We had the good fortune of connecting with Carmen Castillo-Barrett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carmen, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve always wanted to be a science educator, which sounds simple enough, but my style of teaching and learning doesn’t always necessarily fit into the traditional classroom. My style of science is often messy. Sometimes (a lot of times) it’s loud with excitement, or quite with careful concentration.
After many years in the traditional classroom, I took a step back to explore what it is I really wanted to do. The answer was quite simple. I wanted to offer a more engaging way to connect with science.
This desire is what led me to establish Kiddie Science, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization that presents fun, hands-on science workshops to young children and families. We began as a travelling science program in 2013 that quickly grew. Seeing young children’s enthusiasm for science inspired me to think bigger. In 2017, the Kiddie Science Lab was established. This brick and mortar location allows us to present more science workshops and I can expand on my true passions: botany and chickens.
What should our readers know about your business?
Science is for everyone, but that’s hard to believe when you don’t normally see someone who looks like you in the field. For a long time, I was my own biggest obstacle in establishing my business because although I clearly saw my idea, I didn’t necessarily believe in myself leading it to fruition. Thankfully others believed in my idea and that’s really what helped bring it into the real world. Once that happened, I knew I was onto a good thing.
It hasn’t been easy but the joy in return has been well worth it. Running a business is not for the faint of heart and there were times I second guessed myself. And then the global pandemic happened. I initially mourned the loss of Kiddie Science, of this idea I poured my entire heart and soul into. And just when I gave up, I changed my mind and decided not to. I challenged myself to think bigger and better. The result was remote learning groups and science kits that reached young scientists across the nation. For nineteen months, our physical doors were closed, but our reach was impactful as ever.
No matter where you are on the planet, science is all around. Making that connection is key. Our hands-on approach to science education connects the learner to their experience in a meaningful way. Imagine exploring chemistry at age 4 and understanding the basics of the concept thanks to a fun and engaging experiment. Or living in Brooklyn, NY and having expertise in growing food and providing chicken care before the age of 8. We do all this, and more, at the Kiddie Science Lab.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My story has many roots. The most pivotal influence was my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Johnson. She was the first female educator I ever had who has passionate about science and she looked like me! It was a seed I didn’t realize had been planted. From my time as a budding student teacher in Ms. Oakley’s second grade class, to being supported to embrace my own teaching style by Ms. Windy, I’ve been honored to learn from and be guided by talented master educators.
Every day, I get to do what I love and and it’s only possibly thanks to my village near and far. I work with amazing educators and I have wonderful students and families. I’m lucky that I get to live and work in a community that is supportive of my efforts. Through words and actions, they’ve helped make a lot more possible than I ever imagined.
Cheers to science!