But when you love what you do the sacrifices don’t seem like sacrifices. I enjoy working hard. Being a woman and particularly being a Mum actually was a great advantage as I had both the Science experience and parenting experience to really figure out what works in our science club events.
Working in Junior Einsteins Science Club, you bring hands-on STEM to children through science clubs, camps, parties, workshops, corporate events & family festivals. What has been your proudest moment during your time as CEO of Junior Einsteins?
There are many awards and honours that we have achieved. But when you ask me this I remember that there was a young boy whose parents told me was desperately struggling in school. He was unhappy and uninterested. But, he would light up in our after school science club sessions and became our star ‘ Junior Einstein’ over several weeks. He was engaged, fascinated and behaved so well. His parents told me that the science club changed his life.
This particular moment inspired my drive to reach as many children as possible with positive experiences in STEM. It began the beginning of our global expansion through the ethical franchising model. So, that moment with the first of many children who discovered the spark of love for STEM has even eclipsed our 2018 Richard Branson Business award Voom win and even the great honour of being invited to speak in The United Nations General Assembly at International Women and Girls in Science Day 2020. Our many business and franchise awards are very meaningful. You can see them on our website! But reaching a child and encouraging a love of science and learning is always the most important mission.
Junior Einsteins’ mission is to ‘nourish a lifelong love of learning through science in all our children’ How have you stayed loyal to this mission Covid?
As a business, during the Covid-19 pandemic we have had to pivot and be very creative. We went online immediately to fulfil our responsibilities to our weekly after school science clubs across the country. We have kept very busy making online STEM webinars and this kept us very motivated. We collaborated with The United Nations and this has allowed us to reach girls (and boys!) globally that otherwise might not have the opportunity to experience the Junior Einsteins Science Club programmes.
We offered complimentary science club webinars to the children of healthcare workers and to many of our regular schools. We donated all of our PPE.
We now offer online science club sessions in a monthly online subscription. We also hold virtual science parties and are involved in many community events online.
We have provided online forensics science workshops for science Foundation Ireland and BT Young Scientist Exhibition.
We are in the fortunate position of being a mobile educational services business that can go on-ice or hibernate and go virtual easily, quickly and then come back healthy and ready for action as soon as the world opens up again.
We supported our franchisees wholeheartedly to ensure they have every opportunity to persevere through the lockdowns and to thrive as soon as we find ‘normal again’ Their grit and determination has been amazing!
We cover all of Ireland for large events and provide all services in Dublin and North Wicklow. We now have five franchises. Four in Ireland in Louth, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and our first franchisee in the UK in North West London. We are currently in the midst of the franchise process for Colorado, which would be our first USA franchise.
We are currently searching for amazing people in Ireland and beyond who love to work with children, are interested in science and education and want to be business owners to join our family of franchisees.
We have had many franchise enquiries recently. We are noticing that many people see the benefit of starting a business with the franchise model when they see the immense support, advice, wisdom, experience and encouragement provided during both challenging and prosperous times. It is like having a full time business mentor!
Junior Einsteins are collaborating with The United Nations, R.A.S.I.T (Royal Academy of Science International Trust) & Girls in Science International Platform Program to bring STEM to girls globally. Why is it important to you to encourage more women and children to be involved in STEM?
Our core mission will always be to nourish all children’s natural creativity and curiosity. We spark our Junior Einsteins’ imagination and inspire a love of science and learning. We teach children ‘How to think not what to think ‘best preparing them for our ever changing world. We do this through our hands-on interactive fun STEM experiments.
Our partnership with The Royal Academy of Science International Trust aims to amplify the voices of women and girls in science and to advance the UN’s SDGs. Ultimately we want to see more girls confident enough in their own abilities to have the courage to choose science as a career path.
In Junior Einsteins Science Club we are all about equality. I think that equality in STEM fields is what is called for. At Junior Einsteins we allow girls of primary school age (4-12years old) to experience the interesting, exciting world of science, hoping they will choose science in high school and then at third level, creating the STEM leaders of the future. Encouraging young girls to become women in science will allow us to achieve this balance.