The little building in Lovettsville that once housed a post office and a doctor’s office is quickly becoming a hub for fun and learning.
Husband-and-wife duo Josh and Stacey Salmanson recently opened Brainiacs, an education center that offers everything from mommy and me classes for toddlers to after-school workshops for teens.
Brainiacs opened on the first day of school, Aug. 23, at 2 E. Broad Way.
Stacey Salmanson said creating a safe space for children to explore and learn was prompted by a conversation with her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, the youngest of her five children.
“I’m never going to be good at math,” Lily said.
“Why do you say that?” her mother asked.
Lily responded, “Because I’m a girl.”
That was enough to inspire the Salmansons to open an education center where kids, from 2 years to 18 years old, could ask questions, make mistakes, and—while they’re at it—enjoy learning. “I wanted a place where it wasn’t about this is a boys’ sport or a girls’ sport,” said Stacey Salmanson, sitting in one of the pint-sized chairs in a Brainiacs classroom. “This is a really safe place to fail.”
Salmanson calls herself an entrepreneur at heart. She ran child care centers for several years before going into program management. Her husband, on the other hand, is the vice president of cybersecurity for a government contractor. “So between his nerdiness and my nerdiness, it all came together to open Brainiacs.”
Brainiacs has a full menu of program options, all with a focus on learning science, technology, engineering and math—with a good dose of fun. Programs include eight-week classes for all grade levels, a preschool, after-school, homeschool, and mommy and me classes for kids 2 to 5 years old. Prices for the eight-week classes range from $115 to $200.
Some of the most popular classes involve building with LEGOs, programming robots, an entrepreneur class, and a “math mania” class that teaches math through brain teasers, puzzles and games.
With every class, the center’s 10 teachers work to make the lessons, first and foremost, enjoyable. “With each class, we’ll think about how can we add some extra oomph to this to make it as fun as possible while they’re learning,” Salmanson said. “We hide the carrots in the cake.”
She and her husband decided to open Brainiacs in Lovettsville because there are so few extra-curricular offerings in western Loudoun. Salmanson found herself stretched too thin trying to get her daughter from their home in Waterford to an after-school enrichment program in Ashburn. “I did it twice and said, ‘this is not sustainable.’”
Megan Ratner, a former science and special education teacher who lives in Lovettsville, agreed. When it comes to STEM programs, she said, “if you live out here, you either have to hire a private tutor, drive to Ashburn, or do it at home.”
Ratner, who serves as Brainics’ operational manager, said she loves leading classes at the center because she and her students have time to study and discover a concept in depth in an eight-week class, or take a full hour to work on a hands-on project. “In school, there’s just not enough time to do that. Here, they’re given the time and the tools to explore STEM.”
Brainiacs is already expected to grow out of its space in Lovettsville. The center is partnering with several schools—including Lovettsville Elementary, Kenneth Culbert Elementary in Hamilton and Providence Academy in Leesburg—to bring after-school programs straight to their campuses. Salmanson said she’s also scouting out spots for a second location.
Learn more about Brainiacs’ offerings at brainiacs-stem.com.