Bright idea enterprise makes learning fun
BrightIsle’s boxes for moms
Melanie Scanlon launched an online store, BrightIsle, this month. It’s aimed at making learning fun for kids but hasn’t forgotten their mothers.
Self-care boxes are available each month, designed to “encourage busy women to take a moment for themselves”.
An organic herbal tea with a silicone infuser, an organic lip balm and bath salts are among the items now on offer.
“Whether they’re teachers, nurses, working moms or stay-at-home moms, or any woman who spends most of her day thinking about others, [the Lumiere crate] is designed to remind them to take care of themselves too,” Mrs Scanlon said.
She is inviting women to “like” BrightIsle on Facebook and share their e-mail address at bit.ly/2IFgVqY for a chance to win a Lumiere crate and a child’s subscription box.
A former teacher has launched a business offering resources aimed at helping children play smart.
Melanie Scanlon taught for seven years at Sandys Secondary Middle School before she decided to stay at home with her young sons — but she still had a passion for the job.
This month she launched the BrightIsle online store, which offers age-appropriate activities with a Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) theme, as well as educational toys that encourage imaginative play in younger children and “critical thinking and scientific exploration” in older ones.
“As a teacher, I found myself at a point where I had to pick — am I going to do a good job with my own children or do a good job with my school kids?” said Mrs Scanlon, who taught English and Social Studies IGCSE classes.
“Inspiring a love of learning is a passion of mine. As a teacher, it was so rewarding to watch a child’s eyes sparkle when he or she grasped a concept, experienced academic success or came to a new understanding. It’s always been my desire to try and help make learning come alive for the children I work with.”
In June 2016, she quit to focus on Finn and Tyler, now 5 and 2 respectively.
“I decided to take a break from the classroom,” said Mrs Scanlon, who has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a focus in literacy. “Then in September of 2017 I began homeschooling my oldest, Finn. I started making [activities] for him that I thought he was enjoying and offering them for sale on [the educational resource marketplace website] Teachers Pay Teachers. That was going really well and I think it gave me the confidence to create a product.”
Her idea was to build on a concept that had proven popular in the United States.
“I had no experience in running a business but I had family members who were entrepreneurs so I had people I could speak with and get advice from,” she said. “I used US subscription boxes as a model and then started researching vendors. My initial plan was just subscription boxes. I thought it was a shame that you can’t purchase them here or, for anyone who did order them from the US, by the time they got here they would be double the cost.”
BrightIsle’s Stem activities can be purchased as a monthly $49.95 subscription, a one-off payment of $54.95 or a three-month subscription of $143.85. Each boxed set comes with all the necessary material for “at least three engaging, hands-on learning activities”, an instruction booklet, video links and extension ideas that bring in Bermuda’s history, wildlife and geology where applicable.
“The products and activities are selected based on the month’s theme,” Mrs Scanlon said, adding that robots featured this month. “When selecting activities to include in our boxes, we ensure that a number of the activities are Stem-based and provide educational value for the particular age range. As an example our Poppy boxes — for 4 to 5-year-olds — this month teach children about simple circuits. Children create a simple circuit to build a basic scrub brush and scribble robot.
“Our Pawpaw boxes — for 2 to 3-year-olds — teach children about magnets and robots. This month children build a craft robot that has a magnetic wand arm. The arm is used to find magnetic chips in a sensory bin. Rather than focusing on acquisition of knowledge or facts, these boxes focus on developmental skills for this age range. We also aim to introduce children to a wide range of vocabulary and ideas; ideas and language that will stick with them as they grow.”
The “carefully curated” boxes are aimed at encouraging “learning and a love of learning outside the classroom”.
“During this journey I’ve realised the importance of developing a true love of learning,” Mrs Scanlon said. “Without curiosity and a desire to inquire, our children will not enjoy the process or seek to learn independently. My hope is to create and provide busy parents with affordable tools that spark curiosity and a passion for learning, all the while cultivating parent-child relationships [and] encouraging children to take a break from the screens.”
Her challenge is to get “locals familiar with the concept and how it works”.
“It’s new to Bermuda,” the entrepreneur said. “The idea is to encourage parents also. They can open and enjoy the activities with their child and it gets children off the screen and enhances Stem learning. As a teacher I know I have to spark a love of learning. If they don’t see the fun in it, their academic growth will be affected by that. Teachers are limited in the classroom as to what they can do; parents have the opportunity to expose children to so much more.
“A love for learning must be developed at home, parents are a child’s first teacher. In order for children to become lifelong learners, they need to be curious. While curiosity can be cultivated in the classroom, it’s at home where the match is lit.”
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