Back to blog

Our Inspiration

By Zach Lahn on November 10, 2017

The idea behind Wonder started over four years ago from a desire as parents to find a school that would prepare our children for a future filled with new challenges as well as new opportunities.

Our goal was to identify those schools that understood that education really is a prediction of the future. Every time our children enter a classroom what they are taught is someone’s prediction of what they believe students will need to know to be prepared and successful in the future.

In large part, the prediction that is being made in schools today is that the future will be the same as the past, or that, how and what students have learned over the past 100 years is how and what they should be learning today.

But in reality, there is very little of a prediction being made – if at all. Schools today, while meaning well, are doing what they have always done for one primary reason… it is what they have always done, and changing that system from within is a monumental task.

Our approach, as discussed in previous posts, is different. We believe that if we want to equip our children to live successful and fulfilling lives, what and how they learn must change.

Since beginning this journey, we have been dedicated to researching, visiting, learning from and partnering with schools that we believe are making the right prediction and share in our belief that each child has innate abilities and is capable of great things. After searching for and finding a number of these schools in areas across the country we set out help close the gap between what is happening there and what is happening here in the Midwest.

Wonder is a product of that work. A coming together of some of the most personalized and innovative learning models from across the country – dedicated to helping each young learner find their calling and change the world.

To help better understand the vision behind Wonder we have put together a short list and short descriptions of schools, books, videos, and other resources that have influenced and inspired us throughout this process. For parents thinking about the education of children, or for anyone interested in the future of education for that matter, we encourage you to research, read, and watch the resources below.

One connecting theme of the schools on this list is that none have a focus on grades, GPAs, or test scores. Instead, they are interested in students being engaged and passionate while learning relevant information that has practical applications in a rigorous environment.

For more on why this is the case, we encourage you to watch The Future of Education by Scott Looney linked below.

The List

Acton Academy – Austin, TX – Acton is a network of over 35 learner-driven schools dedicated to the belief that every child has the ability to change the world. Their learning design is one in which students are tasked with setting and accomplishing their own goals while operating in an open environment. Acton uses proven tech-based learning tools to take students through self-paced mastery-focused core skills work and then challenges them to put that learning into practice through quests which are interdisciplinary projects around a central theme. To learn more about Acton watch this video.

Ad Astra – Hawthorne, CA– Ad Astra is located on the campus of SpaceX and was started by Elon Musk and Josh Dahn. Students starting at age seven are engaged in complex projects and simulations that challenge them to think critically and explore many seemingly equivalent options during their discovery processes. As Peter Diamandis recently pointed out, one very unique aspect of Ad Astra is their focus on exposing students to ethical dilemmas that often arise in the world today.

NuVu Studio – Cambridge, MA – NuVu is a school dedicated to innovation and design founded by PhDs and Graduates of MIT in Cambridge. There are no courses, subjects, grades, or classrooms. Instead, students at NuVu are engaged in highly complex projects focused on solving problems facing the world today. Every three weeks, students starting in middle school go from idea to prototype to presentation in their quest to create something new that will solve a unique problem. Project subject areas include robotics, synthetic biology, fashion, AI, neural networks, augmented reality games, and music making machines. During each of these projects, traditional core skills subjects are intertwined throughout creating a platform for relevant learning.

Wildflower Montessori – Cambridge, MA – Like Wonder, the first Wildflower School was started by parents concerned with their children’s education. Today, Wildflower is a network of Montessori schools starting up all across the country. They operate in storefronts with just two teachers and 16-18 students at each school. Teachers act as entrepreneurs within their school allowing them the ability be nimble and adjust based on needs while focusing on the journey of each individual student.

Unschooling Rules – Clark Aldrich – A straightforward guide to changing education that lays out 55 principles every parent should take into account when (re)thinking about their child’s education and school.

The End of Average – Todd Rose – This book is great to help understand how we got to the education system we are in today and how we fix many of the problems that have arisen from our focus on designing systems to the average.

The Chronicles of Education – Peter Diamandis – A leader in the tech, AI, and innovation, Peter has been named by Forbes as one the worlds 50 greatest leaders. In his recently released white paper on education, Peter identifies some of the current problems in education such as grading, the role of the teacher, lack of relevance, and lack of engagement while then going into the guiding principles or solutions for the future of education like passion, curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and grit.

Most Likely to Succeed – This documentary brings attention to the shortcomings we are currently seeing in education as well as innovative approaches that are being used to fix those problems. The filming is focused on High Tech High in San Diego, CA and follows students through their projects leading up to the end of year presentations. If you are interested in watching the full documentary email us at and we can provide access.

The Future of Education – D. Scott Looney – Scott Looney is the head of Hawken Prep School in Cleveland, OH, one of the top prep schools in the country. As he says in this video, his school is over 100 years old, and while it has accomplished much, he knows that it must adapt if they want to prepare students for what the future holds. He is now starting a new school within his school founded on many of the same principles that we believe at Wonder.