Sari Hurme-Mehtälä of Kide Science speaks to us about playful science lessons for young children with online guidance for teachers and parents.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: Thank you for asking; we are in a good position in Finland as it has been among the least affected countries in Europe. My parents are already vaccinated, and my husband and I can work remotely from home, and our two young children have been in preschool and kindergarten during the pandemic. We do miss to travel and our hobbies and events with friends. Gladly our kids have been able to participate in science clubs remotely from home, as that is something they ask every week, when is the next science club.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Kide Science.
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: I have almost 20 years of business experience globally and locally in media, retail, design & ICT. I have worked in big companies´ marketing and sales positions but felt that I want to do something more meaningful, especially with children, after becoming a mother of two little scientists. In 2013 Kide Science founder Dr. Jenni Vartiainen began researching science education of 3-6-years-old children at the University of Helsinki in Finland. The empirical part of her study called for setting up a science club. Researcher Jenni Vartiainen, teacher Aino Kuronen and I, as business person, founded Kide Science in December 2017 due to the enormous demand brought about by the popularity of this new innovative pedagogical model & engaging science lessons that we created for the research.
Now Kide Science is growing globally with nurseries, kindergartens, preschools, learning centres, and other partners in over 20 countries. Kide Science helps educators and parents support young children’s scientific thinking through play-based learning and storytelling. I am also really proud to support the whole EdTech sector in the Nordics and Baltic by being a board member for the Nordic EdTech Network N8 and seeing the need for quality educational solutions.
How does Kide Science innovate?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: We built a learning model that combines all aspects of engaging science learning with young children during rigorous research. We created a playful STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education model with stories to help even three-year-olds start their journey to become critical thinkers. We teach with learn-by-doing, and that is also how we innovate. We have continued research and development ongoing still. If your pedagogy is high quality, you can have different channels and ways to deliver it. That is why we even have co-created the science TV show series for a national TV channel in Finland and a book series for families with book publishing company Sanoma pro. We have seen that the most needed innovation now is to support early-year education teachers to keep the engagement with young children about learning. We have made a lot of effort to make teachers super important job easier with our platform. We have had impactful feedback about that, and you can read them also from our website.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: After the pandemic started, we were in a good position, as we managed to raise funding from Sparkmind. VC. Our customers had challenges who had learning centres worldwide, and many of our customers needed to close their branches because of the pandemic. We tried to do our best to support them by offering all our solutions online and being remote-friendly. Luckily we managed to support some of them to keep their business and lessons running with students. Now it feels that many can reopen locations or effectively continue remote and online learning.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: No, we gladly did not need to.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: We have always had a peer support network for all our Kide Science teachers worldwide. During the pandemic, this kind of peer support network is even more critical where teachers can share their learnings and challenges. We have found that Slack and Miro have been handy tools for our remote work and communications.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Sari Hurme-Mehtälä: We did receive a development grant from Business Finland to make our product work remotely and online. That did help our customers who needed to shift to online or hybrid learning. We were even awarded and shortlisted as finalists about our Hybrid learning model by Reimagine Education that is the world’s largest awards program for innovative pedagogies.
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