Tracey-Jane Cassidy was frustrated by the lack of hands-on science in primary schools. So she created the Junior Einsteins Science Club.
Behind pretty much every sci-tech professional is a story about how they loved science or technology when they were younger.
From interviewing genetics researchers, software engineers, AI architects and everything in between, I have found a certain commonality between what first sparked their interest, whether it was taking things apart to see how they worked or a particularly inspiring teacher that fostered their curiosity.
STEM education is one of the key components when it comes to nurturing the next generation of sci-tech talent, and this can be done in a wide variety of ways far beyond the doors of a traditional classroom.
In fact, Tracey-Jane Cassidy – who developed her own childhood science fascination with evolution books and a chemistry set – grew the Junior Einsteins Science Club specifically to give children a chance to get involved in engaging, interactive hands-on science.
“Junior Einsteins Science Club developed out of my love for science education and a frustration that my own three small children were unable to get involved in enough engaging, interactive hands-on science themselves at school,” she told SiliconRepublic.com.
“That problem has become our opportunity. Over the last few years the business and brand of Junior Einsteins Science Club has grown and flourished. We addressed that gap with gusto and are reaching children in Ireland and beyond igniting their natural curiosity, creativity and imagination.”
‘Junior Einsteins has filled this gap in Irish primary schools with fun, high-energy, messy hands-on learning of STEM’
– TRACEY-JANE CASSIDY
The Junior Einsteins Science Club offers science camps, after-school clubs, school shows and science parties to children all across Ireland. The organisation also has a franchise in London.
“We inspire our Junior Einsteins to use their imaginations, make a mess, explore and discover. We do this through fantastic interactive experiments,” said Cassidy.
“From slime-making, children learn about long-chain polymerisation and non-Newtonian fluids. A Barbie Doll gets a hair-raising experience on a Van Der Graaf generator while children learn about voltage and current. Lighting a lightsaber with a plasma ball, we learn how electricity flows!”
Going from strength to strength
Cassidy, who has a master’s degree in science from Trinity College Dublin and another one from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the pandemic was a massive hit to the club, given the interactive events it ran.
“We pivoted the business swiftly online within hours of the first lockdown, doing virtual versions of events. Our team was amazing. We, along with our franchisees and science instructors, adapted quickly, worked harder than ever and were flexible in our thinking to keep Junior Einsteins events flowing smoothly for the children of Ireland and beyond,” she said.
However, the challenges didn’t stop the Junior Einsteins brand getting stronger than ever. In 2020, the company granted two new franchise territories, launching in the UK, and Cassidy said it is also set to launch its first franchise in the US this year.
The organisation has been nominated for a series of business awards and won a top prize at the Virgin Media Business Voom awards in 2018. Cassidy also spoke at the United Nations in New York for International Women and Girls in Science Day on 11 February 2020.
“We are currently collaborating with the United Nations and Royal Academy of Science International Trust to bring STEM webinars to girls globally. We have been nominated again for best children’s franchise in 2022 at the Global Franchise Awards.”
Cassidy said she felt there was not enough science for primary school children until the Junior Einsteins Science Club was born.
“We need children in Ireland to fall in love with STEM between the ages of four and 12 and then happily choose STEM subjects in secondary school and hopefully then at third level. We need more scientists and engineers,” she said.
“Junior Einsteins has filled this gap in Irish primary schools with fun, high-energy, messy hands-on learning of STEM. Children need to explore and discover, creating chaos and having a ball, not even realising that they are learning key science concepts.”
She said the club has recently received messages of encouragement from US science teacher and TV personality Steve Spangler as well as SpaceX astronaut Dr Sian Proctor.
“Truly though, the highlight will always be the excitement, enthusiasm and smiles of the children we meet.”
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