The space layout and learning platform of Wonder are based on the architectural studio model providing an open and accessible environment with an emphasis on the iterative process and continuous feedback. Time spent at Wonder is not focused on testing, grades, or GPAs but rather on pursuing interests and curiosity while learning applicable information that is used to solve real problems and build valuable skills. Throughout the year, Wonders build personalized portfolios that prove what they are capable of and show how they have grown throughout the learning process.
Days – At Wonder, days are divided into two large blocks of time with each morning being launched with a Socratic discussion on a relevant topic relating to the overarching question of the year. These broad themes are centered around questions with high levels of ambiguity allowing for many possible answers. A few examples would be: Why do civilizations rise and fall? Does the past determine the future? What does it mean to be human or, can a machine be human? Each question is designed to challenge learners to think deeply and critically about the world around them and the world they hope to create.
Mornings – Following each morning discussion, Wonders take time to create individual learning goals for the day and then set out to accomplish those goals, starting with mastery-focused core skills work. This is done using both traditional and proven tech-based learning platforms which utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well as virtual and augmented reality to personalize and focus each child’s learning journey. Using these platforms combined with a focus on mastery, allows learners to be consistently challenged and engaged by their work while taking the time needed to truly learn the material. Areas covered in morning sessions include reading, writing, math, life and computer sciences, and foreign language.
Afternoons – Each afternoon at Wonder is dedicated to projects, the solving of complex problems, and building innovative market-oriented solutions. Each of these ventures takes place in a four to six week studio that is tied to the overarching question or theme for the year. During this process, students will work in teams along with a coach acting as a guide or facilitator of the learning process. These teams will move from idea to prototype during each individual studio with many studios focused on developing a product or solution to a problem facing the world.
We believe that coaches play an integral role in the studio, not as traditional teachers, but as experienced and passionate practitioners and mentors in fields such as engineering, computer science, life sciences, design, art, and history. To source our coaching team, Wonder will be partnering with NuVu the Innovation School connected with MIT to bring Graduate and Ph.D. fellows into our studios full-time, starting with Studio Two. Through our partnership, we will collaborate in the development of innovative curriculum and Projects with Purpose focusing on areas such as art and design, robotics, biology, fashion, AI, and music.
Studios – Rather than dividing each year into semesters or trimesters years are divided into studios that correspond with each project or problem. This schedule allows students to focus in-depth on each project until completion, without an arbitrary break interrupting the creative process. During each studio, Wonders will start with a project centered around a problem or simulation, and move through the development and iteration process while being challenged to think critically about the issues and potential solutions. At the end of each studio, students will present their work publically to both the school and the outside community.
Years – Each year at Wonder is made up of roughly seven studios with five structured projects elected by students from a group of ten options, each with a varying focus. The beginning of each year is launched with a central project or problem which all learners will be engaged in, and the end of each year is dedicated to self-directed studio time in preparation for end of year presentations. This structure allows for learners to be engaged by projects of direct and known interest while also discovering new areas of potential interest and ability.
Each four to six week studio at Wonder is interdisciplinary and seeks to bring together many of the core skill areas mentioned above – in a relevant and applicable manner.
In reference to the question regarding civilizations, students would dive deep into the structure of societies. In this example, teams of learners could be tasked with building cities either virtually, using a program like SketchUp, or physically inside their studio. While doing this, Wonders would be competing against other teams to create the top city. Areas of comparison would be total job creation, long-term financial projections, aesthetics, and economic stability.
As a part of this project, Wonders would bid against other teams to offer lease space for various curated businesses each with job and revenue numbers attached to them. During this process, other variables are discussed and debated such as low-income housing, how much will their city have, if any? If all of a team’s residential space is at a very high price to improve revenue numbers, where will many of the employees of local small businesses live? If a single large company is secured for the town, what will the effect be if that company relocates or closes? Will towns offer tax incentives to attract businesses? Will they have strict zoning laws? How will they power their city? What is the best form of government for their city? Many of these questions and choices come into play in real cities which are themselves microcosms of larger societies. And how they are answered can play a role in their success or failure.
At the end of this simulation, students would present their work to the school and community and explain the reasoning behind the choices they made while developing their cities. Throughout this simulation, students are engaged in the practical application of math, geometry, design, writing, reading, public speaking, ethical and moral dilemmas and much more.
Students at Wonder will build comprehensive portfolios of work through an online platform. Through this platform, learners can share their portfolio with others, allowing them to dive deep into and evaluate various specific areas of learning in each student’s journey. Growth in core skills proficiency is tracked in detail through a badge system that evaluates students work based on mastery of the subject matter. Along with core skills, each student’s completed projects, solved problems, and skills development are recorded in their interactive portfolio as well. If a student, parent, prospective employer, partner, client, or college admissions counselor would like to see proficiency in an area such as public speaking they are able to personally view each speech that was given throughout a student’s time at Wonder. This allows interested parties to track progress and evaluate skills personally. In the same way, a student interested in design is able to show past completed design work as well as descriptions of the creative and iterative process rather than attempting to sum up the entirety of their work and process into a single grade received in a class focused on design. Portfolios allow for a much broader picture and deeper understanding of each student’s abilities. At the same time, they work to move the focus away from grades or GPAs by incentivizing students to think critically while exploring, creating, inventing, and discovering new solutions to real problems.
In the fall of 2018 Wonder will launch its first two studios for ages 3-11. Below is a brief overview of those studios.
Wonder One (ages 3 – 7) will operate as an authentic Montessori environment focusing on whole child development – cognitive, physical, emotional, and social – with an emphasis on exploring and discovering natural interests. Students in One will be introduced to the goal setting and independent learning skills needed to thrive in future studios.
Wonder Two and Three (ages 7-11) will build on students Montessori skills while engaging learners in Projects with Purpose and mastery-based core skills – computer and life sciences, reading, writing, and math – using proven and challenging tech-based learning tools. Projects will focus on complex interdisciplinary problems, ethical dilemmas, and simulations requiring deep critical thinking, heavy collaboration, and unique creative solutions.
Wonder Four (launched Fall 2020) builds on the love of learning developed in Wonder Two and Three by emphasizing excellence and learning to write clearly, think critically, and speak effectively. Learners read life-changing and world-changing literary works and write a compelling reviews about their impact. Civilization combines individual research and Socratic debates, forcing learners to step into the shoes of historical figures and heroes at critical turning points to debate and make real-life decisions. Learners continually engage in a series of hands-on, real-world challenges called Quests that cover topics such as science, entrepreneurship, art, and history. Excellent work is compiled in a portfolio with hopes of securing an apprenticeship and trying out possible “callings”, and perhaps most importantly, landing an exciting next adventure.