Kath Geramita is co-founder and COO of CreositySpace, an education content company that connects elementary kids and teachers to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) through entrepreneurship and storytelling.
Since its inception in 2013, CreositySpace has worked with over 6,500 students and teachers across the U.S. in its effort to help educators integrate STEM into ELA, science, social studies and math and inspire kids to tap into their natural creativity and curiosity at a time when they ask, “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
The elevator pitch:
Nothing can replace the power of learning through storytelling. Research continually shows us that sharing personal experiences and introducing relevant role models are key to seeding early interest in STEM. We believe tech entrepreneurs are great role models for all students because they are on the front lines of innovation launching technology startups, conducting forward-looking research, and creating new products to solve complex industrial and social challenges. They demonstrate to students that there is a place in STEM for everyone and not just the proverbial “smartest kid in the class.” With this in mind CreositySpace developed its Technology Entrepreneurship Curriculum, a suite of student and educator tools and activities, aimed at making everyone feel a part of the STEM community.
The founding team:
Peg Zokowski, Founder and CEO: Peg always found science interesting, but wasn’t sure a career as a scientist was right for her. Instead, she pursued degrees in history from which she launched a career in communications and writing. Prior to CreositySpace, she launched Innovators Ink, a content development and communications consultancy working with educators and green tech entrepreneurs. The spark for CreositySpace was ignited by Peg’s ever-inventing son and has since grown into a way to connect kids and entrepreneurs.
Kath Geramita, Co-founder and COO: With degrees in engineering and chemistry Kath has worked at a number of material development start-ups—from electronic paper and cement made from CO2 to new materials for batteries and fuel cells. Throughout her career Kath has managed cross functional development teams both within her own company and with external partners and collaborators. Finally wanting to work for her own company, she joined forces with Peg as COO at CreositySpace.
CreositySpace was inspired by Peg’s son, Will, when he was in second grade. Will expressed an interest in starting a kids’ energy club based on his own interests in renewable energy. His school was receptive, but undermanned, and Peg volunteered to organize it in order to feed the students’ curiosity. Using a number of her professional connections, Peg organized a practical hands-on program to introduce them to STEM disciplines in a real manner. After 2 years, other schools asked to have Peg’s program come to their schools. The program was refined and expanded through in-class presentations using student, teacher and administrator feedback and now includes supporting educator and student materials. In 2016, CreositySpace committed to a digital distribution approach in an effort to reach more students more effectively, and to develop teacher professional development materials.
Initially CreositySpace curriculum has been marketed to formal and informal elementary educators interested in expanding their STEM content. This market alone nears $10 B annually and includes: K-5 Ed-tech content and instructional support, homeschool K-5 curriculum/supplies/activities, afterschool and out-of-school time, and young readers paperback book/activity book. We are also seeing a pull for our materials into the educational toy market (25.5B with academic accounting for 33 percent of that total) and into college level student teaching programs.
Your unfair advantage:
Our entrepreneurs’ personal stories and the businesses they are building around their technologies are the cornerstone of everything CreositySpace does. They bring to life what students are learning in school—not only in science class but also in English, math, social studies, and art—in a way that makes it current, real and relatable. Entrepreneurs serve as diverse role models who can help students self-identify as someone who can be a part of the STEM economy regardless of their interests, as well as make connections between their class lessons and real-life applications. Additionally, by sharing their personal stories with students—including their struggles and failures—kids learn that creativity, discipline, perseverance, and communication are as important to learning and innovation as getting the “right” answer.
Your biggest challenge:
Despite recent efforts to standardize education across the country, it remains a highly fragmented market. Requirements and priorities vary widely from state-to-state and district-to-district, making the system challenging to navigate. Fortunately, the common thread across all states and districts is a desire to provide high quality education to every student. Teachers we have worked with are some of our biggest champions and provide the potential for exponential growth in momentum for CreositySpace.
Your biggest win:
Every time we see an educator or a kid gain a new perspective of what STEM is or how they can be involved with it, we count that as a win. Whether it’s a non-profit in LA feeling comfortable offering CreositySpace materials as their first STEM youth outreach program, or an elementary teacher who now has the confidence and tools to include STEM concepts in their classroom lessons, or a student who all of a sudden sees their unorthodox way of thinking as a strength and not a hindrance – the way people react to our product and then become our champions has been our biggest win to date.
Your role models:
While I try to learn something from everyone I work with, the biggest role model I’ve had has to be Barrett Comiskey, co-founder of E Ink. We worked together very early on in my career and his methods for developing new materials technology, products and people were a huge factor in shaping how I do the same. He brought passion, compassion, intensity and levity together to make projects and teams successful time and time again, and I have used his example as a blueprint for most of my career.
Your experience with FFA:
The connections I, and CreositySpace by extension, have made through FFA have been invaluable. Although I’ve spent my entire career in the startup world, I’ve always been intensely focused on the internal challenges of materials development, scale-up and leading the teams the make it happen. I was always much more comfortable in a hardhat, steel-toed boots and a 50lb sack of chemicals slung over my shoulder than trying to navigate a room filled with people I didn’t know. FFA has helped me gain the support, confidence and connections to be successful at taking on the roles and responsibilities of a co-founder.
Growing up as the nerdy daughter of two university mathematicians, I was pretty much on the path towards academia from the day I could talk. A haphazard conversation over a beer propelled me into the startup world and, 20 years later, I still love that it did. My favorite thing about startups is the challenge of trying to uncover the path to success – trying to figure out the correct series of trade-offs that will get you where you need to go before the money runs out! It is also the thing that keeps me awake at night, but hey, that’s what makes it exciting, right?
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