Wonder: A Catalyst for Learning

“I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious” ~ Albert Einstein

When contemplating Einstein’s legacy, many people default to terms such as “genius” or “groundbreaking revolutionary.” Yet Einstein offered a more humble assessment of his abilities, describing himself more simply as an insatiably curious person.  

Curiosity is an innately human attribute, one that we must nourish and foster in our schools. It is what drives us to seek new knowledge and skills. Curiosity sparks the exploration and creativity that leads to innovation. It helps us connect and seek understanding and perspective from others. A recent Harvard Business Review (2018) article even argues that it leads to “higher-performing, more-adaptable firms.” 

If curiosity is so important, then why does schooling so often result in stamping it out? Well-known education professor, Dr. Yong Zhao, blames a system that focuses on high-stakes testing and the standardized, one-size-fits-all model of schooling. “While some education systems may be the best at producing outstanding test scores, they are also the worst at cultivating confidence in and positive attitude toward the subjects. If indeed the policies and practices that raise test scores also hurt confidence and attitude, we must carefully weigh the risks against the benefits” (2018).  The industrialization model of teaching to a test worked well for producing cars and compliant employees in the 20th century, but it does not work well for developing curious minds that can innovate and adapt in an interconnected and changing world.  Schools must nourish in students the desire to learn and wonder about their world.  

At AES, we are guided by five learning principles: Wonder, Purpose, Ownership, Community, and Diversity. We believe learning is driven by Wonder: the joy of our natural curiosity through a lifelong process of play, wondering, questioning, exploring, and investigating. Learning that is joyful and fosters curiosity helps students build ownership over their learning and meaningfully engage with real-world problems. 

When we think about how we define success for our children, let’s always first ask whether they are curious. 



Einstein, Albert. "I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious."

Gino, Francesca "The Business Case for Curiosity." Harvard Business Review, 2018, 


About the Author—

Dr. Robyn Vierra

High School Teaching & Learning Coordinator